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Book 4, Chapters 5 to 7

One chapter per week study of a book that profoundly influenced C. S. Lewis.

Book 4, Chapters 5 to 7

Postby magpie » 25 Jan 2006, 20:49

Please forgive my delay in posting these chapters. Real life happens. When last we left Lady Philosophy, she was arguing that the wicked are always powerless and miserable. But in Chapter 5, Boethius objects to this blanket assertion, noting that quite the contrary seems to be the case, that all-powerful God also seems to reward wickedness and afflict good people.
For I would be less surprised if I could believe that all things happened as the result of accidental chance. But my belief in God and his governing power increases my amazement. Since He often gives joy to the good and bitterness to the wicked, but on the other hand often reverses this dispensation, how can all this be distinguished from accidental chance unless we understand the cause of it?
Philosophy's immediate reaction is to tell Boethius that he doesn't know what he is talking about, supporting her response with Poem 5 which lists several popular superstitious misconceptions about astronomical phenomena.

This short chapter sets up the much longer discussion in Chapter 6 in which a distinction is drawn between Providence and Fate.
The generation of all things, and the whole course of mutable natures and of whatever is in any way subject to change, take their causes, order, and forms from the unchanging mind of God. This divine mind established the manifold rules by which all things are governed while it remained in the secure castle of its own simplicity. When this government is regarded as belonging to the purity of the divine mind, it is called Providence; but when it is considered with reference to the things which it moves and governs, it has from very early times been called Fate.
Thus Providence as divine reason is an attribute of God while Fate belongs to the realm of mutable things. Providence is concerned with the general order while Fate directs particulars. Providence is the unfolding of divine purpose while Fate is the unfolding of finite experience.
Just as the craftsman conceives in his mind the form of the thing he intends to make, and then sets about making it by producing in successive temporal acts that which was simply present in his mind, so God by his Providence simply and unchangeably disposes all things that are to be done, even though the things themselves are worked out by Fate in many ways and in the process of time.
Moreover, while Providence governs all things, some things are not subject to Fate. Using the analogy of multiple spheres orbiting a central point, Philosophy argues that those things which are closest to the center (ie. God) are the most immune to the mutability of Fate.

This, however, does not answer Boethius' question about why the wicked are at times rewarded and the good at times suffer. Philosophy counters by arguing that we cannot really know who is good or evil.
But is human judgment so infallible that those who are thought to be good and evil are necessarily what they seem to be? If so, why are men's judgments so often in conflict, so that the same men are thought by some to deserve reward and by others punishment?
And even if we could know, that which is good for one person may not be good for another. Thus only God knows what each individual either deserves or needs. After reiterating this point at great length with numerous examples, Philosophy asserts that Providence only seems unjust because human reason is too limited to comprehend God's ways.
But it is hard for me to recount all this as if I were a God, for it is not fitting for men to understand intellectually or to explain verbally all the dispositions of the divine work. It is enough to have understood only that God, the Creator of all things in nature, also governs all things, directing them to good. And, since He carefully preserves everything which He made in his own likeness, He excludes by fatal necessity all evil from the bounds of his state. Therefore, if you fix your attention on Providence as the governor of all things, you will find that the evil which is thought to abound in the world is really nonexistent.
This answer to the question of theodicy, which is as old as the voice which spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, is echoed in Poem 6, a lyrical declaration of God's complete control over all creation.

The final chapter of Book 4 offers a short summary of the previous arguments to which it adds Philosophy's "proof" that all forture is good.
Since all fortune whether sweet or bitter has as its purpose the reward or trial of good men or the correction and punishment of the wicked, it must be good because it is clearly either just or useful.
But of course it would have to be good since Philosophy has already argued above that evil is nonexistent. Perhaps it is the result of my own current situtation, but despite its brilliance, I find this syllogistic tour de force disturbingly unsatisfactory. And perhaps I am not alone in this. Looking over the writings of Lewis, it is relatively easy to trace the influence of Boethius in The Problem of Pain, an influence which is starkly absent from A Grief Observed. In the face of suffering, logic will only take you so far, and there are times when it is both more honest and more consoling to say,
Lewis wrote:Sometime is is hard not to say, "God forgive God." Sometimes it is hard to say so much. But if our faith is true, He didn't. He crucified Him.
"Love is the will to extend one's self in order to nurture one's own or another's spiritual growth."
M. Scott Peck

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