C.S. Lewis and predestination

C.S. Lewis ends The Great Divorce by tackling the paradox of human freedom versus predestination. (He was nothing if not ambitious.)

Part of his answer — if you can call it that (and I’m not sure Lewis would have) — is that we, as created beings, exist within time. God, on the other hand, exists outside of time. Which, if true, means he experiences past, present, and future simultaneously and not at all. (Is it getting weird yet?)

Lewis insisted that our choices, when viewed through the lens of time, are real. The future is open. We are free to choose or reject God. And of course, time is the only lens we have:

Time is the very lens through which ye see something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all. That thing is Freedom: the gift whereby ye most resemble your Maker and are yourselves part of eternal reality. But ye can see it only through the lens of time.

So… we can only see freedom through the lens of time, yet freedom is the very thing that connects us to a reality beyond time. Huh.

The problem, for Lewis, is that when we try to look beyond the lens of time, we get right out of our depth. Our finite minds can’t handle it. Freedom and predestination — both of which Lewis accepts as true in some form — become irreconcilable enemies.

For Lewis, that’s because we are trying to wrap our minds around something far bigger (“big” isn’t even the right word for it) than we can handle.

What’s really interesting is what motivates Lewis to wander into this theological quagmire:

Every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. Witness the doctrine of Predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two.

Translation: Lewis is adamant that predestination should not be allowed to ride roughshod over freedom. He accepts both freedom and predestination as true, but he regards freedom as “the deeper truth of the two.”

The price of destroying (or rejecting) freedom is simply too high to pay; doing so severs the connection between us and our Creator. God cannot be understood apart from love, and love cannot be understood apart from freedom — for love never, ever coerces.

8 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis and predestination

  1. Pingback: C.S. Lewis and predestination « Ben Irwin | eMega Deals

  2. Thank you for writing this. Sparing a long conversation, I can summarize by saying before April of 2011, I was a happy born-and-raised bible believing Christian who was simply on a ‘journey,’ and was turning the corner as a 20-something that was discovering how to engage my faith with the rest of my life and the rest of the world, etc., etc.

    Then I discovered Calvinism for the first time. Ever. So, my world kinda collapsed for the past 7-8 months.

    My pastor recommended I read The Great Divorce, and I can see why. I got the gist of what Lewis was describing through the book, and then this final chapter that you reviewed was incredible. Those final 2 pages from fictional George MacDonald are so weighty! But once read them over a thousand times (and more), Lewis’ perspectives on predestination and freedom are immeasurable towards my healing from the awful shock of Calvinistic theology (it was real bad, I was reading Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor for months hoping to find a crack in their every-action-is-predetermined-including-salvation-of-some armor!).


    • I can so relate! I was raised Christian and always had that child-like faith. Nothing shook it. Until pre-destination. I was surprised at how people didn’t understood how hard my faith was being rocked. They didn’t get it – but it had CHANGED my view of God. Had I been worshipping someone/something that never existed, except in my mind? My world felt like it was collapsing too.
      Looking forward to the healing you are talking of. Love Lewis and will re-read The Great Divorce immediately. 🙂


    • Man this is crazy…I am also just entering my third decade of life (early 20s), and I am starting to feel so disillusioned and even mentally nauseous thinking about predestination. I have friends who seem to embrace it and have no problems with the “darker” side of this doctrine. I’m going to start studying what the Bible says about predestination more closely and I would love to re-read The Great Divorce. I’ve seriously been questioning whether I could continue in Christianity itself which scares me, but I’m trying to trust God to lead me in the right direction. I hope you all have been blessed in your search for truth and understanding.


  3. Pingback: Everyone else is doing a top 10 list, so… « Ben Irwin's blog

  4. I completely agree with the first commenter! I have recently hit a hard spot in my life and am also just beginning my 20’s. And I have grown up my entire life in church and just believing it all. And I really do believe that i was active in my faith and learning tons of things from the Lord, but since this hard time in my life began i really distanced myself from God, religion, the church. just everything. and i thought things would kind of just pick back up (God wise) after a couple of months but it has now been about a year and the more i have thought over things and talked to people, I have become even more distant and really believe that i could just walk away from it all! The last issue that I came up to thinking about, which has lasted at least 2 or 3 months now, was the predestination issue. And i grew up baptist,,so i have never been taught that. and it was just so harsh for me, and that is when i realized that i think i could walk away from all of this..’christian’ stuff. but i just looked up ‘c.s. lewis viewpoint on predestination’ and came across your post! and i am so thankful because it has given me a new outlook..and a little bit more hope into searching more. So thank you so much!


  5. Pingback: Who did Christ die for, and what did His death and resurrection actually do? | Rachel's Thoughts

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