Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: Pure Pelagianism/Augustinianism

From Letters to Malcomb:
The real problems are different. is it our faith that prayers, or some prayers, are real causes? But they are not magical causes: they don't, like spells, act directly on nature. They act, then, on nature through God? this would seem to imply that they act on god. But god, we believe, is impassible. All theology would reject the idea of a transaction in which a creature was the agent and God the patient.

It is quite useless to try to answer this empirically by producing stories - though you and I could tell strange ones - of striking answers to prayer. We shall be told, reasonably enough, that post hoc is not propter hoc. The thing we prayed for was gong to happen anyway. Our action was irrelevant. Even a fellow-creature's actin which fulfills our request may not be caused by it; he does what we ask, but perhaps he would equally have done so without our asking. Some cynics will tell us that no woman ever married a man because he proposed to her: she always elicits the proposal because she has determined to marry him.

In these human instances we believe, when we do believe, that our request was the cause, or a cause, of the other party's action, because we have from deep acquaintance a certain impression of that party's character. Certainly not by applying the scientific procedures - control experiments, etc. - for establishing causes. similarly we believe, when we do believe, that the relation between our prayer and the even is not a mere coincidence only because we have a certain idea of god's character. Only faith vouches for the connection. No empirical proof could establish it. Even a miracle, if one occurred, "might have been going to happen anyway."

Again, in the most intimate human instances we really feel that the category of cause and effect will not contain what actually happens. In a real "proposal" - as distinct from one in an old-fashioned novel - is there any agent-patient relation? which drop on the window pane moves to join the other?

Now I am going to suggest that strictly causal thinking is even more inadequate when applied to the relation between god and man. i don't mean only when we are thinking of prayer, but whenever we are thinking about what happens at the Frontier, at the mysterious point of junction and separation where absolute being utters derivative being.

One attempt to define causally what happens there has led to the whole puzzle about Grace and free will. You will notice that Scripture just sails over the problem. ‘Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling’ – pure Pelagianism. But why? ‘For it is God who worketh in you’– pure Augustinianism. It is presumably only our presuppositions that make this appear nonsensical. We profanely assume that divine and human action exclude one another like the actions of two fellow-creatures so that ‘God did this’ and ‘I did this’ cannot both be true of the same act except in the sense that each contributed a share.

In the end, we must admit a two-way traffic at the junction. At first sight, no passive verb in the world would seem to be so utterly passive as 'to be created'. Does it not mean 'to have been nonentity'? Yet, for us rational creatures, to be created also means 'to be made agents'. We have nothing that we have not received; but part of what we have received is the power of being something more than receptacles. (48-50)
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