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Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Jul 29, 2019 2:25 pm
by Cleander
Hey all,
Recently I was wondering about the implications of the portion of the Silver Chair in which Aslan tells Jill that she and Eustace would not have called to him to let them into Narnia unless he had been calling to them. To me it sounds a bit like the Christian doctrine of predestination- the idea that God ordains and calls people to salvation, causing them to willingly put their faith in Him.
My question is, was C.S. Lewis in a fact a believer in predestination (or Calvinism, as it's commonly called?) Was that what he's hinting at here, or is it just a random line from Aslan that's not really meant to signify anything?

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Sep 29, 2019 1:18 pm
by Geekicheep
What an interesting thought, Cleander! Unfortunately, I don't have the answer (and I'd be interested to find out myself if that was his belief). But one thing I do know is that predestination is not just part of Calvinism - it's in the Bible (Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 - we're studying Ephesians in church right now lol). And I think one thing all Christians would agree is that God knows everything - there's no fooling him, hiding anything from him, or surprise him. Going back to Narnia for a sec, look at Jill and Eustace's mission: Aslan clearly knew where the lost prince was, and gave them instructions on where to go and what to look for to find him. And didn't Puddleglum say (about the words "under me") that Aslan knew what would happen even the words were cut into the stone? I guess what I'm trying to say is, even if that were Lewis' intent, it's not necessarily just a Calvinistic thing or a controversial thing - it's a God thing. But that being said, I am curious about what Lewis' specific beliefs were.

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Sep 30, 2019 3:30 pm
by Cleander
Geekicheep wrote:I guess what I'm trying to say is, even if that were Lewis' intent, it's not necessarily just a Calvinistic thing or a controversial thing - it's a God thing. But that being said, I am curious about what Lewis' specific beliefs were.

My thoughts exactly! I wouldn't call myself a Calvinist even though I do believe in predestination (because I found it in the Bible), but I was using the word Calvinism because a lot of people ( at least in my experience) seem to equate belief in predestination with a belief in Calvinism. Calvin goes a bit further than just that, though, and I won't get into all that.
I somewhat doubt that Lewis would have called himself a Calvinist, either. I just was curious, like you, about this aspect of his personal doctrines.

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Oct 02, 2019 5:29 pm
by Lady Arwen
I'm glad you all are having a good discussion about Lewis' views! I would like to remind you both, however, that even if you feel a doctrine is clearly evidenced in the Bible, other people might not feel that is the case (in fact, they might feel it is the exact opposite!).

While there is a grey area between discussing Lewis' theology and discussing fundamental religious beliefs, please try to keep your focus on the former, and save discussion of the latter for the Christianity, Religion, and Philosophy thread. :)

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Oct 24, 2019 11:56 am
by Courtenay
Interesting question! I don't get the impression Lewis believed in predestination, certainly not in the Calvinistic sense of God choosing from the beginning who will be saved and who will be damned. I understand it's not a part of Anglican theology, which Lewis generally followed.

"You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you" is one of my favourite lines in the books, but Lewis doesn't really go any deeper into what he intended it to mean. Probably a lot of Christians would say they believe God "called" them to be followers of Christ — that it wasn't their personal decision alone. I would say that myself, but at the same time I don't feel I can say anything about how God may or may not call others...

I haven't read as many of Lewis's other works as I'd like to, but from what I understand, he pretty much believed that one's salvation or damnation hinges largely on one's own choices and one's own response to God's goodness. Essentially, those who are in hell are there because no matter how many times they were offered God's grace, they persisted in rejecting it and becoming more and more obdurate until there was no more escape from the prison of their own selfishness, like the Dwarfs in The Last Battle. Aslan indicates that the way they have become is the result of their own choice and they've brought themselves to the point where he himself can't reach them. But there's no indication at all that he preordained that fate for them, since they couldn't have "chosen" it if so.

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Oct 24, 2019 8:41 pm
by Geekicheep
Yeah, the dwarfs are interesting in that regard; most of them are on the wrong side, but then there's Trumpkin. He was a good dude. So good in fact that Caspian put him in a position of authority in the royal court.

In fact, Narnia is full of characters like that; characters who seem like they should be "bad guys" but choose Aslan in the end. The most obvious one is Edmund, but there's also Caspian (a Telmarine prince), Eustace (a total jerk), Trumpkin (whose race served the White Witch, and had that end in TLB), and that random soldier in TLB (he was from Calormen and fought against Narnia, and met Aslan in the end), and Tumnus (who almost kidnapped Lucy, and worked for the White Witch). And I'm probably forgetting some (Coriakin? Maybe, not really :D). This doesn't necessarily prove or disprove the predestination thing, but I think if anything his main point was that of redemption.

I think many Christians, including Lewis, believe that God gave us free will. And it makes sense, at least to me. He could have created a bunch of mindless, automated creates that just praise Him constantly, without ever questioning or doubting or having any say in the matter; but that would be like building a robot and programming it to act like it loves you (which even a geek like me would never do). =))

Hope I haven't stepped on any toes here. I kinda stopped following this thread awhile ago, cuz it is a potentially sensitive topic, but it is interesting just the same. I didn't know Lewis was Anglican, for example; I kind of think the best way to answer this question is to look at what Anglicans believe (which I know absolutely nothing about). But regardless, I think one thing we can all agree on is that he wrote our favorite books! :)

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Oct 29, 2019 9:37 pm
by coracle
Another point which is worth noting from time to time in our discussions here is that the Narnia stories are not meant to be presenting a polished theological statement. They are great stories with lots of strong principles and learning points in them.

Re: Predestination in the Silver Chair?

PostPosted: Jan 13, 2020 8:23 am
by Tumnus
Very interesting to ponder the theological implications of specific events in the books!

As far as this particular instance in The Silver Chair, I think it's worth considering that this 'people get to Narnia because Narnia needs/is ready for/is calling for them' theme repeats throughout the books. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the children arrive just as Aslan is getting on the move and returning, in Prince Caspian they return when Caspian has need of them. I don't get a sense of strict predestination from the books because even Aslan cannot make people or talking beasts believe in him or follow his will.

It's been awhile since I read Mere Christianity, but the theology within it does not seem to support predestination since so much of it is devoted to making a systematic case for Christ through reasoned argument, using everyday experiences like people having an innate sense of justice and fairness to make the point that he believes this is of divine origin. There is absolutely a sense of some events happening when and how they must in the Narnia books, because all the last minute rescues and all the instances of characters making many mistakes along the way but seeing Aslan's hand in it all at the end cannot be explained by free will and individual choice alone. However, given Lewis' theological writings and how much emphasis he places on various characters making the choice to do what is right or wrong (Tumnus and Edmund for example) it does not seem that there is strict predestination either.