Monday, March 21, 2016

C.S. Lewis on the Prayer and Work

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, read Work and Prayer by him.

The problem with prayer:
I don’t think it at all likely that God requires the ill-informed (and contradictory) advice of us humans as to how to run the world. If He is all-wise, as you say He is, doesn’t He know already what is best? And if He is all-good, won’t He do it whether we pray or not?Why bother giving advice to God?
 The reductio:
But if this argument is sound, surely it is an argument not only against praying, but against doing anything whatever? ... Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn’t, they’ll remain dirty (as Lady MacBeth found) however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything?
 Of course, this reduction doesn't lead to absurdity. It could instead lead to the conclusion that there isn't a God in the first place.

Or it could be that...
God has not chosen to write the whole history with His own hand.
God doesn't have to do everything in order to exist. It could be for Good purposes by letting us do things. Isn't the knowledge of God deepened by allowing us to act?

But I think Lewis makes a wrong turn when he says,
Pascal says that God “instituted prayer in order to allow His creatures the dignity of causality.” It would perhaps be truer to say that He invented both prayer and physical action for that purpose.
 This is a version of free will I don't hold. It denies universal causality, makes us into Gods, and denies God's absolute sovereignty. Alternatively, we could say that God writes all of history both directly "in the beginning..." and indirectly through human action and prayer.

My respect for C.S. Lewis as a thinker grew after reading his essay. But I still consider much of his philosophy an elegantly phrased mess.