20976Misquoting C.S. Lewis
- Jan 7, 2010This post is not actually a theological argument, though it comes out of
one. I'm telling you about it to make a non-sectarian point about using
sources correctly, and the source happens to be C.S. Lewis. He wasn't
literally misquoted, but taken so out of context so that he might as well
In my occasional capacity as an explainer of Christian theology to
bewildered atheists - don't laugh; as a reader of almost everything Lewis
wrote, I am much better informed on Christian beliefs than most of my fellow
non-believers are, including some who write best-selling books on the
subject - I have been having an e-mail discussion about God's omniscience.
My correspondent believes that if God has omniscient knowledge of your
future actions, that negates free will. He argues that God is not, in fact,
omniscient, and that if He tells you what you are going to do, all you have
to do is just not do it.
In support of his claim that God is not omniscient, he quoted C.S. Lewis as
saying that God "does not know your action till you have done it."
This surprised me. I doubted my correspondent had read Lewis, and it
doesn't sound to me in comport with Lewis's beliefs.
So I Googled the phrase, and found it comes from _Mere Christianity_ (Bk 4,
ch. 3, next-to-last paragraph), and that in context it means the exact
opposite of the conclusions my correspondent drew from it. It's part of an
argument that God exists outside of time - an argument I had been making
without remembering that I learned it from Lewis - and sees all actions at
once, in an eternal "Now." The full sentence is, "In a sense, He does not
know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you
have done it is already 'Now' for Him." (If that doesn't make sense, read
the rest of the paragraph: as always, whether you agree with him or not,
Lewis is perfectly lucid.)
I suspect that my correspondent picked the Lewis line up from somebody else
who had carefully clipped it out of context to make it sound the opposite of
what it meant.
This was an educational little experience.
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