C. S. Lewis and Calvinism

January 17, 2007

One of the packages awaiting my return from South Africa the other day was the just-published third and final volume in Walter Hooper’s edition of C. S. Lewis’ letters.  Interesting to read, these letters show that Lewis kept up an amazing amount of correspondence!  Correspondence seemed to have been a near daily discipline for Lewis.  There is a fine index, though, even from my skimming, it is, of course, incomplete.  Mr. Hooper (or whoever compiled it) had a tremendous task before him, and the index is large, and will certainly prove useful.  Nevertheless, in simply flipping through the volume, I found a very interesting letter touching on Calvinism which is not so referenced in the index.  Here’s just a brief excerpt of this remarkable letter.  Originally written to Mrs. Emily Mclay, Aug. 3, 1953 (on pages 354 & 355 of this volume).

"I take it as a first principle that we must not interpret any one part of Scripture so that it contradicts other parts . . . .  The real inter-relation between God’s omnipotence and Man’s freedom is something we can’t find out.  Looking at the Sheep & the Goats every man can be quite sure that every kind act he does will be accepted by Christ.  Yet, equally, we all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace.  We have to leave it at that.  I find the best plan is to take the Calvinist view of my own virtues and other people’s vices; and the other view of my own vices and other peoples virtues.  But tho’ there is much to be puzzled about, there is nothing to be worried about.  It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite.  You know what Luther said:  ‘Do you doubt if you are chosen?  Then say your prayers and you may conclude that you are.’"  (pp.354-355).

Hooper then in a footnote supposes that it is the Arminian view "that the divine sovereignty was compatible with a real human free will."  I guess that means that Hooper has dismissed Jonathan Edwards’ careful work in "On the Freedom of the Will."  With all respect to Hooper, I would have to go with Edwards on that one.  But I thought you might find this Lewis quotation interesting.

Al, we’ve all been praying for you, and are thankful that you are home safely.  Our time here passes quickly doesn’t it?  Praise God we have a loving sovereign who alone determines the measure of our days.