Predestination in Perelandra

I read C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra for the first time this summer, and enjoyed it immensely. Among the many quotable passages, I found the following particularly interesting (I won’t provide any context so as not to be accused of spoiling anything for those who haven’t read it):

The thing still seemed impossible. But gradually something happened to him which had happened to him only twice before in his life. It had happened once while he was trying to make up his mind to do a very dangerous job in the last war. It had happened again while he was screwing his resolution to go and see a certain man in London and make to him an excessively embarrassing confession which justice demanded. In both cases the thing had seemed a sheer impossibility: he had not thought but known that, being what he was, he was psychologically incapable of doing it; and then, without any apparent movement of the will, as objective and unemotional as the reading on a dial, there had arisen before him, with perfect certitude, the knowledge “about this time tomorrow you will have done the impossible.” The same thing happened now. His fear, his shame, his love, all his arguments, were not altered in the least. The thing was neither more nor less dreadful than it had been before. The only difference was that he knew—almost as a historical proposition—that it was going to be done. He might beg, weep, or rebel—might curse or adore—sing like a martyr or blaspheme like a devil. It made not the slightest difference. The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unaltered as if he had already performed it. It was a mere irrelevant detail that it happened to occupy the position we call future instead of that which we call past. The whole struggle was over, and yet there seemed to have been no moment of victory. You might say, if you liked, that the power of choice had been simply set aside and an inflexible destiny substituted for it. On the other hand, you might say that he had [been] delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom. Ransom could not, for the life of him, see any difference between these two statements. Predestination and freedom were apparently identical. He could no longer see any meaning in the many arguments he had heard on this subject.

First, this is a great answer to someone who has concerns about predestination, right? “Don’t worry—predestination and freedom are identical!”

Seriously, though, this passage raises some interesting questions (the first two more closely related than the third):

  1. Is there any sense in which predestination and freedom are identical? (Or at least not in conflict?)
  2. If they are identical (or merely compatible), how often do they coexist? Only in certain situations, like Ransom’s above? In every situation, whether we realize it or not?
  3. If you go with option #2 in the passage above (“he had been delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom”), does that shed any light on the sinless state that Jesus was (and is) supposed to have maintained, or that we at some point are supposed to reach?

Discuss amongst yourselves. Or, better yet, post a comment!

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2 Responses to Predestination in Perelandra

  1. WILL VAUS says:

    I discuss this in some depth in my book: “Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis”. I have a whole chapter on “God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility” which deals with this passage from “Perelandra” and many other Lewis books.

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