Over the last year or so, I've been working my way back through the Chronicles of Narnia. I just finished A Horse and His Boy today, so I have been thinking abut providence, which is supposed to be the primary theme of the story.
I am ambivalent about providence.
Well, that's not accurate. I am grateful for and blessed by providence itself, defined by me as God's hand in our daily lives.
But as defined by others, such as C.S. Lewis himself, providence means God's predetermined hand in our daily lives.
I think God has a plan, and a plan B, C, and D; since He gave us freewill and knows we may select plan A. And I think He knows how everything is going to play out because He is the Great I AM, but I stop short of believing that He predetermined all of our steps. It undermines my idea of freewill.
I think Lewis also believed in freewill and had a caveat that since God lives in the now and the future, it allows for both freewill and providence.
This is where the ambivalence comes into play. I try not to get tied up in knots about any theoretical, theological debates where there is no firm answer available or there are smart well-meaning people, that I respect, who make contradictory cases. This has been one of those type of issues. It comes down to this, does God cause bad things to happen or just allow them to happen because we live in this fallen world?
You can see where Lewis' view lies from the following powerful scene from A Horse and His Boy, in which Aslan the Lion recounts for the boy all of the places He was there interceding on the boy's behalf.
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
People commonly quote the primary verse above, and I see why. I cried again this time when I got to that speech by Aslan. I just kept thinking, "Lo, I am with you always." And my heart is warmed by the hand of providence. Even the items that are not-so-pleasant show how all things can work for good for those who love the Lord.
But read on just one more line and you have to come to terms with the other side of the providence debate. Aslan scratching Aravis (measured by damaging) so that she got a taste of what her action had caused to someone else.
Even then, it's easy to imagine God allowing some harm sometimes for discipline and learning, but what about rape, genocide, or a child being raised by an abusive parent? Are we prepared to believe He chose that for those people? To me, the answer has to be no. I can accept that we live in a fallen world and it's a bit mysterious why He intervenes one time and not another. And I definitely believe He can use ALL THINGS for good; but it sounds false in my heart that His proactive plan A includes some of those evil atrocities.
For me, when I run into a brick wall in my theology, it comes down to a couple of foundation points:
- God is good.
- Even if I never understand the answer while on earth, there is an answer and it is perfect. Because He is holy.