We like to ask why. Young children ask why about everything they see. They do it out of a sense of wonder and curiosity. Perhaps that’s one reason why Jesus invites little children to his side, because the so-called rational and reasonable approaches of adults haven’t taken hold in them. Children see everything without those tools — those vices — which we rely on to hem in the mystery of God.
In A Year with C.S. Lewis for March 12-15, Lewis reflects on the age-old question of God’s authority, his messiahship, in such a messed up world. If there is evil in the world, how can that be God’s will? Or, as we might be more accustomed to frame the question, if God is loving, why are there starving children in the world; if God were kind, why does he allow war and disease and suffering?
There isn’t an easy answer. We know it’s complex and riddled with theological perspectives about God himself, sin, humanity’s fallen nature and how God interacts with his creation.
Lewis punches straight to it. “You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it,” he says. “That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.” It is the free will that God provides that is a redaction to his supremacy, but without it we would not understand need or even sin.
But how does “the Nature created by a good God [come] to be in this [depraved] condition?” Lewis asks. He evokes imaginative color into his argument. He projects that God comes to the void and sets it off to start evolving. Her ultimate purpose is be perfected. In so doing, God begins a pattern that we see repeated in humanity’s redemption, that of descending down and reascending into Heaven, repeated by God’s surrender of his perfect will to make ours freely our own.
As to the depravity that happens in Nature, Lewis refers to the fall of angels, and, like men, they, “have tampered with things inside our frontier.” And so, Lewis says, “We find ourselves in a work of transporting pleasures, ravishing beauties, and tantalising possibilities, but all constantly being destroyed, all coming to nothing. Nature has all the air of a good thing spoiled.”
Where is the hope, then? It’s in the dropping down of Heaven’s Son. In that act, God opens the veil of his purpose a little further. “The union between God and Nature in the Person of Christ admits no divorce,” Lewis says. “He will not go out of Nature again and she must be glorified in all ways which this miraculous union demands. When spring comes it ‘leaves no corner untouched’; even a pebble dropped in a pond sends circles to the margin.”
In a providential beat of faith, the New Testament reading for March 17 is about the Apostle Paul’s surety that the work of God will not be overcome, but, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Like those who dream, says the Psalmist this week (126:1-6), God restores and continues to do great things for us, in us and through us.