Friday, January 06, 2006

The Four Thrones at Cair Paravel

On Sovereignty and Free Will

Did you notice that at the outset of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that we are told by Beaver that there are four thrones waiting for two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve? Not three thrones. I do sort of speculate strangely sometimes but I can’t help but wonder what if Aslan had prophesied of three thrones instead of four? Think of the advantages. He could have avoided the whole bloody mess in one swoop. Let the Witch have the sniveling Edmund. He certainly wasn’t worth anything anyway.
    Analogies help us understand deep things in the Bible that are difficult to grasp. I want to look at the analogy of Aslan and Edmund. It is not entirely clear where the prophecy of the four thrones comes from but it certainly must have originated from Aslan. Let us assume so for the sake of this discussion. Aslan, in a sovereign act, says there are going to be four thrones. He knew beforehand that one would betray him in an act of free will. Edmund chose to follow the White Witch, knowing full well in his innermost being that the Witch was evil.
Was sovereignty compromised? No! Was free will abrogated? No! The prophecy was fulfilled exactly as told. But as Aslan says: It may be harder than you know. Edmund did his very worst, and it worked exactly into the predestined plan of Aslan.
    If I may be allowed to do something that Lewis correctly points out is wrong, let me suppose that Edmund had done everything as correctly as he possibly could. Here I am asking the “What if” question that Aslan reminds us constantly is not allowed. But I ask nonetheless: what if Edmund did everything exactly right? Would the sovereignty of Aslan nevertheless prevailed?
    My analogy thus gives us the widest spectrum of free choice. But whether Edmund says no or yes, there prevails the sovereignty of Aslan. Could not the free will of man and the sovereignty of God work in harmony in a similar fashion? To borrow from my Lewis again, Nothing is more probable.
    A final thought, if I may. I am probably more of a sniveling Edmund than Edmund ever was. What was I worth? Somehow God thought me worth the great price of his own son. Thankfully he did not eliminate my throne at Cair Paravel!


Danielle said...

Could Aslan's have been sovereign if Edmund did not reject him and turn to the witch? I believe that you are saying yes, but I don't think so.

From The Lion, Aslan speaking to the girls just after he's risen: "'It means,' said Aslan, 'that thought the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. Sheno treachery was killed in a trator's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards. And now--"
What follows is one of my favorite Narnian scene (but, okay, I love them all): Aslan and the girls run and laugh in a wild, ecstatic, perfect romp.

Don't you think that this must have been part of his plan too? If Edmund hadn't turned traitor, Aslan would not have died--death would not be working backwards! How great this lion is! He doesn't just stop death, or prevent it--he makes it work backwards!

Of course, I'm talking here about a children's story--a lion, not God. But I can't help that think that God is equally sovereign. To resign His sovereignty to mere foreknowledge seems to be cutting corners, short-changing Him. Somehow, I think, This plan, fall and all, must be BETTER than it would have been had Eve refused the fruit.

I am walking a fine line here, because I'm not saying that God made Eve eat the fruit. God is incapable of doing evil! Yet, he allowed it to occur because it would work together for his ultimate Glory.

I know, I know, you think this is bad theology. :) But that's your daughter for ya. I'm thinking this weekend, amidst my meetings and work, I will look up the predestination verses and peruse _the Institutes_. A little light reading never hurt anybody.

Mr. D said...

I think the possiblility of Edmund's free choice sort of self-evidently implies that he had the possibility of choosing the right thing.
Similarly, Jesus made it very evident that his two comings could have been one coming had Israel done its job and received him faithfully. He speaks of John the Baptist being Elijah, who was to come. And then he points that the choice is wrong and that Elijah will indeed come.
From our point of view, and what I think you are saying, is that it seems like God has to have a plan A if we choose this and a Plan B if we do that. That would of course be ridiculous. God would have to make plan zillion because of all the possibilities.
But you forget about foreknowledge. Foreknowledge is ultimate power, and does not violate free choice. It allows God to proceed with a plan (predestination) and man to completely be responsible for his own stupid choices.

Miroslav said...

I'm with Danielle on this one. Not that either of you asked or anything...

Mr. D said...

Are we to assume that Edmund did not choose evil? If he did choose it then he is being judged on that basis, irrespective of how much sovereignty, or over-riding of Edmund's free will took place. The whole point is to state that God is good, sovereign and somehow that junctures cleanly with the free will of man. I do not see any difference with what Danielle is saying and I am saying.

Deborah said...

I think "typical" Calvinism doesn't get rid of free will. They just don't get rid of God's sovereignty either. True Arminianism gets rid of God's sovereignty. Hyper Calvinism gets rid of free will.
I preferred saying that I was a "Biblicist," like you and Mom have always said, until I realized that the definition of Calvinism is really the same thing. I think you and Danielle are close to saying the same thing, just not agreeing on terminology and maybe a few degrees of free will.
That's my take on it.

Mr. D said...

Danielle and I had a great conversation on this and found we were in large agreement. I like your statement about few degrees of free will.
The mystery of free will and sovereignty is that we are never sure which we are exercising. We know both exist- but which is it this time?