Menu Is God in All? 4020.12

“If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that.

You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will.
Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’

For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world—that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God ‘made up out of His head’ as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”
— Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis

MM) A good analogy is the game of chess: God made the board and the pieces, then he established the rules of the game. God did not create the outcomes, which are infinite in their variety. If God created the outcomes, then we'd have something to complain about. But since he didn't...

The chess analogy applies to people—the way we interact with each other—because we are social beings. We are intensely interested in each other. But how we play the game either ensures the continuation of the game or undermines it. If we don't like the game, it really doesn't matter, because it's the only game in town. We can either submit and make peace with it, thus relieving most of our suffering (or at least make it endurable) or we can rebel against it, which only increases our suffering.
What makes it endurable is the infinite range of possibilities that the game affords. There is almost nothing we cannot do. But if we insist on seeing the rules as keeping us from doing whatever we want, instead of as a structure that exponentially increases our freedom, then life becomes unbearable. It's all a matter of perspective. But one perspective is real; the other is not.

The laws of nature are an interesting addition to this. They inform our decisions about how we should treat each other, but our social reality is somewhat independent of the laws of nature. In evolutionary terms, we have the ability to self-select; we don't have to go along with the general direction of our biology, which is intelligent but not sentient. Nature knows precisely HOW to do everything but cannot choose WHAT to do—it can only do what is "natural," including its own game of natural selection.
But we are of a different order. We CAN choose to do things differently, such as extend our compassion to members of other tribes, not just our own. That's wholly novel in terms of evolution. Broadening our horizons may have evolutionary benefits in the long run, but it's not something nature could do on its own. There really is something about us that transcends nature. Whatever that is, it is absolutely a prerequisite to our freedom.

As in The Matrix, some rules can be broken. But not all. Thinking that everything is up for grabs is a fantasy that can only lead to more suffering. The trick is to know which is which—where we are free to explore the possibilities that living together affords and where the boundaries are. Knowing the bounds of our existence actually gives us more freedom than ignorance of those boundaries ever could. In chess, the rules of the game allow for infinite outcomes. A complete lack of rules would not.

TJ) It's funny (?) how frequently our efforts to put things right only makes them worse. I love Lewis very much, and read him often. This passage touches on a very tricky point, and I'm not sure Lewis gets it right here. The way I read the sayings of Christ, we are not to try to put things right, but only to do right. See the parable of the wheat and the tares. See the story of Mary and Martha. Watch and Pray.