[DWJ] Pullman v Narnia (was Re:Farah Mendlesohn's book - blatantcommercial plug)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Sep 13 17:06:29 EDT 2006

>Minnow suggested:
>> (Doctrine of free will probably cuts in somewhere about that
>> point, and I do hope that Philip isn't indulging in some sort of
>> predestination kick: it seems very unlike him.)

and a different Philip responded

>Do you mean me, or Pullman?  I wouldn't have thought it was like either
>of us!

Have to admit that I wasn't thinking of you at that point: more pondering
on Pullman and free will, really.

>I don't hold the doctrine of predestination to be particularly important
>in the Christian scheme of things.  This may be partly because I have
>never heard a minister expound it in a self-consistent way, let alone a
>way consistent with other Christian doctrine!

Funny; nor have I.  It also seems incredibly futile, because either you're
bound for heaven in which case why worry, you can do whatever you like, or
else you aren't, in which case why bother, you might as well do whatever
you like -- neither of which gives much incentive for being better than is
immediately expedient or enticing, or indeed for being a good person at
all, and this seems to me not to need a religious codification to support
it as a way of life.

>On the other hand, since I regard personal responsibility as (a)
>impossible without free will and (b) a prerequisite to issues of sin and
>salvation, Free Will is _very_ important.

Yes.  With you all the way.  What I find odious is the "I couldn't help it,
it wasn't my fault" cop-out that denying free will seems occasionally to
lead to.

>The best unification of Free Will and Predestination I have met, which I
>think is closely related to Lewis's beliefs, is that God, being
>independent of time, can observe our freely made decisions and
>predestine our fate to match.  But this is decried by those who _really_
>believe in predestination.

If God is Ineffable (and as I think Neil Gaiman remarked, one really ought
not to eff with the ineffable) and all the rest, I can't see why he
*shouldn't* do whatever he happens to want to by simply moving outside the
boundaries that confine his creation, such as time, space and
chocolate-cravings.  In which case I'd postulate that we can believe
whatever we want to about him so long as it doesn't make us feel that he is
encouraging us to be beastly to each other.  This last seems to me to be so
clean contrary to the message put about by the Christ (and come to that by
the Buddha and by the Prophet and by a fair few other figures of religious
importance) that I tend to discount the possibility that it has anything to
do with God at all.  (Oh, all right, I  am deeply suspicious of anyone who
tells me God has personally told them to do x or y or z; it nearly always
turns out that "God has told them" to do something gosh-awful like kill all
the prostitutes and defined prostitute as anyone female outside her house
after dark, or destroy all the churches that aren't of the sect they happen
to belong to using high explosive, or some such.... and they always seem to
be convinced that I am damned for not agreeing with them unquestioningly,
which I always find rather tedious. )

>ObDWJ who remembers that wonderful discussion we had on similar issues
>in Time of the Ghost?

I think I wasn't here then.  *sigh*  All the best things at the pub always
happen on the one friday night in the whole year that you stayed home and
washed your hair.


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