Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bullets and prayer: not magic

'Poor woman,' said my friend. 'One hardly knows what to say when they talk like that. She thinks her son survived Arnhem because she prayed for him. It would be heartless to explain to her that he really survived because he was standing a little to the left or a little to the right of some bullet. That bullet was following a course laid down by the laws of Nature. It couldn’t have hit him. He just happened to be standing off its line... and so all day long as regards every bullet and every splinter of shell. His survival was simply due to the laws of Nature.’

At that moment my first pupil came in and the conversation was cut short, but later in the day I had to walk across the Park to a committee meeting and this gave me time to think the matter over.Costner JFK It was quite clear that once a bullet had been fired from Point A in direction B, the wind being C, and so forth, it would pursue a certain path. But might our young friend have been standing somewhere else? And might the German have fired at a different moment or in a different direction? If men have free will it would appear that they might. On that view we get a rather more complicated picture of the battle of Arnhem. The total course of events would be a kind of amalgam derived from two sources — on the one hand, from acts of human will (which might presumably have been otherwise), and, on the other, from the laws of physical nature. And this would seem to provide all that is necessary for the mother’s belief that her prayers had some place among the causes of her son’s preservation. God might continually influence the wills of all the combatants so as to allot death, wounds, and survival in the way He thought best, while leaving the behaviour of the projectile to follow its normal course.

C.S. Lewis, "The Laws of Nature," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 76-77.

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