Free Will in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange


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Free Will versus Predestination in A Clockwork Orange

 

Burgess raises the oppositions of free will and predestination in various of his novel, A Clockwork Orange.  The author describes his own faith as alternating between residues of Pelagianism and Augustinianism.  Pelagianism denies that God has predestined, or pre-ordained, or planned, our lives. A consequence of this is that salvation is effectively within human power (as God hasn't set it down for each of us, it's within our control), which eventually leads to a denial of original sin. Refutation of this eventually came from Augustine, who (a) fiercely upheld the doctrine of original sin, and (b) defended the orthodox doctrine of predestination from the implicit paradox with free choice of salvation (ie., while God has created us, and effectively writes the whole story of each of our lives, the ultimate choice between accepting or rejecting his salvation is ours) with a claim that yes, our nature is laid down when he creates us, but he effectively looks the other way (a "left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing" scenario) when it comes to that ultimate decision, so that the decision of salvation (though not the absolute power over it that Pelagius described) is ours. Or, at least, that's how Burgess saw it.

 In the history of the church the classic controversy concerning the nature of the Fall and its effects is that waged by Augustine at the beginning of the 5th century against the advocates of the Pelagian heresy. The latter taught that Adam's sin affected only himself and not the human race as a whole, that every individual is born free from sin and capable in his own power of living a sinless life, and that there had even been persons who had succeeded in doing so. The controversy and its implications may be studied with profit in Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings. Pelagianism, with its affirmation of the total ability of man, came to the fore again in the Socinianism of the 16th and 17th centuries, and continues under the guise of modern humaninstic religion. A halfway position is taken by the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that what man lost through the Fall was a supernatural gift of original righteousness that did not belong properly to his being as man but was something extra added by God (donum superadditum), with the consequence that the Fall left man in his natural state as created (in puris naturalibus): he has suffered a negative rather than a positive evil; deprivation rather than depravation.

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This teaching opens the door for the affirmation of the ability and indeed necessity of unregenerate man to contribute towards the achievement of his salvation (semi-Pelagianism, synergism), which is characteristic of the Roman Catholic theology of man and grace. For a Roman Catholic view, see H.J. Richards, 'The Creation and the Fall', in Scripture 8, 1956, pp. 109-115. From P.E. Hughes, 'The Fall', in J.D. Douglas (editor), The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, England. 1980. Repentance is the chief point of interest in the prophetic writings... The prophets are often accused of a doctrine of repentance which lays stress on human will-power, as did the Pelagian heresy. But the prophets regarded repentance as inward (Joel 2:13). Ezekiel, who demanded that the individual should make himself a new heart (18:31), also recognized that a new heart can only be a gift of God's grace (36:26). With this agrees the 'new covenant' passage in Je. 31:31-34. From J.H. Stringer, 'Grace, Favour', ibid. The anti-Pelagian position that Burgess considered against Pelagianism was probably far closer to original Augustinism than the R.C. position referred to above; I'll eventually dig something more apropos up. Some of Burgess's musings on the subject relevant to A Clockwork Orange: Chaplain The question is whether such a technique can make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man. Chaplain It may not be nice to be good, 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him? You are passing now to a region where you will be beyond the power of prayer. A terrible, terrible thing to consider. And yet, in a sense, in choosing to be deprived of the ability to make an ethical choice, you have in a sense really chosen the good. So I shall like to think. So, God help us all, 6655321, I shall like to think.


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