Saturday, April 21, 2012

What to Do Before the King Returns?—Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

How Much Time Is Left?
"The Christian belief is that if we somehow share the humility and suffering of Christ we shall also share in His conquest of death and find a new life after we have died and in it become perfect, and perfectly happy, creatures. This means something much more than our trying to follow His teaching," explains C.S. in The Practical Conclusion, the last chapter of the book within Mere Christianity that explains what Christians believe.

Do You Have to See It to Believe It?
"In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put in us.... There are three things that spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and ... the Lord's Supper.... [Jesus] taught His followers that the new life was communicated in this way.... I believe it on His authority. Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so....None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them.... A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life."

God Likes Matter: He Invented It
The Christian "is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts. And that has practical consequences. As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body.... A Christian ... is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumblebecause the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.... The Christian ... does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.... When Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral.... They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts.... That explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion.... There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature.... He likes matter. He invented it."

Now Lewis asks a question I've asked many times myself, and while I don't agree with everything he has to say on the subject, I think these ideas are worth considering: "Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what [all] His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ....But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ's body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ, who alone can help them. Cutting off a man's fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.

Imagine Normandy to the Nth Degree!
"Another possible objection is this. Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it?... Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade.... When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right ... God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you chose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it."
Don't Let a Moment Slip Past without Christ

Highlights from chapter 5: The Practical Conclusion, book 2: What Christians Believe in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  Click here for a clear view of how this chapter relates to the whole book.

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