Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The New Men—Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

In this final chapter of Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis picks up where he left off: "In the last chapter I compared Christ's work of making New Men to the process of turning a horse into a winged creature. I used that extreme example ... to emphasize the point that it is not mere improvement but Transformation.... Perhaps a modern man can understand the Christian idea best if he takes it in connection with Evolution. Everyone now knows about Evolution (though, of course, some educated people disbelieve it).... Consequently, people often wonder 'What is the next step? When is the thing beyond man going to appear?'... The Christian view is ... that the Next Step has already appeared. And it is really new. It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change ... from being creatures of God to being sons of God. The first instance appeared in Palestine two thousand years ago. Christ ... of course ... is ... much more than that. He is the new man. He is the origin and center and life of all the new men. He came into the created universe, of His own will, bringing with Him the Zoe*, the new life.... Everyone who gets it gets it by personal contact with Him. Other men become 'new' by being 'in Him.'"

"We are all still the early Christians. The present wicked and wasteful divisions between us are, let us hope, a disease of infancy: we are still teething. The outer world, no doubt, thinks just the opposite. It thinks we are dying of old age. But it has thought that very often before. Again and again it has thought Christianity was dying, dying by persecutions from without and corruptions from within, by the rise of [Islam], the rise of the physical sciences, the rise of ... revolutionary movements. But every time the world is disappointed. Its first disappointment was over the crucifixion. The Man came to life again.... They keep on killing the thing that He started: and each time ... they suddenly hear that it is still alive and has even broken out in some new place."

"Now the critical moment has arrived.... It is like the crisis of birth. Until we rise and follow Christ, we are still parts of nature—still in the womb of our great mother. Her pregnancy has been long and painful and anxious, but it has reached its climax. The great moment has come. Everything is ready. The Doctor has arrived. Will the birth go off right? But of course [spiritual birth] differs from an ordinary birth in one important respect. In an ordinary birth the baby has not much choice; here it has.... Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognizable: but others can be recognized. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off.... The will not be very like the idea of 'religious people' that you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less.... They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognized one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect ... that they recognize one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of color, sex, class, age, and even of creeds."

"But you must not imagine that the new men are, in the ordinary sense, all alike. I will try two very imperfect illustrations.... Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You ... try to describe to them what light is like.... Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they [would all be] receiving the same light, and all reacting to it in the same way (i.e. all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are. Or again, suppose a person who knew nothing about salt: You give him a pinch to taste and ... tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cookery. Might he not reply 'In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it will kill the taste of everything else.' But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite.... Of course ... you can kill the other tastes by putting in too much salt, [but] you cannot kill the taste of a human personality by putting in too much Christ." 

"The more we get what we now call 'ourselves' out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of 'little Christs,' all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He inventedas an author invents characters in a novelall the different men that you and I were intended to be.... Our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to 'be myself' without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call 'Myself' becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events that I never started and that I cannot stop.... I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call 'me' can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

Gloriously Different Saints
Monotonously Alike Tyrants
"At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up yourself to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most 'natural' men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints."

Letting Go of Self
"There must be a real giving up of the self.... The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self ... will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.... The same principle holds ... for more everyday matters: will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making.... No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring ... how often it has been told before) you will ... become original without ever having noticed it.... Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep nothing back. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours.... Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in."

Highlights from chapter 11: The New Men, book 4: Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity 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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