Nov 292017
 

This book by C.S.Lewis is a favorite of evangelicals…even though a lot of what he says is hardly in line with evangelical theology.

Today, we read his take on how the faith is received…and and we’ll let Lewis speak for himself…

“There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names—Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper. At least, those are the three ordinary methods. I am not saying there may not be special cases where it is spread without one or more of these.

I have not time to go into special cases, and I do not know enough. If you are trying in a few minutes to tell a man how to get to Edinburgh you will tell him the trains: he can, it is true, get there by boat or by a plane, but you will hardly bring that in. And I am not saying anything about which of these three things is the most essential. My Methodist friend would like me to say more about belief and less (in proportion) about the other two. But I am not going into that. Anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will, in fact, tell you to use all three, and that is enough for our present purpose.

I cannot myself see why these things should be the conductors of the new kind of life. But then, if one did not happen to know, I should never have seen any connection between a particular physical pleasure and the appearance of a new human being in the world. We have to take reality as it comes to us: there is no good jabbering about what it ought to be like or what we should have expected it to be like. But though I cannot see why it should be so, I can tell you why I believe it is so. I have explained why I have to believe that Jesus was (and is) God. And it seems plain as a matter of history that He taught His followers that the new life was communicated in this way.

In other words, 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 per cent 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. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority—because the scientists say so.

Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. 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: in fact, on authority. 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.

Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief and the Holy Communion as things that will do instead of your own attempts to copy Christ. Your natural life is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay there if you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or you can drive it away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else. In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam—he 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. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because 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.

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or—if they think there is not—at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ- life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.

And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being “in Christ” or of Christ being “in them,” this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts—that we are.

His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body. And perhaps that explains one or two things. It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion. It is not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution—a biological or super-biological fact. There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.”

  12 Responses to “Another Look At “Mere Christianity”, Part 2”

  1. Yep, great writing. OF course Lewis and I would not agree 100% about the nature of such things, but we aren’t worlds apart.

  2. Found this in my morning devotions…

    “Our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other purpose than to transform us into that which we receive.”

    Leo the Great

  3. I really like Lewis’s “both-and” point of view about how the Christ life is received — two are sacramental and one I don’t think is — belief.

    It kind of lines up with my experience as a Xn for over 60 yrs — God can (and does, I believe) utilize various means whatever He brings folks into His church and sustains them. I think these 3 cover the waterfront, as it were.

  4. Whatever should be whenever.

  5. Mere Christianity has long been one of my favorite books.

    I certainly have my disagreements with Lewis but I love the way Lewis writes and communicates and is able to teach theology in a manner that relates easily to the commoner and the way in this book how he focuses on the core of Christianity.

    I also am often suspicious of so many evangelicals who espouse their love for the book when some of them at the same time can be quite denouncing of some of the same items that Lewis happens to believe and teach in the book.

  6. I think its just a case of agreeing on the vast majority of the content, and appreciating Lewis’ ability to express his points in the places we don’t agree.

    There’s a lesson to be learned there. The way that one communicates has an effect on how the message is received.

  7. “At least, those are the three ordinary methods. I am not saying there may not be special cases where it is spread without one or more of these.”

    I don’t think Lewis is offering these up as either / or – pick the one of your preference. I think he is being stern but allowing for “special” circumstances. I would hope no one would interpret special circumstances to be “I prefer this over this – or this just doesn’t sit right with me so I will leave it out.”

  8. #6 – “The way one communicates has an effect on how the message is received” that’s the truth… to take it one step further, for most of us, one communicator speaks to us while another communicator offends us and often both are saying exactly the same thing – just using a different “language” to do so…

    “And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being “in Christ” or of Christ being “in them,” this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts—that we are.”
    and – IMV – that is the mystery of the Church… just think about it – our Lord returned to the Father, leaving the fate of generations in our hands… i sometimes wonder if this process would have been shorter, if the Church (i mean us pew sitters) had been more diligent – dunno – i don’t know, but God always does and that, too, is a mystery, how does He do this with feeble humans?

  9. There is also something here that is profoundly sad. If Lewis came back today, outside of a very few college chapels in Oxford and Cambridge (where they still sing Evensong), he would barely be able to recognize the Anglican Church that he loved so much. It is heartbreaking to think about…

  10. It is faith that makes us whole…
    now is it necessary to take the historic view that Christ’s body and blood become a physical reality when ingested?
    i don’t think it is, but i do believe that it is very necessary and the lack of which is very damning no matter your view of the process, is to take the bread and the wine/juice with anything but stunned reverence when remembering the act that is represented. If i were to subscribe to the belief that the elements become real and efficacious as substance when i take them and yet i take them like i’d take an aspirin tablet – just pop them in and swallow, how can i claim that i have participated in the communion table?
    If their efficacy is physically transforming, then i think that the one who is reverent at the table will receive the same blessing as the one who anticipates the elements to perform a physical transformation. Like my redemption which wasn’t up to me, God did it…
    somehow, i don’t think it is pleasing to Him for us to wrangle about what that bread and wine are or are doing.
    From where i sit – we come close the O.T. legalism when we place our interpretation of the sacrifice on such a high plain… doesn’t sit right? salvation doesn’t “sit right.” God saves souls that seem not worth the trouble when i look at them… It’s His call and His work all the way… doesn’t have anything to do with what “doesn’t sit right” with me. He died to redeem me? That seems extreme. He’s redeemed me and, for the life of me, i can’t see why… there are many lost souls ignoring Him that are kinder, smarter and more lovable than i am… doesn’t have much to do with what sits right with me 🙂 thank God for that

  11. I sort of liked Mr. Lewis with Mere Christianity but his work, “The Problem of Pain” was far more influential now some that run in my early Christian narrative would consider Mr. Lewis a Catholic/Jesuit shill promoting the new world order (that would be the liberal view). He tried to deal with a narrative that was dear to my heart (given I don’t have a soul this is the closest I can come). He struggled with pain and tried to explain it from God’s perspective. I found that powerful. The Gospel is still powerful, as it is in each generation. I still do not understand why that is heretical, I agree it is what I am told but I don’t get why it is.

    This is pathetic on my part, but I just want to make sure those I worked with are part of the “redeemed”, even on my soul that would be a “good deal”.

  12. This is the book that really solidified my faith and put me on the road to baptism. I can’t explain why this is such a good book other than I think Lewis has a gift of logically and methodically parsing out the Christian faith. If I could keep just one book in addition to the Bible this is it. It is dear to me.

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