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Mere Christianity

by C. S. Lewis

In this book, C. S. Lewis uses a ton of metaphors. In every chapter, there is at least one metaphor, and many chapters contain two or three metaphors. In fact, The Chronicles of Narnia is essentially one large metaphor. The Bible also contains an innumerable number of metaphors. Jesus used metaphors to teach. Modern academics, such as Doug Wilson, use metaphors on top of metaphors. This seems to be the epitome of teaching. Metaphors seem to be able to teach us abstract concepts that science cannot explain.


Preface


Lewis begins “Mere Christianity” by commenting on a few objections. First, he purposely refuses to talk about things that he knows nothing about, such as gambling or marriage. Similarly, he elaborates about what he means by “Christianity”. C. S. Lewis makes it clear that he does not wish to comment on the various denominations, such as Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Roman Catholic. Rather, he uses the term “Christianity” as it was originally defined in Acts 11:26, when the disciples were in Antioch.


Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe


1. The Law of Human Nature (aka The Law of Right and Wrong): Human beings all over the earth believe that they should behave in a certain way. However, they do not behave in this way. Said another way, we all know The Law of Human Nature, and we all break it. The Law of Right and Wrong does not need to be taught. It exists in every person and every community.


2. Some Objections: The Law of Right and Wrong is not like the Law of Gravitation, which we have no choice but to obey. The Law of RIght and Wrong is also different from our instincts. During certain situations, we may have conflicting instincts. One instinct might tell us to save a drowning man, whereas the other instinct might tell us to stay safe. In this type of situation, the Moral Law cannot be clearer. The Moral Law is what helps us decipher our instincts. There is also an argument that the Moral Law is simply a human convention. If this is the case, then it should be said that we as humanity have progressed over time. Since we have progressed, it means that we have replaced some sets of morals with “better morals”. Similarly, we say that some people are more moral than other people. Since we are able to compare morals, it follows that there must be a moral standard to measure against. This moral standard is The Law of Right and Wrong, or the Law of Human Nature.


3. The Reality of the Law: The Law of Human Nature is not a law like gravitational law. A rock has no choice but to obey the law of gravity. But the Law of Right and Wrong is about what man ought to do, not what he actually does. For example, man ought to be unselfish. The Law of Right and Wrong does not describe what man actually does. The Law is also not man-made, yet it is real. (I do not understand how Lewis concludes that the Law is not man-made - I read this chapter a few times and still do not understand the argument)


4. What Lies Behind the Law: There are two views about how the world was created, the Religious view and the Materialist view. You cannot determine which is the correct view by traditional science. Science is used to make conclusions about what we observe in the world around us. It works by pointing a telescope at something and observing how that something behaves, and then drawing conclusions from the observations. Therefore, it follows that we will never be able to use science to determine which view is correct, because we will never be able to observe creation. Nevertheless, we as humans have some insider information about our species. Because of this insider information, we have a moral law, which we did not create, which we know that we ought to obey. This moral law is like a little packet of information that was put inside of us by the Great Architect, and it cannot be observed or studied externally like we study a rock or a carrot. Therefore, there must be a God, a Creator, who put the Law of Right and Wrong inside of us.


5. We Have Cause to be Uneasy: The Law is ruthless and unforgiving. It does not offer forgiveness or mercy. Yet, none of us live as we should. We all try to follow the Law of Right and Wrong, but none of us do. Therefore, all of us ought to get punished for that. Once we realize that we deserve to be punished for not obeying the moral law, only then, can we introduce the God of Christianity, which offers forgiveness for our wickedness.


What Christians Believe


1. The Rival Conceptions of God: Christianity is not Pantheism. The Pantheists believe that God is above good and evil. In other words, the world is part of God, and if only we could see things from His perspective, then we would realize that we are part of Him. The reality is that good and evil do exist. God is separate from the world, and He is all good. God made the world, and the things in the world have gone wrong. Hence, there is evil in this world.


2. The Invasion: The earth and the universe are complicated places, and Christianity is a complicated religion. It is not merely a “boys” religion. Additionally, Christianity is not Dualism. Dualism says that there are two distinct and independent powers in the world, one evil and one good. However, if this is the case, then we must introduce a third power, which is the standard that is used to judge between good and evil. This third power is a power that exists about the independent good and evil power, and is consequently God. Good and evil do not exist on the same level. People do good acts simply for the sake of doing good or being a good person. But nobody ever does evil acts simply for the sake of being bad. People commit evil acts because they get some reward from the evil action, such as money, power, or sexual gratification. Christianity does agree with Dualism in the sense that there is a war on this earth between good and evil. However, Christianity says that the evil power in this world is a good creation that has gone wrong. This world is indeed a battleground, on which war is waging between good and evil.


3. The Shocking Alternative: God has made himself known to us in several ways. First, through our consciousness. Second, through stories. And third, through Jesus. I finally understand the argument that Jesus was either God or a lunatic. One of the worst arguments that a person can espouse is that Jesus was simply a moral teacher. If you accept Jesus’s teachings, then you accept the fact that he could forgive sins, which is completely outrageous for a human being to say. Only God can forgive sins. Therefore, you accept his teachings, which implies that he is in fact the Son of God, or you disregard him as a lunatic.


4. The Perfect Penitent: Christianity says that Christ’s death put us right with God. It abolished our sins. There are lots of theories about how this works, but those are all just theories.


5. The Practical Conclusion: We, as Christians, have a new life in Christ. We are meant to be part of that life and to spread life. As organisms that are part of God’s body, we make mistakes, but he forgives us and we heal. Just like a living body gets injured and then heals itself. God will eventually invade this earth and defeat the evil. When that time comes, it will be too late to choose sides. Our job, while on this earth, is to be a living body for God and to bring new people into the body.


Christian Behavior


1. The Three Parts of Morality: (1) Relationships between two individuals (2) Relationship within man himself and (3) Relationship between man and the power that made him. C. S. Lewis uses the analogy of a fleet of ships sailing together, and that most people only focus on (1) morality as it relates to relationships within individuals.


2. The “Cardinal Virtues”: The four cardinal virtues are Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. Prudence is practical common sense - think about what you are doing, becoming wise and intelligent. Temperance is not abstaining from pleasures such as alcoholic drink - it is enjoying pleasures in the right amount and not in any excess. Justice is more accurately fairness. And lastly, Fortitude is courage or “guts” to stick it through.


3. Social Morality: Every person must work, and Christians must contribute to the poor. If you are living the same lifestyle as your peers who are making the same amount of money as you, then you are not giving away enough of your money. You should be missing things such as vacations, eating out, or other luxuries, because you are giving your money to the poor.


4. Morality and Psychoanalysis: God cares about what you make of yourself, and the decision that you make, with the “raw material” that you are given. We all have different capabilities, and God does not care about the absolute product of our capabilities, but rather, he cares about how far we can stretch ourselves given the raw material inside of us. A man who is getting better, sees more and more clearly how much evil is inside of him. A man who is getting worse, understands his wickedness less and less, and thinks himself a decent character. A thoroughly wicked man does not see his own wickedness, and thinks that he is a decent man.


5. Sexual Morality: C. S. Lewis argues that our sexual instinct has somehow gone wrong. If a being from outside of this world looked upon our world and saw our sexual appetites, this being would think that we are sexually starving. A woman undressing herself will attract a room full of men who are willing to pay good money to see her, whereas a plate of food being undressed and revealed to an audience will attract exactly zero people. Sexuality is perhaps the most challenging urge to control. However, if we truly desire to control it, then it is possible.


6. Christian Marriage: The Bible is very clear about the importance of marriage. However, the Christian marriage practice should not be forced upon citizens by the government. Folks that do not practice Christianity should not be forced to believe in Christian marriage. It should be the Church’s responsibility to enforce Biblical marriage and chastity. Also, movies and books have us believe that marriage is all about being “in love”. This is not the case. The intense loving feelings that you feel in the beginning of marriage are not the same feelings of love that you continue to feel in marriage, and you should not expect them to be.


7. Forgiveness: We all sin, and we forgive our own sins. If we did, then we would be quite miserable creatures. In the same way, we should love our neighbors and forgive their sins, no matter how atrocious.


8. The Great Sin: Sexual sin is not the greatest sin. Pride is the greatest and most severe sin. The Christian moral that lies on the other end of the spectrum from Pride is Humility. C. S. Lewis says that Pride is essentially competition. Man is proud of being smarter, or more rich, or more athletic than his neighbor. Pride is the ultimate spiritual cancer.


9. Charity: Charity goes beyond simply giving away money. Christians are to act as if they love their neighbor, even if they do not. A funny thing happens once you start acting like you love another person - you start to actually build love for that person. Over time, a Christian should realize that he starts loving more and more people, even those people that he could never imagine loving at the beginning of his Christian journey. Another thing to note is that feelings are unreliable. They come and they go. However, God’s love for us does not - it is constant and never ending.


10. Hope: We have a hope in the Next World, which is Heaven. Nothing in this world satisfies the deep longing that exists in every person, because that longing is meant to be satisfied in the next world. We cannot explain what Heaven will be like, because we cannot comprehend it with earthly objects. We describe Heaven using symbols like harps, gold, crowns, etc. A person who does not realize that these are symbols cannot understand books written for grown-ups and should not talk about such things.


11. Faith: The first form of faith is simply accepting the doctrines of Christianity as true. Faith is holding onto the things that your reason has accepted as true, despite your changing moods.


12. Faith: I admit that I do not quite understand the point of this chapter and what Lewis is trying to say.


Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity


Theology is like a map. It guides us and shows us what to do next. If you do not study theology, then you will not have a lack of theology. Rather, you will be infused with the wrong theology. There is a tremendous amount of information in this world, and if you do not study the correct theology, then the world will indoctrinate you with the wrong theology.


1. Making and Begetting: The Father God begot the Son. The Father God made man. Earth is God’s sculpture. He is creating and forming man. However, Christians believe that the statues (men) in God’s world are going to come to life and become “sons of God.”


2. The Three-Personal God: The Christian God is a personal God. He reveals himself more to some people than to others. It is man’s role to become clean so that he can discover more about who God is. A clean mirror can reflect more light than a dusty mirror.


3. Time and Beyond Time: God is beyond time. He does not experience time in the same way that we do. An author who is writing a book has nearly infinite time between sentences to decide what happens from one sentence, and one character, to the next. However, the characters themselves within the book experience time in a linear fashion. Man experiences time in linear fashion. God does not. This can also be used to explain how God knows the future, but we still have free will. God does not know the future in terms of a linear timeline. For Him, everything happens in the present.


4. Good Infection: God became a man and came to this earth in order to spread his “good infection.” As mere men, we only have biological life. We will eventually wither away and die. However, if we choose to accept the Son of God, then we will share life in Christ and live forever. We move from biological life to spiritual life. Once a man is united with God, he becomes a begotten “son of God” and lives forever. He is no longer a statue (or a tin soldier).


5. The Obstinate Toy Soldiers: In the process of converting biological men into spiritual men, or tin soldiers into living men, the tin soldiers reject the process. The process of melting the tin to form flesh is uncomfortable and the tin soldier cannot understand what is happening. Nevertheless, God is in control of the process and through the process is creating something better and Higher. Since Christ already came to earth and gave us life, it is easy to go from a biological man to a spiritual man. We simply need to get close to Jesus Christ, and the “good infection” will flow from Christ to us.


6. Two Notes: Consider two extreme views on a topic, such as two political viewpoints: Extreme Left and Extreme Right. We are all tempted to argue which of these two viewpoints is worse. This would be a mistake. Arguing that Extreme Left is worse than Extreme Right, or vice versa, is Satan working to make us choose between two wrongs. Once you decide that one option is worse than the other, then you will gradually and inevitably begin liking the opposite extreme more and more. Christians should not be fooled by this error of two wrongs. We are to avoid Satan’s temptation and walk straight down the middle of the two errors.


7. Let’s Pretend: Whenever you pray and call God, “Father”, you are pretending to be a son of God. The great thing about pretending is that you slowly learn how to be the thing that you are pretending to be. Children pretend to be adults, and eventually learn how to actually be adults. As soon as you start “dressing up” as a son of God, then you will begin getting thoughts that jump into your head about what you should do. Go do those things. The “good infection” is spreading to you, and you are starting to become more like Christ.


8. Is Christianity Hard or Easy? It is hard, and easy. The hardest thing to do is to hand over all of your wishes, doubts, dreams, and hesitations to God. But handing everything over to God is easier than the alternative. It’s like a schoolboy who needs to learn geometry. The boy that learns geometry by trying to understand all of the laws and the logic for applying the laws will do much better during the final exam, compared to the boy who simply memorized the correct answers during class and did not bother to get a fundamental understanding. Christians are like the boy that studied hard after class each day to fully grasp the concepts. At the time, it was hard. But at exam time, it was very easy. For the boy who only memorized answers, his life was easy, up until exam time, at which point it became exceptionally hard, or else he failed. Our primary calling as Christians is to bring people into the Body of Christ.


9. Counting the Cost: God demands everything, and He demands perfection. As soon as we enter the Body, God will work to make us perfect. He requires nothing less than perfection. However, the process will be painful. Yet do not be discouraged - whenever you mess up, He will pick you up again and keep helping you. He promises to make you perfect, and He will accept nothing less.


10. Nice People or New Men: We must not be surprised if we find people who are nasty Christians. The beautiful thing about Christianity is that God desires all people, including the wicked and broken. In fact, it is the wicked and broken people who are more likely to realize that they need God, because they are more likely to realize that they are broken. On the other hand, it is much more difficult for people who are “rich” to recognize that they are in need and to accept God’s help. Rich certainly refers to the economically rich, but it all refers to the “rich” who were created with good stuff. People who were created with good stuff are nice, smart, and funny. Because they were made with good stuff, they are “rich” and they are more likely to think that they do not need Jesus. For these reasons, and more, it is not uncommon to observe that non-Christians might appear to be more nice than Christians. Christianity invites the broken, nasty, and outcast. The only requirement of Christianity is that you improve and get better. The person who is in Christ should be a nicer person than that same person who is not in Christ. Jesus creates New Men. He does not create Nice People.


11. The New Men: Becoming a New Man is the next step in Evolution. However, it differs greatly from traditional evolution, because this type of evolution is caused by sexual reproduction, and it involves a conscious choice. New Men are attracted to other New Men. You might not know them when you first see them, because they look like regular men, not the religious types that you might expect. However, when you get to know them, you realize that they are never in a rush, you don’t understand where they get all their time from, their faces are radiant, they are happy. Being a New Man is like joining a secret society in which you can almost immediately recognize other members. Look for Christ, and everything else will come.

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