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Mere Christianity - Book Two - The Practical Conclusion

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Spirit/e—Mere Christianity

2009. 8. 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Book Two

 

WHAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE

 

 

    5. The Practical Conclusion


     The perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: perfect
because He was God,  surrender and humiliation  because He  was man. Now the
Christian belief is  that if  we somehow share the humility and suffering of
Christ we shall also  share  in His conquest for 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.
People often  ask  when  the  next step  in evolution-the  step to something
beyond  man-will happen. But on the Christian view, it has happened already.
In Christ a  new kind of man appeared: and the new  kind of life which began
in  Him is to be put into us. How is  this to be  done? Now, please remember
how we acquired  the old,  ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others,
from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent-and by
a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A  process you
would  never have guessed. Most of us  spend a good many  years in childhood
trying  to guess it: and  some children,  when they  are  first told, do not
believe it-and  I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the
God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges  how the new kind
of life-the Christ life-is  to be spread. We must be  prepared  for it being
odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us
either when He invented this.


     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.


     Here is  another  thing that used to  puzzle me. 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 His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can
be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who  know Him
can be saved through Him,  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.


     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? Is it dial
He  is not strong enough?  Well,  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.  But  I wonder whether  people  who ask  God to interfere openly and
directly in our world  quite realise what it will be like when He does. When
that happens,  it is  the end  of the world. When the author walks on to the
stage  the play is over.  God is going to invade, all right: but what is the
good  of saying  you are on  His side  then, when  you see the whole natural
universe melting away  like a dream and  something  else-something  it never
entered your head  to conceive-comes crashing in;  something so beautiful to
some of us  and so terrible to others that  none  of us will have any choice
left?  For  this  time  it  will  be  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 choose to lie down when it  has become impossible
to  stand  up. That will  not be the time for choosing: it will  be the time
when we  discover  which side we really have  chosen, whether we realised it
before 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 for ever.
We must take it or leave it.

 

 

 

 

The implications of life in Christ are briefly stated.

  1. Lewis states that according to Christian belief, by sharing in the humility and suffering of Christ we shall share in...?
  2. Lewis states that being a Christian is more than just mental belief, it involves the physical activities of...?
  3. According to Lewis, doing good in order to appease God is not the reason Christians do good . Rather, any good that a Christian does is a result of...?
  4. Lewis admits to having been puzzled by the idea that the new life is confined to Christians only. What is his answer to this question?
  5. Another objection that Lewis sites is the question of why God does not deal openly and decisively with the Devil. What is his answer to this question?

 

 

 

 

The perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: perfect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was man. Now 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. People often ask when the next step in evolution--the step to something beyond man--will happen. But on the Christian view, it has happened already. In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.

  • How is this done?
    Now, please remember how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others, from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent--and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, do not believe it--and I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges how the new kind of life-the Christ life--is to be spread. We must be prepared for it being odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us either when He invented this.
    • Three things spread the "Christ-life" to us
      • Baptism
      • Belief
      • Holy Communion/Mass/the Lord's Supper
      • At least these are the three "normal/common" methods.
      • We can disagree about the details and emphasis, but these are core to Christian doctrine and teaching.
      • The only way we can know any significant amount of things is to accept them on authority.
    • Baptism, belief and Communion do not replace our own attempts to follow Christ. We have this new life, we are responsible for caring and nurturing it. Just as we have to care for and nurture our physical lives, we have to care for and nurture this new Spiritual 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.
    • This puts Christians in a different position than all other religions. All other religions are about people being good to try to please God. "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."
    • Being 'in Christ' is more than an attitude or thought life or imitation of Christ. Christians believe "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."
      • This, perhaps, explains why this new life is spread not just by mental acts life belief, but by the physical acts of baptism and Communion?
      • God uses physical things to change us, "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."
  • So, why is God landing is enemy-occupied territory in disguise?
    • To give us a chance to choose freely
    • To give us time to choose freely
    • There's no point in choosing to join the winning side after the war is over!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt 

http://www.opendiscipleship.org/Mere_Christianity_leaders_notes

http://www.gordy-stith.com/Mere%20Christianity/mere_christianity_study_guide.htm