Life goes on... like an echo in the forest...

Mere Christianity - Book Three - Faith

댓글 0

Spirit/e—Mere Christianity

2009. 11. 7.










Book Three





    11. Faith

     I  must talk in  this chapter  about what the  Christians  call  Faith.
Roughly  speaking,  the  word Faith seems to be used by  Christians  in  two
senses or on two levels, and I will take them in turn. In the first sense it
means  simply  Belief-accepting  or  regarding  as  true  the  doctrines  of
Christianity. That is fairly simple. But what does puzzle people-at least it
used to puzzle me-is the fact that Christians  regard faith in this sense as
a virtue, I used to ask how on earth it can be a virtue-what  is there moral
or immoral about believing or not believing a set  of statements? Obviously,
I  used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not  because he
wants  or does not want to,  but because the evidence  seems to him  good or
bad. If he were  mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence that
would not mean he was a bad  man, but  only that he was not very clever. And
if  he  thought the evidence bad  but  tried to force himself to  believe in
spite of it, that would be merely stupid.

     Well, I think I still take that view.  But what I did not see then- and
a  good many people do  not see still-was  this. I was  assuming that if the
human  mind once  accepts a  thing  as true  it  will  automatically  go  on
regarding it as true, until some real reason for  reconsidering it turns up.
In fact, I was assuming that the  human mind is completely ruled  by reason.
But that is not so.  For  example, my reason  is perfectly convinced by good
evidence  that  anaesthetics  do  not smother me and that  properly  trained
surgeons do  not start operating until I am unconscious.  But that  does not
alter  the  fact  that when they have me down on  the table  and clap  their
horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic  begins inside me. I start
thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start  cutting me up
before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics.
It is not reason that is taking away my faith:  on the contrary, my faith is
based on reason. It  is my imagination  and emotions. The battle  is between
faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.

     When  you think of it you will  see lots  of instances of  this.  A man
knows, on perfectly good evidence, that a pretty girl of his acquaintance is
a liar  and  cannot keep a secret  and ought not to be trusted;  but when he
finds himself with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and
he  starts thinking,  "Perhaps she'll be different this time," and once more
makes a fool of himself and tells  her something  he ought not to  have told
her. His senses  and  emotions  have destroyed  his faith in what  he really
knows to be true. Or take a boy learning to swim. His reason knows perfectly
well that an unsupported human body will  not necessarily sink in  water: he
has seen dozens of people float and swim. But the whole question is  whether
he  will be able to go on  believing this when the instructor takes away his
hand  and  leaves  him unsupported in the water-or whether he  will suddenly
cease to believe it and get in a fright and go down.

     Now  just  the same thing happens about  Christianity. I  am not asking
anyone  to accept  Christianity  if his best reasoning  tells  him that  the
weight of the evidence  is against it. That is not the  point at which Faith
comes in.  But supposing a  man's reason once decides that the weight of the
evidence is  for it.  I can tell that man what is going to happen  to him in
the next few weeks. There  will come a moment when there is bad  news, or he
is in trouble, or is living  among a lot of other people who  do not believe
it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of  blitz
on his belief.  Or else there will come a moment when  he wants a  woman, or
wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of
making a little money in some  way that is not perfectly fair: some  moment,
in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true.
And once  again his  wishes  and desires will carry  out  a blitz. I am  not
talking of moments at  which any real new  reasons against Christianity turn
up.  Those have  to  be faced and that  is a different matter. I am  talking
about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

     Now Faith, in the sense in which I  am here using the  word, is the art
of holding on  to things your  reason  has once accepted,  in spite of  your
changing moods. For  moods will change, whatever  view your  reason takes. I
know that by experience.  Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which
the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods
in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods
against your real self is going to come anyway. That  is why Faith is such a
necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods "where they  get off," you can
never  be either  a sound Christian  or  even a  sound atheist, but  just  a
creature dithering to  and  fro,  with  its beliefs really dependent  on the
weather and  the  state  of its digestion. Consequently one must  train  the
habit of Faith.

     The first  step is to recognise the  fact that  your moods change.  The
next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some
of its main doctrines shall be  deliberately held before your mind  for some
time every day. That  is why daily  prayers and religious reading and church
going are  necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be  continually
reminded  of  what  we  believe.  Neither  this belief  nor any  other  will
automatically  remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.  And as a matter of
fact,  if  you examined  a  hundred  people  who  had  lost  their faith  in
Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned
out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?

     Now I must turn to Faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the
most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back
to the  subject  of  Humility.  You may remember I said that  the first step
towards humility was  to  realise that one is proud. I want to  add now that
the next step  is to make  some serious attempt to  practise  the  Christian
virtues. A week  is not enough. Things  often  go  swimmingly for the  first
week.  Try six weeks. By that time, having,  as far as one can  see,  fallen
back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will
have discovered  some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he  is till
he has tried very  hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people
do not know what  temptation means. This is an  obvious lie. only those  who
try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you  find out the
strength of the German army by fighting  against  it, not by  giving in. You
find out the  strength of a wind by trying to walk against it,  not by lying
down. A man  who  gives in to temptation after five minutes simply  does not
know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people,  in
one sense, know very little about badness. They have  lived a sheltered life
by  always  giving in.  We never find out the strength of  the evil  impulse
inside us until we  try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man
who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the  full
what temptation means-the only complete realist.  Very well, then. The  main
thing  we learn from a serious  attempt to practise the Christian virtues is
that we fail. If  there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam, and
that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If
there was any idea  of a sort  of bargain-any idea that we could perform our
side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him,
in mere justice, to perform His side-that has to be wiped out.

     I think every one who has some vague belief in God, until he  becomes a
Christian, has the idea  of an exam,  or of a bargain in his mind. The first
result  of real Christianity is to blow that idea into  bits. When they find
it  blown  into bits, some  people think this means  that Christianity is  a
failure and give up. They seem to imagine that God is very simple-minded! In
fact,  of  course,  He  knows  all  about  this.  one  of  the  very  things
Christianity was designed  to do was to blow this idea to bits. God has been
waiting for  the moment at which you  discover that there is no question  of
earning a pass mark in this exam, or putting Him in your debt.

     Then comes  another discovery.  Every faculty  you have,  your power of
thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God.
If you devoted  every moment of  your whole life exclusively  to His service
you could not give Him anything  that was not in a sense His own already. So
that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God,
I will tell you what  it is really  like. It is like a small child going  to
its  father and  saying, "Daddy,  give  me  sixpence to buy you  a  birthday
present." Of course, the  father  does, and he  is pleased with the  child's
present. It is all very nice and proper,  but only an idiot would think that
the father  is sixpence to the good on  the transaction. When a man has made
these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real
life begins. The  man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of Faith in the
second sense.








Lewis discuses the two levels of Faith.

  1. Lewis admits to being puzzled by the concept of simple belief being a virtue. How did he resolve this puzzlement?
  2. Lewis defines Faith as ...
  3. How does one train the habit of Faith?
  4. Before discussing the second level of Faith, Lewis returns to cultivating humility and suggests that one try to live the Christian life for a while. one will then discover by failure that ...







"Faith" in the first sense: Belief -- "accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity."

  • Obviously, something should be accepted or rejected based on the facts about what seems to be true.
    • Being honestly wrong about something doesn't mean a person is 'bad,' only (possibly) 'not very clever.'
    • If a person thinks the evidence for something is bad, but he wills himself to believe it anyway, he's just stupid.

This assumes that we accept and reject things strictly on reason, which is not true.

  • example of panic on the operating table

It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.

  • example of the girl that lies, and the boy can't keep his head about her.

The same thing happens in Christianity.

  • You should only accept Christianity, if your best reason says that it's true.
  • Within a few weeks of accepting it, something will come along that makes you question Christianity:
    • bad news, trouble, or your friends who aren't Christians.
    • temptation, when Christianity not being true would seem convenient.
  • In these times, your emotions will carry out an assault on what your reason accepted.
  • These are all moods that rise up against what you accepted by reason.

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.

So, you must train the habit of Faith.

  • Recognize that moods change
  • Spend some time, every day deliberately reflecting on some of the main doctrines of Christianity. (quiet time, small groups, prayer, Bible reading)
  • "We have to be continually reminded of what we believe."
  • No belief will automatically remain alive in the mind.
  • People who abandon Christianity rarely have been reasoned out of it -- they simply drift away.

Faith in the second/higher sense - stick to it.

'"No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good."

  • It is silly that people who always yield to temptation think that those who don't aren't tempted, only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in."
  • Those to always give into temptation live the sheltered life of never having to face the struggle of fighting it.
  • Jesus is the only complete realist because he is the only man who every faced temptation and never yielded -- thereby facing the full fury of temptation and evil.

We find that a serious attempt to practice Christian virtues results in our failing. In that failing we find that our only hope is to rely on God -- that we cannot do it without him.

  • we learn that we can never be good enough to put God in our debt.

Then comes another discovery. Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like.... When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of Faith in the second sense.