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Mere Christianity - Book Three - Faith

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Spirit/e—Mere Christianity

2009. 11. 14.










Book Three





    12. Faith

     I want  to  start by  saying  something that I would like  everyone  to
notice  carefully.  It is this. If this chapter  means nothing to you, if it
seems to  be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do
not bother about  it  at all. There are certain things in Christianity  that
can be understood from the outside,  before you have become a Christian. But
there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have
gone a certain distance  along the Christian  road.  These things are purely
practical, though they do not look as if  they were. They are directions for
dealing with particular cross-roads and obstacles on the journey and they do
not make sense  until a man has reached those places. Whenever you find  any
statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry.
Leave it alone. There  will  come  a  day,  perhaps  years later,  when  you
suddenly see what  it meant If one could understand it now, it would only do
one harm.

     Of course all this tells against me as much as anyone else. The thing I
am going  to try to  explain in this  chapter  may be ahead  of me. I may be
thinking  I  have got there when I  have not.  I  can  only  ask  instructed
Christians to watch  very carefully, and tell me when I go wrong; and others
to take what I  say with a grain of  salt- as something offered, because  it
may be a help, not because I am certain that I am right.

     I am  trying to talk about Faith in the second sense, the higher sense.
I said last week that the question of Faith in this sense arises after a man
has tried his level best to  practise the Christian virtues, and found  that
he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God
what was already  God's  own. In other words, he  discovers  his bankruptcy.
Now, once  again, what  God cares  about is not exactly our actions. What he
cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality- the
kind  of creatures He  intended us to  be-creatures  related to Himself in a
certain way.  I do not  add "and related to one  another  in a certain way,"
because  that  is included: if you are right with Him you will inevitably be
right with all your  fellow-creatures, just as if all the  spokes of a wheel
are fitted rightly  into  the hub and  the  rim they  are bound to be in the
right  positions to one another. And  as long as a man is thinking of God as
an examiner  who has set him a sort of paper to do, or as the opposite party
in a  sort of bargain-as long as he is thinking  of claims and counterclaims
between himself and  God-he is  not yet in the right relation to Him. He  is
misunderstanding  what he  is  and what God is.  And he cannot  get into the
right relation until he has discovered the fact of our bankruptcy.

     When I say  "discovered," I  mean really discovered: not simply said it
parrot-fashion. Of  course, any child, if given a  certain kind of religious
education, will  soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer to God that
is not already His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that
without keeping something back. But I am talking of really discovering this:
really finding out by experience that it is true.

     Now  we cannot, in that sense,  discover our failure to keep God's  law
except by trying our  very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try,
whatever we say there will always be at the back  of our minds the idea that
if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good.  Thus,
in one  sense,  the  road back to God is a road  of moral effort,  of trying
harder and harder. But in another sense it is not  trying that is ever going
to bring us home. All this trying  leads up to the vital moment at which you
turn  to  God and say, "You must  do this. I can't." Do not,  I implore you,
start asking  yourselves, "Have I reached that  moment?" Do not sit down and
start watching your own mind to see if it is  coming along.  That puts a man
quite on the wrong track. When the most important  things in our life happen
we quite often do not know, at the  moment, what is going on. A man does not
always say to himself,  "Hullo! I'm  growing up." It is  often only  when he
looks back  that he realises  what has  happened and recognises it  as  what
people call "growing up." You can see it even in  simple matters.  A man who
starts anxiously watching to see whether he is going to sleep is very likely
to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I  am talking of now may not happen
to every one in a sudden flash-as  it did to St Paul or Bunyan: it may be so
gradual  that no  one  could  ever point to  a  particular  hour  or even  a
particular year. And what matters is the nature of the change in itself, not
how we  feel while  it is happening.  It is the change from  being confident
about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for
ourselves and leave it to God.

     I know the words "leave it to God"  can be misunderstood, but they must
stay for the moment. The sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that
he puts all his trust in Christ: trusts that Christ  will somehow share with
him  the perfect human obedience which He carried out  from His birth to His
crucifixion:  that  Christ  will make the  man more  like Himself  and, in a
sense, make good his deficiencies.  In Christian language, He will share His
"sonship"  with us, will make us, like Himself, "Sons of God": in Book  IV I
shall attempt to analyse the meaning of those words a little further. If you
like to put it that way, Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers
everything for nothing.  In a  sense, the whole Christian  life consists  in
accepting that very  remarkable offer. But  the difficulty is  to reach  the
point of recognising that  all we  have done and can do is nothing. What  we
should have liked would  be for God to count our good  points and ignore our
bad ones. Again, in a sense, you may say that no temptation is ever overcome
until we stop trying to overcome it- throw up the sponge. But then you could
not  "stop trying" in the right  way and for the  right reason until you had
tried your very hardest. And, in yet another sense,  handing everything over
to  Christ does  not, of  course, mean that you  stop  trying.  To trust Him
means, of course,  trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in
saying you trusted a person if you  would not take  his advice. Thus  if you
have really handed yourself over to Him, it must  follow that you are trying
to obey Him. But  trying  in a new way, a less  worried way. Not doing these
things in  order to be saved, but because He has begun  to save you already.
Not hoping to  get to  Heaven as  a  reward for your actions, but inevitably
wanting to  act  in a  certain  way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is
already inside you.

     Christians have often disputed as  to whether  what leads the Christian
home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on
such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in
a  pair of scissors  is  most necessary.  A serious moral effort is the only
thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up  the sponge. Faith
in  Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out
of that Faith in  Him  good  actions  must inevitably  come.  There are  two
parodies of the truth which different sets  of Christians have, in the past,
been  accused by other  Christians of  believing: perhaps they  may make the
truth clearer. one set were accused of  saying, "Good actions  are all  that
matters. The best good action is charity. The best kind of charity is giving
money. The best thing  to  give money  to  is  the Church.  So hand  us over
Ј10,000 and  we  will see  you through."  The answer  to  that  nonsense, of
course, would be that good  actions done for that motive, done with the idea
that  Heaven  can be  bought, would  not be good  actions at  all,  but only
commercial speculations. The other set were accused of saying, "Faith is all
that matters.  Consequently, if you have  faith, it doesn't  matter what you
do. Sin away, my lad, and have a good time and Christ will see that it makes
no difference  in the end." The answer to that nonsense is that, if what you
call your "faith" in Christ does not  involve taking the slightest notice of
what He says, then it is  not Faith at all-not faith or  trust in  Him,  but
only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him.

     The Bible really seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things
together into one amazing sentence. The  first  half is, "Work out  your own
salvation  with fear and trembling"-which looks as if everything depended on
us and  our good actions:  but the  second half goes on, "For it is  God who
worketh in you"- which looks  as if God did everything  and we nothing. I am
afraid  that is  the sort of thing we  come up against in Christianity. I am
puzzled, but I am not surprised. You see, we are  now trying to  understand,
and  to  separate into  water-tight compartments, what  exactly God does and
what man does  when God  and  man are working together. And,  of course,  we
begin by  thinking  it is like two men  working together, so  that you could
say, "He did this bit and I did that." But this way of thinking breaks down.
God is not like that. He is inside  you as well as outside: even if we could
understand  who  did  what,  I do not  think  human language  could properly
express it. In  the attempt to express it  different Churches  say different
things.  But you will find that even those who insist  most strongly  on the
importance of good actions tell  you  you  need Faith;  and  even those  who
insist most strongly on Faith tell you to do good actions. At any  rate that
is as far as I go.

     I think  all Christians  would agree  with me  if  I  said  that though
Christianity seems at first to  be all about morality, all  about duties and
rules  and guilt  and virtue, yet it leads  you on, out of  all  that,  into
something beyond. one has a glimpse of  a  country where they do not talk of
those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled  full with
what  we  should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light But  they do
not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of
it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is
near  the stage  where  the road passes over the rim  of our world. No one's
eyes can see very far beyond that:  lots of  people's eyes can  see  further
than mine.





Lewis discuses the two levels of Faith.

  1. An understanding of the second level of faith comes only after a man has ...
  2. What is a way of thinking which identifies a man who is not in a right relationship with God?
  3. Lewis states that a man who watches himself to see when he will fall asleep is very likely to remain awake. How does this relate to growing in faith?
  4. In handing ourselves over to Christ, we desire to obey him. But we must obey in a new way of obedience. What is this new way?
  5. What are the two parodies of truth which Christians have been accused of believing?
  6. You have come to the end of Book III






This is Faith in the "second" or "higher" sense of the Christian term.

We discover this Faith when we have tried our hardest to be Christian, and we find that we cannot. We discover our bankruptcy, and discover what God really cares about:

  • Not our actions
  • He desires that we become "creatures of a certain kind or quality -- the kind of creatures he intended us to be -- creatures related to Himself in a certain way."
  • that we become creatures that relate to each other in a way dictated by the statement above.

"When I say 'discovered; I mean really discovered: not simply said it parrot-fashion. Of course, any child, if given a certain kind of religious education, will soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer to God that is not already His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that without keeping something back. But I am talking of really discovering this: really finding out by experience that it is true."

We can only discover our bankruptcy by trying our hardest and failing at keeping God's law.

  • We can only come to Faith when we have tried
  • and failed
  • and quit trying
  • and rely on God to fulfill His law in us.
  • You will only realize that you've arrived when you look back and find that you've been there. You won't know it at the time.

Trusting God means...

  • trying to do all he says.
  • following the his instruction/advice
  • in finding that we can't follow on our own, we learn to follow in His power.
  • We don't do the things He commands in order to be saved, but...
  • [we do them] because He has begun the saving of us already.
  • We don't do things hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for our actions, but...
  • [we do them because] the "first faint gleams of heaven" are already planted inside us by Him!

Faith and Works

  • We should do good works, not for salvation, but in a response to God's working within us.
  • The works are the outworking of the faith.
  • If we are called to good works (prepared in advance for us), but we don't do them, we suppress the work of God within us.
  • "Faith without works is dead" -- That's doesn't mean that it's not real, saving Faith, it just means that it's been confined, restricted, and incapacitated to continue the work in our lives that God called us to.