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
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
Lewis discuses the two levels of Faith.
- An understanding of the second level of faith comes only after a man has ...
- What is a way of thinking which identifies a man who is not in a right relationship with God?
- 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?
- 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?
- What are the two parodies of truth which Christians have been accused of believing?
- 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.