Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4

(Book 3: Christian Behavior, Chapters 4-6)

Lewis entitles chapter four of Book 3 Morality and Psychoanalysis. Lewis begins by stating that we must do two things at once. Apply, “do as you would want done to you” into all aspects of our society AND try to become the people who would apply it on the inside if we knew how.

Lewis goes on to explain that when a man makes a choice there are two things involved. One is the act of choosing. The second is the psychoanalysis process and the felling and impulses that come to him, which are the raw material of his choice.

In this process, there can be normal feelings or unnatural feelings. It may be normal and consist of the feelings that are common to all man or it might consist of quite unnatural feelings through the things that have gone wrong in his subconscious.

The first would be a fear of something dangerous that keeps you safe.The second would be a fear of cats or spiders.Psychoanalysis seeks to remove those subconscious things that have brought you to those unnatural fears and feelings.

Rarely does it start with that acts and choices itself, the psychoanalytical problem has to be cured, before the moral problem can begin. Because now that someone is cured, they have the choice to make the right moral decisions. Once the raw material is improved the man has the free choice to but himself first or to put others first. And that free choice is the only thing morality is really concerned with. 

Bad psychological material is not a sin, but a disease. It doesn’t need to be repented of, but cured.This is important, because as humans we judge one another by their external appearances, but God judges people by their moral choices.

Take the person who has an unnatural fear of cats and yet sees a cat in distress and helps it down. He may have done more than a typical person with a typical neurological makeup who showed bravery in war.

Flip this around, those of us with a normal heredity and makeup, seem outwardly like pretty nice people, may have used their typical makeup and good upbringing in such a small way, that God would view us in a worse light than those that we consider to be fiends.

Can we have be sure how we would have behaved had we been saddled with the bad psychological outfit and bad upbringing and with the power, say of Himmler?

That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results of man’s choices. But, God does not judge them on the raw material, but what he has done with it.

Most of the man’s psychological make up is due to his body. When he dies, all of that will fall off. And the real central man, the thing that chose, the thing that made the best or worst out of this material will stand naked. All of the good things that we thought we did that were just because of a good upbringing will fall off of us. All of the bad things that someone did that were really just due to a psychological disorder will fall of them. And then we really see for the first time people as they really are.

People often think that God is making a deal. If you keep rules, I will reward you. If you don’t I will give you the other thing. But, think of it more as a central part of you, every time you make a choice, your turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all of your innumerable choices, you are slowing turning this thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature. Either into a creature that is harmony with God and other creatures and yourself. Or into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, its fellow creatures and itself.

To be first kind of creature is heaven, joy, peace, knowledge, and power. To be the other is madness, horror, hideous, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. 

Each of is progressing to one state or the other.

Think of someone who murders and then think of someone who yells and spouts off mean words. You would think of course the murderer is worse. Except for, in his case that central part of the man, each time the murder murders and each time the second man rages, it distorts and twists the central part of their beings a little further, So, that each man, in this way is equal and the only thing that can straighten them out is for God to put them right. Each man moves equally far away from God with their rage, even though the outward looks very different.

One last point, the right direction leads not only to peace, but to knowledge. When the man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left within him. As a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. Think of this, you understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know the nature of good and evil. Bad people know neither.

In Chapter 5, Lewis goes on to talk about sexuality morality and the Christian rule of chastity.

Chastity is not modesty, which is the amount of coverage a woman has in a particular society or a particular time, which can change. Chastity does not change.  An extreme modesty is not necessarily a sign of chastity.

Since this isn’t a firm standard, the elderly should not be so quick to judge the young for their new fashions, etc and the young should not be so quick to call their elders prudes and out of touch.

Chastity is the most unpopular of all of the Christian virtues. There is not getting around it. It’s sex within the confines of marriage and complete fidelity to your partner or complete abstinence.

Lewis asks the question of what has caused the overwhelming lack of respect for sex.Either Christianity has gone wrong or biological sexual desires have gone wrong.

The biological need for food is to give energy. The biological need for sex is to bare children. If we were all to just eat whatever we want, whenever we want, we would all eat too much. But, only to a certain extent, we might eat enough for 2 people, not for 10.

But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined and each escapade produced a baby, in 10 years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Think of this, there are large audiences at strip clubs all the time to watch women undress, but imagine if there was a society where you could get a large audience together to put a covered plate on stage and then to uncover it just to see what food was underneath. Wouldn’t you think in that country something had gone wrong in regards to their appetite for food?

Someone visiting us from another planet would probably think there was something equally odd with the sex instinct within our society. Sexually appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. You find very few people who use food for other things than to eat. Food perversion is rare. The perversion of sex is ramped.

Christianity never said sex in itself is bad. Christianity actually glorifies marriage, lifts up the body  – – Christ came down in a human body; we will have a new body in heaven – – Sex for reproduction and as a form of pleasure is true and Christianity uplifts this.

People say that sex is an instinct just like any other natural instinct like hunger or pain, but that is not true.When people say sex is not to be ashamed of, in the Christian sense of reproduction and pleasure that is true. In the sense of just being a natural instinct to do whatever you want, it is shameful. If people made food take up half of their life, just talking about it all day and looking at pictures of it, that would be quite odd.

Our society has put out the propaganda that sexual unchastity is the norm.There are people who want to keep our sex instincts inflamed in order to make money off of us.

Lewis says (regarding sexual temptation/sin) that God knows our situation and He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

Chastity is very difficult to achieve and even to desire. Before we can be cured, we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even this wish is difficult. We can say with our lips, “Our Lord make me chaste,” but our hearts say, “but not yet.” (St. Augustine)

Three reasons why it is hard to desire, let alone achieve complete chastity.1 – Our warped nature. All of the temptation  and the contemporary propaganda for lust. It can make you feel that the desires you are trying to resists are natural, so why try to resist them?It has been propaganda that has told us every sexual desire at any time is healthy and natural and normal. But, take heart. There are many things including sexual restraint where we must restrain in order to have a happy, healthy and successful life.

2 – People often think that Christian chastity is impossibleBut that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just like  a very, very hard question on a test. You don’t leave it blank. You try it and you do your best. Just as you may get some credit for getting certain parts right and certain parts wrong. You will get no credit for not trying at all.   We must ask for God’s help. But after each failure, ask for forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again. Very often what God helps us to first is not the virtue itself, but to always try again. The only failure is to be content with anything less than perfection.

3 – People often misunderstand what psychologists teach about repression. It teaches us that repressed sex is dangerous, but that’s misusing the term suppression for repression. Your suppressing your desire and you are very conscience of your choice. Where, repression is something blocked because it has been so awful (since childhood or something).

While there was a lot to say about sex and Christian morality, it is not the center of Christian morality. The sins of flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all the sins. All worst sins are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting, the pleasure of power, of hatred. 

For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. That is why a cold. Self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course it s better to be neither.

Lewis follows up his chapter on sexual morality with Christian marriage.

Christina doctrine on marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and a wife are to be regarded as a single organism. That is what the word “one flesh” would be in modern English. He was not given a sentiment, but a fact; just as a lock and a key are one mechanism. And a violin and a bow one instrument.

So, the Christian view is that the pleasure must be coupled within marriage. Just as with food you shouldn’t try to get the taste without digesting it. You don’t chew up your food and spit it out just for the taste.

Some churches won’t allow divorce under any circumstances. Some do very reluctantly under extreme circumstances. What churches agree on and are much  more in agreement with each other than with the outside world is that divorce is not a good thing and that it is more like cutting off a leg than just separating so easily as the world does when any little thing doesn’t go right.

Anyone who is married in a church makes the promise till death do you part, however this is often see as just a mere formality. But, why make the promise then? Who are they trying to trick? Often, it’s the public. They want the formality of a respectable wedding, without intending to pay the price of actually meaning what their marriage vows say. If people do not believe in the permanency of marriage, it would be better for them to live together unmarried, then to become married and make vows they do not intend to keep.

The idea that being in love is the only reason to remain married really leaves no room for marriage as a promise at all. If love the love is the whole thing, than the promise could add nothing. And if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.The promise is not to remain in love. You can’t promise to continue to feel a certain way. The promise is about what you can control, the actions, what you do, regardless of the feeling.

What’s the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound social reasons.First, to provide a home for their children.Second, to protect a woman, who has probably sacrificed her own career to get married, from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her.

Being in love is great in one way, no one would deny it is better than common sensuality or complete selfishness.  But the most dangerous thing you can do is take any one impulse of our nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.

Too often we want to say that something is just good or bad. But, there’s good, better, best. There’s bad, worse, worst. And being in love is a good thing, but it’s not the best thing. There are many things below it, but also many above it. It’s noble feeling, but just a feeling. No feeling can last in it’s full intensity or can even be relied on to last at all. Knowledge, principles and habits can last, but feelings come and go.

Ceasing to be in love, does not mean ceasing to love.  IN this sense, love is not merely a feeling, it is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace with which both parents ask for and receive from God. 

They can have this love for each other even in moments when they do not like each other. They can maintain this love, even when if each allowed themselves, they could easily be “in love” with someone else. Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity , this second quieter promise allows them to keep this fidelity . It is on this love that the engine of marriage runs. Being in love was the explosion which started it.

We must learn from our own marriage and those around us what is really true and not from movies and books. We must disentangle this and see what is reality and what is fantasies that have permeated through our brain through fiction.

Think of anything, anything that the first experience or thinking about it is so exciting, but the reality of it does not stay at that peak , but something lasting comes instead.  (this may apply to my teaching).

Often when we settle down and continue in that interest even after the initial excitement is over, we find a thrill in something new, For example, the one who goes off to live in “the perfect place,” the excitement died down, but then found a new thrill in gardening.

Lewis believes this is one of the things Christ meant when he said a man may not truly live until he dies. If all you try to do is live all off of thrills, they would get weaker and weaker. You would end up living as a delusioned person. You must settle into a quieter peace that comes from the ongoing fulfillment and take the new thrills as they come along away.

It’s also by movies, etc that falling in love seems so irresistible that you just can’t help it , but Lewis says that yes you meet someone whose beautiful and clever and witty, And in a certain sense we should love these qualities. But, don’t we have much more choice than we tend to say or believe in whether or not we fall in love with them?

A Christian doctrine on marriage even more unpopular than the permanence is that Christian wives promise to obey their husbands. The man is said to be the head.

The need for some head follows the thought that the marriage is permanent. Typically, the couple should agree, but when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen?Either they must separate and go their own ways or one must have the final decision.

Why should the head be the man?Does the woman really want to be the head of the house? Even a woman who says she wants to be the head of the house, does not see it the same when it’s her neighbor. “Poor Mr. Smith. Why does his wife boss him round like that? That’s just not right.” There must be something unnatural of the rule of wives over husbands because wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule.

Also, a woman is so focused on her family and fighting for their needs, she finds it hard to be just to those in the outside world when it comes to issues dealing with her family. Where a man tends to be more just to all involved.If your child had hit another child, who would you rather talk to about it? The dad or the mom next door?

Also, wives think of this. Don’t you think one of the failings of your husband is he seems to see the other person’s point of view too much. Is a bit of an appeaser. Doesn’t go all out to defend you and the kids.

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Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 3

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 3 (Book 3 : Christian Behavior, Chapters 1-3)

In chapter 1 of the third book, Lewis begins the by stating that moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every rule is there to prevent a breakdown or a strain or a friction in the running of that machine. He points out that while perfect behavior is unobtainable, it is a necessary ideal for all men to have when talking about the human machine.

It’s nothing to brag about to say you have high ideals or high morals. It would be the same to say that when you are doing a math problem you are trying to get it right. It would be ridiculous to not try because every mistake you make will cause more troubles later. It’s the same with every moral rule you break. It causes troubles for yourself (and most likely others) along the way.

Lewis observes that morality seems to be concerned with three things. The first is the fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with harmonizing things inside each individual. And thirdly, with a general purpose of a human life as a whole; what man was made for, what cost the whole fleet, and what the the conductor of the band wants to play.

Often people don’t think of morality beyond the first one. To be kind and good toward others. To make sure the things you do don’t harm others. Often it stops with just this first one. However, we have to make sure what’s inside of us is right. Nothing but the courage and selflessness of individuals is ever going to make the way that people interact and society better. People have to be right inside before those social interactions will really be right anyways.

Then, there is the third concern of morality. In which different beliefs about the universe lead to different behaviors. Use a fleet of ships as an example. If someone thinks that honestly all that matters is they don’t harm the other ships, but they can do whatever they want to their own ship. But doesn’t it matter if they believe they own their own ship or if it is owned by the fleet?

Think of yourself. If all your worried about is how you treat others and you are not worried about what you are like on the inside that would greatly depend on whether you own yourself, so to speak. Our bodies are only a tenant, responsible to the real landlord. If someone made me for his own purposes, I would have a lot of duties I would not have if I only belonged to myself.

It is the same thing with our view of eternity; there are lots of things that would not matter if  I was only going to live roughly 70 years. I would not bother about many things, but if I am going to live forever, there are things that become very important that I better take care of.

In the second chapter, Lewis goes on to talk about the Cardinal Virtues. He states that there are seven virtues and four of them are cardinal. The other three are theological. The Cardinal Virtues are recognized by all civilized people, while the theological ones are, as a rule, only recognized by Christians.

Cardinal means the hinge of a door, they are pivotal. They are prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. Prudence means practical common sense. Taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what will most likely come of it. This virtue is important to Christians because Jesus wants a child’s heart, but a grown ups head. Being a Christian is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.

Temperance means going the right length and no further when it comes to pleasures. Temperance is different than abstinence. There may be times when a Christi an completely obtains from something, because it is something they struggle to not go overboard with or to keep their witness or because they are going to use the money they would have spent on it for the poor, but the mark of a bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.

Temperance is a very difficult virtue and it applies to much more than just alcohol. Someone who devotes all of their time to golf or to their job or to overspending and shopping. Those aren’t as easily seen on the outside as a drunk who falls down in the middle of the road. But, remember God is not easily tricked by outside appearance.

Justice is everything we should call fairness: honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises and all that side of life.

Fortitude includes both kinds of of courage. The kind that faces danger as well as the kind that sticks with it under pain. Guts is perhaps the nearest modern English.

There is a difference between just occasionally doing cardinal actions and actually having cardinal virtues. It is good to point out doing one, or some sort of just or temperate action and actually being a just or temperate person.

If you think about a tennis player, every now and again, anyone could hit a good shot right down the line. But, a good player is counted on to hit that good shot because they have done it time after time after time and been trained.

A person who becomes just not only does just actions, but they have a certain character about them that makes them a just person that goes beyond just the act now and again. This distinction is important because if it only mattered doing the action we would have some contradictions. 

One, it doesn’t matter why you do it. But, indeed it does. Right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to build the internal quality called virtue. Two, we might think that God simply wanted obedience to a set of rules. Where as he really wants people of a certain sort. Three, we might think that virtues were necessary only for this present life. That in the other world we could stop being just because there is nothing to quarrel about…etc. Without these types of internal qualities (not that you will need to be just or brave in heaven) that person would not be able to have the type of happiness that heaven is meant to bring because they won’t have the quality inside of them to accept it.

In the third chapter, Lewis focuses on Social Morality.  Something to understand about Christian morality, when it comes to man interacting with man, Is that Christ did not come to preach a new morality. He came with the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is something that deep down everyone has known all along.

Really, great moral teachers never do introduce new morality. People new to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. The real job of a moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back time after time to the old simple principals which we are all so anxious not to see.

Christianity has not and does not profess to have a political system to apply to a particular society in a particular moment with the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is meant for all men at all moments.

Lewis says that in order for Christianity to make its biggest impact on society it is not tot take over one particular aspect of society, it is rather a director, which will set them all to the right job and a source of an energy that will give them all new life. For example, the human arts and science.

People often ask for a lead from the church. But they mean that they want the clergy to put out a particular political program, which is not what Christianity is. Now, if they mean to lead with the people God gifted in the right way and with the right talents to take on positions within politics and business and then to live out “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you would quickly have a society changed by Christians.

The New Testament gives us an idea of what the Christian society should look like. Every man should work or they will not eat. Every man should work to produce something good. There should be no showing off or bragging, but everyman doing his best at what he was meant to do. The society would also have obedience and respect to authority, leaders, officials, parents and from wives to husbands. It should also be a cheerful society with joy and signing; regarding anxiety as wrong.

The economic life would seem socialistic and in that way advanced. The family life would seem very old fashioned. Even, somewhat ritualistic. We probably wouldn’t even like all of the parts of it, because we have made our own plan that we say is the way the Christian plan is supposed to be. But, that’s because we have all departed from the Christian machine as it was meant to run. 

In Christianity, everyone is attracted to bits of it and want to leave out the rest.  Borrowing with interest is something the Christians, Jews and ancient Greeks have all spoken out against. Also, the passage that says that everyone must work, is in order that they may give to those in need. Charity is an essential part of the Christian Society. Think of the parable of the sheep and  the goat. I do not think we can settle how much one should give. I think the only safe rule is to give more than one can spare. There ought to be things we would like to do and cannot do because of our charitable giving. We must be careful we don’t try to make Christianity support the belief we already hold or political system we already support, but we must let Christianity speak for itself.

A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it. And we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat, “do as you would be done by” until I am blue in the face,  but I can not really carry it out until I learn to love my neighbor as myself and can not really love my neighbor as myself unit I learn to God and I cannot really love God except  by learning to obey Him.

So we are driven on to inward matters.

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 2 (Book 2: What Christians Believe)

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 2  

(Book 2 : What Christians Believe)

Christians believe God created the universe, like a man painting a picture. God made the world, but a great many things have gone wrong in the world. And that God insists quite loudly on our trying to put them right again

There is often the argument (as was Lewis’ when he was an atheist) that the world is just so cruel and unjust, how can there be a good God out there? This question took Lewis back to the thought of moral law. How did he even have the idea of just and unjust? Cruelty and kindness? If it weren’t for God placing that inside of him?

Lewis contends that atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe had no meaning, we should have never found out it has no meaning. Just as if there was no light in the universe and creatures were without eyes, we would never know that there was dark. Dark would be without meaning

Then there is another view that is too simple along with Atheism. That there is a good God in heaven and everything is just all right. In other words, these people make Christianity and religion too simple. They don’t deal with any of the facts of all the wrong in the world and the need for justice and redemption and sin and salvation. They just think that there is a good God in heaven who made the universe. Period.

Not only is reality not simple, it is often quite strange. You would have to be purposefully oblivious to the reality of our world to look around and believe that everything is all right! Human beings walking around the planet understand that there are things that are bad and meaningless.

Christianity explains there was a good world created that has gone terribly wrong. But, there is still a thought and remembrance of how it should be. And we can actually look at the fact that bad things help prove the existence of good. And not only the existence of good, but that good is on a higher level than the bad. Because in order for it to be bad, there must be something good for it to have gone off against.

There is no badness just for the sake of badness. Even the most evil thing is some sort of good perverted.  For example, even people who seem to do cruel things just for the sake of being cruel (sadists), do so because in some way there is a sexual perversion. They get aroused in the cruelty they commit. Which means there had to be a normal sexual standard, which is good, to be perverted, in order for them to have this arousal.

Even someone who seems to be happy when they do bad things…they get pleasure out of the bad things. The pleasure is the goodness and they’ve perverted the way in which they get that pleasure. There is no evil without good. All bad is, is a perversion of something good.

Christianity believes that it’s a civil war. That the evil was created by the good. And that there is now a Civil War going on and we, people, are in the territory occupied by the rebel. We are in enemy occupied territory and the rightful king has landed. And is calling us all on a great campaign of sabotage!

Christianity says that the prince of evil is the one reigning this world for this time. This raises a couple of questions. This would be odd that this would be within the will of a good God. On the other hand, if it’s not within His will, it raises the question, how can something happen outside of a God’s will who has absolute power?

However, anyone who has been in a position of authority can see how something can be BOTH in and out of your will. For example, a mother tells her children I’m not going to be coming up here and making you tidy up the playroom every single night. You must learn to have the responsibility to do that on your own…So, the mother comes up one night and there are toys all over. It was not her will that the room be a mess, however it was in her will that the children have the responsibility to keep the play room clean on her own.

This is what God did when He created humans to have free will. You may ask, why would he go and do such a crazy thing like that? Give free will to a race of people who will use this will to do many terrible and evil things. But, you must thing of the other side of this coin as well. The only true joy and happiness comes is through free will. The love and happiness and joy that God wants for everyone through being united with him is by choosing to be united with Him and to one another.

Of course God knew what would happen if people choose to use their free will the wrong way, but apparently He thought it was worth the risk. Now, you might disagree with God for giving free will. However, the only reason you can disagree with God is because He gave you the reasoning power to disagree with Him. So, it becomes somewhat absurd to disagree with the one who gave you the power to disagree with Him.

Now, the more powerful a creature, the more wonderful it can be when it uses its free will for good and the more terrible it can be when it uses its free will for evil. Which is how we get to Satan.

How did Satan go wrong? We can speculate it was his desire to be God. To put himself at the center and first. This was his sin and this was the sin that he passed onto the human race. Out of this thought that we can be happy apart from our maker. That we can make something of life without God, is where all the tragedy of history has come from: war, poverty, slavery, prostitution. These are all in an attempt to do things outside of the way the maker intended.

You may wonder, “Why can we not have happiness apart from God?” Think of a car. A car is designed to run on gasoline. You can’t put anything else in it to make it run. Well, God designed humans to run on Himself. He is the fuel that we burn. He is what is supposed to fuel our spirits and our souls and without him we don’t run….at least not properly.

God left us conscience, though. The sense of right and wrong. And all through history there have been people, some trying very hard, although not completely succeeding, to obey it.

God has also given, what Lewis calls, “queer dreams.” The stories scattered all throughout heathen religions of a god who dies and comes to life again. And somehow in that is redemption and new life is given to men.

Also, God picked one particular people, the Jewish people, and spent several centuries hammering into their heads what kind of God he was. That there was only One of Him and that he cared about right conduct. This is the Old Testament. It gives an account of the hammering process.

Then, the most shocking of all…Jesus comes, claiming to BE God and to give life. Claiming to be the one who will come back to judge at the end of time. And a claim that we often overlook, to forgive sins. Think about this, we can forgive someone for something they do against us, but we can’t forgive someone for something they have done to someone else; i.e. “I forgive you that you hit your sister.”

But, that’s just what Jesus did! Which of course would only make sense if He was indeed God and he was forgiving the sins of the laws that were created by Him. The moral laws of the universe…because He was indeed God!

Christ says He is humble and meek and we believe Him. As do most non-Christians. They don’t argue these claims. Yet, if Christ was not God, humbleness and meekness would be the last characteristics’ we would assign Him….as He goes around forgiving other people’s sins and claiming to be the living God….therefore he is only humble and meek if He is indeed God….

Lewis is arguing against is anyone who says, “I accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but not as God.” If Jesus is not God, he is not a great moral teacher; maybe he tells some good stories, but not a great moral teacher. In fact if Jesus is not God, he is pompous and arrogant and saying things that are absurd for any man to say. (As Lewis so delicately puts it, he would be insane up there on the level with a man who believes himself to be a poached egg).

Jesus is indeed God or He is a lunatic beyond all lunatics or He is the devil of hell. Lewis says, “Either this man was and is the son of God or a mad man or someone worse….You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him and kill him as a demon. Or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But, let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that door open to us. He did not intend to.”

The Christian belief is that Jesus is God landing in this enemy occupied territory in human form. And that as important and profound as His teachings are, the most important part of the whole story is Christ’s death and resurrection. Which brings us to the question, “How does Christ’s death on the cross put us right with God?”

Lewis says that before becoming a Christian, he thought you had to believe only one theory of why Jesus died on the cross. That God wanted to punish man for joining with the great rebel and therefore Christ came to take our place, so that God would let us off.

But he goes on to say, “What I’ve come to see is that neither this theory nor any other is the central belief of Christianity. The central belief of Christianity is that Christ’s death somehow put us right with God. It has given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this is another matter. There are many different theories as to how this works. What all Christians agree upon is that it does work.”

We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history where something absolutely unimaginable from the outside shows through into our own world. And since this is beyond our comprehension, the biblical writers have created different pictures to help us represent and understand what it is like, what Jesus did. But these pictures do not take the place of the actual even that occurred. Just like pictures in math help us to understand a certain formula, but the mathematical formula is in and of itself true, while the pictures merely represent it.

Christ was killed for us. His death has washed out our sins. And by dying he disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up, as to how Christ’s death did all this are quite secondary.

However, there are different theories worth looking at. One is that we are being let off, because Christ bared our punishment for us. On the surface you say, “Well, why did he do that? If God was going to let us off, why punish an innocent person for us, instead of just letting us off?” And this would seem quite absurd if you think of it is another man standing before a judge for you.

However, think of it a little differently. Think of it as a debt. And the person who has the assets to pay for it, paying for it in the place of the person who has no assets.  So exactly what hole had man got himself into to owe this great debt?

He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if it belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement, he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, realizing you have been on the wrong track and get ready to start life over from the ground floor.

This is what Christians call repentance. To repent is more than just saying you’re sorry, it’s changing who you’ve been this whole time, a selfish person. It means killing part of yourself.

Here’s the problem: Only a bad person needs to repent, but only a good person can truly repent. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person and he would not need it. You cannot go back to God without this repentance, because without repentance you’re asking God to go back, without really going back. The very need for repentance makes us unable to do that repentance.

So, the only way we can do truly repent is if God helps us? But what do we meant that God will help us? It means that God puts a little of Himself into us. We can love and we can reason because God loves and reasons.

But, then there is the problem of the fall. Without the fall, it would be all smooth sailing. But because of the fall, we now needs God’s help to do something, that within His own nature, God never does. To surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. So, the place that we need God’s help the most, God cannot help us because it’s not in his nature.

But suppose, God became man. And this man that now had human nature would be able to help us.  He could surrender His will and then suffer and die because he is man, and he could do so perfectly because He is God.

The only way we can successfully repent is by sharing God’s dying. And the only way God can die is if He becomes a man. That is the sense in which he pays our debt and suffers for us what He needs not suffer at all.

So, one picture of what Jesus did is the atonement. But remember, it is only one more picture, do not mistake it for the actual event, for the thing itself.

The perfect surrender and humiliation were gone through by Christ. Perfect because He was God. Surrender and humiliation because He was man. Christians believe if we somehow share the humiliation and suffering of Christ, we also somehow share the conquest of death and find new life after we die. And in it become perfect and perfectly happy creatures.

There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief and communion. (At least that’s the ordinary methods. Lewis says he is not trying to say there aren’t special cases where it is spread by different methods, but these are the three typical ways). – – Lewis says while this seem quite odd and he doesn’t understand why these three things are a part of new life, if he didn’t know it was true, he would also find it quite odd about the way (our natural) life is brought about in the first place!

Lewis says the reason he believes these three things are true is because Jesus taught them. However, these three things do not take the place of trying to copy Christ in our lives; which must be the main goal of any Christian. And in this way Christianity is different from all other religion. For you are not making it, you are not being good or kind or loving or become a better person on your own; you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else.

In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ life that was put in him. He has to make efforts to keep it. Even the best and most dedicated Christian is not acting on his own steam. He is only keeping up and nourishing a life that he could have never acquired on his own.

This does not mean a Christian is man who never go wrong. But, he is a man who is able to repent, to pick himself up and begin over again.

A Christian does not believe that his good deeds come from himself. “A 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 God will make us good because he loves us.”

Christians believe quite literally that Christ is operating through them. That the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts. We are his fingers and muscles, the cells of his body. We are the body of Christ.

Some might wonder why Christ came in the way he did. Why is Christ not landing in force? Why is God not just taking over? Is He not strong enough to take out the enemy?

Well, Christians believe that He will land in force. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, He is giving us the chance to join his side freely.

People who ask God to invade and take over now, don’t necessarily realize what they’re asking. “When the writer walks on to the stage, the play is over…When God comes back, the world is over…God is going to invade alright, but what is the use in saying you are on his side then, when the whole natural universe is melting away?” Think of it this way. Imagine a soldier has been fighting for one side of the war the whole time, but when he realizes the other side is winning, so he tries to go to change ranks. It is too late then!

When God coms back, fully revealed, it will be so aweing, it will either inspire irresistible love or irresistible horror in each creature. But either way, no one anymore will deny Him. It will be too late then to choose your side. It will not be the time for choosing, it will be the time for discovering which side we have really chosen. 

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 1 (Book 1 : Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe)

So it has been a LONG time since I’ve posted. I am a teacher and summer should allow me a lot more free time, but somehow it seemed to actually get busier this summer! I taught summer school and took two courses for my license renewal. And then I always try to spend extra time with friends and family and….well, somehow summer has already come and gone. But, I am hoping with a more consistent schedule with being back to work full time and the kids back to school; I will get back to blogging a few time a month.

So, I have thought for a while that I would like to give a very clear view of my beliefs and the essentials of Christianity. But, whenever I try to do so, I feel that I am not very clear or I leave something important out. Then, I got to thinking about C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.” This book was originally a series of radio broadcasts done in the 1940’s by Lewis and then compiled into 3 separate books and finally brought together into one book known as “Mere Christianity,” divided into three sections: Book 1: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, Book 2: What Christians Believe, Book 3: Christian Behavior, and Book 4: Beyond Personality: Or the First Steps in Understanding the Trinity.

In this book, Lewis builds block upon block to explain good reason to believe that there is a God, then that that God is the Christian God, what exactly Christians believe and finally how Christians should strive to behave. And knowing that Lewis does a far better job of clearly laying all of this out, I have decided to use my next several blogs to summarize Mere Christianity as best I can.

While I know I am not an expert, I have compiled outline notes on the book and taught it to an adult Sunday School class over a period of almost a year. In addition, I am re-reading (or more accurately re-listening) to the book now as I complete these summaries for the blog. My hope is that these blogs might inspire some who are already Christ-followers to feel more confident in their faith as they see that there is sound reason to believe in the Christian faith and that some who have never made the decision to make Jesus their Lord and Savior would see that it is truly the most reasonable and sound decision you could make when seeking out the truth of what this life and this universe is all about.

So, without any further introduction, I will begin my summary with Book 1.

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 1 (Book 1 : Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe)

I want to begin with one of my favorite quotes from the book. “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”

How do we get to this place? A place where we are in an enemy camp and God is on the opposite side? And how do we change camps and become right with the Lord?

Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with The Law of Human nature. The law of human nature, the law of right and wrong, moral law; this law that all people seem to intrinsically have.     

While at first you may say to yourself, I’m not so sure if all people, or even if anyone, has this law inside of them, I believe that there is much reason to show that all humans have the choice to obey or disobey these laws.

Throughout history and different civilizations there seems to be a basic moral law known by all, even if there are some differences in how it seems each civilization puts it into practice.

For example, think of what a completely opposite type of morality would be: a society where people are admired for running away in battle, or for a man who felt proud of double crossing others who showed kindness to him. This is of course almost impossible to imagine, because inside each one of us is the moral law telling us how wrong these things are.

And this law is much more than just herd instinct. Imagine you hear a man cry for help and see him struggling to stay above the water, due to the herd instinct, you will want to help and feel instinctively that you should help. But due to the self-preservation instinct, you’ll want to not help. You will feel the instinct to get away from the danger.

But then you feel a third thing…and this is the human nature. You will feel that it is the right thing to do and you ought to help the person who is crying out and could drown. You see this human nature is judging between the two instincts and deciding which one is right.

It is also something much greater than just morals taught by a teacher or parent. For if it were just this, then all such teachings would have to be looked at as equal. We would not be able to look at Christian morality as any better than Nazi morality. It would be to each his own. However, this is not the case. We feel that one is better than the other. Why? The reason you lean more one way than the other is because there seems to be some ultimate moral law that you are weighing the choices against in the first place.

So, if we can agree that there is a law of nature, it must be pointed out that none of us are really keeping the law of nature. We all fail to practice from time to time the type of behavior we expect from others.

We always have great excuses when we do this: I lost my temper because of the bad day I had at work, when I operate in the not so up and up business it was when we were on really hard times, when I promised to do that it was before I realized all that was involved….But we would not except those excuses from somebody else.

It’s not that we don’t believe in the law of nature. It’s that we believe in it so much that when we don’t meet it we shift the responsibility to someone or something else. Anything to keep from admitting that we didn’t meet it.

However, when we practice the moral law and show kindness or love to others, we pat ourselves on the back and say, “that’s who I really am. Look what I did.” Because again we do believe in human nature and want to show when we follow it.

An important distinction to make is that the law of human nature is different than a scientific law. For example, the law of gravity tells you what a rock ought to do and does every time; if you drop it, the rock will fall. But, the law of human nature tells you what humans ought to do, but don’t do. In the case of the rock and gravity, you just have the facts. You drop the rock it falls. Law of gravity.

In the law of human nature, you have the facts plus something else. The facts of how humans actually behave. And then something else, human nature, how they should behave. For example, if you are getting onto the subway and someone accidentally trips you, you might be mad for a moment, but once you realize it was accident you won’t be mad anymore. Even though it might have hurt….But, if someone sticks out their foot to purposely try to trip you, even if you see it and walk around it, you will be upset. It goes beyond the facts of whether you were tripped or not tripped, hurt or not hurt, it goes to the fact of knowing that there was something right and something wrong.

What does this natural law tell us about the universe we live in?

One view is the Materialist view – pretty much the evolutionary view of how things came to be. This view becomes problematic though. Because in this view you either have to believe that there was some sort of matter that is eternal. Something that has always been existent. That eventually combined with the right something else to start a process that created our universe and eventually developed life. Or you must believe that the something came from nothing. That at one point in time there was absolutely nothing and spontaneously something formed out of that nothing to begin the evolutionary process.

The other view is the Religious view – The universe was created by a higher being, with some purposes unknown and some purposes known. That this higher being wished to create others like Himself, in the sense that they have a mind.

So, we would ask ourselves what is the best way to conclude if this higher being exists. Now simply observing the universe would certainly begin to point us in this direction. To see that there is some sort of master artist or painter behind all that we see. However, this would not shed too much light on who this higher being is. Just as the way an architect could not show himself within the staircase or wall of a house he built.

The beauty of the world the universe does put to the existence of a higher being, but not to what this higher being is like. The only way left for that higher being to show Himself is within ourselves. And that’s exactly what He does through the moral law. Now we must ask the question, “What does the moral law teach us about the character of the higher being?”

From the moral law we find out that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in fair conduct, right play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty, truthfulness. Therefore we should agree with the account given by Christianity and some other religions that God is good.

Remember, not good in a soft way. Good in a hard as nails way. Because the moral law does not tell us to do the easy, soft thing. It tells us to do the right thing. Even when it’s hard or difficult.

So, on one hand we believe in this good God because we believe in this moral law and the things it says are right and wrong. On the other hand, we want this Higher Being to excuse us personally when we go against this moral. But, deep down we know that unless this higher being does not excuse, but is against all things that are done that are night right, then He truly couldn’t be called good.

It then gets really complicated, because that higher being would hate most of what goes on in this universe because most of what goes on is not good and does not follow the moral law. Without this higher being who is good, our case is hopeless because then the universe is not governed by this overarching goodness and moral law.

But, with this higher being, who is ultimately good, our case is hopeless again because daily we make ourselves more an enemy to this higher being because of the way we behave that does not match up with the goodness of the moral law that He put inside of us.

Christianity only matters after you have realized that there is a moral law and a power behind the moral law and that you’ve broken that law and put yourself wrong with the higher power. After all this, and not a moment sooner, is when Christianity begins to talk.

Christianity does end in comfort. But, starts in the dismay we’ve been describing.  There is no point in going straight to the comfort until at first you go through this dismay that you need to be comforted from.