Wise Words On Wednesday: Risks and Greatness

Risk

“You have to take risks to have greatness. If everything that you did was safe and you knew the outcome, nothing would be fun. The bigger risk you take, the more proud you will feel when you succeed”

– Chandler Bolt, How not to suck at writing

Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 7 (“Let’s Pretend”)

Clive

Book-4

Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. This chapter is about how people pretend and their pretense leads to reality

(a) Beauty and the Beast

(b) A man wearing a beautiful mask for a year and his face becomes conformed to the attractive shape of the mask

2. We “pretend” as soon as we say the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer

“…Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending”

(a) When you pretend, you realize what a poor imitation you really make

“…the moment you realise what the words mean, you realise that you are not a son of God. You are not being like The Son of God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father: you are a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death”

(b) This seems like cheek, but this is what God has commanded us to do

“…this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.

He has done so because there are two kinds of pretending:

(i) The bad kind

“…where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you:

(ii) The good kind

“…where the pretence leads up to the real thing”

This explains some of our experience:

(A) Pretending to be friendly 

“When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already”

(B) Children’s Games

“They are always pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.”

(c) When we pretend, we can see ways in which we could increase the likeness

“Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality”

(i) …in what you think

“You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them”

(ii) …in what you do

“Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash-up. Well, go and do it”

(d) Jesus making this change in you

“The Christ Himself… is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your pretence into a reality… He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe, into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin”

(i) This is not just your conscience

“This is not merely a fancy way of saying that your conscience is telling you what to do”

(ii) Conscience will give you one answer, but pretending to be Christ will give you a far more exacting one

“If you simply ask your conscience, you get one result: if you remember that you are dressing up as Christ, you get a different one. There are lots of things which your conscience might not call definitely wrong (specially things in your mind) but which you will see at once you cannot go on doing if you are seriously trying to be like Christ. For you are no longer thinking simply about right and wrong; you are trying to catch the good infection from a Person”

(iii) This is both harder and easier than simple morality

“It is more like painting a portrait than like obeying a set of rules. And the odd thing is that while in one way it is much harder than keeping rules, in another way it is far easier”

(e) This change is through Christ directly and through instruments

“…[It] is rather like the woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would not bother her house because they always ate toast. If there is no bread there will be no toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other human beings… He works through Nature, through our own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) anti-Christian…”

(i) In particular, he works through other men

“But above all, He works on us through each other… Men are mirrors, or ‘carriers’ of Christ to other men… That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important.”

(ii) However, these other men may do it unconsciously

“Sometimes unconscious carriers. This ‘good infection’ can be carried by those who have not got it themselves. People who were not Christians themselves helped me to Christianity”

(iii) It is important that we recognize Christ behind His instrument…

“At first it is natural for a baby to take its mother’s milk without knowing its mother. It is equally natural for us to see the man who helps us without seeing Christ behind him. But we must not remain babies. We must go on to recognise the real Giver”

(iv) …because if we don’t, we will be disappointed

“…if we do not, we shall be relying on human beings. And that is going to let us down. The best of them will make mistakes; all of them will die. We must be thankful to all the people who have helped us, we must honour them and love them. But never, never pin your whole faith on any human being: not if he is the best and wisest in the whole world. There are lots of nice things you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on it”

3. The phrase “putting on Christ” doesn’t simply mean reading about Jesus and trying to do the same.

“Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out – as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out… It is a living Man… really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity. 

As we proceed through this process, we notice two things:

(a) We notice not just our sinful acts, but our sinful nature

“…We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are”

(i) When we consider our sins, we often make a certain kind of excuse

“…the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself… surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth?”

(ii) It is like rats in a cellar

“If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul”

(iii) The problem is that this is outside the reach of my will

“I can to some extent control my acts: I have no direct control over my temperament. And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do-if, indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are-then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about… After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God. 

(b) It is God who works in us

“I have been talking as if it were we who did everything. In reality, of course, it is God who does everything. We, at most, allow it to be done to us. In a sense you might even say it is God who does the pretending… to make the pretence into a reality.”… I daresay this idea of a divine make-believe sounds rather strange at first. But, is it so strange really? Is not that how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teaches her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human’: that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end”

Music Monday: Victorious

Happy Monday! I recently discovered the Catholic musician, PJ Anderson. His song “Victorious” is just the sort of song to kick off the week…

Sky turned dark
All our hope, all our hope was gone,
Lay deep in a garden tomb,
Was our hope, was it really you? x2

No grief can hold you down,
Risen from the ground,
Victorious over sin and death
Peace has come again,
Risen from the ground, victorious

Your blood poured out,
Our hearts were filled with doubt,
For our Saviour with nails in hand,
And no promise of a Promised Land

Victorious, in your death, we have life…

 

The Eagle and Child: Episode 4 (“Some Objections”)

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

In today’s episode, we look at Chapter 2 of “Mere Christianity” which is entitled “Some Objections”. In this chapter, C.S. Lewis responds to some issues raised by listeners in response to his assertion that there is this Moral Law.

If you enjoy this episode, you can subscribe using iTunes or Google Play. As always, if you have any objections, comments or questions, please send us an email through my website or tweet us @pintswithjack.

Episode 4: “Some Objections” (Download)

 

— Show Notes —

* My outline and notes for the Chapter 2 are available here.

* This week, Matt and I were drinking Heineken.

* In this chapter, Jack responds to three objections:

(1) The “Moral Law” is just herd instinct.

(2) The “Moral Law” is simply social convention which we are taught.

(3) The “Moral Law” has clearly changed – we used to kill witches!

* Matt mentions The Great Divorce, which is another book written by Lewis. It’s a fictional account of a dead man journeying into Heaven.

* When speaking about love, Matt gave a quotation from the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of the first great American television evangelists. I followed up with a quotation from St. Thomas Aquinas, the prolific 13th Century philosopher and theologian.

* After further thought, I think the example I gave about the morality of eating cows wasn’t originally mine. I think I heard it on the Mere Christianity Podcast.

Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 6 (“Two Notes”)

Clive

Book-4

Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. Why did God not beget many sons at the outset?

“…if God wanted sons instead of ‘toy soldiers,’ He did not beget many sons at the outset instead of first making toy soldiers and then bringing them to life by such a difficult and painful process”

(a) There are two kinds of answer:

(i) The easy answer

“The process of being turned from a creature into a son would not have been difficult or painful if the human race had not turned away from God centuries ago. They were able to do this because He gave them free will: He gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love and therefore never know infinite happiness”

(ii) The answer beyond human knowledge

All Christians are agreed that there is, in the full and original sense, only one “Son of God.” If we insist on asking “But could there have been many?” we find ourselves in very deep water. Have the words “Could have been” any sense at all when applied to God? You can say that one particular finite thing “could have been” different from what it is, because it would have been different if something else had been different, and the something else would have been different if some third thing had been different, and so on. (The letters on this page would have been red if the printer had used red ink, and he would have used red ink if he had been instructed to, and so on.) But when you are talking about God-i.e. about the rock bottom, irreducible Fact on which all other facts depend- it is nonsensical to ask if It could have been otherwise. It is what It is, and there is an end of the matter. 

(b) How could there be many sons?

But quite apart from this, I find a difficulty about the very idea of the Father begetting many sons from all eternity. In order to be many they would have to be somehow different from one another. Two pennies have the same shape. How are they two? By occupying different places and containing different atoms. In other words, to think of them as different, we have had to bring in space and matter; in fact we have had to bring in “Nature” or the created universe. I can understand the distinction between the Father and the Son without bringing in space or matter, because the one begets and the other is begotten. The Father’s relation to the Son is not the same as the Son’s relation to the Father. But if there were several sons they would all be related to one another and to the Father in the same way. How would they differ from one another? One does not notice the difficulty at first, of course. One thinks one can form the idea of several “sons.” But when I think closely, I find that the idea seemed possible only because I was vaguely imagining them as human forms standing about together in some kind of space. In other words, though I pretended to be thinking about something that exists before any universe was made, I was really smuggling in the picture of a universe and putting that something inside it. When I stop doing that and still try to think of the Father begetting many sons “before all worlds” I find I am not really thinking of anything. The idea fades away into mere words. (Was Nature-space and time and matter-created precisely in order to make manyness possible? Is there perhaps no other way of getting many eternal spirits except by first making many natural creatures, in a universe, and then spiritualising them? But of course all this is guesswork.)

2. Despite the collective nature of humanity, individuals do still matter

“The idea that the whole human race is, in a sense, one thing -one huge organism, like a tree-must not be confused with the idea that individual differences do not matter or that real people, Tom and Nobby and Kate, are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races, and so forth”

(a) An entity can be made up of things which are very different

Indeed the two ideas are opposites. Things which are parts of a single organism may be very different from one another: things which are not, may be very alike. Six pennies are quite separate and very alike: my nose and my lungs are very different but they are only alive at all because they are parts of my body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body-different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbours, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they are “no business of yours,” remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. If you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become an Individualist. If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want to suppress differences and make people all alike, you will become a Totalitarian. But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.

(b) Rather than wasting time thinking which error is worse, plot a middle course

I feel a strong desire to tell you-and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me-which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs-pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.

Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 5 (“The Obstinate Toy Soldiers”)

Book-4

Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. If man had not rebelled against God, he may have been naturally drawn up into the Zoe

“We do not know… how things would have worked if the human race had never rebelled against God and joined the enemy. Perhaps every man would have been ‘in Christ,’ would have shared the life of the Son of God, from the moment he was born. Perhaps the Bios or natural life would have been drawn up into the Zoe, the uncreated life, at once and as a matter of course. But that is guesswork”

2. However, man did rebel and this sets Bios against Zoe

“And the present state of things is this. The two kinds of life are now not only different (they would always have been that) but actually opposed. The natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense it is quite right It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that”

3. Being drawn up into the Zoe is like a tin soldier coming to life

“Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it”

4. In order to raise man into the Divine Life, God became man

“The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man… The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that)… a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab”

(a) This was the first man as he was intended to be

“Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ”

(b) He suffered and died

“And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, ‘killed,’ He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn – poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture”

(c) Not just God, but man rose again

“…after being thus killed-killed every day in a sense-the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier-real tin, just like the rest-had come fully and splendidly alive”

5. Toy soldiers would be independent of each other. However, …

“In the case of real toy soldiers or statues, if one came to life, it would obviously make no difference to the rest. They are all separate.

(a) Human beings are connected to each other…

But human beings are not. They look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then, we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing- rather like a very complicated tree.

(b) …and to God

Every individual would appear connected with every other. And not only that. Individuals are not really separate from God any more than from one another. Every man, woman, and child all over the world is feeling and breathing at this moment only because God, so to speak, is “keeping him going.”

6. Christ’s life therefore starts spreading through humanity

“It is as if something which is always affecting the whole human mass begins, at one point, to affect that whole human mass in a new way. From that point the effect spreads through all mankind. It makes a difference to people who lived before Christ as well as to people who lived after Him. It makes a difference to people who have never heard of Him. It is like dropping into a glass of water one drop of something which gives a new taste or a new colour to the whole lot”

(a) Christ has done the saving, it just needs to be appropriated

“…the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life into timeless ‘spiritual’ life, has been done for us. Humanity is already ‘saved’ in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that salvation. But the really tough work-the bit we could not have done for ourselves-has been done for us.

(b) We just have to open ourselves

We have not got to try to climb up into spiritual life by our own efforts; it has already come down into the human race. If we will only lay ourselves open to the one Man in whom it was fully present, and who, in spite of being God, is also a real man, He will do it in us and for us…. if we get close to Him we shall catch [“the good infection”] from Him.

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