Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 12 (“Faith”)

Clive

Book-3

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

Notes & Quotes

1. Faith (in the second sense) arises after attempting the Christian life

“…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”

2. What God cares about is the kind of creatures we are

“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…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”

3. This involves discovering our bankruptcy

“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”

(i) This must be truly recognized

“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.”

(ii) This requires us to try our hardest

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.”

(iii) This requires us to look back

“It is often only when he looks back that he realises what has happened and recognises it as what people call ‘growing up.’… 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”

4. It is then we put our trust in Christ

“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”

(i) It’s a great deal

“…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… What we should have liked would be for God to count our good points and ignore our bad ones”

(ii) This still requires obedience

…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.

5. Christians have often disputed about faith and works

“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”

(i) Looking at the parodies of these positions can point us to the truth

(A) Works

“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 $10,000 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”

(B) Faith

“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”

(ii) Scripture puts the two together in one 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… 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.

* St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians

6. Christianity isn’t just about morality

“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”

Discussion Questions

1. Why is it important to discover our bankruptcy? How do we reach that point?

2. What does it meant to trust God? Does it still require effort and obedience?

3. How does Jack respond to the Reformation argument concerning Sola Fide?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 11 (“Faith”)

Clive

Book-3

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

Notes & Quotes

1. There are two main senses of the word “faith”

(a) Faith related to belief

“In the first sense it means simply Belief-accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity”

(i) Our relationship to reason is not what we might imagine

(A) The human mind is not controlled only by reason

“I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But that is not so”

(B) This is demonstrated in the way we behave

“…my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anaesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics”

(C) The battle is against emotion

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

A call on a Catholic Answers Live episode demonstrated this point very clearly at the 18:45 mark.

(D) Very often we lose faith in our reason when confronted with emotion

“A man knows, on perfectly good evidence, that a pretty girl of his acquaintance is a liar and cannot keep a secret and ought not to be trusted; but when he finds himself with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and he starts thinking, ‘Perhaps she’ll be different this time,’ and once more makes a fool of himself and tells her something he ought not to have told her”

(ii) We see something similar when we look at Christianity 

(A) Reason is involved

“I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in”

(B) Faith (in this sense) comes in later

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

(C) Faith is a virtue as you “ride out” your changing moods

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

(D) Prayer and Church attendance aid here

“…in some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed”

(E) We must beware of the slow fade

“…if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”

(b) Faith related to our spiritual bankruptcy

(i) You must first really try to practise the Christian virtues

“I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks.”

(ii) In doing so, you will see you fail

“By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

(A) Good people are the ones who truly understand temptation

“Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.”

(B) Bad people don’t know much about badness

“They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it”

(iii) This helps us discover two things:

(A) We could earn salvation

“If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam, and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If there was any idea of a sort of bargain – any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him, in mere justice, to perform His side-that has to be wiped out…God has been waiting for the moment at which you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam, or putting Him in your debt.”

(B) We could never give God anything that is not already his

“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

It is like a small child going to its father and saying, “Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of Faith in the second sense.”

Discussion Questions

1. What are the two different sense Jack puts forward regarding “faith”?

2. Do are minds work purely on reason? If not, what gets in the way?

3. How is “faith” a virtue?

4. Why does Jack think you really need to try Christianity before you can really understand the second sense of the word “faith”?

5. What conclusions can we draw from trying (and failing) to live out the Christian virtues?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

Bishop Barron had a podcast episode where he talks about the idea of “faith” which has a lot of overlap with Lewis.

From Islam to Catholicism

K87A8537

K87A8556

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation after Mass given by my friend Huliana, describing her journey from Islam to Catholicism. My friend Nessa took some photographs and I recorded the audio. Here it is…

From Islam to Catholicism (Download)

Wise Words on Wednesday: When the world knows we’re frauds

matt

The incongruity between what we claim to believe and the lives we live says everything the world needs to know. Any honest outsider can tell that we can’t possibly believe what we say we believe. Not only is our religion a fraud, but so are we Christians. At least, that’s what our actions often communicate to the world

– Messy & Foolish, Matthew Warner

Evangelization For The Terrified (MP3)

Terrified

Terrified

I know I said I wouldn’t be posting during Lent, but this weekend I gave a talk, “Evangelization for the terrified”, at the San Pedro Calungsod Young Adult Retreat in San Diego and promised that I’d upload the audio the following week, together with links to the resources I mentioned in my talk.

The Talk

Unfortunately, the recording has the last ten minutes cut off… 🙁 Fortunately, I just re-recorded the entire talk here at home. Since I didn’t have the time restrictions I had on the retreat, this recording is a little longer. Think of it as the Director’s Cut or the Extended Edition, which includes ten minutes of never-before-heard material!

Evangelization For The Terrified – Extended Edition (Download)

If you would like to listen to the live recording which was truncated, it is available.

Referenced Resources

David and SarahI began my talk by referencing the Papal Encyclical Evangelization In The Modern World.

When I speak about learning your faith, I mention a number of low-cost services which will help you learn the Catholic Faith:

FORMED (Catholic Answers)
ClaritasU (Brandon Vogt)
New St. Thomas Institute (Dr. Taylor Marshall)

I also mentioned recommend the following sites which are completely free:

Institute of Catholic Culture
St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

I mention that you can buy cheap books/CDs/DVDs to give away from Dynamic Catholic.

For staying up-to-date with Catholicism in the media, I recommend listening to Hearts & Minds and the Don Johnson Show.

If you would like lots of good examples of how seasoned apologists engage non-Catholics, please check out Catholic Answers Live.

The talk was concluded with a retelling of the story of the Sun and the Wind from Aesop’s Fables.

How I met your (Blessed) Mother (MP3)

mary

Mary

Last night I led Bible study at a local parish and I was asked to give an informal talk beforehand on the Virgin Mary.

My talk was entitled “How I met your (Blessed) Mother” and in it I told a little bit of my story and explained how I overcame my deep-seated resistance concerning Mary and how I ultimately came to embrace the Catholic teaching concerning the Blessed Mother.

Some friends couldn’t make it last night and asked me to record the talk, so for anyone who would like to hear it, the audio is available below.

How I met your (Blessed) Mother (Download)

Why the world doesn’t take Catholicism seriously…

It’s great to read writing from Matt Warner again! Here’s a really powerful piece he wrote on “Why the world doesn’t take Catholicism seriously”

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