Mere Christianity 28: The New Men

Well this is it folks.  We have finally reached the end of Mere Christianity.  In the previous chapter Lewis considered the question of whether or not Christians ought to be expected to be nicer than non-Christians.  He came out saying that the true question is whether a Christian is nicer than he or she was before becoming a Christian, and even at that, that is not the point.  Jesus did not come to earth and die in order to make us nicer people, He came to make us into new men.

And that is what Lewis focuses on in this final chapter of Mere Christianity.  All of you young-earth creationists out there beware, because in this chapter Lewis shows quite clearly that he is not in your camp.  (I read this book right after I became a Christian, and I think the reason this did not raise any red flags for me was that I did not yet know enough to know that I wasn’t supposed to believe in evolution.)

Lewis uses evolution as an illustration to describe the process of our becoming “new men”.  Go back to the time of the dinosaurs.  Assuming that you could talk to dinosaurs and find out their thoughts on where the direction of evolution was going, you would probably find them thinking–assuming that they think about such things at all–that the next step in evolution would produce bigger, badder, stronger, faster dinosaurs with stronger armor and bigger teeth.  None of them would even suspect that the next step in evolution would produce relatively small, physically weak, armorless creatures who gain mastery of the entire world through the superior strength of their mind.  But that is exactly what happened.  The stream of evolution took a completely different turn, and here we are.

Now go a step further.  Look at the science fiction books and movies that we are producing and have produced for the last fifty years or so.  From that you can see that we think the next step in evolution will produce creatures like ourselves, but different in physical appearance and with much stronger cognitive and intellectual capacity.  But what if the stream of evolution once again takes a different turn?  What kind of creatures will represent the next step in the evolutionary process?

It’s already happening, says Lewis.

Now, if you care to talk in these terms, the Christian view is precisely that the Next Step has already appeared.  And it is really new.  It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men:  it is a change that goes off in a totally different direction–a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God.  The first instance appeared in Palestine two thousand years ago.  In a sense, the change is not “Evolution” at all, because it is not something arising out of the natural process of events but something coming into nature from the outside.

There are other ways in which this change is different from evolution.

–It is not carried on by sexual reproduction.  Sex was not always the primary means by which organisms reproduced; plants and single-celled organisms reproduce by strictly nonsexual means.  In light of this, does it come as any surprise that there would be a time in the future when sex is no longer the primary channel of development?

–It is strictly voluntary.  Up to this point, evolution has been a thing that just happens to organisms; they had no say in it.  But this is voluntary, not in the sense that we had any part in designing or determining what this new state of being would be like, but in the sense that it is offered to us and we have the choice to accept it or refuse it.

–It is not transmitted by means of heredity.  Christ is the first instance of this species of New Men, but he is more than just a specimen of the species–he is the species.  He brought His kind of life into our universe, and He transmits it not through heredity but through “good infection”.

–It is happening at a much different rate of speed.  Christianity has been in existence for two thousand years.  Compared to the time that it has taken for man to develop, that is lightning speed.

–The stakes are higher.  If an organism refused to make any of the previous evolutionary changes (assuming that it had any power to do so), the worst that could have happened was that it would have lost its earthly life.  But if we refuse to take this step, we miss out on a prize of infinitely greater value.

Well, we are not yet finished with this chapter, but I had better stop here or else you will be completely and totally exhausted out of your minds trying to work your way through this.