We are in the middle of the last chapter of Mere Christianity, which is entitled “The New Men”. In this chapter, Lewis likens the process of going from being creatures made by God to being sons of God to the next step in the process of evolution. But there are some key differences between this step and any previous step in evolution. Namely, it is induced by something outside of nature (Jesus) coming into nature. Also, it does not involve sexual reproduction, it is strictly voluntary, it is not transmitted by heredity, it is happening at a much faster rate than any previous evolutionary change, and the stakes are much higher. Continue reading “Mere Christianity 29: The New Men (cont’d)”
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. Continue reading “Mere Christianity 28: The New Men”
We are now only two chapters away from the end of Mere Christianity. We are in the section called “Beyond Personality”, in which Lewis discusses what a God who is beyond personality looks like and how we as humans can engage with a God who is beyond personality and experience that life which is beyond personality. Along the way, Lewis answers a number of common questions and objections, and in this chapter Lewis tackles the question: “If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians?”
What lies behind this question? There are two possibilities, one reasonable and the other not so reasonable. The first is that if Christianity is real then there is an expectation that it ought to be able to change lives, and that we ought to be able to see at least some evidence of this in the behavior of people who identify themselves as Christians. Indeed, Jesus Himself told us that we would know whether or not someone is truly a Christian by their fruit–that is, by the difference that it makes upon their outward behavior. If being a Christian has truly made no difference upon the outward behavior of one who identifies himself as such, then there is reason to doubt whether or not he is really a Christian at all.
The second, which is not so reasonable, is the idea that the world is clearly divided into two camps: people who are 100 percent Christian, and people who are 100 percent non-Christian. And the people in the Christian camp are without fail going to be nicer than the people in the non-Christian camp. Many non-Christians hold this expectation, and love to cite examples of Christian misbehavior as evidence to discredit Christianity. Many evangelicals are among the worst offenders of those who hold this expectation. They love to say that people are either in or out, saved or not saved, that there is no such thing as “almost saved”. (I wrote about this in an earlier post.) And they love to say that Christians are morally superior people (because of the power of God) who can keep the commandments and live moral lives better than people who do not believe. (I also wrote about this earlier.) Continue reading “Mere Christianity 27: Nice People or New Men”
In the previous chapter Lewis asked the question “Is Christianity hard or easy?” He said that Christianity is all about surrendering everything inside of us to Christ, and this is hard. But in the long run it is a whole lot easier than this business which most of us are trying to pull off–to indulge our natural, selfish, sinful desires and still turn out as good people. In this chapter Lewis considers the command “Be perfect” (or “Be ye perfect” in the old King James).
Most of us shy away from this because it seems an impossible order. And it is, for us as humans acting on our own strength. If the whole Christian life depended upon our being perfect, our position would be hopeless. But Christ is there to help us.
And that is the only help He will give us. He will not help us to simply become better people; the only help He will give us is to become perfect. This may–and in all probability it will–be a long, arduous, and painful process, but that is exactly what we are in for and nothing less. Continue reading “Mere Christianity 26: Counting the Cost”
In the previous chapter Lewis considered the idea of pretending to be like Christ in order that you may ultimately become like Christ. But this is not simply some sort of optional exercise or special assignment for the top class, instead it is the whole of the Christian life. This is all that Christianity has to offer. There is nothing else.
In this chapter Lewis considers how Christianity differs from our ordinary ideas about morality. Typically we start with our ordinary selves, with all their needs, ambitions, desires, etc. and then admit that something outside of us (morality, decent behavior, the good of society, or whatever else you would care to call it) has claims on that self which interfere with its natural desires. We must satisfy those claims, and then we are free to indulge our natural desires with whatever is left over. Kind of like somebody paying his taxes; he pays them but hopes there will be enough left to live on afterward. And when we come to Christianity, it is natural for us to think of it as one more obligation outside of ourselves which must be satisfied before we are free to indulge our natural desires. Continue reading “Mere Christianity 25: Is Christianity Hard or Easy?”
We are now in the middle of “Beyond Personality”, the final section of Mere Christianity in which Lewis discusses what a God who is “beyond personality” looks like and how we as human beings can enter into that life of God which is beyond personality. In previous chapters Lewis explained that this life is transmitted by getting near that which has it, through a sort of “good infection” if you will. But that life is completely and totally opposed to the natural, biological life which we currently possess and everything which is in the nature of that life.
So how do we get around that?
Lewis starts off this chapter with an example from Beauty and the Beast, in which the girl kisses a beast as if he were a real prince and he turns into a real prince, and another example of a man with an ugly face who wore a mask to conceal it, and over time his face grew to fit the mask. These two illustrations start us off in moving toward the main point of this chapter, which is that the Christian life is all about this kind of pretense. We are nothing like Christ, but we pretend that we are, and in time we find ourselves to have become like Christ. Continue reading “Mere Christianity 24: Let’s Pretend”
In the previous chapter Lewis described the nature of the Trinity and how the special life that exists in God can be transferred to us, by a sort of “good infection” if you will.
But there is a hitch. The natural life which we as humans possess (Bios) and the special life which God possesses (Zoe) are different from each other. Not only are they different, they are completely and totally opposed to each other. The natural life inside of us is something self-centered, which wants to look out for itself at every turn and which values its own survival and preservation above all else. And it is especially afraid of anything which is bigger or stronger than it. So it sees the God kind of life as a threat; it knows that all of its pettiness and self-centeredness will ultimately be strangled out of it. Continue reading “Mere Christianity 23: The Obstinate Toy Soldiers”