Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic (part 5)

C.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century in response to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger.

Norman Pittenger sketchThe statement that I do not ‘care much for’ the Sermon on the Mount but ‘prefer’ the ‘Pauline ethic’ of man’s sinfulness and helplessness carries a suggestion of alternatives between which we may choose, where I see successive stages through which we must proceed. Most of my books arc evangelistic, addressed to tous exo. It would have been inept to preach forgiveness and a Saviour to those who did not know they were in need of either. Hence St Paul’s and the Baptist’s diagnosis (would you call it exactly an ethic?) had to be pressed. Nor am I aware that our Lord revised it (‘if ye, being evil…‘). As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure. This is indeed to be ‘at ease in Zion’.

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 181-182.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic (part 4)

mac-os-x-lion-1298557423C.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century in response to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger.

Where he really hurt me was in the charge of callousness to animals. Surprised me too; for the very same passage is blamed by others for extreme sentimentality.’* It is hard to please all. But if the Patagonians think me a dwarf and the Pygmies a giant, perhaps my stature is in fact fairly unremarkable.

*The reference is to the chapter on ‘Animal Pain’ in The Problem of Pain.

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 181.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic (part 3)

C.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century in response to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger.

MiraclesI turn next to my book Miracles and am sorry to say that I here have to meet Dr Pittenger’s charges with straight denials. He says that this book ‘opens with a definition of miracle as the “violation” of the laws of nature’. He is mistaken. The passage (chapter 2) really runs: ‘I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power.’ If Dr Pittenger thinks the difference between the true text and his mis-quotation merely verbal, he has misunderstood nearly the whole book. I never equated nature (the spatiotemporal system of facts and events) with the laws of nature (the patterns into which these facts and events fall). I would as soon equate an actual speech with the rules of grammar. In chapter 8 I say in so many words that no miracle either can or need break the laws of Nature; that ‘it is... inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the laws of Nature’; and that ‘The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.’ How many times does a man need to say something before he is safe from the accusation of having said exactly the opposite? (I am not for a moment imputing dishonesty to Dr Pittenger; we all know too well how difficult it is to grasp or retain the substance of a hook one finds antipathetic.)

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 178-179.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic (part 2)

C.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century in response to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger.

jim_caviezel_as_jesus_by_khinson-do3nwv[Dr Pittenger] speaks about ‘the validity of our Lord’s unique place in Christian faith as that One in whom God was so active and so present that he may be called “God-Man”‘. I am not quite sure what this means. May I translate it, ‘our Lord’s actually unique place in the structure of utter reality, the unique mode, as well as degree, of God’s presence and action in Him, make the formula “God-Man” the objectively true description of Him’? If so, I think we are very nearly agreed. Or must I translate it, ‘the unique place which Christians (subjectively, in their own thoughts) gave to our Lord as One in whom God was present and active to a unique degree made it reasonable for them to call Him God- Man’? If so, I must demur. In other words, if Dr Pittenger’s ‘may be called’ means anything less or other than ‘is’, I could not accept his formula. For I think that Jesus Christ is (in fact) the only Son of God that is, the only original Son of God, through whom others are enabled to ‘become sons of God’.’ If Dr Pittenger wishes to attack that doctrine, I wonder he should choose me as its representative. It has had champions far worthier of his steel.

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 177-178.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic

Norman PittengerC.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century. Lewis was responding to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger who was an Anglican professor of apologetics, a liberal known for writing about process theology. It’s quite interesting how Lewis responds to his critic who holds to vastly differently beliefs about Christianity.

One of the charges Dr. Norman Pittenger makes in his ‘Critique’ in the October 1 [1958]Christian Century, I must with shame plead guilty. He has caught me using the word ‘literally’ where I did not really mean it, a vile journalistic cliché which he cannot reprobate more severely than I now do myself.*

*In Broadcast Talks (London. 1942), Part II, ch. 5, p. 60, Lewis had written that “the whole mass of Christians are literally the physical organism, through which Christ acts— that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body.” The word ‘literally’, however, was deleted when Broadcast Talks was reprinted with two other short books as Mere Christianity (London, 1952).

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 177.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thinking about one’s job (Part 2)

stars06[Ransom answered,] “Yes. I shall arrive knowing the language. It saves a lot of trouble—though, as a philologist I find it rather disappointing.”
    “But you’ve no idea what you are to do, or what conditions you will find?” [asked Lewis.]
    “No idea at all what I’m to do. There are jobs, you know, where it is essential that one should not know too much beforehand ... things one might have to say which one couldn't say effectively if one had prepared them. As to conditions, well, I don’t know much. It will be warm… Our astronomers don’t know anything about the surface of Perelandra at all. The outer layer of her atmosphere is too thick" [answered Ransom].

C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (1943) Chapter 2.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thinking about one’s job (Part 1)

night-moon“Don’t imagine I’ve been selected to go to Perelandra because I’m anyone particular. One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly, it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications. I rather fancy I am being sent [to Perelandra] because those two blackguards who kidnapped me and took me to Malacandra, did something which they never intended: namely, gave a human being a chance to learn that language” [said Ransom].

C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (1943) Chapter 2.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Give up yourself and you will find your real, new self

mere-christianity But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it.
    Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 91 (The Finale)
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 223-225.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Can the world see Christ in us? (Light and Salt)

But you must not imagine that the new men are, in the ordinary sense, all alike. A good deal of what I have been saying in this last book might make you suppose that that was bound to be so. To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves’.NiteHike Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts, to ‘have the mind of Christ’ as the Bible says. And if Christ is one, and if He is thus to be ‘in’ us all, shall we not be exactly the same? It certainly sounds like it; but in fact it is not so.
    It is difficult here to get a good illustration; because, of course, no other two things are related to each other just as the Creator is related to one of His creatures. But I will try two very imperfect illustrations which may give a hint of the truth. Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if they come into the light that same light would fall on them all and they would all reflect it and thus become what we call visible. Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they were all receiving the same light, and all reacting to it in the same way (i.e. all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are.3939818074_731904bc7b Or again, suppose a person who knew nothing about salt. You give him a pinch to taste and he experiences a particular strong, sharp taste. You then tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cookery. Might he not reply ‘In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it will kill the taste of everything else.’ But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the egg and the tripe and the cabbage, it actually brings it out. They do not show their real taste till you have added the salt. (Of course, as I warned you, this is not really a very good illustration, because you can, after all, kill the other tastes by putting in too much salt, whereas you cannot kill the taste of a human personality by putting in too much Christ. I am doing the best I can.)
    It is something like that with Christ and us. The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs’, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully.

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 90
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 223-225.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Standing out in the crowd

standing out Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be needed: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 89
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 223.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We rise again (and again)

I have called Christ the ‘first instance’ of the new man. But of course He is something much more than that. He is not merely a new man, one specimen of the species, but the new man. He is the origin and centre and life of all the new men. He came into the created universe, of His own will, bringing with Him the Zoe, the new life. (I mean new to us, of course:
in its own place Zoe has existed for ever and ever.) And He transmits it not by heredity but by what I have called ‘good infection’. Everyone who gets it gets it by personal contact with Him. Other men become ‘new’ by being ‘in Him’.
friends     This step is taken at a different speed from the previous ones. Compared with the development of man on this planet, the diffusion of Christianity over the human race seems to go like a flash of lightning—for two thousand years is almost nothing in the history of the universe. (Never forget that we are all still ‘the early Christians’. The present wicked and wasteful divisions between us are, let us hope, a disease of infancy: we are still teething. The outer world, no doubt, thinks just the opposite. It thinks we are dying of old age. But it has thought that very often before. Again and again it has thought Christianity was dying, dying by persecutions from without and corruptions from within, by the rise of Mohammedanism, the rise of the physical sciences, the rise of great anti-Christian revolutionary movements. But every time the world has been disappointed. Its first disappointment was over the crucifixion. The Man came to life again. In a sense— and I quite realise how frightfully unfair it must seem to them—that has been happening ever since. They keep on killing the thing that He started: and each time, just as they are patting down the earth on its grave, they suddenly hear that it is still alive and has even broken out in some new place. No wonder they hate us.)

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 88
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 221-222.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Redemption: Extreme Makeover

‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.Zara Phillips of Great Britain rides Glenbuck during the Showjumping event on the final day of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on September 6, 2009 in Stamford, United Kingdom
    For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance….
    In the last chapter I compared Christ’s work of making New Men to the process of turning a horse into a winged creature. I used that extreme example in order to emphasise the point that it is not mere improvement but Transformation.

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 87
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 215-216, 218.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If what you want is an argument against Christianity…

nedhomer1If what you want is an argument against Christianity (and I well remember how eagerly I looked for such arguments when I began to be afraid it was true) you can easily find some stupid and unsatisfactory Christian and say, ‘So there’s your boasted new man! Give me the old kind.’ But if once you have begun to see that Christianity is on other grounds probable, you will know in your heart that this is only evading the issue. What can you ever really know of other people’s souls—of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with I Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbours or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anaesthetic fog which we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 86
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 216-217.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mere Christianity 2012

C.S. Lewis Stained Glass Window from St. George's Episcopal Church in Dayton, OhioEver since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son. Finally, I got the impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial matters than in the defence of what Baxter calls ‘mere’ Christianity. That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part i (At the end of December, we’d almost finished looking at passages sequentially from Mere Christianity. We were near the end of chapter 10, with only chapter 11 to go. We’ll resume from that point tomorrow.)
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) viii-ix.

Holiday shutdown ends today

Sorry about the longer than usual shutdown over the holidays. I was sick for a couple of weeks before the holidays and then took off two solid weeks this year for Christmas / New Year’s. Starting today, Mere C.S. Lewis will feature daily readings from C.S. Lewis every weekday. Resolve to have yourself a Lewis-inspired experience of joy this new year.