Either / Or..it’s mere Christianity

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money,
poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires,
slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.
But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?
A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.
What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

According to our friends at Wikipedia,
Mere Christianity is a theological book by
C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944,
while Lewis was at Oxford during the Second World War.
Considered a classic of Christian apologetics, the transcripts of the broadcasts
originally appeared in print as three separate pamphlets:
The Case for Christianity (Broadcast Talks in the UK) (1942),
Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1944).
Lewis was invited to give the talks by the Reverend James Welch, the BBC Director of Religious Broadcasting, who had read his 1940 book, The Problem of Pain.

Growing up as an Episcopalian, under the umbrella of the Anglican Church, I was first
introduced to C.S.Lewis when I was in about the 8th or 9th grade or so…
Our Sunday School class was assigned a book to read as part
of our Sunday School “curriculum.”

The book was The Screwtape Letters.

A book first published in 1942.
A time when Great Britain was in the throes of some of her darkest days…the midst of WWII.

This was a paperback book we were given and the cover actually scared me.
I made a point of always putting the book facedown when reading it.
I was not a huge fan of devils nor Satan for that matter…no fan of demonic images…
and with The Exorcist movie making its debut just about the same time,
I wasn’t having anything affiliated with Satan too close for my sense of comfort.

For you see, even early on in my life I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were
living in a fallen world.
And in that fallen world we were (are) actually living in the middle of a massive
spiritual war…a war that was, and is, raging all around us.

Satan is very much real and will very much do what he can to thwart his mortal Enemy
who just so happens to be the Creator of both dark and light and of life and even of death…
And yet death with this Creator of ours is not a permanent predicament—

So in all of this, that being Spiritual war, there will naturally be casualties.
Casualties of a fallenness, a brokenness, a darkness and a sinfulness…in turn marking those
casualties prisoners of war.

The problem in all of this is that once captured and the battle finally ends with the Victor
coming again in triumph…the prisoners who fall to the whims of the dark enemy are then at the
point of being forever lost.

There is a narrow window in which one can choose which side of the battle one wants to be…
and sadly many have, as well as continue, to choose the wrong side.

If you scoff at such a notion…that’s fine.
But don’t ever say you weren’t informed.

And no that’s not Christianity being all about the big, the bad and the scary with a skewed
psychological tactic of punishment as its basis…it’s actually a matter of that being
exactly what it is—-that being the facts behind the story.

And so our Wikipedia friends once again explain that…
“The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetic novel by C. S. Lewis and dedicated to
J. R. R. Tolkien.
It is written in a satirical, epistolary style and while it is fictional in format,
the plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues,
primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it.”

First published in February 1942,
the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his
nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter.
The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility in securing the damnation of a
British man known only as “the Patient”.

Funny that most young folks learn of Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia and with me,
I actually learn of him from the writings of devils.

There’s something to be said for that…and I think its because God always knew that I would
need to pass the allegorical early on, cutting straight to the chase.

Life has been that way for me.

However is wasn’t until when I was an adult that Lewis really came alive for me.
It was when I watched the 1993 movie Shadowlands…
a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
I’ve written about the movie before and if you’ve never seen it…
it is worth tracking down.

The movie is based on true events in Lewis’ life…such that I came away knowing that he totally
“got” this thing we call life.

Life with all of its curve balls…Curveballs that it loves to throw at those who call
themselves Christians as well as to the nonbelievers…it’s just that most folks scrutinize the
Christians when the bad things come—gauging their responses and reactions…
Nonbelievers like to mock and scoff Christians who suffer and hurt…sneering “where is your
God now?!”

But Life does not discriminate.
Life is hard.
It is not fair.
It often hurts and it can tempt us until we actually go practically mad.

And note that I say Life….not God, not Jesus…but rather simply Life…

For God nor Jesus torment.
Nor do they tempt or threaten or wreak havoc in our worlds…
That is merely the role Life plays in our lives.
Think back to what I said about living in a fallen world…

So when I read this latest quote by Lewis…I thought here is a man who despite speaking to us
from the depths of days long past…a man who spoke during a raging world war…
his observations are still very much current.

As this quote is particularly timely for our oh so modern 21st century smug
attitudes towards a no hold bar approach to sexuality.

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.

There is no getting away from it;
the Christian rule is,
‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner,
or else total abstinence.’

Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts,
that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.
One or the other.
Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong …
God knows our situation;
He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.
What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.
Those who really wish for help will get it;
but for many modern people, even the wish is difficult…
We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained
by any merely human efforts.
You must ask for God’s help.
Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help,
or less help than you need, is being given.
Never mind.
After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again.
Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this
power of always trying again.
For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be,
this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.
It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.
We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments,
and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.
The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.”

— C. S. Lewis, p. 95
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

17 comments on “Either / Or..it’s mere Christianity

  1. Elihu says:

    C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite Christian writers because he combines humor and wit with downright excellent logic. He makes difficult concepts so clear. That last excerpt is something that gives me great comfort. 😊

  2. atimetoshare.me says:

    Though devils all the world may fill – all eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill. They shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
    He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.

  3. hatrack4 says:

    Most northern churches have no Sunday school in the summer. They move the second service up to give people more time in the sun while the sun lasts. Ludicrous! Four years ago, I was determined to stop that. With only 15-20 minutes, I crammed one “Letter” between the services. I had a back-up teacher for when I was out of town. I talked to my back-up teacher as summer approached this year. He told me it was no use fighting city hall. When the preacher gets long winded and runs over, you don’t have time to say, “Screwtape” before people are filing into the sanctuary for the next service. But oh, how much fun we had.

    • Just like they do down here in the South Mark. Just like school, Sunday School disperses for the summer. In fact, growing up…our Sunday attendance at Church waned as I guess my parents didn’t want to “deal” with us in “big” chruch…not until I got into High School—mother and I would go ocassionally in the Summer to Church with Dad sleeping in.
      It was not their priority and when it did begin to become mine at about the age of 16, they didn’t understand and feared I was becoming a “Jesus Freak” as term popular at the time with the spin off from the days of hippies with the overtly religious…eventually having its own following with a book of the same title…a revival of the Holy Spirit was spreading in the outskit sects of denominations and my paretns viewed such as almost cult like.
      We were not “overt” people 🙂

      • hatrack4 says:

        Heaven forbid being ‘overt’. I understand.

        In my hometown in Mississippi they still have Sunday school every Sunday. When I talk of getting summers off, they reply, “You need to come home!” I guess the big cities of the South picked up on the northern trend (been doing summer schedule for 40-50 years), but some of those Jesus Freak churches still have summer Sunday school, even up here.

  4. SLIMJIM says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask you this and not meant to be disrespectful…maybe its because I live in the Left Coast of the United States but all the Episcopalians I know here in California are very extremely liberal…are Episcopalians less liberal in outlook in Georgia or the South?

    • Jim—they are liberal from the get go sadly.
      A big reason I consider myself a lapsed Episcopalin. I consider myslef Anglican but not the Anglican Chruch of England as they too are now as liberal as can be. I often quote and share the wiritings of Bishop Gavin Ashenden. He was the former chaplin to the Queen but his eyes were finally clearly opened.
      He left the church proper…as has many clergy and laity alike. And most are now under the umbrella of The Christian Episcopal Church (XnEC)—wikipedia states it as “a Continuing Anglican jurisdiction consisting of parishes in Canada and the United States and with oversight of several parishes in the Cayman Islands.

      An Orthodox chruch body that remians faithful to Biblical teachings—

      But growing up, I was fortunate in that my godfather was the dean of the Cathedral—he and his wife were very Biblically based…and even later ventured to the growing Charismatic movement in both the Catholic and Episcopal Chruch…a deeply Holy Spirit leaning…

      So no disrespect at all.
      I share a great deal from Anglican Unscripted—and that is a US based break away Episcopal group who remian rooted under the teaching of the Bible and sticks to God’s word being just that…God’s word…end of sentence. No rewriting to appease our progressive choices in lifestyles.
      A conservative orthodox group—two words our progressive liberal society cannot abide by.

  5. I love CS Lewis’ story and writings, too. And I must confess, I had the same reaction to Screwtape Letters! ❤ and hugs!

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