As if?

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A friend, a Christian doctor, recalled how, as a young resident in a regional hospital, he found himself at times the sole ‘doctor’ on duty. At such times he found it helpful, he told me, to act ‘as if’ he were already the doctor that he hoped he would one day become in reality. It worked for him. This first of three brief posts on the theme of helpful pretending comes from C. S. Lewis….

C. S. Lewis wrote: “Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups – playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

“Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you really were a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash up. Well, go and do it.”

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

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And now for Something Completely Different…

Lewis 'miracles'
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4 ESV

If we come to Christ expecting ‘just a new beginning’, ‘a fresh start’, ‘a second chance at life’, we are in for a surprise; perhaps even a shock. God is not the author of new beginnings only, but of new lives, entire and eternal; and He will not let us settle for less when Christ has died to give us so much more. This final brief post on the Resurrection of Jesus also comes from C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “… there is not in Scripture the faintest suggestion that the Resurrection was a new evidence for something that had in fact been always happening. The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits’, the ‘pioneer of life’. He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.”
From C. S. Lewis in Miracles.

Permanent Miracles?

Lewis 'miracles'

 

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Romans 15:19-20 ESV.

 

The fiction of time-travel has always fascinated me. To experience great moments in history for myself (from a safe distance); to know the truth, personally, of what actually happened… But, it turns out, I don’t need a time machine for that. This second of three brief posts on the Resurrection of Jesus also comes from C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “When modern writers talk of the Resurrection they usually mean one particular moment – the discovery of the Empty Tomb and the appearance of Jesus a few yards away from it. The story of that moment is what Christian apologists now chiefly try to support and sceptics chiefly try to impugn. But this almost exclusive concentration on the first five minutes or so of the Resurrection would have astonished the earliest Christian teachers. … It had no more importance than any of the other appearances of the risen Jesus – apart from the poetic and dramatic importance which the beginnings of things must always have. What they were claiming was that they had all, at one time or another, met Jesus during the six or seven weeks that followed His death.

“…. The ‘Resurrection’ to which they bore witness was, in fact, not the action of rising from the dead but the state of having risen; a state, as they held, attested by intermittent meetings during a limited period (except for the special, and in some ways different, meeting vouchsafed to St Paul). This termination of the period is important, for…. There is no possibility of isolating the doctrine of the Resurrection from that of the Ascension.”

From C. S. Lewis in Miracles

 

 

Looking for a Miracle?

Lewis 'miracles'

 

Many who reject Christ seem still to hanker for the miraculous, or what they call the ‘spiritual’ in their lives, and complain when God does not dance to their tune (Matthew 11:16-17). Rejecting the great miracle at the heart of Christianity, they look for satisfaction elsewhere; an ultimately hopeless journey. This first of three brief posts on the Resurrection of Jesus comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection….. As this qualification suggests, to preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection. …. The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the ‘gospel’ or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the ‘gospels’, the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. …. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.

From C. S. Lewis in Miracles.

We are not alone…

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The tower of Babel (Genesis 11) was mankind’s attempt to build a society that symbolically reached into the heavens. All our subsequent efforts to build apart from God have also failed. When mankind rejected God we found ourselves alone in the universe. What a tragedy if, in fact, God created the universe for us alone? This final brief post on the theme of A Christian society also comes from C.S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects – education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects – military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden – that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economists, etc., are simply a waste of time.

“In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”

From C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

The long way around?

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And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31 ESV

Each Thursday morning I meet with several (other) grumpy old men for coffee. We rarely agree together on anything. We are not all Christians. Would it guarantee our agreement if we were? We can’t even agree on the best temperature for our coffee to be served at. So how may we expect to agree on the ideal for society, Christian or otherwise? This second of three brief posts on the theme of A Christian society also comes from C.S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party. We are looking for an ally where we are offered either a Master or – a Judge.

“ … And that is why nothing whatever is going to come of such talks unless we go a much longer way round. A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian.

“I may repeat, ‘do as you would be done by’ till I am blue in the face, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbour as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him.

“And so, as I warned you, we are driven on to something more inward – driven on from social matters to religious matters. For the longest way round is the shortest way home.”

From C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

If I ruled the world?

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In those days there was no king in Israel.
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25 ESV

 

Winston Churchill said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Well, maybe. But is even the best democracy the best we can aspire to in this world? Might not Christians hold onto hopes for a society, this side of Heaven’s perfect City of God, where standards of what is ‘right’ may not only be agreed upon but also followed; and what might such a Christian society look like? This first of three brief posts on the theme of A Christian society comes from C.S. Lewis…

C.S.Lewis wrote: “The New Testament, without going into details, gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Everyone is to work with his own hands, and what is more, every one’s work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. … To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call Leftist. On the other hand, the New Testament is always insisting on obedience obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry and anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls ‘busybodies’.

“If there were such a society in existence and your or I visited it, I think we would come away with a curious impression. We would feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, ‘advanced’, but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old fashioned – perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing.

“That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: everyone is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest.

From C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.