C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity is one of the greatest classics in the twentieth century. In this book, he builds up the argument for Christianity with eloquent logic. The Christianity in which he espouses in Mere Christianity is one that transcends all Christian denominations, churches and movements- hence the word mere. Thus, it is an excellent resource for those who want to learn more about Christianity without the institutional and denominational bias of the various schools of thoughts within Christianity. This book is divided into four parts. The first part looks into Right and Wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe. The second part examines what Christians believe. The third part looks at Christian morality. The final part introduces Christian theology in layman’s terms to the reader. Warning: The final part, due to its very nature of the topic, is not easy to understand and is extremely difficult to explain in a concise manner. Thus, the reader of this summary review is advised that the reviewer’s explanations of Christian theology in the final part are inadequate (and depending on perspectives, inaccuracies, may arise inadvertently) and that the Bible is the sole, final and sufficient authority on these matters.
Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe
The first part builds the case for the existence and nature of God. C.S. Lewis leads us to examine the inquiry for the existence and nature of God with an important clue: The existence of an irreducible and universal Standard of right and wrong that transcends all human thoughts and cultural, language and ethnic divide. Everyone, whether willingly or grudgingly, has an obligation to this Standard. Strangely enough, despite awareness of that Standard, everyone fails to live up to it. This Standard is not just a mere instinct or human invention. It is so universal and irreducible that if we somehow get rid of it, “most of the things we say and think about men would be reduced to nonsense.” Now, a profound question has to be asked: Who is behind this Standard? If there is a Supreme Being behind this Standard, then we have a reason to be uneasy because we have all violated His Standard.
What Christians Believe
With the foundation of this important clue established, the second part looks at Christianity’s basic belief. First, he examines the various conceptions of God. There is one divide in the belief about the existence of God- atheism, the belief in the non-existence of God, and theism, the belief in the existence of God (there is also agnosticism, which is basically the uncertainty about the existence of God). Within the latter branch, there are sub-branches of pantheism and monotheism of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Basically, the former belief sees God as part of the universe whereas in the latter, God and the created universe are distinct.
Christians believe that this created universe has gone wrong. Now, there is this interesting question: If God, the all-powerful and all knowing Supreme Being, created this universe, why and how can it go wrong (for example, cruelty, injustice and unfairness)? This question seems to give grounds for atheism, but it gives rise to another difficulty: Where does this universal and irreducible meaning of right and wrong come from in the first place? If we can see that there is something wrong with this world, it means that we know the meaning of what is right. If world has no meaning (as what atheism believes), then how do we find out that it has no meaning in the first place?
Next, C.S. Lewis argues against the idea of dualism, which is basically the belief that Good and Evil are independent, equal and in conflict with each other. Again, this idea does not hold ground because of the fact that if it is true, then the irreducible and universal Standard of right and wrong will be rendered meaningless too. Nevertheless, Christianity is similar with dualism in the sense that Good and Evil are in conflict with each other. The difference is that in Christianity, Evil is an internal rebellion against Good and that this world we live in is occupied by Evil.
C.S. Lewis then looks at the question of the conflict between God’s will and the free will that He bestowed on His creation. Though free will allows evil to happen, it is also the only way for which love, goodness and joy are possible. With free will, humanity is free to rebel against God by taking the place of Him and believing that perfect joy and peace can be achieved apart from Him. Indeed, throughout history, we can see that humanity has expended colossal effort to make the world perfect apart from God but has failed hopelessly. This is due to the fact that God has designed humans such that apart from Him, perfect joy and peace is unattainable.
Then God, on His part, decided to take the initiative to rescue humanity from such hopelessness and despair by coming down to earth as one of us in the form of Christ! When Christ was on earth, He, to the astonishment of those who refused to believe in His identity, asserted His authority of God. Now, C.S. Lewis brings us to the point that it is irrational to believe in the misconception that Christ is merely a great moral teacher. From His actions and the things that He said and asserted, He is either Lord God Almighty or a liar, lunatic or something worse.
Now, if we choose to believe that Christ is indeed Lord God Almighty and had “landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form”, what was His purpose to do so? Was it just to teach? If we look into New Testament, it is clear that His purpose was more than that. He constantly talked about being killed and rising back to life again. What was the point? Basically, Christ’s death for us “has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself”, made us right with God and gave us a fresh start. Just as scientists give us a pictorial model of an atom to help us understand how an atom looks like, there are many theories explaining how Christ’s death and resurrection works to achieve this purpose, each of them merely gives us a model to approximate the unfathomable spiritual reality. C.S. Lewis gives a model that personally helps him to understand it.
With Christ’s death and resurrection we are offered a completely new life. For those of us who belong to God in this new life, it is more than just “trying to be good,” God will make us good because He loves us and lives in us. This means more than just trying to imitate Christ- He is actually operating through us who belong to Him. The implication of this is that we who belong to Him collectively represent God on earth.
Now, there is this question that C.S. Lewis poses: “Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough?” That answer is that God will one day invade. He is delaying because He is giving as many people as much time as possible to join His side before the actual invasion. All of us must choose which side we belong to because we do not have forever to make up our mind before it is too late.
In the third part of this book, C.S. Lewis looks at Christian behaviour. First, he looks at morality. There is this myth that morality is a set of rules and regulations that kills fun and prevents us from having a good time. Moral rules are in actual fact, the instruction manual of humanity- adherence to the directions in it will promote smooth running and prevent unnecessary breakdowns, frictions and strain. From a secular viewpoint, there are two ways in which humanity can go wrong (hence, two dimensions of morality)- firstly, “fair play and harmony between individuals” and secondly, “tidying up or harmonizing the things inside each individual.” The latter, which is basically the “morality inside the individual”, is something that is most often forgotten. Unfortunately, without it, the former is unachievable. All the institutions, laws, protocols, procedures, rules and regulations that govern the smooth running of society are useless without individuals living according to moral rules and internalising them for themselves. In Christianity, there is a third dimension to morality- the relation between the individual and God who creates individuals together for a specific purpose.
Next C.S. Lewis looks at the four virtues that everyone recognizes: Prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. Prudence is the practical common sense. Temperance is basically moderation. Justice is basically fairness (which includes honesty, giving and taking, truthfulness and so on). Fortitude is courage, both of facing danger and perseverance under pain and difficulties. It is stressed that virtue is an internal quality that defines a person, not a person’s external actions being ‘virtuous’. This is being stressed because such a misconception may give us three wrong ideas: Firstly, the motives behind the right action are unimportant to the building up of our character; secondly, God only cares about our external adherence to rules and regulations; lastly, virtues are unimportant in the after-life.
Next, C.S. Lewis looks at the issue of social morality. There are two things that must be made clear: Christ did not come to this world to teach us a new kind of morality and Christianity is not meant to be political. When people say that the church should lead society, what is the ‘church’ that they mean? Is it the entire body of practicing Christians or is it the clergy and ministers of the Church? If they mean the latter, do they mean that the clergy and ministers should put up a political program for society? If so, then they are asking the clergy and ministers to do a job that they are not trained for. The New Testament, however, gives a hint of how a fully Christian society should look like. Such a society has traces of ‘socialism’, ‘’conservatism’ and other bits and pieces of other characteristics. People are attracted by some of the bits and pieces and want to discard the rest. As a result, an absurd situation can arise when “people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity.” Both sides of the political divide may want to find support from Christianity to advance their political agenda and beliefs, but unfortunately for them, the truth is, Christianity is either a Master or a Judge. As such, a Christian society is not possible unless society wants it. Society will only want it if it is made up of Christians.
The next issue that C.S. Lewis looks at is the distinction between Christian morality and psychoanalysis. Though they may overlap in some areas, they serve two different purposes. Within psychoanalysis, there is a line between the “medical theories and techniques of the psychoanalysts” and the philosophical world-view that that Freud has embellished into it. Those add-ons are directly contradictory to Christianity and other great psychologists, namely Jung. C.S. Lewis reckons that when “Freud is talking about how to cure neurotics he is speaking as a specialist on his own subject, but when he goes on to talk general philosophy he is speaking as an amateur.” What is the role of morality and psychoanalysis? When a person makes a moral choice, two things are involved. The first thing, it is the choice itself, which is addressed by morality. The second thing is the psychological outfit (for example, feelings, impulses and so on) that gives the person the raw materials to make that choice. A person’s psychological outfit may be normal or abnormal and it is the job of psychoanalysis to address the problem of an abnormal psychological outfit in order for that person to make better choice. Thus, a “bad psychological outfit is not a sin, but a disease.” God judges us by our moral choice whereas humans tend to judge each other by their external actions. Hence, between a person with a good psychological outfit and another with a bad psychological outfit, God may judge the latter more favourably even though the latter’s action may look ‘less good’ than the former. That is the reason why Christ told us not to judge because we “see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material.” But God, who knows everything, “does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.” This leads on to the next point in which C.S. Lewis notices that some people see Christian morality as a system of rules and regulation in which God rewards and punishes for obedience and disobedience. On the contrary, Christian morality is concerned about us making moral choices (whether big or small), which will eventually revisit us and alter who we are (for better or worse), in the long run. Each time we become better, we understand more clearly about the evil that is still left in us. Each time we become worse, we understand less clearly about it.
The next issue of morality that C.S. Lewis examines is sex, in which the old-fashioned word for it is chastity. First, there needs to be a differentiation between the virtue of chastity and social rule of modesty (or propriety or decency). Modesty depends on the culture of the society of the day and is relative. In Christian morality, the virtue of chastity is this: Either marriage with complete faithfulness or complete abstinence. Now, looking at today’s society, we have to ask ourselves this question: Is the Christian morality on sex wrong or is our sexual instinct wrong? C.S. Lewis reckons that it is the latter. Looking at this question from the biological perspective, the purpose of sex is to pro-create. However, with the current state in which society is in right now, our sexual instinct is in excess of its biological purpose. If the excesses of sexual instinct in society are due to sexual starvation, then there might be some excuse for it. Unfortunately, since sexual starvation is clearly not true, then sexual perversion can only be the reason. Our society has come to the point that we are shamefully obsessed about sex (sex in itself good because it is created by God for our enjoyment).
What are the reasons for such a sorry state of affairs? One of the reasons is that we have been fed, for decades, lies about sex. Propaganda has made us believe that sexual indulgence is associated with health, youth, normality, frankness and so on. But “surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is reverse of health, good humour and frankness.” Another reason for such a sorry state of affairs is that the lure of sex is so strong that we believe, without even attempting, that it is impossible to attain chastity. This is true if we rely only on ourselves and not rely on God for help. Lastly, people often think that controlling our sexual instinct is tantamount to ‘repression’. Technically, repression is thrusting a thought or a desire into the subconscious, which will in turn manifest itself in another form. On the contrary, attempting chastity by controlling our sexual instinct makes us even more aware of our sexuality than anyone else.
Next, C.S. Lewis touches on Christian marriage. Marriage is meant to be a complete union between a man and a woman. The union is so complete that it covers not only at the physical level (sexual), but also at the emotional and spiritual level as well. Therefore, it is inconceivable that a marriage union should be broken. One of the reasons why divorce is wrong is because it violates the virtue of justice by breaking a promise- made during the marriage ceremony- to stick together till death. Many people believe that ‘being in love’ is the reason for remaining married. But if this is so, then the promise that is formally made during the marriage ceremony is meaningless. This is because the promise made when ‘being in love’ ought to hold even when ‘out of love’. Thus, if it is meaningless, it should not be made in the first place. The next question is: What is the point of keeping a couple together when they ceased to be ‘in love’ with one another? For this question, C.S. Lewis expounds on the concept of ‘being in love’. Being ‘in love’ is basically having a feeling of passion. As with any feelings, it can never be relied to last to its full intensity forever. But there is something higher and nobler than this feeling of passion- it is true love, which is “maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.” True love is quieter, more stable, more lasting and ultimately, more satisfying and fulfilling.
C.S. Lewis then goes on to debunk myths about ‘being in love’ that we may learn from the media. Firstly, some people believe the wrong idea that if we marry the ‘right’ person, we will be ‘in love’ with that person forever. If we believe this myth, that it must follow that if we cease ‘being in love’ with the person we marry, then we must have made a mistake. Secondly, ‘being in love’ is not as irresistible as what we see in the media, unless we let ourselves believe so and turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, there is this aspect of Christian marriage that is highly unpopular. Why are wives told to obey the husbands, who are the head of the household? Why not equality? Why is it the man? The answer to the first question lies on the value that the marriage union is for life. When a couple disagrees and finds consensus impossible, what are they to do? Since divorce and separation is not an option and there can be no majority vote in a “council of two”, the only option is for one of the parties to decide the family policy. As for the answer to the second question, it is generally observed that in the context of a permanent marriage union, women do not like weak men as their husbands. Furthermore, men are generally more objective to outsiders when it comes to the family’s ‘foreign policy’ and for this reason, ought to take the lead.
The next issue of morality to be discussed is forgiveness, which is easy to understand but difficult to carry out. The truth is, unless we forgive, God will not forgive us. Though forgiveness is not easy, there are some things that we can do to make it easier. Firstly, we can begin with the easiest acts of forgiveness first before proceeding gradually to the more difficult ones. Secondly, we can start by understanding the meaning of loving our neighbours as ourselves. Its meaning is not, as some misunderstood it to be, thinking and feeling ‘nice’ and ‘fond’ of our neighbours (which include our enemies). To love our neighbours means that despite how bad they are, we are to love them without having to love their deeds- hate the sin but love the sinner. At first glance, this seems absurd, but upon closer reflection, C.S. Lewis realises that he has been doing this very thing to a man all his entire life- himself! As he admitted, just “because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.” Thus, to love someone as yourself means hoping that the person can be made good again and be turned away from his or her hateful deeds and actions, even if it means having to punish him or her. On the other extreme end, the sheer pleasure of thinking your neighbours as bad as possible is the first step towards evil.
Next, C.S. Lewis discussed the most insidious and utmost vice called pride (or self-conceit). Pride makes one competitive for the sake of competitiveness, thus making everyone else (including God) a potential enemy. The more pride one has, the more one hates it in others. One of the worst forms of pride is religious pride. It makes one feel superior to others and deceive oneself into believing that God approves of their ‘superiority’. More insidiously, pride can often be used to beat down other vices.
There are four common misunderstandings with pride. First, “pleasure in being praised” is not pride because it comes from the desire to please someone whom we want to please. It becomes pride when we care more about ourselves than the praise itself. Second, when we are ‘proud’ of something or someone, it often means that we have a “warm-hearted admiration” for that thing or person. That is not pride (or self-conceit) because the focus is on outside oneself. Third, pride is not something that offends God as if he is proud. Rather, God hates pride because He is deeply concerned with what the destructive effects of pride can do to us. Pride not only robs joy and happiness from us, it will eventually destroy us. Last, a truly humble person is not the sort who is ingratiating. Rather, he will be such a happy, cheerful and outward looking person who forgets about himself.
Next, the virtue of charity (or Christian love) is being discussed. Love is not just an affectionate feeling- it is the wishing of good on that person. Having affectionate feelings for a person is just a dispassionate fact, which is morally neutral. They merely make it easier for us to love that person. Thus, though affectionate feelings should be encouraged, it is a waste of time attempting to ‘manufacture’ them in order to make us love that person. Rather, we should love by our actions and then the affectionate feelings will follow. Hence, Christian love is different in the sense that it is universally applied to everyone, not just to those whom we have affectionate feelings for. So, love is primarily a matter of the will, whether it is applied to ourselves, others or God.
The next virtue to be discussed is the virtue of Christian hope. In Christianity, hope is the intense longing for the perfect and eternal future in the next world of heaven. Throughout history, it is noticed that among Christians, those who had the most longing for the next world did the most for the present world. There are two reasons why this Christian virtue is on the decline. Firstly, the emphasis of our educational system is focused too much on this present world. Secondly, we often fail to discern deep in our own hearts that intense longing for heaven. Christian hope exists in the form of yearning for something that we know can never ever be satisfied in this world. There are three ways to deal with that intense yearning, of which only one is the right way. The first way is the Fool’s Way- A fool will always hop from experience to experience, thing after thing, person after person and so on, in the hope of getting that ‘Ultimate Thing’ that can fully satisfy that intense yearning. Of course, that ‘Ultimate Thing’ does not exist in this world. The second way is to become disillusioned, disappointed and represses that intense yearning in the name of ‘maturity’. The third way, which is the Christian way, is to recognise that we are not made for this world. As such, while we can enjoy and be contented with what we have on earth right now, we must also not forget the fact that ultimate satisfaction comes form heaven.
Next on the discussion is faith in the sense of belief. Initially, C.S. Lewis is puzzled by this paradox: If faith is just belief of whether something is true or not, how can it be a virtue? To understand this paradox, one has to understand that in humans, there is a disparity between the rational mind and emotions. One may know a certain fact in the rational mind and yet feel otherwise in the emotion. Thus, faith is the “art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
C.S. Lewis then discusses faith of the higher level, which can only make sense if one is a Christian for quite some time. This faith begins when one realises that he is utterly incapable of practicing the Christian virtues perfectly through his own effort, and that even if he could, it is only because he did it entirely through God’s help. It is through this realisation of one’s bankruptcy that one can become a Christian by having faith (complete trust and reliance) in Christ. It is only through faith in Christ that ‘allows’ God to work in one’s life to become the person He wants him to be. It is through God working in one’s life that one could be virtuous. Thus, it is faith that results in good actions (virtues). Faith without good actions is a meaningless “intellectual acceptance about some theory” about Christ. Good actions without faith are just rules, regulations and guilt trips.
Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity
The final part of this book is the discussion of some theological concepts in layman’s term. Some people may find theology irrelevant compared to real life spiritual experience. But, as C.S. Lewis argues, it is actually very practical. The reason is because theological knowledge is the accumulation of the past experiences and contemplations by many thinkers over the centuries. Thus, a good knowledge of theology will save us from attempting what has already been attempted and failed, believe what was believed and found out to be false and walk along the paths that had already been walked and found to be dead-ends.
One of the theological concepts in Christianity is the idea of begetting. What does one of the Christian creeds means when it says that Christ is the Son of God “begotten, not created”? What is the difference between beget and create? In beget, the result is something equivalent to the one doing the begetting. In create, the result is something that is different and less of an equivalent to the one doing the creating. Therefore, the creed means that Christ is equivalent to God. On the other hand, God created humans with a kind of resemblance (but not equivalence) to God. In fact, many of the properties (for example, space, matter, flora and fauna activities) of the created universe bear some kinds of resemblance or symbolism to God.
The next theological concept to be discussed is the nature of God expressed in the Trinity. Some people believe in an impersonal God, that is, a sub-personal God. In Christianity, God is a super-personal Being, compared to humans who are personal beings. Humans are so personal that the “human souls can be taken into the life of God and yet remain themselves- in fact, be very much more themselves than they were before.” What does God being a super-personal Being mean? Christians believe that God is three Persons, and yet one Being. From a human dimension, this is absurd. But from the Divine dimension, this is the truth that is beyond the human dimension just as the third dimension is beyond a being that can only comprehend two dimensions. Now, in reality, when Christians pray, they are actually “drawn into the three-personal life.” This is because when Christians pray, they are praying to God, who is also inside them to prompt them to pray, who is also the bridge for them to reach Him through prayer. Is the Christian concept of the Trinity something that is made up? If it were being made up, it would be simple. Theology, which is knowledge about God, is something that we can only know if and only if God takes the initiative to let us know Him. The instruments through which we can see Him are ourselves when we unite ourselves with other Christian believers in purity.
Next, C.S. Lewis brings in the discussion of time. Some people find it impossible to believe that God can attend to the prayers of so many people at the same time. Others wondered how God could be in control of the universe when He existed as a human in the form Jesus at a particular period of time in history. However, theologians had come up with the idea that God is in a dimension beyond time to resolve this difficulty of time constraint. Interestingly, it was the philosophers and later, the scientists who came up with this idea too. Nevertheless, this ‘Christian’ idea is not very important at all- the Bible and the creeds make no mention of it. Therefore, a person can be a “perfectly good Christian without accepting it, or indeed without thinking of the matter at all.”
Next, C.S. Lewis discusses the good ‘infection’ of the life of Christ to us so that we can be with God and thus be what we are made to be in eternal life. First, he describes the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. From his own description of the Trinity, it is easy to get the mistaken impression that God the Father somehow exists ‘before’ the Son and thus, is the result that comes ‘after’ the cause. But C.S. Lewis brings in a couple of practical illustrations on how the result of something can sometimes not come after the cause. Therefore, the “Son exists because the Father exists; but there never was a time before the Father produced the Son.” Nevertheless, despite the confusion and impossibility in comprehension, the Father and Son relationship turns out to be the best way for which God chooses to describe Himself to us. What is the importance of this relationship? It turns out that the popular Christian statement, “God is love”, is meaningless unless God consists of at least two Persons. There is a third Person within God, who is the Holy Spirit, who is the Person acting through Christians inside them ‘invisibly’. The result of the joint life of love between each Person in God is a real Person. Now, if we unite with God in this joint life, we will live eternally. On the other hand, if we are separate from God, we will eventually ‘wither and die.” How do we get united with God? We do so by being ‘infected’ with the Life that Christ has in order to take part in that joint life of God.
Next, C.S. Lewis talks more about that ‘infection’ of Christ’s Life. There are two kinds of life, each opposing the other- the natural life that is inherently self-centred, and the spiritual life of Christ that the natural life is afraid to relinquish control to. C.S. Lewis then used the analogy of a child wishing that his toy soldiers would come to life. That will involve turning the tin in the toy soldiers into flesh, which will be met with resistance by them because they see that the “tin is being spoilt.” In the same way, God wants to bring every one of us to life- from the natural life to the spiritual life- and turn us into sons (and daughters) of God. He did it through the Second Person, the Son of God, becoming a human who is perfectly in tuned with the spiritual life. In that sense, Christ is like one tin soldier coming to life. In addition to that, Christ’s coming to life can be seen as a kind of ‘infection’ that started from Him and spreading gradually to the rest of humanity.
Now, there are two clarifications that are to be explained. The first clarification is: Why does God want to go through the painful process of making and bringing to life those who are spiritually dead instead of begetting them alive on the outset? There is a simple and a difficult answer. The simple answer is that had humans not made the free-willed decision to rebel against God, that process would not have been painful. The difficult answer is so abstract that it is beyond human comprehension. That is because when we consider about God begetting sons of God (in addition to the only Son of God), we are in effect asking whether God ‘could have been’ done things differently. For God, who is an infinite Being, the question of ‘could have been’ is nonsensical because He is the “rock bottom, irreducible Fact on which all other facts depend.” Then, even if we can imagine it is possible for God to beget many ‘sons’ of God, how would they be different and distinguishable from each other? It is impossible to think of differences between begotten beings that existed before the creation of the universe without bringing in some other concepts within the created universe (for example, space and time). Thus, it is beyond the scope of us to think of the answer to this question.
The next clarification is this: When we come to the individuals within humanity, we must not forget that individual humans are as important as humanity collectively. In Christianity, each individual is not just a member of an aggregate. Rather, an individual is like an organ that serves a particular purpose, and needs and is needed by others. Thus, individualism (which values the individual far above the aggregate) and totalitarianism (which values the aggregate far more than the individual) are both errors of the opposite ends.
Next, C.S. Lewis talks about reality that comes from ‘pretending’. There are two types of pretending. The bad type arises from the motive of deception. The good type which “leads to the real thing.” We ‘pretend’ to be Christ (and is told by God to do so) in order for Christ to work in our lives, injecting His life into ours and thus, turn that ‘pretension’ into reality. As Christ works in our lives, we will then “begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are.” This is because our deeds (including good deeds done with bad motives) are merely a reflection of what we are- sinful and impure. Only God can change what we are for the better. In addition, although it may seem that it is humans who do everything, in reality, God is the one who does everything. In fact, it is God who does the ‘pretending’ of seeing us (who believe in Him) as perfect as Christ even though in practice, we are sinful and impure.
Is being a Christian easy or hard? It is impossible if we think of it in terms of obligation to be good. When we do so, we will either give up or be very unhappy. The right and Christian way to be good is to give our entire selves entirely to Christ. It is both easier and harder to do that, as Christ Himself said that we have to ‘take up our crosses’ and that His yoke is ‘easy and burden light’. To give our entire selves to Christ is extremely difficult because it would involve killing our natural desires, which is comparable to killing ourselves. But if we choose to do so, we will then find our selves gradually and steadily being replaced by the life of Christ and thus, be ‘naturally’ good. This is the whole of Christianity- the “Church exists for nothing else but to draw men [and women of course] to 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.”
The discussion then goes to counting the cost of being a Christian. When Christ said, “Be ye perfect”, what did He mean? C.S. Lewis reckons that Christ meant, “The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.” Being a Christians means allowing God to transform us towards perfection. It is very easy to please God even in our unsuccessful attempts to be good, but He will only be satisfied with perfection. That is why Christ told people to “count the cost” of being a Christian. As such, after we become Christians, we can expect the road to be tough as He moulds us according to His purpose.
Now, here comes the tough question: “If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians?” Behind this question lie a reasonable and an unreasonable demand. The reasonable demand is this: If Christianity makes no difference in a Christian’s outward behaviour (that is, the ‘results’), then we will have to question the credibility of the ‘conversion’ to Christianity in the first place. Thus, in that sense, the believability of Christianity depends on the outward behaviour of Christians. The unreasonable demand is this: some people not only make the previously mentioned reasonable demand, they also demand that the world be distinctly and discretely ‘divided’ into the Christian and non-Christian blocs and that everyone in the former bloc must be nicer then the people in the latter bloc. There are three flaws with this demand. Firstly, the division between the two blocs are neither distinct nor discrete- there are people (whether Christians and non-Christians) in so many different stages of beliefs that it is impossible to pigeonhole them specifically into any one of the two categories. Secondly, the issue is not whether Christians ought to be nicer than non-Christians. Rather, the issue is whether Christianity will make a given person better, all other things being equal. Lastly, niceness is not the endpoint of God’s aim- both nice and nasty people are equally in need for salvation. A person’s natural niceness is God’s gift to that person, not that person’s gift to God. Therefore, whether one’s personality and temperament is nice or nasty, one have to offer them to God for His purpose. As such, it is important to realise that God does not judge one according to whether one is nasty or nice- He judges one according to what one has done, given his personality and temperament. Thus, it is possible that a nice person may be in greater danger of hell than a nasty person because the nice person’s natural niceness may lead him to mistakenly and complacently believe that he does not need God for salvation.
Finally, C.S. Lewis talks about the transformation of humans through Christ. He uses the analogy of evolution to illustrate the transformational power of Christ to completely change humanity. Already, there are transformed people “doting here and there all over the earth.” Some of them are not easily recognisable, but when you do recognise them, you will notice that they are different. Also, it must be noted when these people are transformed, they do not lose themselves and become alike each other. Instead, the truth is, when people give their lives over to Christ to be transformed, they become even more truly themselves. Thus, the final call of this book is: “Look for yourself, 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.”
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