The Rim of Our World

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full of what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

I think most of you have read Mere Christianity at some point already. I admit I started the book back in high school and, for whatever (probably bad) reason, I was unable to "get into" it. I put it away for some years, knowing I would pick it up again some day. And now I have, and I am blazing through it, just chapters from the end. And I don't know why, and I feel very guilty for it, but at first I was not so enamoured with it as it thought I would be, as I thought I should be. Not unlike his book The Abolition of Man (and he actually references that work in Mere Christianity) Lewis started out with the barebone facts that reality gives us about Morality and the telltale way that People Act. Because these were talks delivered on the air, I saw the sense in this, and it was nice to get "outside" Christian thinking for a moment. But as we went on and Lewis tried to explain theology to the unbeliever and the believer (and I know he knew he was no theologian) I began to get fidgety and cross because I knew the answers to some of the questions he was postulating, but he wasn't around for me to tell him so. Furthermore, I stumbled across and was shown several mistakes in his own lines of thinking, which was a nasty turn for me, though I by no means consider Lewis to have been infallible. I'm well aware that one has to go into any work making sure of its truth, but I was as full of humph and phooey at that moment as I was full of Thera-flu.

Well, that's what I didn't like, and that doesn't amount to a great deal. I did thoroughly enjoy his chapters on "Forgiveness" and "Charity." That is to say, I enjoyed them for this deliberate truth and frankness. "Forgiveness" and "charity" are both virtues which I hardly possess. From my earliest years I have had the ability to hate long and to hold a grudge forever. But Lewis, very deftly, showed me that forgiveness and charity are not nearly so hard to have when one has Christ. I have been trying to have forgiveness and charity. I never stopped to let the hatred, the grudging, the forgiveness, and the charity go, and take hold of God and my neighbour the image of God. When you've dropped the frantic race after the virtue and taken hold of the one who possesses all virtue, it suddenly isn't so hopeless and dependent on man - because anything dependent on man is hopeless. Alexander Pope says that "hope springs eternal in the human breast," and that's true, but I find more often than not that hope is mere delusion. If hope is not fixed on anything faithful (and even virtues are faithless without any Life) then it will make the heart sick.

Lewis is the same as always. I walk softly into his works with a big stick and, having beaten the crows off the bush, I glean a tasty crop of berries. And Mere Christianity, despite the crows, has helped me in my quest. As I mentioned in my previous post, I know what is required of me: to do justice, to love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. And my quest, as I see it, is now to know God. I want to know what he is like, what his heart is, what he delights in, I want to know his Person. I know what he requires of me, but if I ever want to know myself (and am I so very much worth knowing?) I need first to know my God. I think this must have been my quest all along, but I got caught up in all the turmoil of doing what Christians are supposed to do, and the Body of Christ, and the law of grace, losing sight (though never forgetting) that we are all derived from him. All I had been doing was well and good, but I had put the cart before the horse. We are all of us going back to Eden, to walking with God in the garden, to unhindered communion with him. I am reading Lewis, but my quest is beyond mere Christianity.

"Sir, we would see Jesus."

6 ripostes:

  1. Quite a fitting continuation of the last post, though I don't know if you meant it that way or not, and these are truths that I need and delight to soak in, again and again. Thank you.

    By the by, I read 'Mere Christianity' some years ago, but at a hurried pace born by an inability to actually become involved with any of the content. I found the wrong things disgruntling much the same as you - and beyond that it just didn't take hold. But I mean to take it up again, later this month or early the next (whichever opens first), and I look forward to it - even a little more now because of this.

  2. Well, I'm glad you say so too. I felt very leery of saying I took issue with Lewis because there is a very strong Lewis-cult which may or may not be at leisure to lynch me, and heaven help anyone who says anything against Lewis. Well, I'm not saying anything against Lewis, I'm just saying that on occasion he was wrong. All the same, I think the ways in which he was right make the ways in which he was wrong worth picking through.

  3. I need to read this. :) I've heard he has some issues, but that it's quite thought-provoking and in some ways enlightening. Thanks for the post!

  4. Dear Jenny,

    I came across your blog from your sister, Abigail's =D. This is a really thought-provoking post... I haven't read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis yet, though I'd like to one day. I really was blessed by what you shared about forgiveness and charity, to take hold of the One who possess all virtues... He is our righteousness!

    Thanks for the post, and I'm a new follower of your blog!

    Joy @

  5. Joy, welcome to the Penslayer! I recall seeing you from time to time on Abigail's blog. I'm glad you enjoyed this post, and I do recommend Mere Christianity with the caution of reading it carefully and thoughtfully.

  6. I had heard about Mere Christianity for years and figured it was all Christian hype until I actually sat down and read it. Then I understood the hype! As you mentioned, Jenny, the book isn't without its blind spots or mistakes, but in a way, it was a life-saver for me, particularly the first half. At that time, I was going through college, and several of my classmates voiced the "morality is an evolutionary herd instinct for the preservation of our species" idea, and I was able to use Lewis' very pertinent points to show the flaws in that reasoning. Morality can't be derived from us; it must be derived from something other than us. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Jenny!