Monday, September 20, 2010

Mere Christianity: Preface

I know, you're thinking, "He actually read the preface?".  Yes, I always read the preface, especially to non-fiction, and ESPECIALLY to theological books. So before you close your browser window because you think me either daft or out of touch, consider the value of reading the preface to any work.

Dei Verbum states that in reading sacred scripture, the intent of the "Sacred Writer" must be considered (para. 12).  I believe this is true in all writing, especially in Divinely inspired writing not considered Scripture, and so I read the preface.

Lewis does indeed focus on communicating the intent of this writing--to aid support and defense of the Christian cause as a whole body.  He blatantly states that he actively avoids "hot topic" issues that are disagreed upon by various denominations.  He states that 1) these matters should be left for experts, and 2) he believes that often, discussing these issues leads to more division rather than unity.  Personally, I agree with Lewis.  While these matters need to be discussed, they should only be discussed amongst believers whom have already chosen sides, not one who is deciding which game to play.

Lewis relates this to a house... Christianity, in general, is like the hall of a great house, with many other doors leading from it.  His job is only to get you into the hall, not to force you through any specific door.  But more on that later.

He then briefly discusses the problem with the subjective use of the term "Christian" and talks  (somewhat comically) about the denominational difference in the Blessed Virgin.  He also states that, concerning morals, he does not feel as though he can comment on anything he does not have experience about (birth control, gambling, etc.), which could be a relatively controversial statement to some.  However, I will not focus on these in this main portion of this post--they may be left to discussions in the comments or a follow-up post.  Rather, I would like to just note he mentions them and stick to the idea of Christian Unity.

He next talks briefly about Odium Theologicum (Lt. for Theological Hate), which typically refers to the intense hatred that arises over disputes about theology.  He states that, in his experience, these disputes arise from people on the borders of the community, and that "it is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine... at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergencies of belief... speaks with the same voice" (8).  Interesting indeed.

Let us finish with a few thoughts on this beautiful image of the "Hall":

To Lewis, the hall is a place where many are called to wait, to discern which of the doors they are called to enter.  He states, somewhat flippantly perhaps, that even the worst of the rooms would be preferable to no room (or in fact, the hall) at all.  In other words, those of our brothers and sisters who we view to be "outside the communion of the Church", but still within the beliefs of Christianity, have at least chosen to play our game, even if it is on a "different team".  They are still better off than not playing at all.  He then beautiful characterizes the process of discernment.  He states that, while some may know right away which door is for them, some may "find they have to wait for a considerable time".  He reassures the reader though that, "God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.  When you do get into your room, you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise" (11). 

He gives some words of advice to those still in the hall.  1) obey the common rules of the household, 2) always look for truth, do not ask "is this service appealing", but rather, "are these doctrines true, is there Holiness here?" 3) what is it drawing to you to this door?  Pride, taste, or truly God? (11).

Finally, he ends with a few words to those of us whom have already found our room, "When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.  If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.  That is one of the rules common to the whole house."

Truly, let us take his admonition.

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