Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mere Christianity: Book 3; Chapter 3 (Social Morality)

The Four Virtues of a Christian Society

In this chapter Lewis discusses the elements of Social Morality, and as such, outlines the four Virtues that he believes lead to a "Christian Society".

A Few Qualifications

It is important to note that Lewis states that a truly Christian Society can occur only when every member within that society is Christian.  Therefore, considering the human condition, it is impossible for a truly "Christian Society" and as such can be considered a Utopian Hypothetical.

That being said, it is still important to discuss because, though we cannot reach the perfection of a Christian Society, we can still strive to manifest these virtues as best as possible.

Diligence-- Lewis never actually uses the word "diligence" in this Chapter, but his "ethic of work" as being the backbone of society is closest to this virtue.  Lewis iterates the common biblical verse, "If a man does not work, he ought not to eat".  Furthermore, he states that, while all are required to work, the work must be to produce something good, i.e. not luxury or frivolity.  This is in accord with the definition of diligence--"a zealous and careful nature in one's actions and work, exemplified by a decisive work ethic, budgeting of one's time, monitoring one's own activities to guard against laziness, and putting forth full concentration in one's work". Diligence is also the "Heavenly Virtue" which counters Sloth, and is a sub-virtue of Temperance.

Obedience-- Lewis states outright that a Christian society is "insisting" obedience, both to proper authorities (God) and as husband and wife.  We see this in the Church today, as we are called to be obedient to those put in authority by God for the sake of our holiness.  Obedience is a sub-virtue of Justice.

Kindness-- Again, Lewis never uses the word "kindness", but it is [probably] what he means when he says that "courtesy" and "cheerfulness" are requirements of a Christian Society.  Kindness (which is most likely a sub-virtue of Temperance) is the Heavenly Virtue opposed to Envy, and is defined as" goodness and charitable disposition, pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others".  Lewis says that we must always be joyful and praising of God, as well as regarding anxiety and worry as wrong.

Charity--This is where we must be careful to not be confused about what Lewis is saying.  When Lewis uses the term "Charity", he is using the term mostly to mean "generosity".  However, this does not preclude the meaning "Charity as Love", for love is a crucial element of generosity.  In this case however, it is most appropriate to understand charity as generosity, in order to understand what Lewis is saying.  Lewis states that the reason for work is so that we may have the ability to give to those in need.  He also states that "we out to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to". This, we know, is an Utopian Ideology, and can't be achieved in this world, but we must aim to achieve it regardless.  We work in order to not keep to ourselves, but in order to give... how many people follow that principle in life?

Therefore, we know that while a perfect society is not attainable until Christ himself establishes it at his return, we must strive to uphold these virtues in our every day life.  We are called to help usher forth the Kingdom of God on this earth, and according to Lewis, these are the four basic virtues to do so.  We must be diligent in work, obedient to God given authority, we must be kind (rejoicing in the Lord and not worrying), and finally, we must give all that we are able to.

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