Monday, June 25, 2012

Mere Christinity: Book 4: Chapter 3 (Time and Beyond)

God, Time, and Vocation

This is one of the chapters that Lewis says one can skip if its not interesting to the reader, but I'm going to make it relevant to any Christian person.

Basically, God is outside of time... and while this is a mystery that we as humans (who live essentially in time) cannot fully understand, we can begin to somewhat comprehend it--especially in the implications that it has on us as children of God.

God IS... meaning that he always has been and always will be.  His essence is to exist.  This means that God perceives everything in one act.  To Him, your birth and your death, while a difference in kind, presents no difference in when it happens.  To him, the creation of the earth, the sending of his son, the death of his son, and Christ's second coming, are all one act.  Again, we cannot fully understand this (and for many, including perhaps myself, can hardly even begin to understand how this is so), but it's interesting to meditate on.

What does this mean for those of us who believe in Christ?  Jeremiah 29:11 I think is a good application, "for I know well the plans I have in mind for you...plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope".  Many Psalms (139:16 being only an example), echo this, "
Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be."

Without getting into debates about free-will, we can be assured that God, because he is outside of time and all-knowing, has a plan for us--how we will influence the world for the betterment of his kingdom, and thus how we can best become happy.  This is called vocation.

God has given us gifts, and it is recognizing and using these gifts that can help us to discern our vocation.  Do not be afraid to ask God what he wants from you, for though it may be challenging, or even scary, you can be sure that obedience to God is the fastest way to ultimate happiness.  Apart from God's will, there can be no happiness.

So next time you're taking time to meditate on God's eternal "being-ness", pause for a moment to listen for him to communicate his will in your heart.  You just might be surprised by where he's taking you, but it should be no surprise that all he wants for you is to flourish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mere Christianity: Book Four: Chapter 2 (The Three Personal God)

On The Trinity and the Complexity of Religion

In this chapter Lewis attempts, in various ways, to explain the idea of the Trinity, the “three-personal God” as he calls it.  His first example I believe is somewhat inadequate because, though it makes sense, it seems a rather impractical analogy that doesn’t speak to broad personal experience.  He uses the idea of dimensions to show that more complex and deeper levels means of a concept, while harder to grasp, is a fuller representation of reality.  I don’t disagree with what he’s saying, it just does not seem a practical way to express the reality of the Trinity.  Nevertheless, for Lewis this argument is really just a stepping stone to his better example.  I don't really want to focus on Lewis' explanation on the Trinity in this post (I do encourage you to read it yourself though), but I thought the critique of his argument was at least mentionable.

The thing I really appreciated about this chapter piggy-backs off his last chapter in explaining various aspects of religion in general.  Here, Lewis comments on the complexity of religion, specifically theology, and it is tied up into the idea of the Trinity.  Lewis states that theology is practical (because it above all reflects reality), but it is also an experimental science, in that it is the study of God based off his revelation and our experience and interpretation of that revelation.  That this is true is based off of the developmental nature of revelation--God first revealed himself (and we experienced him) as father, then He sent his son who was received as the messiah, the Word, and the Son of God (and whom we crucified), and then He revealed to us the Holy Spirit, who now sustains and guides the Church.  After the fullness of revelation, we looked back into the Bible and realized that everything in the New Testament was foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  This is what we mean by Theology as an experimental science, and it is also what makes it, and our religion, so complex (along with somewhat incomprehensible "mysteries" like the Trinity, The Incarnation, and the Hypostatic Union).

And this brings me to Lewis (and mine's) final point--Christianity is a complicated religion, and it is that very complexity which is evidence of its Truthfulness.  Lewis says that it is the made up religions that are simple, because they do not adequately reflect the complexity of reality.  Furthermore, since theology is an experimental science in which we are the interpreters of revelation, WE are the tools of the science (guided hopefully of course by the Holy Spirit), and thus, any religion will only be as close to God as the people who are charged to lead it.  This, Lewis boldly states, is why "horrible nations have horrible religions".  Because of this, as stated in the last post, the best instrument for interpreting the revelation of God is the Church itself, the community of guided believers who, though individually sinful and thus limited in their own abilities, as a group guided by the Holy Spirit holds the weight of infallibility and the power to fully interpret God's Truths.  This is why as a Church, we must have the Magisterium, who is uniquely guided by the Holy Spirit and entrusted by Christ, as a group, to bind and loose the Truths revealed to us.  This is why "spirituality" cannot be separated from the teaching Tradition of the Church, and any "religion" or "way to God" that claims otherwise is no true means of meeting Him.

"If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions.  How could we? We are dealing with Fact.  Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mere Christianity: Book 4 (Beyond Personality); Ch. 1 (Making and Begetting)

The Trinity and Why Religion Matters

Book four of Mere Christianity is part in which Lewis explains the doctrine of the Trinity.  While it's important that every believer understands this fundamental concept of theology, I will spend less time explaining that, and more time focusing on a few other arguments Lewis makes.

The issue I first want to deal with is the interplay between doctrinal religion, and relational spirituality.  Lewis rightly points out that many "Christians" shy away from doctrine, or religion in general because they don't really see the point.  To them, doctrine is impersonal and decrepit--it doesn't foster a relationship with the Divine, but rather restricts you to think about Him to only a certain paradigm.

Lewis, to some extent, agrees with this.  He states that actual experience of God and relationship with him, is a more real manifestation of the Divine than simply knowing his doctrines and revelations.  His analogy is comparing standing on the shore of the ocean to looking at a map of the ocean.  Obviously standing on the shore is a much more real experience than looking at an image.

But here's the thing, without the map we get lost, and what's more, that map is the product of many experienced peoples knowledge and expression.  Without that map, we cannot see the full extent of the ocean, and we are likely to get lost if we set out ourselves without a map.

So is the Church--it is our map.  Yes, we should be in a personal relationship with God, and we should seek to experience him beyond the rituals and doctrines of our religion, but we CANNOT separate religion from spirituality.  To do so is to mold God into what we want him to be.  To do so is to refuse the experience of wise men (and women) over the course of 2000 years of spiritual exploration.  To do so is to get lost in the vastness of our own finite and ignorant intellect, passions, and personal experience.  The Church is anchor of all believers, and to set out into the deep ocean of faith without it is not only silly and illogical, but prideful.  This is even apart from all the arguments concerning the establishment of the Church by Christ, and the necessity of Sacraments for humans who are both body and soul.  When it all comes down it, people who are spiritual, but are not religious, do not have a true spirituality at all, because it is not grounded in the Spirit.

Now, a quick note on begetting--We say that the Father begets the Son... this means that, in a sense, Jesus is born of the Father... he is of the same substance.  This is all very high and lofty theology, but the primary thing to realize is that Jesus is God, a different person of God, and that he was not created...he existed before all time, and is thus eternal.  We are created, however, and thus are inherently separated from God even insofar as we are created.  However, Lewis states that, the very idea of Christianity is, in effect, obtaining new life, a new creation, in which we go from our human life into a spiritual life.  We become adopted children of God.  He relates this to, what is basically, Pinoccio.  We are no longer statues, no longer things of merely creation, through Christ we take on life and become animated in the Spirit.  We become Christlike.