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."

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