A few days ago, I posted some quotes and reflections from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. This will likely turn into a series, as I find more and more awesome Lewisian utterances! Consider the following:
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’–could set up on their own as if they had created themselves–be their own masters–invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside G0d, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–the long terrible story of man trying to find something other God that will make him happy.
This quote by itself could generate a post (if not more) alone. To be brief, let me point out one point that struck me. I think Lewis is suggesting that man will most mess up, when he attempts to be his own author. The self cannot self-construct itself. It may only be discovered in others, and in sum, in the Ultimate Other, namely God who is the Creator.We possess nothing: not ourselves, not the capability to invent or construct the self, and certainly not the power to invent entities of happiness or self-satisfaction. I propose that the most mature self is the emptiest, most kenotic, self. That’s when the “self” is, in fact, most itself: when it is in the hands of God at the service of others.
Shortly following this passage, the author continues:
A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
To be honest, I am not a fan of the terminology utilized: “human machine”. Regardless, Lewis’ message here is, at least as I see it, right on target. Separate humanity from divinity, and see what happens: the consequence will not be satisfaction or happiness, but more likely misery. The human heart is restless without God. Humanity belongs to God, and so without God the human spirit is hungry, starving for her authentic nutrition. Without the Lover, a beloved is empty, alone, searching for her source of energy, love and even life. Surely, many of the Psalms attest to this.
On a side, perhaps more personal, note, this is why I am so nervous about so many “social justice” organizations sprouting up. It’s the newest trend, and is quite popular in the college scene, might I add. Yet, it concerns me because I am wondering what kind of justice is even possible if it is a justice that is Godless. Without God, there is no liberation. And if there is a case where liberation is promised, and God is not a part of the equation, I caution the subjects. True justice is about God, as is happiness, peace, harmony, and life. A secular philosophy will never establish peace–in society or in the heart. That belongs to the work of God, in whose plan we are of fundamental importance.
[T]aking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven…To be the other means madness…Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
This is quite the radical statement. As a preface to it–and this is by no means contrary to any of Lewis’ theology–I add here that in all things, everything is in God’s hands. Apart from God, we cannot turn into a heavenly creature. That is impossible. Grace is gratuitous, never merited, and it is only through God’s grace that the human person may mature, grow, and become holy. That said, we are also not God’s puppets or His robots.
What I love most about this passage from Lewis is it exemplifies the importance of existential orientation, namely, that to be oriented toward the Divine results in peace, and to oriented in any other direction results in madness. Every moment, moreover, is a moment of potential orientation: who am I facing? Myself or God? Money or God? Family or God? Literature or God? In every molecule of this penultimate existence, if the primary focus is not God, then there is an incompleteness, a soil for madness and interior agitation. An authentically abundant life, on the contrary, is God-centric, and in that central, over-encompassing orientation toward God, all things naturally follow in their proper order and relevance. Apart from God, there is disharmony. With, through, and in God, there is life.
San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001. Quotes (in order given here): pp. 49, 50, 92