Mere Christianity | Study Guide

C.S. Lewis

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Mere Christianity | Book 4, Chapter 6 : Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity (Two Notes) | Summary

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Summary

In this chapter Lewis addresses the question of why God did not beget all of humanity to begin with. Instead He has subjected people to the difficult process of becoming "begotten" through the Atonement's transformation of biological life into spiritual life. It is humanity's free will that allows them to choose between infinite happiness and turning away from God. In choosing the latter, people have ensured that the process of becoming begotten will be difficult when it otherwise would not have been. Yet Lewis argues that speculating about how God's process might have been different makes no sense. God is the "irreducible Fact on which all other facts depend." Speculating on the issue is "nonsensical ... It is what it is, and there is an end of the matter." The same argument provides an explanation for the singularity of the begotten Son, who existed "before all worlds."

Lewis clarifies the previous chapter's description of humanity as a single organism in God's view. The unity of humanity does not negate the importance or reality of individuals. They are like "organs in a body," each with its own critical and unique contribution to make. Keeping this in mind, we mustn't attempt to erase the differences between humans, nor must we commit the error of forgetting what concerns our neighbor also concerns ourselves. Finally, it is not worthwhile to debate which error is the worse, for this is playing into the hands of the devil. Attempting to trick humans into conforming to the error they judge the lesser evil, "the devil ... sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites."

Analysis

Lewis elaborates on the ideas he presented in the previous chapter. He offers a few responses to the question of why only one son was begotten while humanity has to achieve the state through an arduous process. His first response is to lay the blame for the difficult process of becoming begotten squarely on humanity. We cannot blame God for the difficulty when we were the ones who chose to separate from Him. The difficulty is not God punishing us. We have built walls of ego against Him, and the tearing down of such defenses is, by its nature, a painful experience. This argument does not address the question of why only one son was begotten, but Lewis takes the question as an opportunity to emphasize that God is never punishing us or deliberately withholding himself from us. This idea of a vengeful and manipulative god is one he has been working to undermine throughout the text.

In placing the blame on humanity, Lewis is also dancing around the doctrine of original sin. God created humans free of sin and gave them free will. However, all future humanity fell from this original state of grace because Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of a certain tree because they would die. A serpent came to Eve and told her God lied: "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Desiring wisdom, Eve ate the fruit with Adam. As a result they both became self-conscious, ashamed, and aware of their guilt in disobeying. Angry, God cursed all their descendants, condemning the human race in its infancy to struggle, to suffer, and to die. As part of the human organism, each of us shares in the transgression, guilt, and punishment occasioned by the actions of these first two humans.

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