C. S. Lewis and Salvation

We are continuing our discussion about what our Christian traditions say about salvation.  In this blog, we will discuss what two modern day thinkers say about this topic.

Michael L. Brown

Michael L. Brown in How Saved Are We? decries the lack of transformation in the lives of Christians.  The Christian community has had its share of money and sex scandals among its leadership.  The divorce rate among Christians is about the same as the rest of the world even though the Bible prohibits it except for infidelity.  We all acknowledge that we are sinful creatures and that we will have failings, but the church is more like the world than the world like the church which is not a vibrant testimony to the power of the Gospel.

The early Christian church changed the world for a reason and it was not because of a Christianity that was just practiced on Sundays at church and only encompassed a belief system.  They changed the world because their entire soul was committed to God.  The attitude of many Christians today is evidently to see how much sin they can get away with and still go to heaven.  Brown states:  “Many have sadly forgotten that the only evidence of the new birth is the new life.  The real problem is that some evangelists, like some converts, have failed to realize that the fault lies in the defective message.” [1]  This defective message does have consequences which is illustrated in David Wells’ observation.  He notes many Christians have taken the teaching that salvation is through belief in Jesus to heart with the result that:

For a one-time admission of weakness and failure they got eternal peace with God.  That was the deal.  They took it and went on with their lives as before.  The result is that there is no significant difference between the way born-againers live at an ethical level as compared to those who are nonreligious. [2]

Is that the Christianity that is taught in the Bible?

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis in explaining the purpose of salvation states that Christ:

. . .is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has.  At first, only for moments.  Then for longer periods.  Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God. . . [3]

What [God] cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality—the kind of creatures He intended us to be—creatures related to Himself in a certain way. [4]

C. S. Lewis did not believe that salvation was only a matter of a belief system or a series of actions.  The purpose of salvation is to make us new creatures, to change our soul, to renovate our inner being.  This has always been the problem with God.  God always wants to interfere with how we should live our lives, with the type of person we are.  Human nature, being what it is, means we are constantly trying to think of ways to avoid having God meddle in our lives.  And one way to accomplish this is to make salvation only a belief system or a few actions we take.  We want God to let our belief system or a few actions we take make up for all the evil we do.

C. S. Lewis describes the God most of us would prefer:  A God who does nothing and demands nothing.  That God might be a God of subjective beauty, truth, and goodness.  Yes, we could believe in such a God.  What we do not want is a God who is alive, who actively pursues us, who expects something of us. [5]

 

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament in discussing the Greek word for belief states “the message is never a mere orientation which can be dispensed with once it is known.  It is always the foundation of faith”. [6]  “This renunciation of the world, this turning of man from himself, is the primary meaning of faith.  It is man’s self-surrender, his turning to the invisible and sovereign.” [7]  It is an act of our will and it requires more than just to believe.

 

In the next blog, we will discuss what role the resurrection of Jesus plays in our salvation.  I think I have finally figured out how to word what I want to say.

_________________________

[1]   Michael L. Brown, How Saved Are We?, (Shippenburg, PA:  Destiny Image Publishers, 1990), p. 18.

[2]   Chris Stamper, “Authors by the Dozen”, World, Vol. 17, No. 23, (July7/13, 2002), p. 53.

[3]   C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York:  The MacMillian Company, 1952), p. 149.

[4]   Ibid., p. 113.

[5]   C. S. Lewis, Miracles, (New York:  HarperSanFrancisco, 1947), p. 150.

[6]   Gerhard Kittle and Gerheard Friedrich, editors, Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley,  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), p. 211.

[7]   Kittle and Friedrich, p. 223.

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