Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Endings Are Also Beginnings

And so we come to the end of our discussion of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Every Wednesday for the past 33 weeks, Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact and Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines have led us chapter by chapter in thinking and writing about one of the classics of Christian writing.

And it is a classic. Its origins lie in a series of broadcast talks for the BBC by Lewis during the dark days of World War II. The talks were actually printed in three parts during the war. Afterward, Lewis edited and assembled them into Mere Christianity, first published in its entirety in 1952.

It’s stood the test of time, because the basic issues it addresses haven’t changed. The world has been transformed many times over in the past 60 years – scientifically, politically, technologically, culturally – but the basic human issues Lewis talks about in the book haven’t changed one bit.

What is fun for someone like me, who’s spent a great part of my working life as a speechwriter, is to see how “verbal” this book is. Time and again I’ve run across phrases and lines that seem odd to read until you say them aloud, and then it makes sense. Mere Christianity’s began as the spoken word – a reminder of the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That word translated “Word” is “spoken word,” not the word you see on a printed page or a computer screen, but the living breathing spoken word you hear with your ears and your heart.

In this final chapter, Lewis describes what he means by “New Men,” the creatures being transformed from “old men” to – something else. And we don’t precisely know what the “something else” is. I chuckled to read how he compares this process to evolution and natural selection – and how we don’t know what the “Next Step” is we’re being spiritually evolved to.

Part of this “Next Step” involved a seeming contradiction. “the more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” Lewis writes about this in many of his books, most obviously in the Chronicles of Narnia, where the four children sent out of London during the war for safety find themselves transformed into kings and queens in the magical land of Narnia – but not before going through significant trials and tribulations.

And so it is with us. On Sunday, I wrote about Brennan Manning’s farewell memoir, All Is Grace. Manning’s teaching has been consistent for decades: God loves us where we are. “Where we are” is why Christ died for us.

Lewis adds this: “God loves us where we are, and He sees where we’re going to be.” The ending of the old self is the beginning of the new self. And the journey is called life.

To see more posts on this final chapter of Mere Christianity, entitled “The New Men,” please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines. And thanks to Jason and Sarah for leading us every week for the last eight months -- true examples of servanthood.


Anonymous said...

I wish I knew better how to push myself out of my own way more often. That transformation happens, I suppose, even when we don't realize it.

Jerry said...

Well said. Hope in God's processes is bound with faith as we "work out our salvation"...Thank God for the journey.

Sandra Heska King said...

I wonder how things would change if we read the Word aloud more often. I've loved taking this journey with you.

Louise Gallagher said...

In preparing for my TEDxCalgary talk Nov 18, I wrote in my opening statement that for every story, there is a beginning, middle, end. And they're not always in that order.

Your words, "The ending of the old self is the beginning of the new self. And the journey is called life." is brilliant -- I'll be quoting you in my talk!

Thanks my friend.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

I've always loved CS Lewis' writing. The Narnia Chronicles are worth reading and re-reading. We don't really know what we'll become. It's gonna be good.

Anonymous said...

in the middle
of it all

Anonymous said...

I have so appreciated your wisdom and approach to this book, Glynn. Wonderful way to close this out. I am encouraged and blessed. Thank you!