I do not know that I could understand my understanding of Christianity apart from an old Anglican Saint whose birthday is today. C.S., Clive Staples (His friends called him Jack) Lewis was born on this day in 1898. He has come bounding back into influence in the past several years with his “hero” status in John Piper’s Desiring God and with the recent re-interest in his Narnia Chronicles that are being brought to life by Walden Media. His nicotine habit, producing a smoke ring that would make Santa Clause jealous, and yellowed teeth coupled with his super intellectual and awkward appearance probably are not the images many look for in someone who would reveal Jesus to them. But this “most reluctant convert” had a great deal to say, a knack for saying whatever it may be, and a few of those things are quite worth listening to. Other than my insistence that you run and read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe immediately, regardless of age, I thought I would share a few particular insights of Jack that have meant volumes to my personal faith.
“The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab. ”
Lewis actually wrote an introduction to Athanasius’ volume On the Incarnation that is worth reading, but this particular insight from one of his World War II radio addresses that is memorialized in Mere Christianity is one that I always think of this time of year for advent. Somehow in this witty quip I believe is part of the power of the “kenosis” of Philippians 2. The emptying of God, and His putting on of flesh (John 1:14) we can get at just a little bit if we could try to wrap our minds around this whole slug thing. Lewis was not afraid to go here in his thought, and I think it quite helpful to let our imaginations run with his long enough to realize there is no way that we could really “get the hang of it.”
“we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
This insight from Lewis in his Reflections on the Psalms is one of the most helpful thoughts I think he could have shared. We must delight, and we must celebrate. He prior to this rattled off a list of all those things that we delight to enjoy and praise from lovers to favorite teams, but none could encompass the great deal of delight that we must have in God, and that is ultimately reflected in the language of the Psalms.
“Further up and further in.”
Last but certainly not least, Lewis has probably done more for me in my thinking of heaven than any other source I can think of outside the Bible itself. All the business of The Last Battle, coupled with The Great Divorce (as well as myriads of other thoughts and comments throughout other volumes) merge to make for quite a robust vision of Heaven. The idea that heaven is more real than anything else we can imagine, with all the brightness and color, delight, and realization that Jesus himself is the light, that we see, work, and do and enjoy is all wrapped up in this neat package. Heaven for Lewis is not a whispy Spirit world, it is real, and is more real than we could ever imagine or anything we could experience. We will talk, we will recognize, and we will find there our ultimate desire, and find that He really was worth it after all. We will never get enough as we go “further up and further in” and we will find that it is only the beginning of the first chapter of the real story.
Thanks Jack, and happy birthday.