II.4 The Main Thing That Christ Came To Earth To Do

Study Guide for this C.S. Lewis book.
musicmonkey
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II.4 The Main Thing That Christ Came To Earth To Do

Unread postby musicmonkey » Mon Mar 28, 2005 8:07 pm

Mere Christianity
Book 2 - What Christians Believe
Chapter 4 - The Perfect Penitent


C.S. Lewis proposes a theory as to how the Atonement of Christ works.

  1. Christians believe the main thing that Christ came to earth to do was...?
  2. If God was willing to forgive us, why didn't he do so without having an innocent man killed?
  3. How does Lewis define repentance?
  4. Are humans capable of perfect repentance? How does God help us achieve repentance?
    Many people say that it was easy for Christ to live a perfect life, suffer, and be crucified since he was God. Why does Lewis think this is a silly reason for criticizing Christianity?

Mercuryotis
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Unread postby Mercuryotis » Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:48 pm

Lewis took a very pragmatic approach to this topic which I found very refreshing, some faiths like to iron all the wrinkles out, others like to iron out the major wrinkles and leave the rest to Gods wisdom and not worry about it. Lewis at some point seems to be saying that, as long as itÂ’s true, what difference does it make about how it was done? Yet he still manages to sound very serious and concerned with the reality of what Redemption is.

1. He was born to die, essentially. And (I think) this is so obvious and central to the Gospels that it amazes me how much time is spent trying to prove this wrong, or incidental, whether by new fictions like the DeVinci code, or "rediscoveries" of ancient books like the Gospel of Thomas that either paint Him up to be a regular guy with "normal" needs and desires or a great "moral teacher" that said unpopular things and happened to be killed. As Lewis pointed out if he wasnÂ’t the Son of God, He had to be a fool, certainly not a moral teacher.

2. Lewis' explanation of a debt had to be repaid makes a lot of sense to me, It is difficult to imagine that God would demand what appears to be an almost vengeful desire for some one to die because of the sins committed against God from the beginning, this is explained in Mere Christianity as not vengeance but a kind of necessary repayment... although God was willing to forgive the debt, just forgiving would not have set things right. Something had to be done. But I think an even more eloquent explanation is given in "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" in what he calls "deep magic from the dawn of time" but you have to read the book to fully appreciate it

3 and 4. Repentance is not just about admitting we are wrong, but making an active effort to correct the wrong, this doesnÂ’t mean saving ourselves, mostly itÂ’s the going back and trying again part that is most important. It has to be done with God but it can be done.

5. My favorite thing about LewisÂ’ books are his comparisons, one of the coolest arguments in the book is the one about people complaining that Jesus had an unfair advantage and could live a perfect life and is able to save us because of it. He compares it to a drowning man feeling belittled by a man on the shore who is only trying to save him, or a child who is too proud to ask an adult to help him learn to write, and asks another child to help him instead. We definatly have to submit our selves to God before He can help us, He canÂ’t help if we donÂ’t let Him.
Mark

A man cannot live an authenticly human life as a man, unless he has become a child of God.
-Augustine

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Full Speed Astern

Unread postby musicmonkey » Sat Oct 29, 2005 8:18 pm

Full Speed Astern

In Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 4, C.S. Lewis wrote:Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor--that is the only way out of our 'hole'. This process of surrender--this movement full speed astern--is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person--and he would not need it.

Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letter because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hands while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something which God, in his own nature, never does at all--to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God's leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, he has not.

But supposing God became a man--suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person--then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because he was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man, then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, 'because it must have been so easy for him': Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingratitude and ungraciousness of this objection; what staggers me is the misunderstanding it betrays. In one sense, of course, those who make it are right. They have even understated their own case. The perfect submission, the perfect suffering, the perfect death were not only easier to Jesus because He was God, but were possible only because He was God. But surely that is a very odd reason for not accepting them? The teacher is able to form the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher; and only because it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because 'it's easy for grown-ups' and waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so had no 'unfair' advantage), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) 'No, it's not fair! You have an advantage! You're keeping one foot on the bank'? That advantage--call it 'unfair' if you like--is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?


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