Mere Christianity: The Life-Force

Over the weekend I decided to re-read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It has been very rewarding. At the end of chapter 4, “What Lies Behind The Law,” after explaining the Materialist view and the Religious view, Lewis adds an excerpt on the In-between view called Life-Force philosophy, or Creative Evolution. The moment I read it I thought to myself that it is a perfect explanation of our society today though written 70 years ago.

The wittiest expositions of it [Life-Force philosophy] come in the works of Bernard Shaw, but the most profound ones in those of Bergson. People who hold this view say that the small variations by which life on this planet ‘evolved’ from the lowest forms to Man were not due to chance but to the ‘striving’ or ‘purposiveness’ of a Life-Force. When people say this we must ask them whether by Life-Force they mean something with a mind or not. If they do, then ‘a mind bringing life into existence and leading it to perfection’ is really a God, and their view is thus identical with the Religious. If they do not, then what is the sense in saying that something without a mind ‘strives’ or has ‘purposes’? This seems to me fatal to their view. One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?

Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (pp. 26-27). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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We Absorb What We Admire

The dynamics of personal transformation in 2 Corinthians 3:18 assume that we are changed into what we admire and fix our attention on. ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image.’ We know this is so from experience. Long looking with admiration produces change. From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanors and convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound. Of course, there is more to it than that. The reflexes of imitation are not the whole story of how we change. Part of what we pick up in looking at Jesus in the gospel is a way of viewing the whole world. That worldview informs all our values and deeply shapes our thinking and decision-making. Another part of what we absorb is greater confidence in Jesus’ counsel and his promises. this has its own powerful effect on what we fear and desire and choose. Another part of what we take up from beholding the glory of Christ is greater delight in his fellowship and deeper longing to see him in heaven. This has its own liberating effect from the temptations of this world. All these have their own peculiar way of changing us into the likeness of Christ. Therefore, we should not think that pursuing likeness to Christ has no other components than just looking at Jesus. Looking at Jesus produces holiness along many different paths.

– John Piper from God is the Gospel