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Posts Tagged ‘C.S. Lewis’

We have a great discussion. As much as I read and researched the topic of salvation, it was actually Jason bringing in the always classic “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis which gave us the most profound insight this time. I cannot put it better than Lewis, so I will provide the main excerpt we studied last week. Yes, it makes this post much longer than my usual, and may go largely unread, but it’s darn good stuff.

In short, Lewis talks about how we have a “debt” that Jesus paid for us, much like a friend would bail us out in life–but he quickly gets on to what true repentance is about. To Lewis, and I think to everyone at B&B last week, we agreed that repentance was the key to true salvation. But repentance isn’t simply a “feeling bad about stuff” kind of thing. Repentance, Lewis says, is a kind of willing submission to God; a death of sorts to one’s past and a rebirth. He also points out that the only way we can repent is because of Jesus, for reasons he explains so much better than me below. Finally, and the biggest point for me, is that repentance is not some set of “stuff” one does to get saved, it is a description of what going back to God is like. Asking God to save oneself without repentance is like asking God to let you come back to Him and then not coming to Him. Impossible.

Anyway, here is an excerpt–I’ve added red to emphasize the parts we discussed the most. I recommend re-reading several times as this book really rewards repeated reads; I’ve gotten new insight from this each time I’ve re-read it:

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“On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take “paying the penalty,” not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of “standing the racket” or “footing the bill,” then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.
Now what was the sort of “hole” man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, 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 a “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.”

—“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis; Book II, Page 33–

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