Lecture delivered for the Narnia Clubs of New York, December 1998.
James S. Cutsinger has the chance to know two Lewis’s friends: Baterfield and Martin Lings.
Owen Baterfield about Lewis: “Lewis taught me how to think, and I taught him what to think.”
Lewis about Baterfiels: “Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. The first was chronological snobbery, the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. In the second place, Barfield convinced me that the positions we had hitherto held left no room for any satisfactory theory of knowledge. We had been, in the technical sense of the term, “realists”; that is, we accepted as rock-bottom reality the universe revealed by the senses. But at the same time we continued to make, for certain phenomena of consciousness, all the claims that really went with a theistic or idealistic view. We maintained that abstract thought (if obedient to logical rules) gave indisputable truth, that our moral judgment was “valid”, and our aesthetic experience not merely pleasing but “valuable”... Barfield convinced me that it was inconsistent. If thought were a purely subjective event, these claims for it would have to be abandoned... I was therefore compelled to give up realism... I must admit that mind was no late-come epiphenomenon; that the whole universe was, in the last resort, mental; that our logic was participation in a cosmic Logos.”
One day, Lewis exposed Boethius’s system of faculties: intellectus, ratio, imaginatio and sensus. Above all is intellectus, which is strictly a Divine prerogative. He also said to Martin Lings: “You are an intellectual. I am an imaginative man.” But it was just a testimony of Lewis’s great humility.
When an anthroposophist insisted on the importance of spiritual freedom as the aim of human life, Lewis responded: “I was not born to be free, I was born to adore and obey!”
“[...] in calling himself “an imaginative man” he was nonetheless describing a genuine mode of knowing God, no less profound in its way than its intellectual counterpart, and that in this doubtless casual remark to my friend Dr Lings, he was providing us with a critical insight into the quality of his own religious experience and into the nature of his work as a Christian apologist.”
The root of the apologetic work is: “Be always prepared to give a defense... of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). The english word “defense” is the translation of the greek “apologia”. This one is rooted in the term “logos”. “Apologia” is the act of responding to a request for one’s reason. But “apologia” means also the return of the Logos, the Source of reason itself.
The task of the Christian apologists was different from age to age. In the second century, In the second century, writers like St Justin the Martyr and Athenagoras the Philosopher could take for granted a common theism between themselves and their pagan audience. In the modern world, the situation is radically different, and the apologist can assume no such common ground. Lewis writes, “The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not. [...] It is hard to have patience with those Jeremiahs, in press or pulpit, who warn us that we are “relapsing into Paganism”. It might be rather fun if we were. It would be pleasant to see some future Prime Minister trying to kill a large and lively milk-white bull in Westminster Hall. But we shan’t... A post-Christian man is not a Pagan; you might as well think that a married woman recovers her virginity by divorce.”
Lewis’s arguments in the problem of evil. Evil is a problem for the Christian because it seems to call into question either the power or the goodness of God. Take away God’s power, leaving Him less than omnipotent, and our sufferings become at once intelligible; they are simply the effects of a blind cosmic force too intense or extensive for God to manage. Alternatively, if you strip away the goodness of God then again our miseries make perfect sense; they are merely the delights of a cosmic vivisectionist. Question: If God is able to get rid of evil, as He surely is if He is powerful, and if He is willing to do so, as He surely is if He is good, then why for Heaven’s sake does He not?
St. Augustine said that the evil is the result of the free will.
Lewis’s answer: Christianity asserts that God is good; that He made all things good and for the sake of their goodness; that one of the good things He made, namely, the free will of rational creatures, by its very nature included the possibility of evil; and that creatures, availing themselves of this possibility, have become evil. Evil, in short, is the result of the Fall. All the suffering and horror of man’s present life in this world are to be traced to a misuse of his freedom.
C. S. Lewis said: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as a self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it.”
In St. Irineus’s and Origen’s works, suffering is not the consequence of the Fall, but a special aim of the Creator to provoke man’s spiritual growth.
Communication and commerce between fellow-creatures demand a medium which can bring them together while at the same time underscoring their individuality. This medium is what we call matter. It brings souls together, it creates pleasure, but also pain. “If matter has a fixed nature and obeys constant laws, not all states of matter will be equally agreeable to the wishes of a given soul, nor all equally beneficial for that particular aggregate of matter which he calls his body”.
Lewis said: “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” Nevertheless, he insisted that God in His wisdom has contrived things in such a way as to make use of our suffering for our ultimate benefit.
What we naturally want is a celestial grandfather who will grant us a state of perpetual pleasure, whereas what God wants for us is resilience and moral courage, and He does not hesitate to provide us the challenges which the development of such virtues requires.
Lewis said: “The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them”.
“The world can be explained without reference to God.” – this is the claim at the heart of the modern and post-modern worldview. Lewis said that if Naturalism is true, every finite thing and system must be explicable in terms of a Total System (evertything can be accounted for by physical causes only). This way, reason become completly inexplainable, because our capacity to draw valid conclusions from true premises is something which no physical cause can explain. Hence, Naturalism is not true, so supernaturalism must be true.
To be caused is different from being proved.
The naturalist standpoint is that we are what we are and we think what we think because we have been programmed so to be and to act by causes of a purely physical order. The problem is that for on a strictly materialistic or physiological basis, there is no difference between “yes” and “not”, so even the reason is beyond Nature.
Lewis say that every act of thinking which leads us to a genuine knowledge about reality involves a miraculous escape from the merely material.
Lewis compares the arrangement of the three Persons in one God to the combination of six squares in a cube.
Lewis said about the issue of faith and works: “I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary.”
“My belief is that Lewis had more than reasoned his way into thinking [...]. He had seen it, if only “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12), and he was at his very best as a writer in helping others enter into the same experience. Valuable as his discursive arguments are, it is the power of his imagination to awaken a like seeing in us that makes him, finally, so great an apologist.”
According to Barfield, modern man is distinguished by the fact that he is no longer aware of the constructive role of his mind, and he has therefore ended up freezing and fixing the objects of his consciousness as if they were givens, casting himself in the role of their passive observer.
The modern consciousness: “The realities which enter into us from God undivided, we first cut into parts, called percepts and concepts, or facts and thoughts, or matter and spirit. And then, rather than giving way to God’s gift in its wholeness so that the principles of things might enter the world still imbued with their glory, we permit only their bodies to pass, which are as it were the sensible or physical halves of God’s intentions, while at the same time we hoard their meanings inside us, clinging to the abstracted qualities of things and refusing to let them pass fully into the corresponding substances of living forms. Here, for Barfield, is where the imagination is meant to come in, as the necessary means of liberating man from this state of division and self-forgetfulness.”
Lewis said: “In their total effect, [images] mediate to me something very important. It is always something qualitative—more like an adjective than a noun. That, for me, gives it the impact of reality. For I think we respect nouns (and what they stand for) too much. All my deepest, and certainly all my earliest, experiences seem to be of sheer quality. The terrible and the lovely are older and solider than terrible and lovely things. . . . I know very well that in logic God is a “substance”. Yet my thirst for quality is authorized even here: “We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.” He is this glory. What He is (the quality) is no abstraction from Him.”
For Lewis, every aesthetic experience seems to have served as a medium for a contact with God.
Lewis said: “I haven’t any language weak enough to depict the weakness of my spiritual life.”
Aphorism said by Barfield: “He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Leave him. He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student. Teach him. He who knows and knows not that he knows is an artist. Watch him. He who knows and knows that he knows is a teacher. Follow him.” Lewis said he’s an “imaginative man”, and this correspond to the artist.
30 mai 2006
Lecture delivered for the Narnia Clubs of New York, December 1998.