Saturday, May 23, 2009

intellect and emotion

I think I've mentioned before that I'm on a listserv on the life and writings of CS Lewis. I read this post by a man named Francisco a few weeks ago, and it's stuck with me, so I thought I'd dig it up and share. Good stuff!

I have been reading with interest the discussion of intellect v. emotion, head v. heart, and (shall we say?) faith v. reason, and how they are intertwined. As many of you have pointed out, both are necessary. But how they are conjoined so as to achieve a balance is where the problem lies. There's the rub, indeed. Yet it seems that unless such a balance is achieved there can be no true integrity. Unfortunately, for most of us, an imbalance exists, a disintegration as it were, which leaves us in a state much like that of a pendulum, now emphasising heart over head, now vice versa. Is integrity possible? Can it be achieved? I think it can. I think Lewis, to a certain degree, did achieve it. And most of his writings were an attempt at trying to pass on what he had learnt to others, to us. But the question remains, how did he do it? And how, in turn, can we go and do likewise?

I think one of his best clues is found in Mere Christianity. As far as he is able he attempts to enlighten his readers to help them arrive at that state in their spiritual growth as Christians where they can become those new men and women who "even now dot the landscape." He speaks of the new life is Christ as being an exponential leap beyond mere evolution. He speaks of the new birth in Christ, compares it with the birth of a child, but points out that a child born in the natural order has no choice whereas those who wish to be born into new life in Christ do. He also uses the analogy of an egg, which if it were to choose to remain an egg rather than hatching only succeeds in becoming a rotten egg. And here, and again in The Weight of Glory, he gives us the "secret" of making this exponential leap. He tells us that above all one thing is required, for in order to carry that weight of glory one must have humility, "and the backs of the proud will be broken." Elsewhere he speaks of how when we seek to grow in our faith we invite the Lord in, thinking He will make some nice, cosmetic changes to the house that is (what we think of as) ourselves: a new window here, a fresh paint job there, a bit of varnish. Then to our surprise and dismay, and at considerable cost to our comfort, we learn that He plans to tear down our house completely. He is not content to live in a shanty. Only a castle is fit for the King. So He proceeds to tear down all that we held so dear, to demolish everything we thought of as the persons that we are, to put the old man to death in order to raise the new one to life. But He will not do so without our permission. Unless we are willing to undergo this process, we remain natural, carnal men and women. We live the life of bios, a life we share with the animals and plants, but we will never attain to the life He wishes us to have, the zoe life, the eternal life which is to know the one true God and the Christ whom He has sent, and which can, in fact, begin here. We will never become fully integrated Christians.

In the end I think what Lewis is trying to drive home is the fact that we really do not save ourselves. Our intellect is not enough to bring about this change he speaks of, this making of the new man. Certainly our emotions are even less capable of doing so. In fact, both our intellects and emotions together cannot achieve it either. If they could, what need would we have of a Savior? The temptation is always there for us fallen human beings to think that somehow we can improve ourselves, become good, become holy, by our own efforts. This sort of thinking, if we were to really admit it, is exactly the kind of claims made by adherents of the New Age. The sad and (paradoxically) wonderful reality is that this is not so. We do not, cannot, save ourselves. What we can, and must, do, is allow ourselves to be saved. Easier said than done. Whether we are willing to admit it or not (and here again Lewis has much to say) pride gets in our way. To have the humility to relinquish control of our own lives, to submit to the divine will, to surrender totally to the new life our God so earnestly wants to give us, is no easy matter. But unless we are willing to do so, we, like Orual, will only have personas and never truly become the persons we were meant to be. We will always only be wearing a mask, and never truly have faces.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and die...

My tuppeny-ha'penny on a Saturday evening on the eve of the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Happy Mother's Day, too, to all the moms in SpareOom, and to all the moms of all SpareOomers of whatever persuasion, male or female.


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