Archive for June 24th, 2011

That Old Time Religion

In a reply to a Catholic nun’s letter, CS Lewis pointed out that he was Anglican and not Catholic because the Catholic Church had divorced itself from the true Medieval Church. The fact that he never explained that statement has driven a couple of generations of his biographers nuts.

One of Lewis’ “Four Loves,” his intellectual and Christian soul mates, was J.R.R. Tolkien. After helping bring Lewis into the Christian fold, Tolkien was very upset that Lewis did not join Tolkien’s Catholic Church.

Lewis never really explained this. In fact, in his Mere Christianity, Lewis stated that one should pick a denomination, but he had very little interest in what that denomination was. In “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” he ended by Screwtape’s pointing out that the most delicious souls in hell were those of those who hated other even in Hell because one group was entirely Puritan and one group all pilgrimages and ceremony.

So how DID Lewis define HIS denomination? If he had elaborated in that one letter, a lot of his fans and biographers would have been spared the funny farm.

Those souls were in Hell because they had a religious obsession. They were there because they held their religious obsession AGAINST EACH OTHER. The wine Screwtape was delighting in was made up of the pure hatred of one type of Christian for another., not of the doctrines themselves.

Neither Puritan nor Papist was in Hell because they were Puritan or Papist. In fact Lewis makes it very clear that he expected to see the Papist Tolkien and many of the people he had heard described as “Puritan” up there with him.

This, I think, is the boat a theologian will miss. It is easy to lose truth in a stack of books.

A stack of books produces a Truth, something supposedly provable and therefore enforceable.

The Truth is unchangeable, but the truth changes all the time.

You cannot serve two masters. Either you follow truth wherever it leads you to or you adopt a Truth which depends on the facts you have remaining immutable

And if there is one thing we know, it is that this world is not immutable.

That is why theologians have such a hard time with the different denominations, and Lewis had little or none.

No one knows whether the early martyrs of the Church were heretics or not. We don’t know the position of many of the saints on theological points that were later declared essential to salvation.

All we know is that they did what they thought was right and depended on Christ.

If that’s enough for sainthood, it is more than enough for me.