It is now time to get back to my walk through of C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity. We have now come to book 4 of Mere Christianity, where Lewis takes his readers through a preliminary tour of Christian theology, most particularly, the doctrine of the Trinity and how it impacts how one views the world.
Now if you’re like me, chances are you grew up treating the Trinity as some sort of theological puzzle you just had to sort of get your mind around: “God is like 3 in 1, sort of like an egg: a yoke, an egg-white, and a shell.” Great: God is an egg.
In reality, I don’t think most Evangelicals (probably most Christians for that matter) really understand the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. We almost view it as a test that God is using to test our loyalty, where we have to say we believe that 1+1+1=1, or somehow we’re in trouble.
Well, I think if we come to the Trinity as if we’re coming to a very bizarre algebraic equation, we’re simply not going to understand a lot of things about Christian theology, for the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t really a theological/algebraic equation we have to mentally assert to. It is the early Church’s attempt to get a glimpse into the life of God, and by extension, the inner workings of salvation, the Christian life, and humanity itself.
Making and Begetting
Lewis begins the chapter, “Making and Begetting” by noting that “theology” means “the science of God,” and that yes, although it can be tough sometimes, if you want to get a clear idea about God, you’re going to have to put in the work and do some hard thinking. He then gives one of the best analogies in the entire book. He equates theology to a map.
Now a lot of people tend to say, “I don’t need all that technical theology; I feel God’s presence when I’m walking in the woods, or in the desert, or on the beach.” Lewis actually agrees: chances are you do feel God’s presence as you’re walking on the beach; and yes, the map is only colored paper, and isn’t the Atlantic ocean itself. So in that sense, the map is less real than the real thing. But, as Lewis says, “If you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.” Theology and doctrines, like a map, are developed by people who have made tremendous progress in their own journeys in the faith, therefore they can help you navigate the landscape, a help guide you in your own spiritual journey.
If therefore you are just content walking on the beach, if you’re content with the same babyish ideas about God you had when you were 8 years old, great, don’t learn any theology. But all that will mean is that you’ll remain an intellectual child with a lot of silly ideas about God. Or as Lewis says, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out of date ideas.”
I think, given that analogy, that it is obvious that a lot of people in our society have a lot of wrong and childish views about God—be it young earth creationists like Ken Ham, atheists like Richard Dawkins, or just about anyone else for that matter. But at least those two men at least trying to interact with the concept of God. Most people in our society are too distracted by pop culture madness or political vitriol to even give the topic of God the time of day.
Christianity: Not Just a Little More Good Advice
Lewis then points out what should be obvious: Christianity isn’t just another little bit of good advice on how to be a person. Christianity is actually telling us something about another world, “about something behind the world we can touch and hear and see.” It talks about how Jesus the the “Son of God,” and about how we too can become “sons of God.”
Simply put, there’s something more going on in Christianity than just moral platitudes. Now obviously, Christianity has always involved ethics and morality, but the idea that “science is about reality” and “religion is about morality” is a perverted understanding stemming from Enlightenment misunderstanding of both science and religion.
Bios and Zoe
As a way to just get our toes in the theological water, so to speak, Lewis makes the distinction between two kinds of life: the natural, physical life, which he calls Bios (from where we get “Biology”), and the higher sort of life, which he calls Zoe. Although the two are different, they nevertheless have a connection. Bios is a shadow of symbolic resemblance to Zoe, much like a statue of a man looks like a man, but is obviously not a real man.
What we find in the New Testament, therefore, is the clear teaching that while God makes/creates human beings, He nevertheless begets Christ. A sculptor makes a statue, but begets his son. Therefore, Lewis wants us to see that what God makes is biological life (i.e. the natural world, you and me); yet what God begets is “Zoe-life” (i.e. Christ). Therefore, Christianity is really about how God is the great sculptor who has “sculpted” the biological creation, including human beings, but that how there is a way for the statues (who contain Bios) to become fully alive Christ-like human beings (who contain Zoe). Or, if you like Disney, think Pinocchio: we are wooden puppets, and God wants to have us become real children.