Sunday, April 11, 2010

Introducing C.S. Lewis

My spiritual journey marches onward and upward.

I just read a bit of C.S. Lewis - The Weight of Glory. Yeah, that's Lewis of the Narnia fame. He was also a famous Christian apologist. Here's an excerpt from the 66 page primer that made it into my notes:

No Christian and, indeed, no historian could accept the epigram which defines religion as "what a man does with his solitude". It was one of the Wesley's, I think, who said that the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion. We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. Christianity is already institutional in the earliest of its documents. The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are members of one another.

In our own age the idea that religion belongs to our private life - that it is, in fact, an occupation for the individual's hour of leisure - is at once paradoxical because this exaltation of the individual in the religious field springs up in an age when collectivism is ruthlessly defeating the individual in every other field. I see this even in a University. When I first went to Oxford the typical undergraduate society consisted of a dozen men, who knew one another intimately, hearing a paper by one of their own number in a small sitting-room and hammering out their problem till one or two in the morning. Before the war the typical undergraduate society had come to be a mixed audience of one or two hundred students assembled in a public hall to hear a lecture from some visiting celebrity. Even on those rare occasions when a modern undergraduate is not attending some such society he is seldom engaged in those solitary walks, or walks with a single companion, which built the minds of the previous generations. He lives in a crowd; caucus has replaced friendship. And this tendency not only exists both within and without the University, but is often approved. There is a crowd of busybodies, self-appointed masters of ceremonies, whose life is devoted to destroying solitude wherever solitude still exists. They call it "taking the young people out of themselves", or "waking them up", or "overcoming their apathy". If an Augustine, a Vaughan, a Traherne or a Wordsworth should be born in the modern world, the leaders of a Youth Organization would soon cure him. If a really good home, such as the home of Alcinous and Arete in the Odyssey or the Rostovs in War and Peace or an y of Charlotte M. Yonge's families existed to-day, it would be denounced as bourgeois and every engine of destruction would be levelled against it. And even where the planners fail and someone is left physically by himself, the wireless has seen to it that he will be - in a sense not intended by Scipio - never less alone than when alone. We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

That religion should be relegated to solitude in such an age is, then, paradoxical. But it is also dangerous for two reasons. In the first place, when the modern world says to us aloud, "You may be religious when you are alone," it adds under its breath, "and I will see to it that you never are alone."....In the second place, there is the danger that the real Christians who know Christianity is not a solitary affair may react against that error by simply transporting into our spiritual life that same collectivism which has already conquered our secular life. (p30-31)

I guess I'll read Surpised By Joy next - if only because it mysteriously showed up on our bookshelf. Neither my wife nor I have the slightest clue where it came from. (clicking that link - it appears that the entire book is online)

No comments: