I'm very sorry about the hangups with SquareSpace lately, we never did get last week's post online. But here are the reflections for the first portion of Book 3. Bo left us a couple questions, so be sure to leave your comments here.
BOOK THREE: CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOUR (parts 1-5)
Book Three is very long, so we’ll do parts 1-5 this week and the rest next week
This book is tackling the issue of morality, and Lewis begins by giving us his “Three Parts of Morality.” They are:
- ‘Fair play and harmony between individuals’
- ‘With what might be called tidying up or harmonizing things inside each individual.’
- ‘With the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants to play.’
Lewis really drives home the point that you cannot have just one of these to be moral. He makes the distinction that morality is not an ideal because it is not based off individual taste. Morality is universal, as described in Book One. Because of this, we cannot simply focus on this first part of morality that deals with treating other people nicely. While this is important, Lewis argues that it is equally important to keep your own individual morals in check as well as to choose to follow morality with the ultimate goal in mind. I like his analogy of a band; if you play guitar, you can’t simply worry about keeping time with the other musicians. You have to also play the right chords yourself and remember why you’re playing the music in the first place (to win a competition, maybe.)
Then, we talk about Virtues. Lewis lists seven: Four Cardinal Virtues and Three Theological. In this section, though he only discusses the four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. I think that his discussions of each of these are interesting, but his sentences on fortitude especially caught my eye. He says, “…you cannot practice any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one [fortitude] into play.” This is a very interesting claim. I really like the close of this section. He talks about how it is not good enough to see these as actions we should carry out but rather virtues that should become part of who we are, not merely what we do sometimes. He describes three reasons why if we see them as actions we should sometimes do (like a bad tennis player hitting one good shot) and the second one really stood out to me and I think is very valid: “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules whereas He really wanted people of a particular sort.” What does this say about how we are supposed to live our lives? I think there are several pieces of Scripture that would be interesting to look to with this mindset, so comment if you think of one!
Lewis goes on to talk about Social Morality and the Church’s role in politics, economy, and society. He cites the Golden Rule as a morality “meant for all men at all times.” Lewis will say at the end of the section that the Golden Rule can only be achieved when one loves their neighbor as themselves, which can only be achieved when one loves God by obeying Him. With this mindset, Lewis discusses an ideal Christian society. He lists a few important things, including that it is up to laymen to be the major economists and politicians and etc., every man must work or not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), obedience between people and their authorities, it would be a cheerful society, and Charity would be given to the poor. Lewis makes some major statements on giving to the poor, and I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on them. He closes by saying, “A Christian society is not going to arrive until we become fully Christian.”
Lewis then connects Christian morality to Psychoanalysis. He tries to answer the question of ‘what makes a good man?’ (From a Christian viewpoint.) He uses the psychoanalysis example to argue that the idea good and bad actions can be relative: when a bad person performs a good action, it might be a better action than when a good person performs a good action. He then says that the importance of making good choices and pursuing morals is that it is not only choosing good actions one after another but rather forming yourself into a better person and leading yourself towards a “harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with [yourself.]”
Now for what you’ve all been waiting for: the sex chapter.
Lewis here is mainly talking about Chastity, and how we’re not supposed to have the sex before marriage (see Hebrews 13:4 for an example.) But, Lewis is getting further than the surface level here and arguing for chastity outside of marriage and moderation in general when it comes to sex and sexual desires. He talks some on whether or not a society that “hushes up” on sex like the Victorians compared to a more modern society creates more sexual desire. He seems to think it is better to be hushed up. I’m curious, though; if people think Christian communities should try to stay away from the subject being as taboo as it is. Do you think it is better or worse for us to be hushed up about the topic?
Lewis has some good one-liners in this section, including, “Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.” This to me is a good way of looking at the issue. As Lewis establishes, if we want to become chaste or to even act more obediently in areas we struggle in, we can not attempt this alone; we need God’s help in this. This is a very Wesleyan idea, and our buddy from last summer, William H. Willimon, writes in United Methodist Beliefs, “[John] Wesley understood ‘perfected’ not in the state of a senseless moral completion but rather in the sense of being mature, with sure signs of a visible progression in our fulfillment of God’s intentions for our lives.” Perfection isn’t merely about not messing up, but is about desiring to be obedient to God and asking for his help in the process.
Lewis closes the section by saying; “I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here [with merely the commandment to not have sex before marriage.]” This is a good point that we need to remember, because I think many times Christian communities see sexual sin as far worse than others. Lewis makes a good point that this isn’t our only moral and this belief isn’t the center of our faith, Christ is.
This felt like a stopping point, so next week we will pick back up with “Christian Marriage.”