Saturday, January 17, 2015

Temptations: C.S Lewis and Choosing One while Condemning the Other

"...which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs— pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors."  Passage taken from Book 4 Chapter 6 of Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis.

Lewis points to an important overarching concept, for we are many times drawn into an oppositional approach to differing Christian points-of view.  For instance, the Church is clearly divided into two moral theological camps: historically-minded and classicist worldviews. Thinking one is a better approach than the other is a temptation, and not only does it draw us away from the truth contained in both sides, but it frustrates us and creates a closed-minded approach to a needed synthesis espousing the truth found in both points of view. Furthermore, many Christians argue that one religious tradition is more authentic than the other, but to exclusively side with one can make the other an enemy.  
Religious exclusivism is the same issue that come up in the early church between the Jews and Gentiles who initially converted to Christianity. In Acts 21: 27-36, Paul is arrested in the Jerusalem temple and accused by a person in the mob who states, “ ‘Fellow-Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’” The mob wrongfully accuses Paul of leading Jewish converts away from the Law, a typical charge that even Christ becomes victim to among the Pharisees in the gospel accounts.  The question of adherence to the Law for Gentile converts is one that Peter handles at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15: 9-10 when he states, “... and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?”  Peter, in a vision given to him by God, declares all foods clean and that Gentile converts need not first convert to Judaism, for it is by faith in Christ and not the Law that saves all. But we tend to get it wrong and think our own views are on par with God’s. This leads to constant debates and murderous mob reactions among many who hold differing opinions about faith, even Jesus’ chosen apostles.  
C.S. Lewis accurately observes our fault when he says, “And he [the enemy] always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse.” When we become distracted from the beauty and saving grace of faith in Christ lived out in love, we sometimes focus on the errors of others’ faith traditions and develop an “us vs. them” mentality.  Oppositional Christianity is a lie and its pride-filled competitiveness for the “truth” does not come from God.  We are all in the Body of Christ and called to be unified by our love for God and neighbor.  Let us love each other and celebrate the common thread of Christ’s truth in all of us.