Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lewis II: Argument by Desire

Here are my thoughts on the second lecture in the C.S. Lewis lectures by Louis Markos.  "In this second lecture, we again consider the biography of C.S. Lewis but from a radically different perspective: that of his inner spiritual journey."

Markos starts with an outline of Surprised by Joy.  "Lewis explains that throughout his childhood, he experienced brief but profound moments of longing."

The word he used to describe these strange yearnings was joy.  

Next in the lecture, Markos comments on different times where Lewis experienced this joy or yearning.  I won't name them, but I'm sitting here trying to remember if I've ever felt that longing.  I'm pretty sure I've traveled somewhere on vacation.  I definitely experienced it when I read the Narnia series, this longing for a bigger, better world.  I experience it when I eat at a fancy restaurant or dine with people who aren't family.  When I hear classical music, like Handel's Messiah or even Christmas music right now, I'll see Christmas lights and decoration and even the churches in our Christmas village, and yearn for something that I can't describe.  I remember the years I sang on Christmas Eve in this old dying Presbyterian church in Mansfield, GA, how the church building would give me this longing.  Old church buildings do that to me.  I hope that when Trinity finally builds their church that it looks like an old church building and not too modern or comfortable.

This feeling of joy leads us to what is perhaps Lewis's most original contribution to the study of apologetics: the argument by desire.
1. The fact that we experience thirst is proof that we are creatures for whom drinking water is natural.  In the same way, the fact that we desire an object that our natural world cannot supply suggests the existence of another, supernatural world.
I would not say that thirst is actually natural because if we had not sinned in the Garden of Eden, we'd always have God before us and never want anything.  But without his physical presence, our thirst will never be quenched until we reach the Living Water.

2. The desire does not guarantee that we will achieve that other world (if stranded in the desert, we will die of thirst), but it does suggest that we are creatures who are capable of achieving it and who were in some sense made to achieve it.
This is where Lewis steps into Pelagian world.  I can't argue that all people desire this joy though not all will achieve it, but the Bible is clear that we are all stranded in a desert with no map, intense desire, and no way to reach that desire.  If God does not reveal himself to us and drag us kicking and screaming out of this desert we will stay and try to find water in other places, but not in the source.  We are certainly not capable in our own volition of achieving what we desire even though God made us for it.

4. Of course, the modernists (especially the Freudians) will tell us that our spiritual longings are merely products of displaced sexual desire, that love is only a sublimination of lust, that heaven is just an illusion, a superstitious with fulfillment.
Which is proof that all people desire heaven, they just don't want God to rule over that heaven or to define for them what is and isn't our ultimate desire.  Which is why the reprobates will always be thirsting and in agony but will never be sorry that they did not surrender to Jesus.

5. But moderns only arrive at this conclusion, argues Lewis, because they accept a priori that the supernatural does not exist, that matter is all there is.
This does kind of affirm my statement that since all people are born separated from God, the will never know specifically about God, therefore, they will not seek him.  However, this contradicts Romans 1 which says all people know God exists because of creation.  This is not a saving knowledge of God.  One can't be saved unless God specifically reveals Jesus to him.  And since people now have special revelation from God about who he is and what he did for us in Jesus, there are those that still reject the truth because they were never God's sheep, like in John 10.  If people knew the true God in his glory, they would be frightened and run away like the demons.  We all know that there is a world beyond this one; God just has to kidnap our hearts before we can even want to love him.

6. Approaching reality from the bottom up, they insist that the higher must always copy the lower; they refuse to consider that the lower might be the copy.
A huge amen to that.  In the atheist's folly, he knows that there is a God, that God's way is so much better and more desirable, but since he stifles any knowledge of God, he must resort to empty, sterile substitutes like sex, money, power, fame, and most of these people are miserable, some commit suicide.  Still, they have no ability to achieve God's world and will never be sorry that they did not surrender to Jesus.

Markos moves on to discuss The Pilgrim's Regress, an allegorical autobiography by Lewis patterned after Pilgrim's Progress

A1. Whereas Christian's journey begins with a clear vision of the gospel of Christ, John's [Lewis's pilgrim} journey begins with a nameless desire, a flash of joy.
With this description, one wonders whether Lewis really came to Christ after all.  Romans 10 makes it clear that people do not come to believe in Christ unless someone preaches them the Gospel, from the Scriptures, specifically about Christ and his cross.  However, I don't want to think of a heaven without Lewis, so I will assume Lewis heard the Gospel of Christ and his cross preached from the Bible somewhere, it planted a seed in him, and then one day, it finally made sense and he experienced the fulfillment of that joyful longing.  He may not be able to explain it, but that's what he experienced whether he realizes it or not.

2. Reared in the repressive, hypocritical town of Puritania, John's only intimation of spiritual truth comes through a mystical glimpse of a distant island.
3. The sight of that island fills him with a "sweetness and a pang," and he abandons home and a family to seek the object of his desire.
Fans of the Puritans, such as myself, might cringe at this parody, but then again, I know so many people raised in legalistic religious situations that grew up to seek life and excitement that they never knew in church because they were so stifled under rules and penances.  Whether the Pentecostal that could never dance, another Pentecostal who learned "electric guitars were of the devil," to Seventh Day Adventists who still have to follow the Jewish rules that Jesus came to destroy, to people who take God's free grace on the cross when Christ took our punishment and say it's too good to be true so now ever little mistake they make, the must overwork themselves in penances and miss out on fully appreciating the blessings God's free love and mercy that was never meant to be earned.

4. Like Dante, however, he soon loses his way and is sidetracked by a number of counterfeit objects that promise to fulfill his desire.
This includes "brown girls" who John uses for sex, to music, to wine -- sex, drugs, and rock and roll -- never finding fulfillment and moving on to the next big thing.  Seriously, I know people who, if they don't abandon their church's constant rules and penances and turn to read what the Bible actually says, they will grow to resent who they think is God, but still seek this joy and turn to other religions and other fulfillments only to remain empty.  I greatly fear for these people because I've seen kids of that same church grow to be completely anti-Christian because they never knew true Christianity in the first place.

C. Throughout his writings, Lewis emphasizes four elements of desire.
1. First, the good and noble things (not the low, evil, petty ones) most often serve as idols, and roadblocks on our journey to true joy.
Backtracking, I must take this moment to remind folks that Lewis used the German word sehnsucht or "longing" as a synonym for joy.
2. Second, and individual can respond to sehnsucht in two wrong ways: to move restlessly (like an ultra-romantic) from one natural object to the next in search of fulfillment or to reject (like an old stoic or a modern cynic) all desire as "moonshine."
Backtracking again to the Pilgrim's Regress notes:
B5. The dryness and rigidity of this cold idolatry Lewis identifies with the northern (Apollonian) regions of his allegory; in the south, desire is no so much frozen and systematized as it is over-indulged and perverted (Dionysian).
So, two extremes:  if men don't surrender to Jesus and accept that their punishment is already over and that he took it, then they will either seek their own salvation by rules and rituals leading to an eventual resentment of what isn't God but what they think is God, or they will throw all values to the wind and indulge in orgies and wine into oblivion.  In either case, they will die and spend eternity in hell because they rejected God's gracious gift of Jesus and thought they could do it better.
3 of desire's elements. Third, when it comes to the fulfillment of our deepest, God-implanted desires, so many of us are willing to settle for a pale shadow of what God offers us.
Which isn't what God offers at all.  God gives to options: follow the rules completely, or accept the gift of Christ dying in our place because you cannot pay the full price.  God gave us the rules to show us how impossible it is to get to heaven on your own merits or that of anyone else.  Only the perfect God-man could pay your price and you must come to God "dressed in Christ's righteousness alone."  Else, you will only settle for a cold shadow of the truth and not the full, complete, glorious reality.
4. Fourth, many fear to receive and accept the very thing they desire.
'Nuff said.

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