Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lewis on the body

"And what, you ask, does it matter? Do not such ideas only excite us and distract us from the more immediate and more certain things, the love of God and our neighbours, the bearing of the daily cross? If you find that they so distract you, think of them no more. I most fully allow that it is of more importance for you or me today to refrain from one sneer or to extend one charitable thought to an enemy than to know all that angels and archangels know about the mysteries of the New Creation [...]. Yet I will not admit that the things we have been discussing for the last few pages are of no importance for the practice of the Christian life. For I suspect that our conception of Heaven as merely a state of mind is not unconnected with the fact that the specifically Christian virtue of Hope has in our time grown so languid. Where our fathers, peering into the future, saw gleams of gold, we see only the mist, white featureless, cold and never moving.

"The thought at the back of all this negative spirituality is really one forbidden to Christian. They, of all men, must not conceive spiritual joy and worth as things that need to be rescued or tenderly protected from time and place and matter and the senses. Their God is the God of corn and oil and wine. He is the glad Creator. He has become Himself incarnate. The sacraments have been instituted…. After that we cannot really be in doubt of His intentions. To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth is we cannot be trusted even with the that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may someday be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else – since He has retained His own charger – should we accompany Him?"

- C. S. Lewis, Miracles, 171-72.

Despite frequent platonic tendencies elsewhere, in this passage Lewis manages to keep resurrection at the centre of Christian hope, and thus allows the gospel to provide the controlling categories of eschatology, rather than the Augustinian time/eternity split he commonly uses.

2 comments:

Cyberpastor said...

Good to see. I too had suspected Lewis of singing too closely with Plato - or was it Augustine?

Augustine's phenomenology in the Confessions is a disaster but no more than you can expect from someone who hates the body!

byron said...

Yeah, I've just been finishing an article on Lewis's eschatology. Might post some excerpts soon, except I'm also trying to get it published...