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Monday, February 01, 2010
"Take the case of a sour old maid, who is a Christian, but cantankerous. On the other hand, take some pleasant and popular fellow, but who has never been to Church. Who knows how much more cantankerous the old maid might be if she were not a Christian, and how much more likeable the nice fellow might be if he were a Christian? You can't judge Christianity simply by comparing the product in these two people; you would need to know what kind of raw material Christ was working on in both cases." - C.S. Lewis


Chris A said...

From what I've read from C.S. Lewis, I like him. It would be better for me to read the whole context, but since it was lifted out of context, I want to comment on this, realizing however that I may not understand the author's full intent.

While Lewis seems to ask whether Christianity should be judged by the witness of the professing believer, I think the more important thing is to realize that it is judged that way whether we like it or not. I believe in being merciful towards people whose spiritual growth seems stunted, but let's put this into perspective a bit. How do we esteem the grace of God? Is it not effectual for making the rankest sinner a saint, a branch that is a part of the vine that should bring forth fruit?

I think we set the bar too low for people sometimes and actually enable their carnal behavior. Should the "raw material" be taken into account? Yes, but only insofar as a reasonable time-frame for spiritual growth can be established. When people cease to make progress, that's a problem. It isn't necessarily the entire fault of the believer. It could be a combination of things - the examples set forth by others in the church, the perceived hypocrisy of leaders, bad teaching, etc.

But regardless, in the final analysis, Christianity is judged by its adherents. Jesus said that the world would know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. If we're going to be jerks and jerk-enablers, forget about it. Just my .02%

Darius said...

I agree, Chris, and I don't think that's what Lewis was saying here (though I too don't have the full context since this was taken from the Quotable Lewis book). You make good points. I think Lewis' point (or at least the way I take it), is that people can start out very differently. Some can be obviously in need of Christ to change their behavior, some not so much. This is particularly true of those raised in Christian homes... with such people (like myself), it's easy to sometimes wonder what Jesus has done in their lives that wasn't already there from a character standpoint. This actually works to spur that person on toward even greater spiritual discipline if they recognize the original grace they were given and that much is required of them.

Your comment about spiritual stagnation is good. The "cantankerous old woman" may in fact be getting worse with age (which is a tendency in many people)... that's not the kind of Christianity that Jesus intended to bring. His sanctification doesn't go backwards. Nor should we expect little of someone who was a particularly vile person prior to Christ. It's actually usually the opposite, those who know their sin the most love God the most and you see it in their change of character.

Chris A said...

I heard R.C. Sproul talking the other day about the 20th century phenomenon, the "carnal Christian". Obviously there is such a thing. Just read 1 Corinthians. But the point Sproul was making is that we have almost presented people with the option of how much of a Christian they want to be. So it's like, "Hey, if you just want to go heaven, but also want to live like hell before you die, that's okay. Because, after all, Jesus preached love and acceptance."

Darius said...

Yeah... "cheap grace," as Bonhoeffer put it, is prevalent today (though I'm not sure if it was any less so any other time in history). The difficulty is that salvation doesn't come from good behavior or a godly character, so we don't want to go too far in pronouncing judgment on people's apparent lack of sanctification. Yet, at the same time, as Peter said in 2 Peter 1, we are to make our election sure (to ourselves and our fellow brothers in Christ).

Chris A said...

Yeah, this may be a little off the subject, but this is where I think the Calvinists get it right. Becoming a Christian is not so much a choice like any other choice that can be made. If all we do is give people a choice to sign on the dotted line in the Lamb's Book of Life, we are going to end up with a lot of tares among the wheat. I have witnessed many "decisions for Christ" that were made without an actual presentation of the Gospel.

One minister I have watched a few times always ends his pep talk with a prayer for salvation no actual salvation content. If anybody is getting saved in his church, I would venture to say he has very little to do with it.

I don't think the Gospel should be presented in such a way as to make people feel as though they have to work to attain salvation, but I do think that when the Gospel is preached and people are actually responding to the Holy Spirit's conviction, they are going to want to serve the one who forgave them. There are a whole lot of other factors that can inhibit this initial spiritual response, but if they are truly saved its going to be there, at least in seed form.

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »