August 17, 2009

Beyond Personality by C.S. Lewis - Part 1

I found this short book by C.S. Lewis the other day - I thought I would share a quote from it that I found to be very compelling.

The following is one of the best explanations for our inability (yet strong desire) to understand the nature of the triune God. Often our metaphors and explanations of the doctrine of the trinity are grounded in concrete ideas (i.e. "aqua trinity" - liquid, gas, ice) and while these are helpful in grasping the basic concepts of the trinity they miss the mark in vital aspects of analogy because they are by nature concrete. The doctrine of the trinity is by nature an abstract idea - warranting of an abstract metaphor.

"I warned you that Theology is practical. The whole purpose
for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of
God. Wrong ideas about what that life is, will make it
harder. And now, for a few minutes, I must ask you to follow
rather carefully.

You know that in space you can move in three ways to
left or right, backwards or forwards, up or down. Every
direction is either one of these three or a compromise between
them. They are called the three dimensions. Now
notice this. If you're using only one dimension, you could
draw only a straight line. If you're using two, you could
draw a figure: say, a square. And a square is made up of four
straight lines. Now a step further. If you have three dimensions,
you can then build what we call a solid body: say, a
cube a thing like a dice or a lump of sugar. And a cube is
made up of six squares.

Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would
be a world of straight lines. In a two-dimensional world, you
still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a
three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many
figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance
more real and more complicated levels, you don't leave
behind you the things you found on the simpler levels; you
still have them, but combined in new ways in ways you
couldn't imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.
principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level.
On the human level one person is one being, and any two
persons are two separate beings just as, in two dimensions
(say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure,
and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine
level you still find personalities; but up there you find them
combined in new ways which we, who don't live on that
level, can't imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak, you
find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being,
just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of
course we can't fully conceive a Being like that:
just as, if
we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in
space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can
get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do we are then,
for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea,
however faint, of something super-personal something
more than a person. It is something we could never have
guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels
one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in so
well with all the things we know already.

You may ask, 'If we can't imagine a three-personal Being,
what Is the good of talking about Him?' Well, there isn't
any good in talking about Him. The thing that matters is
being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that
may begin any time tonight, if you like.

What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels
down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with
God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting
him to pray is also God; God, so to speak, inside him.
But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes
through Christ, the Man who was God that Christ is standing
beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You
see what is happening. God is the thing beyond the whole
universe to which he is praying the goal he's trying to
reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him
on the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along
which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole
threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going
on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is
saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the
higher kind of life what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is
being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.

And that is how Theology started. People already knew
about God in a vague way. Then came a man who claimed
to be God; and yet He wasn't the sort of man you could dismiss
as a lunatic. He made them believe Him. They met
Him again after they'd seen Him killed. And then, after they
had been formed into a little society or community, they
found God somehow inside them as well: directing them,
making them able to do things they couldn't do before. And
when they worked it all out they found they'd got the
Christian definition of the three-personal God."
(Lewis, 9-11 - emphasis mine)

If you are interested in reading the book online or downloading the entire book you can do so in a few different formats including pdf here.


E DURSO said...

That's good stuff. C.S. Lewis...what a brilliant mind.

BrotherOfTheSon said...

Found the book at the bottom of a bookshelf in a tiny bookshop in a tiny village at the bottom of England.

Contents? Priceless