Mere Christianity | Book IV, Chapter 2

C.S. Lewis | Mere Christianity
Book IV | Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity
Chapter 2 | “The Three-Personal God”

Question: What is the difference between begetting and making that Lewis wants to remind us of?

Answer: “A man begets a child, but he only makes a statue. God begets Christ but He only makes men.” So God the Father begets the same as himself.

Q: What requires some additional explanation?

A: The idea of a personal God. Many people think “the mysterious something which is behind all other things must be more than a person.” Christians agree with this. Lewis adds that only Christians “offer any idea of what a being that is beyond personality could be like.” The other idea is that God is impersonal—“something less than a person.”

Q: How does this relate to life after death?

A: One common view is that after we die (or after several deaths because of reincarnation) “human souls will be ‘absorbed’ into God . . . like a drop of water slipping into the sea.” The problem is “If that is what happens to us, then being absorbed is the same as ceasing to exist.” The Christian view is that our souls go to God and we “remain ourselves.” Lewis adds that we will be “very much more” ourselves than we were.

Q: What analogy does Lewis want us to pay careful attention to?

A: (This is best left in Lewis’ words:) “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 are using only one dimension, you could draw only a straight line. If you are 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.”

Q: What is the point of this analogy?

A: The point Lewis makes is that every time you move up a dimension, things get “more real and more complicated.” You begin with a simple, one-dimensional straight line and move to a three dimensional object. The lines of the first dimension are still there in the three dimensional object, but if you were living in a one-dimension world, you could not imagine what two- or three-dimensional life would be like.

So, for example, Lewis asks us to imagine ourselves as living in just two dimensions—flat, like a piece of paper—and then to imagine God living in three dimensions. The elements of our two dimensions are there in His three dimensions, but they are combined there in ways we cannot imagine.

Lewis says this is how we should think about God’s personality. “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.”

Q: What is the thing that matters in all of this?

A: Not talking about God, but “being actually drawn into [His] three-personal life,” which can begin any time.

Q: How does this relate to prayer?

A: Lewis says that when a Christian prays, they are trying to get in touch with God, but they also know “that what is prompting him to pray is also God.” They are praying to God who is outside of them, while “Christ, the Man who was God . . . is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him.” The act of praying is actually drawing us “into the higher kind of life. . . . He is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.”

Q: How did Theology begin?

A: Our ideas about God were vague. But then Jesus came along. He “claimed to be God; and yet he was not the sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic.” People believed Him. They saw Him again after he died. They formed a community where God was in their midst, “making them able to do things they could not do before.” In this community they came to understand God as three-in-one.

Q: Why do we say this is not knowledge we have made up?

A: Lewis walks us through a progression of studies. The study of rocks, geology, requires total initiative on our part. “You have to go and find the rocks.” They won’t come to your or run away from you. The study of animals, zoology, takes a lot of initiative on our part. Animals in the wild will run away from you, but if you’re quiet, you can learn about them. The study of humans, sociology, takes some initiative, but it’s more like fifty-fifty. Two people can become friends if both will allow it.

Finally, the study of God, theology, places the initiative on God’s side. “If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him.”

Q: Why does God show more of Himself to some than others?

A: Not because He has favorites. “It is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favorites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as a clean one.”

Other sciences require external objects—telescopes, microscopes, etc.—to understand the subject. Theology requires our whole person. “And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred—like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope.”

Q: What is the value of a Christian community?

A: “God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another.” A Christian community is a kind of equipment for the science of understanding God.

Q: Could Christianity be easier?

A: It could be if we were making it up. Someone inventing a religion could make up something much simpler, but Lewis concludes by reminding us that “We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”






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