Mere Christianity, Book Two, Chapter 5: “The Practical Conclusion”

Mere Christianity Leaders’ notes:

The perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: perfect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was man. Now the Christian belief is that if we somehow share the humility and suffering of Christ we shall also share in His conquest of death and find a new life after we have died and in it become perfect, and perfectly happy, creatures. This means something much more than our trying to follow His teaching. People often ask when the next step in evolution–the step to something beyond man–will happen. But on the Christian view, it has happened already. In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.

  • How is this done?

    Now, please remember how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others, from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent–and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, do not believe it–and I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges how the new kind of life-the Christ life–is to be spread. We must be prepared for it being odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us either when He invented this.

    • Three things spread the “Christ-life” to us
      • Baptism
      • Belief
      • Holy Communion/Mass/the Lord’s Supper
      • At least these are the three “normal/common” methods.
      • We can disagree about the details and emphasis, but these are core to Christian doctrine and teaching.
      • The only way we can know any significant amount of things is to accept them on authority.
    • Baptism, belief and Communion do not replace our own attempts to follow Christ. We have this new life, we are responsible for caring and nurturing it. Just as we have to care for and nurture our physical lives, we have to care for and nurture this new Spiritual life.
      • Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief and the Holy Communion as things that will do instead of your own attempts to copy Christ. Your natural life is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay there if you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or you can drive it away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else. In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam-he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts. And that has practical consequences. As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble–because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

    • This puts Christians in a different position than all other religions. All other religions are about people being good to try to please God. “But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”
    • Being ‘in Christ’ is more than an attitude or thought life or imitation of Christ. Christians believe “that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts-that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body.”
      • This, perhaps, explains why this new life is spread not just by mental acts life belief, but by the physical acts of baptism and Communion?
      • God uses physical things to change us, “That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.”
  • So, why is God landing is enemy-occupied territory in disguise?
    • To give us a chance to choose freely
    • To give us time to choose freely
    • There’s no point in choosing to join the winning side after the war is over!

[[ Next: Mere Christianity, Book Three, Chapter 1: “The Three Parts of Morality” ]]

Parent: Mere Christianity: Leaders’ Notes Series

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