There's More to Life

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Have you ever wondered at the God-consciousness of mankind. Throughout the ages, all races and cultures seem to have had a sense of there being more to life than meets the eye. Once again C.S. Lewis expresses this and other issues better in another extract from the book A Severe Mercy. It begins with the ‘seeker’s’/author’s questions and is followed by C.S. Lewis’s response…

I must write further on the subject of ‘wishing it (Christianity) were true’ - although I do agree that I probably have wishes on both sides - and my wish does not help me solve any problem. Your point that Hitler, Stalin (and I) would be horrified at discovering a Master from whom nothing could be withheld is very strong. Indeed, there is nothing in Christianity so repugnant to me as humility - the bent knee. If I knew beyond all hope or despair that Christianity were true, my fight for ever after would have to be against the pride of ‘the spine may break but it never bends’. And yet, Sir, would not I (and even Stalin) accept the humbling of the Master to escape the horror of ceasing to be, of nothingness at death? Moreover, the knowledge that Jesus was in truth Lord would mean overwhelmingly…that materialism was error as well as ugliness…and… that the good and the beautiful would survive. And so I wish it were true and would accept any humbling, I think, for it to be true. The bad part of wishing it were true is that any impulse I feel towards belief is regarded with suspicion as stemming from the wish; the good part is that the wish leads on. And I shall go on; I must go on, as far as I can go.

Note that life after death, which still seems to you the essential thing, was itself a late revelation. God trained the Hebrews for centuries to believe in Him without promising an after-life, and, blessings on Him, he trained me in the same way for about a year. It is like the disguised prince in the fairy tale who wins the heroine’s love before she knows he is anything more than a woodcutter. What would be a bribe if it came first had better come last.

It is quite clear from what you say that you have conscious wishes on both sides. And now, another point about wishes. A wish may lead to false beliefs, granted. But what does the existence of the wish suggest? At one time I was much impressed by Arnold’s line ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ But surely, though it doesn’t prove that one particular man will get food, it does prove that there is such a thing as food! i.e. if we were a species that didn’t normally eat, weren’t designed to eat, would we feel hungry? You say the materialist universe is ‘ugly’. I wonder how you discovered that! If you really are a product of a materialistic universe, how is it you don’t feel at home there? Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact not strongly suggest that they had not always been or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married! I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal…

But I think you are already in the meshes of the net! The Holy Spirit is after you. I doubt if you’ll get away!

Becky Conolly

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