Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love is Not Enough

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

We read a chapter from C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves for our biweekly book group at work. You can read part of it here. Now, I am not the resident Lewis scholar at this blog; in fact, the degree to which Lewis is adored in the evangelical subculture has seemed somewhat amusing to me recently. I have to say, though, that every time I read him, I am newly impressed with his skills, and the chapter on Charity was no exception. The essay is very challenging; it reminds me, as Lewis often does, of how much my "good deeds" are self-serving, how radical a thing it is to display divine love. One line in particular struck me. I have to give you a running start at it, though:

Finally, by a high paradox, God enables men to have a Gift-love towards Himself. There is of course a sense in which no one can give to God anything which is not already His; and if it is already His, what have you given? But since it is only too obvious that we can withhold ourselves, our wills and hearts, from God, we can in that sense, also give them. What is His by right and would not exist for a moment if it ceased to be His (as the song is the singer's), He has nevertheless made ours in such a way that we can freely offer it back to Him. "Our wills are ours to make them Thine."

In the margin, I wrote, "I saw a song that refused to be sung; a picture of the damned soul."

Upon reading the passage again, I realized that this isn't quite what Lewis was saying. In this quote, that which is God's like the song is the singer's is our will, not our selves. But I think I'll put this image alongside Lewis's other images of damnation, which capture so well the continuity between spiritual death in this world and the next, the justice of punishment, the un-arbitrariness of it. For example, Lewis famously described final separation from God as God saying to those who have fled from him, "Thy will be done."

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