Thursday, October 27, 2005

SJ - Friendship and Segregation

As C.S. Lewis discusses one of his childhood friends, Arthur, in Surprised by Joy, his quick observation on friendship points the reader back to biblical truths, and also helps show some of the folly in our largely “age segregated” culture. Although Lewis’s friendship

“began from an identity or taste on a particular point, [he and Arthur] were sufficiently different to help each other.” (pg. 122)
In The Four Loves, also by Lewis, he asserts that “friendship must be about something,” (p. 66) and his friendship with Arthur initially based itself on their love of Norse mythology. However, because Lewis sees friendship as a side-by-side journey, friendship cannot revolve around the thing that initially drew the friends together, but must “fight [together], read [together], [and] argue [together.]” (The Four Loves, pg. 71) In this way, the friends can help each other onward in life. Arthur helped show Lewis how to function in more chaotic home life, and taught him how to love the countryside.

The Bible spells out this principle of friends helping each other in two ways: through proverbs and with many examples. In Proverbs, Solomon spoke of how friends spur each other on, “as iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17) Other Proverbs tell people to consult “a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11: 14) because presumably these counselors will have differing life experiences and therefore differing knowledge to help the friend make decisions. One example of friends helping each other comes in 1 Samuel when David, a young shepherd boy, and Jonathan, the prince of the land, become close friends. Jonathan’s father begins to hate David, but because of Jonathan’s insights into his father’s character, he helps David wisely avoid the wrath of the king. History and literature hold many other examples of friendships helping both friends as they work towards a common goal.

In our society today, people have placed a growing emphasis on segregating groups by age. While this can help the participants, it can also cut them off from valuable friendships where someone “sufficiently different” could help them. For many years, schools operated with different grades in one room. Because of this, older children could help younger ones, and friendships could develop across age lines. Today, every school is divided strictly into grades, separating students from nearly everyone not the same age. Some might say “oh well, in other parts of life they can meet other people,” but this often does not occur. In many churches, they have begun separating children into age group classes for the entirety of church, not allowing them to worship with the “adults” at all. Some churches go so far as to segregate the small groups, so that single adults only meet with single adults, married couples only meet with married couples, youth only meet with youth. While this can benefit the participants because sometimes they can discuss topics which might not apply to the other groups, it can also create a wall around each group, giving each division little or no organized ways to fellowship, worship, or serve together with the others. Of course, anyone can work to befriend anyone else, but it becomes more difficult when the church offers them no opportunities. In this way, a youth can miss many of the “sufficiently different” singles or married couples who might offer great insight into their lives and help them, and vice versa. “Friendship (as the ancients saw) can be a school of virtue” (The Four Loves, page 73) but in our society we must work to cultivate friendships all types of people, not just those in our peer group.

MC - The Degradation of the Incarnation

As Lewis finishes a discussion on the humility Christ showed by coming to earth as a human, he says
If you want to get the hang of [the humility needed for Christ to become human], think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
This short, seemingly "off hand" comment made a point that I had always "known" truly come alive for me. While, on one hand, I understand that Christ had given up His heavenly glory to come and become a man, I subconsciously figured that the actual birth and life as a human could not be too terrible--after all, that's what I am! I did not realize how thoroughly this idea had pervaded my thinking until Lewis' words showed me, in some small way, the degree that Christ humbled Himself.

Whenever I think of slugs, I always think of these huge pots we used to have in our front yard. Slugs would climb up the pot and would eat at whatever flowers Mom had planted in the pot. In an effort to dissuade them, we set out jelly roll pans full of salted beer. (I guess beer attracts the slugs, and then the salt kills them.) Slugs are disgusting, slimey, and pretty dumb, since they would jump into those pans and essentially kill themselves.

I cannot fathom loving a slug. Slugs destroyed what Mom had created. I cannot fathom becoming a slug. Slugs were nasty. And yet, we committed a sin infinitely more heinous than eating flowers when we sinned against a holy God. Let us never forget the amazing sacrifice Christ made by "[becoming] flesh and [dwelling] among us."

Depth of mercy -- can there be?
Mercy still reserved for me?
God, the Just, His wrath forebears
Me, the chief of sinners, spares!
-Charles Wesley

Welcome + Purpose


For the past several years, I have taken classes from The Potter's School, an excellent Christian online school. This year, I am privileged to be taking Works of C.S. Lewis from Dr. Sharon Bridwell.

While the class involves intensive writing assignments, oftentimes there are thoughts or things that I would like to discuss about the books we are reading that simply cannot be discussed in class or in the assignments due to time constraints.

I hope to use this blog to publish thoughts on Lewis and his writings, specifically Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and Till We Have Faces. For the purposes of clarity, I will use the the abbreviations SJ, MC, SL, GD, and TWHF in the subject lines of my posts to show which book inspired the thoughts.

The title "In the Great Sculptor's Schop" came from a quote in Mere Christianity. Lewis says
"And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour [sic] going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life."