Friday, September 21, 2012

Our September Month's End Meeting

Chapel of Magdalene College, Cambridge
The next meeting of our Society will be the last Friday of September, the 28th.  We will discuss the last two chapters of The Weight of Glory.  The chapter "On Forgiveness" was written by Lewis in 1947 for a parish newspaper, but the rector moved to another church before it could be published.  It did not appear publicly until good ol' Walter Hooper located it in 1975.  In this paper, Lewis deals with the two ideas of forgiveness and excuses.  Should be interesting!

The second chapter is "A Slip of the Tongue."  Lewis was privately praying a prayer from the Prayer Book and almost said the wrong thing.  It got him thinking about something and we find his thoughts here.  Hooper tells us that Lewis used his thoughts for the last sermon he preached - which is our chapter - at Magdalene College Chapel, Cambridge, 29 Jan. 1956.  

Now something else different about this meeting will be the time and venue.  We are going to meet an hour earlier - at 6:00 p.m. - and we will convene at the Mean Mug coffeeshop, 114 West Main St. on the Southside.  They normally close at 5:00 p.m., but will open up for us and make their full menu available to us for a light supper.  Their coffee is produced by Velo and is really good.  We should have the place to ourselves, so we may find this a really good evening for discussion.  You can park on Main St. or in the back.  

Mean Mug on Facebook: click here.  They provide a map.

Hope to see you there!  If you are a Society friend on Facebook, be sure to indicate at the event post if you are coming or not - would be good to know.

Image source:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Membership - Notes from our last meeting

Notes on Lewis' chapter in Mere Christianity, "Membership"

False ideas of belonging
Lewis' statement re: the idea that relig. is to be a private affair in the modern world.
The idea is:
1. Paradoxical - said at the same time when the modern world - with its collective - is trying to exclude privacy
2. Dangerous
a. because the combination of "keep it to yourself" and yet not allowing anyone to be by themselves results in a lack of occasion or place for religion.
b. sincere believers may import the alien sense of the collective into the faith in the name of Christian Body Life or fellowship.
3. Natural: that is, though an error, it is a natural reaction to modern collectivism; the individual matters.  The feeling that we must preserve the individual life is just.
Hierarchy of value/importance:
I (top)        Participation in the Body
II                Private spirituality
III               Collective social experience; exists for our earthly good; of no service to spiritual good
We think of such things (regarding time and life in this world) only so we can be in a position to think of better things.
p. 163; definition of membership
Top, 166: two ways of departing from isolation: a) the collective (where individualism is lost) and b) integration into a body or family, where individualism, personality, and hierarchy is celebrated

False ideas of the individual
p. 167; the paradox of equality
the legal fiction of equality, like medicine, keeps away bad things, but it is not what we are meant to live on.
170 - Rom. 5 heroic death and death for love; our real equality is in his love, not in us.
171 - his delight when the priest stands and others kneel
SUM - Mid 171 - how a single life is defended from the collective.  Not by isolation, but membership in the Body

False ideas of true personality (the eternality and place of the individual)
new side of the matter: the eternality of the individual
172 - we shall share the victory by being in the Victor
175: His 2 main points:
1. the false idea of individual worship alongside collectivism; they aggravate each other; they are natural and of this world
2. Christianity is not really concerned with either one, but a new creation in Christ; this is a matter of the next world

Saturday, September 1, 2012

C. S. Lewis and Anglicanism

Lyle Dorsett has a lot of insights into the Anglicanism of C. S. Lewis, of which he writes in his book Seeking the Secret Place - The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis. He reminds us firstly of Lewis' statement in the Preface of Mere Christianity that he was neither high nor low Anglican, just an ordinary layman in the Church. He did have a high regard for the Anglican tradition. This is evident in his book Letters to Malcolm and personal letters. Dorsett says that the safest thing to call Lewis is a Protestant, since the Anglican Church was so diverse.

He was not anti-Puritan but critical of Puritans. He especially did not like their delving into predestination. Lewis considered the topic a "meaningless question." In a margin note of his copy of the Book of Common Prayer, Lewis wrote beside Article XIII, "doctrine never to be discussed..." He also did not like the preoccupation many Puritans had with our sinfulness as Christians. He found it unhealthy. Lewis is thus more of a Methodist when it comes to the issue. He was also close to Methodism in his idea of holiness. But, as alluded above, he ultimately really like the "middle ground" of Hooker and Jeremy Taylor.

Lewis did strongly object to the modernism in the Anglican Church. He was a great apologist of orthodoxy. He found both evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics on solid common ground by virtue of being super-naturalists.

Dorsett writes: For the most part, C. S. Lewis spent little time studying, analyzing, or criticizing the factions in the Anglican Church [though I would not include the modernist faction here]. Instead, he behaved like a member of a good family - giving what he could to encourage others and taking what was offered to him. He lived in the church and loved it, and from it he drew much of his spiritual vitality. Being in the church was to Lewis as important to healthy spiritual development as being in a family is to emotional and social health. (pp. 78,79).

According to Harry Blamires, in a conversation Dorsett had with him, "Lewis was at times quite high on the Anglican spectrum and at other times rather low. It all depended upon the doctrine and the practice." (p.97). On the high spectrum, Lewis practiced confession and he believed in Purgatory (See Letters to Malcolm, p. 108, - Dante's version of Purgatory, not the later version). However, when it came to Mary and the pope, he was thoroughly biblical. Contrary to what some have said, Lewis remained steadily against becoming a Roman Catholic to the end.

When I read Lewis on Purgatory and also learn of the kind of spiritual literature he favoured, it seems to me that he was heavily influenced by his earlier philosophical and medieval reading, especially the latter. He came into Christianity as a medievalist and he never seems to have lost much of his taste for that era of our history and thought. Medieval spirituality appealed to him. This was balanced by his Protestant upbringing and what he also learned from his reading of Protestants, such as Milton, Hooker, etc. But when you read his argument for Purgatory, it is philosophical, not biblical. He really likes Dante and so he sticks with him.

Though Lewis respected and appreciated the Anglican Church, he remained "his own man." I think he lacked some biblical consistency with his beliefs, but his "mere Christianity" approach, and his decided appreciation for the bulk of Anglican tradition, make him someone we Anglicans continue to hold in high regard.

D. Beckmann