Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

C.S. Lewis "Mere Christianity" Beyond Our Social Imagination

What is interesting about Christianity is that it asks people to think beyond the world that they see, to think beyond their 'social imagination'. How? Christians believe in a God that is unseen, and that he is the Creator of all things seen and unseen.
To support this notion that Christianity goes beyond social imagination I point to the writings of C.S. Lewis who embraced this and wrote perceptively on Christianity in his book, "Mere Christianity".  In the chapter, Beyond Personality, Lewis tells us that we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as "decent" people. If He (God) does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life; but He means to get us as far as possible before death. That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well, he often feels that it would not be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along, illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation, he 'man' is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver,or more patient, or more loving,than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary; but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.The command Be ye Perfect is not idealistic gas, nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.  He said that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good His words... if we let Him. Lewis writes, ... let me borrow from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on... you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But, presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that huts and does not seem to make sense. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace which He intends to come and live in  (Lewis 1952: pg 174)
Lewis also writes about how incredible His imagination is - the Creator. Lewis points to when we were in the womb, first a blob of cells, then a kind of tadpole, then a another kind of simple creature which we would in that simple form have likely been content to be just that... but He (God) did not stop there, He kept going, He created us human, man and woman, He created us in His image. He created us social and to live with Him in His Incredible and Gigantic social imagination!
C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity: MacMillian 1952

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