Monday, March 2, 2009

Better Late Than Never

You may think that this title is referring to my lateness in writing the more substantive post I promised to produce on Saturday. Sadly, that post is still floating around in my head and can't seem to find its way onto my computer (see how I cleverly shift the blame from myself to the actual post?)

The title does refer to the fact that I've come to C.S. Lewis rather late in life. For years I smiled and nodded and pretended to have an opinion when my friends discussed Lewis' theology. I didn't read "The Chronicles of Narnia" until college. And I'm just now getting around to "The Screwtape Letters."

Here's a passage from chapter 6 that I thought was particularly insightful and convicting.

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us. (I don't, of course, mean what the patient mistakes for his will, the conscious fume and fret of resolutions and clenched teeth, but the real centre, what the Enemy calls the Heart.) All sorts of virtues painted in the fantasy or approved by the intellect or even, in some measure, loved and admired, will not keep a man from our Father's house: indeed they may make him more amusing when he gets there.

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