Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Christianity and Culture

In a brief and excellent essay entitled Christianity and Culture, C.S. Lewis provides an answer to the question "What is the value of culture?"  Here follow a few highlights from the text to prompt discussion:

  • "If a Christian found himself in the position of inaugurating a new society in vacuo he might well decide not to introduce something whose abuse is so easy and whose use is, at any rate, not necessary.  But that is not our position.  The abuse of culture is already there, and will continue whether Christians cease to be cultured or not.  It is therefore probably better that the ranks of the 'culture-sellers' should include some Christians- as an antidote.  It may even be the duty of some Christians to be culture-sellers." (The Seeing Eye, p. 27)
  • "On these grounds I conclude that culture has a distinct part to play in bringing souls to Christ.  Not all souls- there is a shorter, and safer, way which has always been followed by thousands of simple affectional natures who begin, where we hope to end, with devotion to the person of Christ." (The Seeing Eye, p. 31)
  • "Most men must glorify God by doing to His glory something which is not per se an act of glorifying but which becomes so by being offered.  If, as I now hope, cultural activities are innocent and even useful, then they also (like the sweeping of the room in Herbert's poem) can be done to the Lord.  The work of a charwoman and the work of a poet become spiritual in the same way and on the same condition." (The Seeing Eye, p. 32)
  • "The salvation of souls is a means to the glorifying of God because only saved souls can duly glorify Him.  The thing to which, on my view, culture must be subordinated, is not (although it includes) mortal virtue, but the conscious direction of all will and desire to a transcendental Person in whom I believe all values to reside, and the reference to Him in every thought and act." (The Seeing Eye, p. 35)
  • "The tendency is easily observed among children; friendship wavers when you discover that a hitherto trusted playmate actually likes prunes. But even for adults it is ‘sweet, sweet, sweet poison’ to feel able to imply ‘thus saith the Lord’ at the end of every expression of our pet aversion. To avoid this horrible danger we must perpetually try to distinguish, however closely they get entwined both by the subtle nature of the facts and by the secret importunity of our passions, those attitudes in a writer which we can honestly and confidently condemn as real evils, and those qualities in his writing which simply annoy and offend us as men of taste." (The Seeing Eye, p. 41)
  • "There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter claimed by Satan."
These are some highlights, but I recommend a perusal of the entire essay.

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