Monday, September 27, 2004

Nearness by Proximity vs. Nearness by Approach

Here is a selection from Lewis's book, The Four Loves, which I feel really drives home the reason why some things, like immense artistic talent, transcendent beauty, the perfect sunset, or amazing intelligence can seem so much like God, yet not be God:

"Let us suppose that we are doing a mountain walk to the village which is our home. At mid-day we come to the top of a cliff where we are, in space, very near it because it is just below us. We could drop a stone onto it. But as we are no cragsmen we can’t get down. We must go a long way round; five miles, maybe. At many points during that detour we shall, statically, be farther from the village than we were when we sat above the cliff. But only statically. In terms of progress we shall be far “nearer” our baths and teas.

Since God is blessed, omnipotent, sovereign and creative, there is obviously a sense in which happiness, strength, freedom and fertility (whether of mind or body), wherever they appear in human life, constitute likenesses, and in that way proximities, to God. But no one supposes that the possession of these gifts has any necessary connection with our sanctification. No kind of riches is a passport to the Kingdom of Heaven.

At the cliff’s top we are near the village, but however long we sit there we shall never be any nearer to our bath and our tea. So here; the likeness, and in that sense nearness, to Himself which God has conferred upon certain creatures and certain states of those creatures is something finished, built in. What is near Him by likeness is never, by that fact alone, going to be any nearer. But nearness of approach is, by definition, increasing nearness. And whereas the likeness is given to us—and can be received with or without thanks, can be used or abused—the approach, however initiated and supported by Grace, is something we must do."
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960)

4 Comment(s):

At Mon Sep 27, 12:19:00 PM EST, Blogger Joelle said...

I really need to read that book. I have it sitting on my shelf, I just don't have the time.

"No kind of riches is a passport to the Kingdom of Heaven." riches= good works? *stirs the pot* ;)

At Mon Sep 27, 02:13:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

"No kind of riches is a passport to the Kingdom of Heaven."

Hmmm...I was thinking that by riches he means not just physical riches, but also riches of the spirit, like an extraordinary talent, or a gifted intellect. Nothing is guaranteed to get you any closer to Heaven than making the journey by walking every step yourself. There are no shortcuts, in other words.

Gosh, I wish I was at home right now, because I read in Lewis's Letters book last night a letter he wrote to his brother telling about how the Inklings were arguing about that verse in the Bible about "narrow is the way, and few who will find it" or something like that. They just about came to blows over the meaning of it! When I get home I'll look for it and post it.

At Mon Sep 27, 02:59:00 PM EST, Blogger Joelle said...

Interesting. Oh, here's the exact verse,
Matthew 7:13-14 (I'm using NKJV)
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Here's what my John MacArthur study (has the best commentary IMO) Bible has to say on it: "Both the narrow gate and the wide gate are assumed to provide entrance to God's kingdom. Two ways are offered to people. The narrow gate is by faith, only through Christ, constricted and precise. It represents true salvation in God's way that leads to life eternal. The wide gate includes all religions of works and self-righteousness, with no single way, but leads to hell, not heaven."

I'm think that both you and MacArthur basically saying the same thing, what do you think?

Ack...gotta run...this always happens when theres an intrigueing conversation!

At Mon Sep 27, 06:52:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Here we go:

[Letter to his brother Warren, Nov. 5, 1939]

"I had a pleasant evening on Thursday with Williams, Tolkien, and Wrenn, during which Wrenn almost seriously expressed a strong wish to burn Williams, or at least maintained that conversation with Williams enabled him to understand how inquisitors had felt it right to burn people. Tolkien and I agreed afterwards that we just knew what he meant: that as some people at school...are eminently kickable, so Williams is eminently combustible.

The occasion was a discussion of the most distressing text in the Bible ('narrow is the way and few they be that find it') and whether one really could believe in a universe where the majority were damned and also in the goodnes of God. Wrenn, of course took the view that it mattered precisely nothing whether it conformed to your ideas of goodness or not, and it was at that stage that the combustible possibilities of Williams revealed themselves to him in an attractive light. The general sense of the meeting was in favour of a view on the lines taken in Pastor Pastorum that Our Lord's replies are never straight answers and never gratify curiosity, and that whatever this one meant its purpose was certainly not statistical."


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