Monday, September 26, 2005

The Demise of Preconceptions

My own experience in reading the Gospels was at one stage even more depressing than yours. Everyone told me that there I should find a figure whom I couldn't help loving. Well, I could. They told me I would find moral perfection--but one sees so very little of Him in ordinary situations that I couldn't make much of that either. Indeed some of His behaviour seemed to me open to criticism, e.g. accepting an invitation to dine with a Pharisee and then loading him with torrents of abuse.

Now the truth is, I think, that the sweetly-attractive-human-Jesus is a product of 19th century scepticism, produced by people who were ceasing to believe in His divinity but wanted to keep as much Christianity as they could. It is not what an unbeliever coming to the records with an open mind will (at first) find there. The first thing you find is that we are simply not invited to speak, to pass any moral judgement on Him, however favourable: it is is only too clear He is going to do whatever judging there is: it is we who are being judged, sometimes tenderly, sometimes with stunning severity, but always de haut en bas*. (Have you ever noticed that your imagination can hardly be forced to picture Him as shorter than yourself?)

The first real work of the Gospels on a fresh reader is, and ought to be, to raise very acutely the question, "Who or What is this?" For there is a good deal in the character which, unless He really is what He says He is, is not lovable or even tolerable. If He is, then of course it is another matter: nor will it then be surprising if much remains puzzling to the end. For if there is anything in Christianity, we are now approaching something which will never be fully comprehensible.

*"from high to low"

~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter of March 26, 1940 to Mary Neylan

1 Comment(s):

At Mon Sep 26, 09:08:00 PM EST, Blogger Bob said...

I had never thought about how I pictured Jesus, but he's quite right. He's always taller than me. Interesting.


Post a Comment

<< Home