How Can We Have Narnian Faith in a Screwtape World? – page 2

 

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VOLUME 3 NUMBER 1 ISSUE OF BROADCAST TALKS

How Can We Have
Narnian Faith in a
Screwtape World?

by Russell Moore,
President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty
Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

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I grew really cynical and actually became depressed and alarmed. But thankfully I had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a small child. So I recognized the name C.S. Lewis on the spine of a book in a bookstore. I pulled out Mere Christianity and was transformed by that. Richard John Neuhaus, a generation ago, talked about his conversion to Catholicism as “How I Became the Catholic That I Was.” In many ways I would say that Mere Christianity enabled me to become the Baptist that I was. And the reason for that is because this long-dead-by-then Anglican, speaking to this confused, alarmed, fifteen-year-old Southern Baptist spoke with a kind of credibility that came with an obvious lack of regard for selling me anything. There was obviously, in the voice of this person, someone who through the written word was simply bearing witness to something that he had seen, that the Church had carried down for two thousand years, and it saved my life.

I think several aspects of Lewis’s ministry are especially crucial for our day right now. I’ve been asked to talk about Narnian faith in a Screwtape world, and I think that is exactly the sort of situation that we find ourselves in. I’d like for us to think about two aspects of that.

Gospel Imagination

The first is gospel imagination. The situation that I was in as a fifteen-year-old is one that Lewis well understood. He talks and writes about this in several places. One is in The Screwtape Letters, a book that Lewis writes from the perspective of a senior demon giving advice to a junior demon. The senior demon advises:

[Whatever the Christian who is being tempted adopts], your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ‘cause’, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.

 

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