C S Lewis, incarnation and morality: Living what we are, and avoiding the super-spirituality trap

cslewis-pipe (1)Apologies for neglecting the blog – have been traveling in the UK. Hoping to visit the Kilns tomorrow! Here is one of the last bits of Medieval Wisdom: An Exploration with C  S Lewis:

When we appreciate the humanity of humanity, and the ways in which Christ is incarnated not only in his own flesh, as a first-century Jew from Nazareth but also (though in a different sense) in his church and in all humanity – as Benedict saw – this will heighten our sense of the sacredness and dignity of others. It will change the ways we treat others in our ordinary lives – in our workplaces, our families, our societies.

There is an important corollary of this Incarnational principle in ethics: Incarnational morality is ordinary morality, of the sort Lewis portrayed so winsomely in the Household of St. Anne in That Hideous Strength. By seeing our own ethical lives in the light of our bodily limitations, illuminated further by God’s own assumption of, and elevation of, human nature, we are released from the pressure of perfection. Not that we are released to sin; but rather, from aspiring to the impossible: a life lived as if we do not have bodies ourselves – a perfectly godlike life. This is the mistake some make: to expect super-human, super-spiritual exploits on the part of themselves and other Christian people. This sort of super-spiritualization leads away from, rather than toward, a healthy and godly attention to the needs of others and the responsibilities of our relationships (as we saw in the example of my therapist friend).

There is a kind of moral integrity that comes from (re)uniting our two halves, the spiritual and the material, in reflection of the two natures of the Incarnate Christ. People who knew Lewis could see that moral integrity shining out. As his last secretary Walter Hooper reflected: “I am sure [Lewis] was aware of his shortcomings, but to me he seemed closer to God than I had ever imagined a man could be. Most Christians seem to have two kinds of lives, their so-called ‘real’ life and their so-called ‘religious’ one. Not Lewis. The barrier so many of us find between the visible and the invisible was not there for Lewis. No one ever had less of a split personality.’”[1]

[1] 243: Walter Hooper, “C. S. Lewis: Oxford’s Literary Chameleon of Letters,” in Behind the Veil of Familiarity: C. S. Lewis (1898-1998), ed. Margarita Carretero Gonzalez and Encarnacion Hidalgo Tenorio, 23-46 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2001), 25.

One response to “C S Lewis, incarnation and morality: Living what we are, and avoiding the super-spirituality trap

  1. Excellent post. I hope your England journey was a good one. Peace, T

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