“We need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which now seems certain . . . is merely temporary fashion.” – C.S. Lewis (1949)
I’m going to define and think about this quote contextually.
I think what C.S. Lewis says here is that a continual basis for comparison is healthy and desirable because . . . we haven’t always thought the way we think now, and the way we think now is going to change.
(In case you weren’t sure, my “we’s” are almost always in reference to us religious folks from the American Restoration Movement – particularly those of us who ended up on the non-instrumental side of the aisle).
For reasons beyond my ability to fully grasp, much less communicate, my “folks” and I seem to believe that our way of looking at (interpreting) scripture is the way that it’s always been done, the only way to do it and is in fact the way Jesus himself would do it . . . or did it.
Let me ask you a question, what if you came to understand that the way many/some/most of the folks who have helped to form your faith have interpreted and taught you the Bible with methods and assumptions that came from somewhere other than the Bible? How would that make you feel? Upset? Confused? Relieved? Lost?
Since beginning walking down this road of discovery, I have felt all of those things. (By the way, I’m not going to take time to explain or argue the idea at this point. So for the sake of this thought process, just consider the idea that the Bible doesn’t have its own answer key. No where in the Bible does it say, “thou shall interpret these sayings and writing in the following manner and with the following assumptions.”) And it has caused me to do a lot of thinking and searching.
Here’s a small example of what I’m talking about. For as long as I can recall I have been taught that the Bible says that there are steps to salvation – five to be exact. I always accepted that as absolute. I was shown more than five different scriptures to back it up. Imagine my surprise when I realized that a guy named Walter Scott actually invented that idea (in the 1800s) as a mnemonic device to teach kids. I thought God invented that idea? Well, not so much. Needless to say, I was upset, confused and little mad.
A few years ago, I started to try to use the Bible as a source of comfort, instead of a weapon; to read it in order to learn, instead of to prove what I already knew; and to read it in order to discover who God is, instead of what I’m supposed to do.
At some point in this journey I came across this quote I shared from C.S. Lewis and it completely shook me to my foundation. Here’s my interpretation again: “a continual basis for comparison is healthy and desirable because . . . we haven’t always thought the way we think now, and the way we think now is going to change.”
If you haven’t already tried this, I’d like to invite you to lean into the idea (you just need to lean into, not grab hold of it) that the way you have read the Bible isn’t the way that 1) the Holy Spirit meant for it to be read, 2) isn’t the way that Christians throughout the centuries have read it, and 3) isn’t always the best way to read it.
That’s a scary thought. It is a thought that can shake the very ground that your faith foundation has been built on. But if you will accept it as possible, I believe it’s a thought that will honor God; and that God will honor and use to bless and grow you.
Most Holy Father, I pray for us who live inside this wonderful and beautiful world that you have created. I pray especially for people like me who think that you and your Word to us are confined by what we can see and understand. Father, thank you so much for patiently revealing that you are so much bigger and greater than anything our biggest dreams could ever create. Help us all to accept this and find peace in this. We love you and we long for you. Amen.