Friday, September 04, 2009

"We're Only Human" or "Be Ye Perfect"

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

C. S. Lewis-Mere Christianity, ch. 31.

If Lewis is right, then Christianity teaches that the goal of human life is to become perfect. "We're only human" is not a satisfactory response.


Gregory said...

"Beyond Personality" is one of the most insightful and profound reflections on Christian spirituality of the 20th Century. James Stewart's "A Man In Christ" ranks a close second.

Lewis is not textbook...and it takes a highly sanctified individual to reach that sort of level of insight into "holiness".

Kudos, Victor, for the reminder that Lewis was more than a "scholar" and "apologist"; he was a deeply committed follower of Christ. And, dare I say, he was a "holy" man.

Randy said...

I think that Lewis hit the nail on the head right here. Another hero of mine, John Wesley goes into much more detail in his “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.” Some say that Wesley went to far with Christian Perfection as some might also say of Lewis here, but working toward perfection is clearly what Jesus seemed to indicate when he said “Be ye perfect…”

Gregory said...

Here's an interesting quotation to fill out Lewis' insight:

"The perfection of the Christian life--and I mean that life which is the only one the name of Christ is used to designate---is that in which we participate not only by our mind and soul but in all the actions of our lives, so that our holiness may be complete, in accordance with the blessing pronounced by Paul, in our whole body and soul and spirit (1 Thes. 5:23), constantly guarded from all admixture with evil.

Now it may be objected that such a good is hard to achieve, seeing that only the Lord of creation is constant and that human nature is mutable and prone to change. How then is it possible to establish in our changeable nature this permanence and immutability in good? To this we then answer: there can be no crown unless the contest is fair, and the contest is fair only if there is an adversary to fight with. Thus, if there is no adversary, there is no crown. There is no victory unless there is conquest. Let us then struggle against this very mutability of our nature, coming to grips as it were with our adversary in spirit; and we become victors, not by holding our adversary down, but rather by not allowing him to fall. For man does not merely have an inclination to evil; were this so, it would be impossible for him to grow in good, if his nature possessed only an inclination towards the contrary. But in truth, the finest aspect of our mutability is the possibility of growth in good; and this capacity for improvement transforms the soul, as it changes, more and more into the divine.

And so my discourse has shown that what appears so terrifying (I mean the mutability of our nature) can really be as a pinion in our flight towards higher things, and indeed it would be a hardship if we were not susceptible of the sort of change which is towards the better. One ought not, then, to be distressed when one considers this tendency in our nature; rather, let us change in such a way that we may constantly evolve towards what is better, being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18), and thus always improving and becoming more perfect by daily growth, and never arriving at an limit of perfection. For that perfection consists in our never stopping in our growth in good, never circumscribing our perfection by any limitation."

St. Gregory of Nyssa On Perfection cited in "From Glory to Glory" ed. Musurillo and Danielou (2001 St. Vladimir's Seminary Press).

Note: St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394 A.D.) was the first Father to express the concept of Divine "infinity" and relate it to spirituality (i.e. of never-ending progress in "God-likeness"). The concomitant, of which, is that humans never become "God", with a big "G"...which is a much, much different notion than the Mormon concept of "divinization". Hence, the distinction between "Creator" and "creature" is preserved.

He is also reckoned as the only Church Father to have successfully synthesized Greek philosophy with Christian faith. And he is every bit as "bright" as St. many ways, I think he's much brighter than Augustine. And very underrated. A gem to read for anyone who appreciates philosophy, literature and apologetics.

Josh said...

Thanks for doing the typing - I'd just read that passage and wanted to share it with someone online. Found the text here.

skyrunner6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Demcratic conservative said...

As God is, man may become".....

- Lorenzo Snow

If God is perfect, then once we become perfect through Christ are we able to become "Joint heirs with Christ" as well?

I understand I will never be Christ or be able to experience what He did, but to think I can be perfect is amazing. And if I am perfect then Christ could trust me with the powers He has.... true?

And If I can obtain the powers He has, would not that put me in the station of Godhood?

Sometimes I think we sell God short when it comes to what His plan is for us.