A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist (p. 140-141).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Too often we pose the question of faith in spite of doubt as if it were only a Christian dilemma. I couldn’t imagine anyone of any faith, non-faith, or mixed-faith background who did not occasionally, if not regularly, wonder if they had it all wrong.
Is this not true of most every life-shaping decision? Career. Marriage. House purchase. When something impacts your entire life and life is hard, you ask questions. Any honest question in a difficult situation will at times bring doubt.
It just happens that we live in an era of history that values doubt over faith. So in our generation if you hold to faith in the midst of doubt you are frequently labeled a closed-minded hypocrite. However, in previous generations, if you gave way to doubt and relinquished your faith you would have frequently been labeled a weak, faith-weathered soul.
What Lewis is trying to say here is that faith – sticking to a belief against internal opposition – is a necessary attribute for the Christian, atheist, and member of any other faith system. There are at least two reasons for this.
First, we live in a complex-broken world. We don’t live in a simple-broken world. When we ask the questions that challenge our faith they are rarely single-variable questions. When we want to know why something hurts so badly, we get into the free-will actions of other broken people, multiple situational variables, our personality, and other factors.
Any faith system that gives a “neat” answer to such complex situations is going to be too simplistic for an intelligent hurting person to believe. In the midst of that kind of pain and complexity, faith is going to largely come down to trust in a Person. Those who hold to their faith in the midst of hardship most often do so out of relationship more than rationality.
Second, we live in the middle of history. Have you ever tried to explain a good suspense movie you’ve never seen at the one hour mark? If you can explain it at the one hour mark, it’s not a good suspense movie.
We live in the middle of our story in two ways. First, we do not know how far we are from death. Second, we do not know how far we are from Christ’s return which is the only event that will bring meaning to the chaos in which we live.
So we are like children on vacation, and we live asking, “Are we there yet?” with no reference point for the mileage or hours about which we ask. Like children we often doubt whether the vacation will be worth the trip. We doubt.
But, as with the complex-broken world issue, the solution to doubt is relationship. The more the children trust the parent driving the car, the less they doubt (although they still doubt). Likewise, in the middle of our story-journey, we grow in our trust-affection for our Father in order to maintain faith.