A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do not bother about it at all… They are directions for dealing with particular crossroads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places. Whenever you find any statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry. Leave it alone (p. 144).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It is such a relief to hear a brilliant man say this. For many people, it is hard to accept that all truths are not equally relevant or essential for every part of our journey.
The striking part of what Lewis is saying is that he wrote this in Mere Christianity – a book about the essential core of the Christian faith. Remember his purpose in writing is to convince unbelievers of the rationality of Christianity – he is giving a logical defense of the faith.
Lewis is not saying that his subject (in context, faith) is unimportant. Rather his advice is similar to what is given to students when taking an exam, “If you get stuck on one question, move on, and come back to it. Reading the rest of the test may trigger your memory and not getting flustered by this question will improve your performance on the others.”
There are many reasons why a particular aspect of Christian doctrine may be hard for someone to accept. Abuse can make God’s love seem false. The death of a child can make God’s power seem impotent. Highly rational people may have a natural distaste for faith. Overly compassionate people often view God’s wrath and justice as unappealing.
What should they do? Bog down in their subject of struggle? Lewis advice is to “punt it.”
Study the other doctrines of the faith and allow them to create the context for one that stumps you. Let the abused start with studying God’s wrath against injustice. Allow the grieving parent see the Father who lost His Son. Romans is a great place for the rational mind to move towards God. Galatians may be the better starting point for the compassionate.
Once we come to our troubled doctrine from a panoramic biblical worldview instead of our singular focus of a painful experience or personality bent, we will likely see that doctrine much differently.
Why can we “punt it”? Because God is patient.
God will patiently walk with us around Mount Calvary; allowing us to examine it from every angle, elevation, time of day, and season of life. God does not just present truth to people. God also prepares people to receive truth.
This is an important lesson for believers as we do evangelism and discipleship. Often times the best way to help someone see a truth they resist is patience. Ask yourself if this truth is “where they are?” and “is this what they’re asking?”
We must remember that ministry is a journey with people towards God and this journey is not always (maybe rarely) a straight line of question-truth, question-truth. More often the road of discipleship is filled with questions-preparation-truth, and the middle stage contains many twists and turns.