A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences… The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost (p.26-7).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
As we examine this quote, I think it would do us better to examine ourselves than to join in the debate regarding evolution vs. creationism, old earth vs. young earth, or whether the seven days of creation were literal 24 hour days. That is not to diminish the significance of these topics, but to highlight another aspect of C.S. Lewis’ quote that might otherwise get lost.
We all have a tendency to “tame” God. Some of do it scientifically (as in the example above), but others do it philosophically (debating the implications of truth rather than obeying it), pragmatically (identifying the “obvious” reasons why their life is an exception), or emotionally (rationalizing that “God understands how important this is to me”). The end result is the same we can switch God on when we want, but otherwise He will not bother us.
The greatest danger is that we can see this tendency as other’s approach to “taming” God more than our own. The emotionalist gets lost in and dislikes the logic of the philosopher. The pragmatist is turned off by the volatile, self-centeredness of the emotionalist. In their dislike for the other’s approach to “taming” God they can give thanks that they are not like the others (Luke 18:11).
Another problem is that we get distracted by the “great danger” of the other approaches to “taming” God when, in reality, those dangers pose no threats to us. The philosopher can (rightly) talk about how pragmatism is eroding the moral foundation of our
culture. But all of his correctness does little to protect his own soul or shape his character more into the likeness of Christ.
In the end of the discussion we would be right…yet unchanged. Would this not be what Paul warned Timothy against when he spoke of those “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power (2 Tim 3:5)”?
Again, let me say, I am not diminishing the importance of debates on evolution, the methods of ethical thought, or any other subject to which Scripture speaks. My caution is merely that we should be most passionate and convincing on the subjects that pose the greatest harm to our own souls.
This is not to foster self-centeredness, but because a changed life is the most convincing argument for the power of the Gospel. A “tame” god never changed anyone’s life. A “tame” god is like Mary’s little lamb—“wherever Mary went her lamb (“tame” god) was sure to go (approve).”
With all this being said, the big question to be asked is not, “How can people believe in evolution?” but “How have I tried to ‘tame’ God?”
For the purpose of integrity and example, let me list my tendencies:
- Being too busy – I can often go through major portions of “my day” without intentionally reflecting on God’s will as it relates to “my schedule.” This functionally “tames” God’s influence in my life.
- Comparative thinking – I often think that if I am being more faithful than 51% of Christians, then that is the equivalent of obedience. I thereby silence my conscience and again functionally “tame” God’s influence in my life.
- Philosophical thinking – I am particularly good at the “slippery slope” argument with God (extreme action A is similar to act of obedience B, so God wouldn’t want me to do A therefore I should avoid B). This again functionally “tames” God’s influence in my life.
That’s enough about me J. But I encourage you to consider the question “How do you ‘tame’ God’s influence in your life?” and ask you to give it the same passionate reflection and action that you would give to the creation vs. evolution debate (or your Christian debate of choice).