A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness everyday, and are not likely to do any better tomorrow… God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror; the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemy… Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way (p. 31).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Culturally, we have cheapened the word “good.” We have equated it with getting a C in school (a B is “above average” and an A is “excellent”). For this reason, we feel no awkwardness or trembling when we say, “God is good,” because we assume we are good too. We all assume that 51% of the world is morally worse off than we are.
I believe it is this misunderstanding of what it means to be “good” that accounts for the general apathy both in the church and the culture. Sure, we believe that there is room for improvement in our lives and that God can help us with that. But we do not believe that we desperately need such a change and that a good God could
have nothing to do with us as we are.
This is why I am surprised that “Amazing Grace” is still such a popular song, even among non-Christians.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Grace is only amazing if we are “wretched.” Grace only “teaches my heart to fear” if I desperately needed the grace I was given. Then my “relief” can match the intensity of my fear.
With this in mind, we must be careful not to tell people that God is willing to be their friend until we have told them (and they have grasped) that they are currently God’s enemy (Rom 5:10; Eph 2:1-3). This is the great Catch-22 Lewis is spotlighting—God’s goodness is our greatest danger and our only hope.
This truth is what clarifies so much of the confusion that exists in our culture. Our culture assumes that we are good and builds all its educational, political, psychological, and motivational philosophies upon that assumption. Then they are confused, angry, or in denial when it does not work.
We can call out (with grace) your math was off at the first step—people are not inherently good. We are not even born neutral. You are trying to solve a problem that you claim has no beginning (culture was corrupted without corrupt people in it). We can then invite them into a conversation (towards the Gospel) only after they have begun to consider its starting point.