A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“If God is like the Moral Law, then He is not soft. It is no use, at this stage, saying that what you mean by a ‘good’ God is a God who can forgive. You are going too quickly. Only a Person can forgive (p. 30).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
A bit of context for this quote might help us get started. Lewis is explaining that an argument for moral absolutes is not the same as proving the existence of the God of the Bible. We can prove that there is such as thing as right and wrong without validating the Bible. We can even prove that “all have sinned” against this moral code without pointing people to God as the solution for this dilemma.
Lewis’ point here (at least as I understand it) is that the Gospel is bigger than a set of truths; it requires a Person, because only a person can forgive. Trees, rocks, computers, nor ideas can forgive. They lack personhood.
In our day and age, we have depersonalized most transactions. The progression for bartering to cash to checks to credit cards to on-line banking means that we see less of what we are giving and of who we are giving it to in each transaction.
When we reduce the Gospel to a set of principles or “laws” we risk doing the same. No longer do we look into the eyes of the One who is taking our sin and giving us His righteousness in exchange. We just consider salvation “a great deal” like the ultimate
e-bay bargain. We have depersonalized God so that we don’t mind ripping Him off if he is “dumb enough to make the offer.”
In depersonalizing God our salvation becomes an evidence of how clever we are. We begin to look for similar “bargains” in the Christian life, especially in the moral or missional domains. We do not want to bare the “cost” of our faith limiting our choices ethically (based upon the prohibitions of Scripture) or missionally (sacrificing to advance the Gospel).
Yet when we return the basic principle that Lewis sets forth “only a person can forgive,” we are rescued from these temptations. Passages like Genesis 12:1-3 make more sense:
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, “Go from your country, and your kindred, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that your will be a blessing: And I will bless those that bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abram was receiving a blessing from a Person (God) for a purpose (missions). Abram did not find a business strategy or a more effective purpose statement that he could own or use. Abram did not read a book that he could master or understand better than others. He met a Person who offered a relationship that would define the rest of his life.
As we seek to live out the Gospel and share it with others, I believe it is imperative that we consistently remember that the Gospel requires a personal God in order for it to be the real Gospel. We do not offer a deal that is “too good to be true” but a relationship that will redefine someone’s entire life.