A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to be repented of, but to be cured. And by the way, this is very important. Human beings judge one another by their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats forces himself to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is quite possible that in God’s eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown in winning the V.C. (p. 91).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Let’s forego the disease-model (addiction, depression, etc…) debate for a moment and focus on Lewis’ main point. God evaluates us on the basis of what we have to work with. This is the point of Luke 12:48,

“But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”

With this in mind, it makes sense that God would be more pleased with the slight expression of other-minded compassion from someone with Autism than He would be with large compassion from someone who writes Hallmark cards for a living.

In the same way, we get really excited when a toddler takes three steps without falling, but are disappointed when an Olympian takes a half step when landing a triple-backflip-summersault with a half twist (I have no idea if that is even possible).

I think even those of us who are skeptical of the disease-model can get closer to what Lewis is saying. We believe that every person is born with a flesh nature and that these sinful natures are unique. We would also agree that each person is born is a unique personality, intelligence, set of social skills, and interests. These things can be developed with practice and shaped through life experience, but we all start with a unique “base package.”

Every person’s “base package” set them up for some life struggles. This is what it means to be a fallen person in a broken world. This distribution is not “fair” (if by fair we mean equal). Therefore, some people naturally struggle more than others.

It goes beyond the scope of this reflection to try to define what does and does not fit into the category of a biological disease. For those interested in exploring that subject further, I would recommend Ed Welch’s book Blame It On the Brain?

The ultimate goal of this reflection is to draw on Lewis’s call to look beyond (but not over) our choices. Looking over choices harms everyone. Even “a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats” needs to be led towards truth. It would be unloving to be a silent people as others suffer with irrational fears or self-destructive behaviors even if they are biological.

Looking beyond choices would require considering who the person is who is making these choices. What are they working with (experientially, intellectually, dispositionally, physically)? Where are they in their spiritual, emotional, and relational maturity? I think if we heed Lewis’ instruction in this way, it will help us keep from getting ahead of God in one another’s life without condoning immoral or irrational behavior.