A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“You can express this in all sorts of different ways. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarreling with other people because they use a different formula from yours (p. 181-182).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
How often are our most heated arguments with those with whom we have essential agreement? An argument tends to draw our attention to our differences. When we argue with friends, we begin to view allies as adversaries.
In this statement Lewis is not saying that all messages of hope are equal (i.e., all roads do not lead to heaven). He is saying that the gospel is presented many different ways in Scripture. The dynamic and complete transformation it brings cannot be captured in any single metaphor.
Spirit filled, born again, made new, washed, forgiven, predestined, made whole, living water, adopted, and many other phrases capture aspects of the gospel. Based upon many factors or personality and history, each one of us may have a special affection for one or more of these phrases.
While we are not free to choose one metaphor over the others (which is what happens when we argue), we are free to jump into the gospel via whichever metaphor God uses to open our blind eyes (another metaphor).
When we rightly meditate upon and rest in any metaphor of the gospel, it will lead us to appreciate the others. It is like learning the circulation system of the body (veins, arteries, and capillaries). If you sincerely study any one part of the circulation system, it will naturally and necessarily lead you to discover the others.
Error is not only falsehood, but also truth exaggerated and truth in isolation from other truths. In that sense it is wrong to have a “favorite gospel phrase” if it creates in us a bias against other ways that God chose to reveal His work of redemption.
We are finite creatures, so we will enter into truth at a particular point and begin to discover the rest of truth from that point. Let us be humble, eager travelers on this journey. Like any explorer, when we find a new place (gospel metaphor) we should examine it carefully. But studying each metaphor will lead us to the border of other gospel metaphors and should create a yearning to discover more.
There is another part of this reflection that should humble (but not shame) us. Whatever gospel metaphor we are currently savoring should seem so glorious to us that we don’t want to be distracted from it. This is not bad, but it does create a bias that should cause us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (words of criticism; James 1:19)” to our Christian brothers and sisters who are speaking of the gospel metaphor they are currently savoring.
It is doubtful that Christians will agree on the appropriate balance or emphasis that should be given to the biblical metaphors for the gospel. But we should be able to agree that each biblical metaphor is valid (divinely inspired) and be willing to learn from those who savor it (at least to humbly learn of our exaggeration as we are more keenly aware of theirs).