Book Review: Mere Christianity (Book 4, Chapter 4: Good Infection)

Book 4, Chapter 4: Good Infection

Lewis explains that the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity have always existed. When we say that the Father begot the Son, we’re not saying that the Father existed before the Son, or that the Son began to exist, or that there was a “time” that the Son did not exist and the Father brought Him into existence. No, the Father and the Son, although the former begot the latter, have always existed simultaneously. Lewis illustrated this by offering as an analogy two books lying on top of each other on a table. The first book, the one at the bottom, causes the second book at the top to rest several inches from the table instead of on the surface of the table. The cause and effect in this case are simultaneous. Similarly, when a person imagines a picture in his mind, the mental image that results (effect) occur simultaneously with the act of imagination (cause). So it is with the first and second members of the Holy Trinity.

Lewis also explains what the phrase “God is love” means. It means that God is actually a community of persons, involved in an exchange of love, and not merely a single person. Since God is love there must be within God at least two members — the Lover and the Beloved. That Lover must be the Father and His Beloved must be the Son. And, since the love that is exchanged between the two is concretely real, He must be a Person, too. This third Person must be the “Holy Ghost” or the “Holy Spirit”. Lewis likens this exchange of love within the Holy Trinity as a kind of “drama” or “dance” and our job, our single most important goal or mission as Christians, is to “step into” that pattern, and thereby participate in the dynamic activity, of the love or power within the Holy Trinity. It is such an unimaginably awesome and beautiful offer to us, because we are given the opportunity, as God’s creatures, to share in the Divine Life within God, so that we are actually drawn and caught into the infinite love and life of God, wherein lies true joy, power, love, peace, and eternal life. And all we need to do is to follow Jesus! All that’s required of us is to become His disciples, so that we become like Him — in a very real sense, His sons and daughters. The Life that we receive as a result is a life that is begotten (and thereby eternal) and not merely made (and thereby temporal).

This chapter just blew me away. I never understood the Holy Trinity like this before. I mean, I had an inkling about what the Triune God is like. But never was it explained to me in simple terms and beautiful language. Of course, this is just scratching the surface. The Holy Trinity is a great mystery. Christianity teaches us that the human mind cannot really fully comprehend the Holy Trinity.

These are my favorite quotes (this is practically half the chapter!):

“All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love’. But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean ‘Love is God’. They really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement ‘God is love’. They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.”

“And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.”

***

“And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection, if you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?”

“But how is he to be united to God? How is it possible for us to he taken into the three-Personal life?

“You remember what I said in Chapter 1 about begetting and making. We are not begotten by God, we are only made by Him: in our natural state we are not sons of God, only (so to speak) statues. We have not got Zoe or spiritual life: only Bios or biological life which is presently going to run down and die. Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then he sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection’. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

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