Lewis on Grace

The man. The myth.

Lewis on Grace

Postby postodave » July 26th, 2010, 5:56 pm

I have been reading Philip Yancy's 'What's so Amazing about Grace?' It tells a story along the following lines:
During a conference on comparative religions, C.S.Lewis walked into a protracted debate on what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. The assembled experts had gradually eliminated various possibilities. Lewis who was passing came in to find out what all the noise was about. On hearing the topic for debate C.S.Lewis said, "Oh that's easy. It's grace."
Yancy gives a reference for this but the whole thing feels apocryphal to me. What was Lewis doing at this conference? Was he invited? If not how did he come to be strolling past? Did people even hold conferences on comparative religion in Lewis's day?
What do people reckon? Did this really happen?
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby chrimarnz » July 28th, 2010, 7:43 am

Sounds a bit odd for Lewis and I doubt he would mention this sort of event in his own writing as it would appear self-congratulatory. The original publication of this recollection must surely have referenced an eyewitness testimony from a friend or colleague in attendance (if indeed the incident happened at all).

Yancey cites Scott Hoezee, The Riddle of Grace. GrandRapids: Eerdmans, 1996, pg 42 as his source. I tried finding Hoezee's source by looking on Google Books but it would not let me view page 42. It looked like Hoezee used footnotes rather than endnotes therefore his reference should be on p.42. Maybe somebody has a copy of "The Riddle of Grace" and can name Hoezee's reference?
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Re: Lewis on Grace and Peter Kreeft

Postby postodave » July 28th, 2010, 5:01 pm

Hi There

Google Books let me see that page and the footnote says the story was told by Peter Kreeft in a speech given at Calvin College. Kreeft is I gather reliable but I don't think he ever met Lewis which means he got the story from somewhere. Looking for more on Kreeft I found the following gem:
After the best conference I ever attended, with two serious theologians [each] from the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Evangelical, and mainline Protestant churches staying all week and talking about their differences and agreements, in a frank and candid but irenic and listening way, everybody constantly and naturally referring to things C.S. Lewis wrote about this and that. Father Joe Fessio got up at the closing session and proposed that we issue a joint statement of agreement and say that what unites us all, despite our serious differences, is scripture, the first six ecumenical councils, and the collected words of C.S. Lewis. Everyone cheered.
Let the cheers continue.

Here http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0310.htm
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby anastasia » July 28th, 2010, 5:52 pm

I saw this interview of Douglas Gresham with Max McLean a couple weeks ago and remembered Mr. Gresham mentioning this exact incident...

http://video.christianpost.com/20100617 ... f-cs-lewis

The interview is 25 minutes long, Mr. Gresham describes this occasion around minute 23. Yancy describes it incorrectly - Nice to hear it straight from Mr. Gresham. The whole interview is very enjoyable! Enjoy : -)
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby postodave » July 29th, 2010, 5:36 pm

Well that version is much more plausible; it took place during an impromptu discussion in a common room at Oxford. It shows how a story can develop when it gets passed on. Thanks.
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But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby anastasia » July 29th, 2010, 11:20 pm

Yep, sure thing!
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby agingjb » July 30th, 2010, 8:10 am

And is grace, in fact, unique to the Christian faith?
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby postodave » July 30th, 2010, 4:06 pm

Agingjb said:
And is grace, in fact, unique to the Christian faith?
And that's a good question. The purveyors of the new look on Paul argue that second temple Judaism was a religion of grace but Lewis could hardly be blamed for not knowing of that. Paul also thinks the old covenant has at least hints of grace in it. You might find something like grace in Buddhism or sramanic Hinduism. I'm no expert but I think they say enlightenment comes neither by doing nor not doing. But I don't think you get a fully developed doctrine of grace in any of the religions with their roots in India. Perhaps you do though. Can anyone better informed let us know? What are your thoughts JB?
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby agingjb » July 31st, 2010, 7:34 am

I wouldn't know enough about the precise meaning of grace in Christian traditions, let alone its parallels in other faiths, to comment. I did just wonder if CSL's comment implied more than that Christianity was unique because he believed it to be true, and therefore that its concept of grace wasn't replicable.
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby Fairfax » August 1st, 2010, 2:26 am

Just exactly what is "grace"? I hear that word a lot, but what exactly does it mean? In Chrisianity, we are supposed to be "saved by grace." Often, when used by those evangelizing that prhase is followed by "not works." Which often makes it sound pitifully easy to get into heaven. When it is talked about the amazing grace of Christ, it is meant that the only requirment for salvation is "believing"--though it is open to interpretation what it means to "beleive." If you're an eternal securist (and most in my church are), you never have to do any thing else, you don't even have to obey God's law. If you think you have to, you'll be accused of "legalism" or beleiving in a "works salvation".

I had an argument with my pastor last SUnday. He beleives that infants who die will automatically go to hell precisely becuase they are too young to accept Christ. others in the class did not agree. they argued that infants will be saved "by God's grace" for the same reason. If we are saved only through Jesus, that could actually happen in a number of ways. Christ could let us into heaven just because he wants to, or He might require us (at those capable of accepting him) to beleive in him first. Or He might require works as well. In all cases we are saved through Him. Actually, the teachings of Christ are full of the importance of helping the less fortunate, which most of modern christianity tends to ignore or sweep under the carpet when talking about "God's grace."
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby maralewisfan » August 1st, 2010, 7:28 pm

fairfax,
I pulled this information from the FAQ section of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) website. I thought it answered the question well. I don't know if you have read Bonhoefer...

Cheap Grace/Costly Grace

Q. Please comment on cheap grace/costly grace as per Dietrich Bonhoefer's book "Cost of Discipleship."

A. First, allow me to state the Biblical concept of grace. The saving grace of God is His undeserved, unearned favor given freely out of great love in Christ to those who have sinned against Him, who deserve death for their sins, who while still His enemies (Rom. 5) received His grace and were saved. It is God who bestows grace on us. It does not have its origin in us, nor can we demand it.

Cheap grace, according to Dietrich Bonhoefer, is the failure to take seriously, in faith and in the Christian life of discipleship, the depth of human sinfulness and what it cost God to redeem human beings. In the first chapter of his Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoefer summarizes what he means by the concept by stating the following:

"Cheap grace," writes Bonhoefer, "means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before....Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

"Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has....Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because if calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: 'ye were bought with a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us, Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."
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Re: Lewis on Grace

Postby postodave » August 8th, 2010, 3:41 pm

JB said
I did just wonder if CSL's comment implied more than that Christianity was unique because he believed it to be true, and therefore that its concept of grace wasn't replicable.

I'm pretty sure that is not what Lewis meant. He says in SbyJ that when he was young he was presented with all the religions of the world and told in effect that among all these was the religion the people around him happened to follow and that this one unlike the others was true. He found that implausible. He came in the end to think that precisely because of their truth most of the concepts that comprise Christianity were replicable and could be found in other religions, that it would be a problem for Christianity if this were not the case. But he seems not to have thought this about grace.
Fairfax (is that as in Thomas?) said:
Just exactly what is "grace"? I hear that word a lot, but what exactly does it mean?

Augustine defines it as God's undeserved favour.
In Chrisianity, we are supposed to be "saved by grace." Often, when used by those evangelizing that prhase is followed by "not works." Which often makes it sound pitifully easy to get into heaven.

Luther contrasts faith with works. Calvin prefers to say we are saved by Christ's work not ours. Simply put, and I think all Christians would agree, salvation cannot be earned. I think Lewis is as clear on this as any Calvinist. N. T. Wright tells a story that Lewis was interviewed by the Billy Graham organisation. the interviewer asked Lewis to tell how he made his decision for Christ. I didn't decide replied Lewis I was decided on. But if getting into heaven depends on the work of Christ it is not easy but the hard work was his not ours. I think Luther sees this when he compares condign and congruous merit. If merit is to be congruous to the reward then only perfection could get us to heaven so that is bad news. However if it is suggested that God while not demanding perfection demands some kind of contribution, what is called condign merit, then this cheapens God by lowering his standards. Lewis does not see this as a matter of partially earning salvation but as a need to be open or co-operative so God can save us. I think he says somewhere that people sometimes think of the conditions of salvation as being like the conditions for joining the red-headed league (in the Sherlock Holmes story of the same name - people with red hair are given substantial sums of money for copying pages out of an encyclopedia; it turns out to be a ruse to remove someone so a robbery can take place) but rather are essential to the nature of what salvation is. I would say one aspect of salvation is that it is like therapeutic change voluntary.
When it is talked about the amazing grace of Christ, it is meant that the only requirment for salvation is "believing"--though it is open to interpretation what it means to "beleive." If you're an eternal securist (and most in my church are), you never have to do any thing else, you don't even have to obey God's law. If you think you have to, you'll be accused of "legalism" or beleiving in a "works salvation".

Philip Melancthon says
'Faith alone justifies but faith is never alone'
That is works in the sense of deeds follow faith but do not earn salvation. That is the basic Protestant position. Now here is the problem. You begin by seeing a problem. If we are saved by merit, even condign merit, then how can we ever know we have done enough. So you say we are saved by faith not works, our works follow salvation. But a century or two later and Protestantism is convulsed by widespread salvation panic. If works are the sign that I am saved how can I know that I am doing enough works to show that I am saved. Personally I don't think there is a theological answer to this; the answer must come in knowing God but in practice such knowledge is often fitful.
I had an argument with my pastor last SUnday. He beleives that infants who die will automatically go to hell precisely because they are too young to accept Christ.
Then he is seeing accepting Christ as a work of merit. Augustine said unbaptized babies go to hell because he saw grace being administered by the sacrament. Will theologians never stop wanting to put limits to God's grace?
If we are saved only through Jesus, that could actually happen in a number of ways. Christ could let us into heaven just because he wants to, or He might require us (at those capable of accepting him) to beleive in him first. Or He might require works as well. In all cases we are saved through Him. Actually, the teachings of Christ are full of the importance of helping the less fortunate, which most of modern christianity tends to ignore or sweep under the carpet when talking about "God's grace."

I agree though I think works are a means of salvation only in the sense Lewis says that like a drowning man we need to trust, have faith in, our rescuer rather than struggle against him. Did you read Yancy's book on grace?
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
postodave
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