July 3rd, 2006


A Change of Categories

I have been reading through some of my old C.S. Lewis books for the first time in several years. It is surprising to me how steeped he is into the heritage of catholic and apostolic Christianity. I can’t help but wonder how I viewed his more Anglo-Catholic statements and explanations when I first began to read his works, but I can’t remember for the life of me. I must have glossed over them somehow.
I finished a collection of his sermons and essays last night. They were compiled under the title The Weight of Glory and I am tempted to post vast portions of the book. In one of the essays, Lewis begins to speak of equality and authority and submission. He describes equality and the notions of egalitarianism as products of a fallen world. It reminds me of Father Schemann’s writings, in which he laments the loss of a Trinitarian value of unity in submission and mutual love, which has been replaced with a vague notion of “equality”. Now, don’t misunderstand me (or my tenuous interpretations of these great masters). Lewis goes on to explain that because man has fallen and because one cannot easily submit without the danger of being abused and exploited, equality, democracy and the like are all good things in the world that we currently live in. They are checks and balances so to speak. What Lewis argues against is a theology that holds equality as a chief end of Christianity. The Church is the community that transcends and transforms the world, bringing about a union that has no place for our concepts of justice and liberty; for justice already implies that violation exists, and liberty already betrays our state of captivity. In the Church, the categories change as the faithful participate in God’s life, a life that cannot be “fallen”.
We must consider what we were made for. We were made to submit to God in love and in absolute security, and in doing so we would know God and know each other and ever-increase in grace. Thus, submission and hierarchy are ontologically part of our creation. This must be so, for we see such submission within the life of the Trinity, where all three Persons are equal God and yet even among God there is submission. Indeed, the very economy of our salvation is brought about by the submission of the Son to the Father.  Obviously submission in our society has a negative connotation- rightfully so! For submission in the world is dangerous. We are no longer living in some sinless Paradise. Submission quite often results in injury and deceit. 
But I think that this is why we have the community of the Church. The Church is the Body of the Son, submitting all things to the Father, by the power of the Spirit. Now again, one might say that even in the Church submission is dangerous, and indeed a list of exploitations by and among Christians would seem infinite. This, however, does not negate the Church, but actually validates the Church. For the Good Samaritan brought a sick and injured man to the Inn (of which has been traditionally interpreted as the Church), not a whole and healthy man. The Church is a place of healing, of cleansing, of forgiveness because its members desperately need such things. Thus, though it impossible for one to experience Church without injury, it is also impossible for one who has genuinely submitted Himself to Christ and others within that very same Church to avoid transformation, life-giving submission, and perhaps even salvation.