A Simple Religion
Posted on July 1, 2016 | Posted by Annie Saunders
“It is not good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple.”
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
This statement might cause you to jolt in your chair and spill your coffee. If so, congratulations–that was C.S. Lewis’ goal all along. I’m only sorry your lap stings from hot beverage spillage!
When I first consider Lewis’ quote, I want to raise my hand stiffly in the air and retort loudly, “But Mr. Lewis sir, what about Jesus distinctly telling his disciples to have a ‘childlike faith?’ That must mean having a simple religion, right?”
As I envision myself asking the professor this question, he takes off his glasses and shakes his head, turning to the chalkboard he responds, “No my dear, I’m afraid you didn’t quite understand my meaning.”
At which point I’d slump back in my seat and let the older man explain.
Reality is not simple. Take a minute to imagine me sitting here at my desk—that’s a pretty simple picture. However, let’s consider all of the matter that makes up my desk, my chair, my stapler, and my being itself. The smallest form of matter is the atom, and within that atom are its electrons, neutrons and protons. Next, consider how those particles react with one another, and with other atoms. Then, how those atoms combine together to become molecules, to organelles, to cells, to tissue, to organs, to organ systems, to an organism, to a species, to a group/family, to a culture, to a society, to a nation, to a continent, to a planet, to a solar system, to a galaxy, and to a universe!
That’s just the very basic understanding of the order of life as we know it, never mind all of the working parts and particulars within those different categories of life.
Suddenly that simple picture of me, is not so simple.
“So then,” C.S. Lewis raises an eyebrow at me, “to your point, what is the ‘childlike faith?’”
Having faith as a child is not simple! There’s so much to learn and understand all at once. And of course, there’s that consistently annoying phrase you hear all the time—“you’ll understand when you’re older.” Having a childlike faith means trusting in what the higher power is telling you, this person who has cared for you all your life—trust that the truth they speak is, the truth. Throw away all of your preconceived notions and opinions, be humble and admit, “Thy will be done.” That, is a childlike faith.
But that’s not a simple process, and so inclines a Christian who’s ready to accept the challenge. The challenge of faith and religion; a lifetime to study, consider, wonder, argue, and discover.
C.S. Lewis peers over his shoulder at me from the chalkboard and says, “Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe in Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.”
So when Christianity is hard, and you wish for an easier way—don’t, because if it was easy to get, it wouldn’t be real.