“Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times…that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.” ~ C. S. Lewis, from the preface to Mere Christianity, 1952.
Our Tuesday morning men’s Bible study group today began what promises to be a rich discussion of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Rich and contemporary and provocative and difficult. Based on today’s session which covered only the book’s preface, our study will be all those things.
Today, I want to comment on something in the preface that, as disciples of our Savior, we should carefully consider. Of course, you can’t really get the full context of Lewis’ thoughts without reading the book yourself. But check this out:
Lewis writes that the questions which divide Christians from one another — and I’d say even divide Christians and congregations within the same faith tradition — are usually points of high theology or even ecclesiastical history. These points have very little, if anything, to do with the pure Gospel of Jesus. Lewis writes, “I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold.” Who can argue?
My thought here is that, while our petty disagreements and arguments actually turn people off and repel them from our Lord’s Church — Jesus said it would — don’t they also stifle our own evangelistic efforts? When we draw lines of fellowship and put lids on boxes and erect other boundaries that are nowhere to be found in Holy Scripture, it keeps us from actively seeking and saving the lost. Because we can’t keep it all straight. We’ve complicated things to the point that only the perfectly schooled in our tradition or heritage can confidently teach others.
What if somebody I’m talking to about Jesus asks me a question about worship? Well, we’ve drawn so many lines and made up so many rules about what constitutes worship and what doesn’t, what is a worship service and what isn’t, depending on what room we’re in and what time of day, where the prayers fall and at what point we allow the LTC chorus to perform, we can’t confidently answer the questions. We’re afraid of contradicting ourselves.
How do I teach Jesus to a person who asks me about women’s roles in the Church? What about church music? How about communion practices? Bible versions and translations? Doctrine versus culture? Inference versus example? Innovation versus aid? How do I explain that we do this or that because of Scripture but we also do this or that despite Scripture? We’re afraid we don’t understand all the lines and the logic behind them.
What if somebody asks me why we claim we’re not a denomination but everything about the way we speak and act and teach, regarding one another and those outside our faith stream, looks and sounds denominational? I don’t know. That’s a good question.
The farther away we move from “Mere Christianity,” the harder it is to seek and save the lost. The harder it is to talk to my unbelieving neighbor. I don’t want to mess it up. I don’t want to give the wrong answers. So I don’t even try.
Mere Christianity. Unity among all disciples of the Christ. Is it impossible? Should we even make the effort?
What Lewis writes is at the very heart of our Restoration roots in Churches of Christ. We’re coming up on the 200 year anniversary of Thomas Campbell‘s Declaration and Address in which he states, “Division among Christians is a horrid evil filled with many devils. All who are enabled through grace to make a profession of faith in Christ should consider each other the precious saints of God, and should love each other as children of the same family and Father.”
That founding document of our faith tradition claims that it’s heresy to pray for “that happy event, where there shall be but one fold, as there is but one Chief Shepherd” and not strive to obtain it.
Ending division among Christians was, at one time, the chief aim of our movement. It should be still. Mere Christianity.
I don’t know Stephen McGee, the Aggies QB who just got drafted in the 4th round by the Cowboys. But I’m happy for him. Not because of Stephen. I’ve never met the guy. But because of his dad, Rodney. Rodney McGee was the head varsity basketball coach in Burnet during the seven years I served as the News & Sports Director at KHLB in Marble Falls. He had some great teams during those years, taking the Bulldogs all the way to the regional tournament down in Kingsville in ’96. Coach McGee also served on the football staff and helped lead the team to the 3A State Championship game in ’91. That year, the Bulldogs overcame Vernon, Marble Falls, and Southlake Carroll in back-to-back-to-back dramatic come-from-behind-ties (before the days of OT in Texas high school football) to finally come up one miracle short in a 7-0 title game loss to Groesbeck in the Astrodome.
And I love Coach McGee. He was the Fellowship of Christian Athletes coordinator for the Burnet School District. The kids always knew there was a Wednesday night devotional at Coach McGee’s house. And we all knew he was dedicated to our King. He was forever positive, optimistic about everything. Laid back. Always smiling (nearly always). Fair to a fault. Patient with everyone. Forgiving and kind.
I don’t know Stephen. I’m a little disappointed in his statements this past weekend guaranteeing he would have been a first-round pick if he hadn’t been forced to run Franchione’s option offense in College Station. I’m chalking it up to what has to be a mountain of frustration he’s been running his head against with the coaching changes and the injuries during his college career. And he’s young.
I don’t know Stephen. But if he’s ANYTHING like his dad, he’s a guy you can feel good rooting for.