“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Love of God, Part I

I ran across an interesting passage in C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters last week. Here Lewis writes as the demon Screwtape, describing how evil is closely linked to selfishness, and the desire to gain for oneself at the expense of others:

“The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good, and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition.’” (236-37)
Evil is centered on the self and has no thought for the good of others; rather, to possess and consume for oneself is the only sensible goal. According to Screwtape, it is thus impossible for God to actually love humans. That is, God and humans cannot both gain or share the same good; if God loved humans, he would have to do so at the expense of his own good, and Screwtape cannot imagine this:
"He is one being, they are distinct from Him. Their good cannot be His. All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else." (239)
In Screwtape’s mind, each gains only at the expense of others; both creatures and Creator must compete and consume. This is, of course, at odds with how the Bible sees things. The clear vision of the Bible is one where God and creatures both gain. God is ultimately glorified, and humans find the greatest possible joy. Our joy in Christ brings glory to God, and it is his glorious name that we rejoice in. There is an all-encompassing good and a wider purpose – God gains and we gain. Amidst the diversity of many beings, there is a unity of love and joy. Thus, love is a real possibility. God is love – He is the “Being for others,” seeking not only his own good but also the good of his creatures. To love is to be for others, not only oneself (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5), and this is God’s nature:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another …whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” – 1 John 4:7-8, 11, 16

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