In the C. S. Lewis course I’m currently teaching, we just completed reading and discussing his autobiography, Surprised By Joy. Although I hoped the students would be impacted by it, I was pleasantly surprised (by joy?) how much it seemed to impress them. Their observations went beyond simple repetition of facts; most felt that God was speaking to them personally through Lewis.
We’re now turning our attention to some of the key chapters in Mere Christianity. I’ll be looking forward to what they might say about passages such as the following:
In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others. . . .
The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard . . . comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.
While those statements may seem basic to some, they are a shock to others, and the way Lewis describes the concept helps to arrest one’s attention.
In an article the students won’t be reading, Lewis’s “The Novels of Charles Williams,” he goes beyond the basics and gets to the “meat” of what the morality of the Law entails:
Morality has spoiled literature often enough: we all remember what happened to some nineteenth-century novels. The truth is, it is very bad to reach the stage of thinking deeply and frequently about duty unless you are prepared to go a stage further.
The Law, as St. Paul first clearly explained, only takes you to the school gates. Morality exists to be transcended. We act from duty in the hope that someday we shall do the same acts freely and delightfully.
That is what I seek for my students: that they go further in, past the duties of morality into the joy of being what God wants us to be. Of course, that’s what I seek also for my own life. It’s the goal for each of us.