So here are my study questions on 'The Weight of Glory' by CS Lewis. It is for a discussion with a group of very clever people so should be interesting to lead. My problems with the essay may come out in questions 3.(b) and 4.(d).
The difficult thing has been finding a balance between letting Lewis have his say, letting the bible have its say and then analysing Lewis. I'm not 100% happy that I've achieved this. Also there is just so much in the essay that it has been difficult choosing what to explore and what not to. I may have to leave out section 5 if discussion goes on. Any suggestions would be even more welcome than usual.
1. Christian Hedonism
‘We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire’
(a) Is it mercenary for Christians to seek happiness when living out their faith?
2. The Argument from Desire
‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’ (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")
(a) Do you agree with the argument?
(b) Lewis finds ‘our desires, not too strong, but too weak […] we are far too easily pleased’. A non-Christian may say that they are perfectly happy with their life as it is, and don’t have a ‘God-shaped hole’ waiting to be filled. Does this invalidate the argument from desire?
3. Our relationship with creation
‘These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers’
(a) How can we enjoy God’s good creation without it being an idol and rival to God for our affections?
[I think I might show this video before the next bit to mix it up a little!]
‘The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire […] they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune wee have not heard […] When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol […] We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.’
(b) Does this downplay the goodness of Nature (because beauty is not ‘in’ it)?
(c) Does this overplay the role of Nature (because the beauty, which is God, comes ‘through’ it)?
4. The promise of glory
‘Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity.’
(a) Can you think of biblical passages that speak of glory as ‘fame’?
(b)In the light of them how well do you think Lewis does at explaining how ‘fame’ is something ‘of heaven’ rather than ‘of hell’?
(c) Can you think of biblical passages that speak of glory as ‘luminosity’?
(d) In the light of them how well do you think Lewis does at explaining how ‘luminosity’ is not ‘ridiculous’?
5. Difficult bits of the bible
‘If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know’ He applies that to the idea of glory and concludes: ‘having followed up what seemed puzzling and repellent in the sacred books, I find, to my great surprise, looking back, that the connexion is perfectly clear.’
(a) Have you had a similar experience with any particular teaching you find in the bible?