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The Weight of Glory - Selection 1 (The Egalitarian Fiction…)

The Weight of Glory - Selection 1 (The Egalitarian Fiction…)

Jan 08, 2007 / By: Michael Spielman
Category: Devotional

I read C.S. Lewis for the first time in the 2nd grade, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. From there I started saving up, purchasing and reading, one by one, the remainder of The Chronicles of Narnia. All these years later, I still very much enjoy the Chronicles, but have since discovered that they represent only a fraction of Lewis' brilliance (and a mere fraction of his collective work). Every time I think I've read everything he's written, I discover some new volume. All that to say that I hold Lewis in the highest regard and recently had opportunity to revisit one of his lesser known works, The Weight of Glory. Originally published in 1949, The Weight of Glory is essentially the print form of nine lectures / sermons that Lewis delivered to various audiences, covering a wide range of topics. After reading Glory, with pen in had (which, in my judgment, is the best way to read), and then reexamining the portions I marked and underlined, I settled on 11 selections that I want to highlight. In some, you may see a connection to the work I'm doing with Abort73, but others will be merely included for their more broad and general insights. I hope you will enjoy them as I have, and perhaps be enticed to read more of Lewis on your own, if you haven't already...

For this first one, I'm going to lead in with a fairly provocative excerpt from the broader selection as a way of spurring you to read on. At the very least, it will definitely make you think. Here goes...

It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense .. if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining .. then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine.

To figure out if you agree or disagree with Lewis' assessment, read on (and be challenged)!

I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for [believing in democracy]. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows.

That I believe to the true ground of democracy. I do not believe that God created an egalitarian world. I believe the authority of parent over child, husband over wife, learned over simple to have been as much a part of the original plan as the authority of man over beast. I believe that if we had not fallen, Filmer would be right, and patriarchal monarchy would be the sole lawful government. But since we have learned sin, we have found, as Lord Acton says, that "all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The only remedy has been to take away the powers and substitute a legal fiction of equality. The authority of father and husband has been rightly abolished on the legal plane, not because this authority is in itself bad (on the contrary, it is, I hold, divine in origin), but because fathers and husbands are bad. Theocracy has been rightly abolished not because it is bad that learned priests should govern ignorant laymen, but because priests are wicked men like the rest of us. Even the authority of man over beast has had to be interfered with because it is constantly abused.

Equality is for me in the same position as clothes. It is a result of the Fall and remedy for it. Any attempt to retrace the steps by which we have arrived at egalitarianism and to reintroduce the old authorities on the political level is for me as foolish as it would be to take off our clothes. The Nazi and the nudist make the same mistake. But it is the naked body, still there beneath the clothes of each one of us, which really lives. It is the hierarchical world, still alive and (very properly) hidden behind a facade of equal citizenship, which is our real concern.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not in the least belittling the value of this egalitarian fiction which is our only defence against one another's cruelty. I should view with the strongest disapproval any proposal to abolish manhood suffrage, or the Married Women's Property Act. But the function of equality is purely protective. It is medicine, not food. By treating human person (in judicious defiance of the observed facts) as if they were all the same kind of thing, we avoid innumerable evils. But it is not on this that we were made to live. It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense .. if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining .. then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loves us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love. It may be that He loves all equally .. He certainly loved all to the death .. and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us (168-170).

Look for more from The Weight of Glory in the days to come...

Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.

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