C.S. Lewis and Faith Deconstruction

Over the last few years there has been a growing movement that encourages Christians to deconstruct their faith, essentially with the process not allowing for one wall of belief to stand tall and to be sure that not even that stubborn foundation of belief remains! Only at that point can the “Christian” (perhaps De-Christian would be more fitting) be free to start rebuilding their Christianity, or whatever belief system emerges from the ruins, with an open mind as every individual should have the right to do. Or not?

An idea that seems to get lost in the mix is the question of whether or not such a tactic should expect to work in guiding one to a true understanding of Jesus. Was it not this Jesus who stated, ”No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)? Should a Christian believe they will be able to “deconstruct” Jesus after confessing Him as Lord and then expect to find Him once more? According to Jesus such a move reveals that one is unfit for the kingdom. As Jesus also says, “even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21; I believe the context applies to both physical and spiritual life) it seems an odd maneuver to put your plow down and start back at ground zero and suppose you’ll be given life from the one who has already warned you not to do such a thing. The fact that God hardens unbelief and gives people over to their idolatry should cause for some holy hesitation. (Romans 1 and 9)

All this brings us back to our original question of whether or not a Christian has the right to deconstruct their faith and I believe C.S. Lewis would say that such deconstruction is doomed to failure as Christians “are not their own” and such a move is certainly putting God to the test. In his novel Til We Have Faces (Spoiler Alerts to follow!) he tells the story of two sisters: Psyche and Orual. Psyche believes that she has become the bride of a god, yet her sister, who loves her deeply believes that poor Psyche has been deceived by something more monstrous. Orual is adamant to show Psyche the truth of her folly, the god will not even show himself to Psyche, only a monster would not reveal himself in full to his bride! After much argument Orual declares “The truth is too clear.” 

But Psyche has already entered into covenant with her husband and though she does not understand all of his ways she is his wife and she knows him. But then, “Well, if you are so sure, Psyche, you will not refuse to put it to the test” says Orual. She desires that Psyche go against the word of her husband and shine a light upon him while he sleeps next to her in the dark.

Psyche is faithful, “I cannot do that.” Her husband has forbidden such a thing, but Orual attacks her certainty, “You will abide no test. And why? Because you are not sure yourself. If you were, you’d be eager to do it… one glimpse would set all our doubts at rest.”  Just do the one thing you are forbidden to do, what’s the big deal?

“You know little of love,”  Psyche declares. It is her husband whom she trusts, it is her husband whom she loves, does such a love test what it does not fully comprehend but still knows? Orual turns such love against its object, “I had thought that all loves alike were eager to clear the thing they loved of vile charges brought against it, if they could… You’re afraid to test, Psyche.” Is it fear? Is it love? Could both be motivating factors?

“I am afraid — no, I am ashamed — to disobey him.” Psyche holds fast, to test her love would bring shame. Orual continues her assault, “Who that loved you could be angry at your breaking so unreasonable a command — and for so good a reason?”

A little more back and forth and then Psyche says something, that a reader who knows the end result may say was her first mistake, “I would if I could, Orual.” She has conceded that there is a logic to Orual’s argument against her husband and though she continues to stand firm she has given the first bit of ground. It does seem just a bit unreasonable, but he has his reasons, right? But had she not made a covenant? A confession? Had she not said when first under a similar line of questioning days before, “I’m not my own. You forget, sister, that I’m a wife.” (cf. I Cor. 6:19 w/ Eph. 5:25-33)

Then Orual gets more extreme, she pits love against love as she drives a knife into her arm and threatens suicide unless Psyche puts her husband to the test. Psyche, in pain, says, “to take my love for you, because you know it goes down to my very roots and cannot be diminished by any other newer love,” and then confesses that she will do as Orual demands. She still expresses confidence in her husband, despite knowing that she will break his command, but she trusts he will understand what Orual has done to her and is making her do. One may hauntingly consider more words of Jesus found in Luke, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26; obviously this is to be interpreted in comparison to one’s devotion to Him; ie. contra Psyche, other loves must be diminished by love for Him)

Even as Psyche goes forward she foretells her own doom, “And even now… I know what I do. I know that I am betraying the best of lovers and that perhaps, before sunrise, all my happiness may be destroyed forever.” 

Psyche had the sweetest of wines. She had truest of loves. She knew that. A knowledge not set against reason but firmly attached to it while still lying beyond it. (cf. Phil. 4:7) A knowledge that encompasses the whole of human. Yet, she betrayed her love. Yet, she set the plow down and looked back. Tragically, she lost everything. Can you really look back once you have started following Jesus? Can a true disciple deconstruct their King? This goes against logic. This goes against faith. This goes against trust. This goes against the best of loves. Worst of all, this sets one against Jesus Christ as one walks away from the Light to enter darkness once more. 

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I would like to add as a postscript that I do not believe that this means that a Christian simply needs to “just believe,” but their is an underlying arrogance clothed in faux humility within this deconstruction movement that reflects faulty theology by setting human reason, and not super natural rebirth given as an act of the free mercy of God, as being the chief determiner in what creates a Christian. (John 1:13, Romans 9:10-18, John 6:44, Matt. 6:17, I Cor. 1:18-31, etc.)

Last year my pastor addressed this kind of faulty and sinful deconstruction in a great sermon titled Building Up Your Faith where he encouraged both a name and methodological change to “reexamining” your faith, rather than “deconstructing” it. For more, I’ve also written on Intellectual Study By Faith that will have some definite overlapping principles with what I’ve discussed in this post.

Faces

Bibliography:

All quotes taken from: C.S. Lewis, Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, First Edition, Harper Collins (New York, New York, 2012); 146, 183-186

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