I have always loved the title of this collection of addresses, pulled from the passage in 2 Corinthians 4 that says, "For this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison." In the title sermon, arguably one of Lewis's finest, he identifies our problem not as too much desire for personal happiness, but desires for happiness that are too weak and too easily satisfied with sin's empty pleasures. In an oft-quoted passage, Lewis writes:The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. 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 contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
(26)Later writers — notably John Piper, in his Desiring God
which I just finished and which served, in one of those delightful spiritual "coincidences" of God's, to hammer home the point to me — have caught on to the incredible truth represented here. It is wonderful to feel the freedom to eagerly pursue one's own happiness, and to know that happiness can only be found in God.Other small nuggets of truth from the other eight addresses are still with me. In one address, Lewis is speaking to a graduating class, and instead of preaching the usual about working hard and being ambitious, he describes the endless struggle to be in what he calls "the inner ring" — and what we sacrifice along the way for that insipid status. It's very thought provoking. Another idea that has stuck with me is from his sermon "Transposition," in which he discusses the tongues-speaking of Acts 2 and some possible reasons that the Holy Spirit manifested in this way; it is the translation of a higher language to a lower.In "Membership," Lewis talks about the refreshing acknowledgment of our inequalities in the Church. Again, Lewis is the forerunner of truths I have been learning from other sources of late:But the function of equality is purely protective. It is medicine, not food. By treating human persons (in judicious defiance of the observed facts) as if they were all the same kind of things, 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.
(170)Not a popular view nowadays, to be sure, in our culture of precious self-esteem and positive thinking, but very refreshing. There is a lot of freedom for the creature when it stops viewing itself as the reason for its own (and God's) existence. I enjoyed the introduction by Walter Hooper and the little anecdotes he relates about Lewis. Sometimes it seems almost a little like hero-worship. But the more I know of Lewis's work and the profundity of his thought, the more understandable this level of admiration appears.more