The Historical Jesus and Social Justice

I am reading Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis for my church class on Wednesday nights.  In chapter 23, Screwtape, the elder demon, is coaching his protege, Wormwood,  on how to use politics and the idea of the “historical Jesus” to distract Christians from a correct view of God. I recommend you read the whole chapter, (you can do it in less than 10 minutes) or at least be challenged by the little excerpt below.

“About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that “only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations”. You see the little rift? “Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game..” (emphasis is mine.)

 So here’s the point as I see it — Do I believe in Jesus because it’s Truth? Or because it reinforces some idea, soothes some ache, enhances some earthly connections or seems necessary to an arbitrary moral construct?  All of those would be, as C.S. puts it, a “little rift.”


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