CS LEWIS: PRAISE
ONLY BY FAITHING
Straight Talk about God #277; October 1, 2006
Hey, good morning. Praise God that we’re able to get together this morning. (pause) I was just practicing what CS Lewis says about praising God. As usual, CS Lewis gets down to the fundamentals of human existence. And we’ll talk again about faith, or as I say, faithing. Faith is a verb, you know. We’ll see how most people’s definition of faith is off track, and allow the room to make it up as they go, instead of doing what God says. If time allows, we’ll also make a quick trip to the Table of the Lord.
CS Lewis is probably in the top here Christian writers of all time. Not because he was a great theologian, but because he understood so well the human condition and could point out to us how that condition affected our efforts to follow God. He deals with our condition in he “Reflection in the Psalms.” In chapter nine he addresses the “problem” of praise.
Praising God is a hard one for many, including me. It’s almost like loving God. Pretty unstable ground if we don’t have a good, understandable way to do it. We need to have a better idea of praise than what’s off the top of our heads. Here’s CS Lewis.
It is possible (and it is to be hoped) that this chapter will be unnecessary for most people. Those who were never duck-headed enough to get into the difficulty it deals with may even find it funny. I have not the least objection to their laughing; a little comic relief in a discussion does no harm, however serious the topic may be. (In my own experience the funniest things have occurred in the gravest and most sincere conversations.)
When I first began to draw near to belief in God and even for some time after it had been given to me, I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should " praise" God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded
We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand. Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and of His worshippers, threatened. to appear in my mind. The Psalms were especially troublesome in this way--"Praise the Lord," "0 praise the Lord with me," "Praise Him." (And why, incidentally, did praising God so often consist in telling other people to praise Him? Even in telling whales, snowstorms, etc., to go on doing what they would certainly do whether we told them or not?) Worse still was the statement put into God's own mouth, "whoso offereth me thanks and praise, he honoureth me" (50, 23). It was hideously like saying, " I most want is to be told that I am good an great". Worst of all was the suggestion of the very silliest Pagan bargaining, that of the savage who makes offerings to his idol when the fishing is good and beats it when he has caught nothing.
More than once the Psalmists seemed to be saying, 'You like praise. Do this for me, and you shall have some." Thus in 54 the poet begins "save me" (I), and in verse 6 adds an inducement, "An offering of a free heart will I give thee, and praise thy Name." Again and again the speaker asks to be saved from death on the ground that if God lets His suppliants die He will get no more praise from them, for the ghosts in Sheol cannot praise (30, I0; 88, I0; 119, I75). And mere quantity of praise seemed to count; "seven times a day do I praise thee" (II9, I64). It was extremely distressing. It made one think what one least wanted to think. Gratitude to God, reverence to Him, obedience to Him, I thought I could understand; not this perpetual eulogy. Nor were matters mended by a modern author who talked of God's "right" to be praised.
I still think "right" is a bad way of expressing it, but I believe I now see what that author meant. It is perhaps easiest to begin with inanimate objects which can have no rights. What do we mean when we say that a picture is "admirable"? We certainly don't mean that it is admired (that's as may be) for bad work is admired by thousands and good work may be ignored. Nor that it "deserves" admiration in the sense in which a candidate "deserves" a high mark from the examiners -- i.e. that a human being will have suffered injustice if it is not awarded. The sense in which the picture "deserves "" or "demands" admiration is rather this; that admiration is the correct, adequate or appropriate, response to it, that, if paid, admiration will not be "thrown away", and that if we do not admire we shall be stupid, insensible, and great losers, we shall have missed something. In that way many objects both in Nature and in Art may be said to deserve, or merit, or demand, admiration. It was from this end, which will seem to some irreverent, that I found it best to approach the idea that God" demands" praise. He is that Object to admire which (or, if you like, to appreciate which) is simply to be awake, to have entered the real world; not to appreciate which is to have lost the greatest experience, and in the end to have lost all. The incomplete and crippled lives of those who are tone deaf, have never been in love, never known true friendship, never cared for a good book, never enjoyed the feel of the morning air on their cheeks, never (I am one of these) enjoyed football, are faint images of it.
But of course this is not all. God does not only "demand" praise as the supremely beautiful and
All-satisfying Object. He does apparently command it as lawgiver. The Jews were told to
Sacrifice. We are under an obligation to go to church. But this was a difficulty only because I did not then understand any of what I did not see that it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men. It is not of course the only way. But for many people at many times the" fair beauty of the Lord" is revealed chiefly or only while they worship Him together. Even in Judaism the essence of the sacrifice was not really that men gave bulls and goats to God, but that by their so doing God gave Himself to men; in the central act of our own worship of course this is far clearer-there it is manifestly, even physically, God who gives and we who receive. The miserable idea that should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship like a vain woman wanting compliments, or a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him, is implicitly answered by the words "If I be hungry I will not tell thee” (50, I2). Even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived, He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite. I don't want my dog to bark approval of my books. Now that I come to think of it, there are some humans whose enthusiastically favourable criticism would not much gratify me.
But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or anything-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars; I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works: the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read. The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal; the dyspeptic and the snob
found fault with all. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health mad audible. Nor does it cease to be so when, through lack of skill, the forms of its expression are very uncouth or even ridiculous. Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our bad hymns, and an anthology of love poems for public and perpetual use would probably be as sore a trial to literary taste as Hymns Ancient and Modern. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously
urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. .My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. I understand this to mean that praise is a verbal expression of a feeling, like, “Oh, damn!,” when we hit our thumb with the hammer. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with (the perfect hearer died a year ago). This is so even when our expressions are inadequate, as of course they usually are. But how if one could really and fully praise such things to perfection-utterly "get out" in poetry or music or paint the upsurge of appreciation which almost bursts you. Then indeed the object would be fully appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object, the more intense this delight would be. If it were possible for a created soul fully (I mean, up to the full measure conceivable in a finite being) to "appreciate", that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression then that soul would be in supreme beatitude. It is along these lines that I find it easiest to understand the Christian doctrine that "Heaven" is a state in which angels now, and men hereafter, are perpetually employed in praising God. This does not mean, as it can so dismally suggest, that it is like "being in Church". For our "services" both in their conduct and in our power to participate, are merely attempts at worship; never fully successful, often 99.9 per cent failures, sometimes total failures. We are not riders but pupils in the riding school; for most of us the falls and bruises, the aching muscles and the severity of the exercise, far outweigh those few moments in which we were, to our own astonishment, actually galloping without terror and without disaster. To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God; drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever". But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
Meanwhile of course we are merely, as Donne says, tuning our instruments. The tuning up of the orchestra can be itself delightful, but only to those who can in some measure, however little, anticipate the symphony. The Jewish sacrifices, and even our own most sacred rites, as they actually occur in human experience, are, like the tuning, promise, not performance. Hence, like the tuning, they may have in them much duty and little delight; or none. But the duty exists for the delight. When we carry out our "religious duties" we are like people digging channels in a waterless land, in order that when at last the water comes, it may find them
ready. I mean, for the most part. There are happy moments, even now, when a trickle creeps along the dry beds; and happy souls to whom this happens often.
As for the element of bargaining in the Psalms (Do this and I will praise you), that silly dash of
Paganism certainly existed. The flame does not ascend pure from the altar. But the impurities are not its essence. And we are not all in a position to despise even the crudest Psalmists on this score. Of course we would not blunder in our words like them. But there is, for ill as well as for good, a wordless prayer. I have often, on my knees, been shocked to find what sort of thoughts I have, for a moment, been addressing to God; what infantile placations I was really offering, what claims I have really made, even what absurd adjustments or compromises I was half-consciously, proposing. There is a Pagan, savage heart in me somewhere. For unfortunately the folly and idiot-cunning of Paganism seem to have far more power of surviving than its innocent or even beautiful elements. It is easy, once you have power, to silence the pipes, still the dances, disfigure the statues, and forget the stories; but not easy to kill the savage, the greedy, frightened creature now cringing, now blustering, in one's soul--the creature to whom God may well say, "thou thoughtest I am even such a one as thyself"
(50, 21) The way I put it was, “And you thought you were like me! Hmph!”
But all this, as I have said, will be illuminating to only a few of my readers. To the others, such a comedy of errors, so circuitous a journey to reach the obvious, will furnish occasion for charitable laughter.
Where praise is good and certainly necessary for our spiritual health, it probably won’t affect our salvation. The Bible doesn’t say we’re saved by praise.
The Bible says, “We’re saved by Grace.” Many church goers stop there, even though they say the second part of the idea, “through faith.” That Grace comes ONLY through "faith". But NOT English "faith". The idea of English faith is what lets people stop at Grace. They feel that faith means belief and because they believe in God already, that the focus should be on God’s Grace. Biblical faith is not the same as English faith. The saved condition is when the Holy Spirit “indwells” in us. How do we get the Spirit inside us? When we faithe. It's not an attitude or an understanding. It's an action that is done believing that God will keep His word regarding the action.
Pistis, the Greek word that's translated "faith," comes directly from a primary verb. So does "believe". They have the same root, pist. They both describe some action that has occurred. The woman with the issue of blood was healed by touching Jesus' hem. No touch, no healing. He turns around and says "Your "trusting action" has made you whole." Mat 20 plus Mark and Luke.
Looks like we need to define biblical faith. Heb 11:1 is always called the definition of faith, but is not.
Here's a study of that verse from my Hebrews page.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
The first verse of Hebrews 11:1 has been used almost exclusively by many ignorant people to define faith. Indeed, this statement by Paul seems eminently appropriate, the way we think of faith in English.
BUT! ! ! This verse doesn't define faith. It only describes the effect or position of faith, and it's implications! ! !
Let's stop here for a second and analyze this verse. We'll re-state the verse in a modern context.
"A car insurance policy is the foundation of things hoped for, and evidences the existence of a 'Power of Protection' that can't be seen." We don't want to get hit with some overwhelming expense due to an accident. We're hoping our car will get fixed. Our auto policy tells the world that we are entitled to that repair. Our policy, further attests to some group of people that can make the repair happen. I think that's an accurate description of the effects and implications of an auto insurance policy. But does the statement define the policy?
DEFINITION: "An auto insurance policy is a paper contract between two entities that......"
Does the policy accomplish the repair? No. Does the policy create the Power/Company? No. Is the policy the repair? or the Group? No. It's just a piece of paper. And yet, it founds our hope of repair and indicates some "power" that can accomplish the repair. Let's read our sample sentence again.
"A car insurance policy is the foundation of things hoped for, and evidences the existence of a 'Power of Protection' that can't be seen." The Policy isn't being defined here, just the effects and implications of the policy. The same goes for Hebrews 11:1. We still are left with the question, "What exactly is 'faith'?"
Just to beat this to death, let me substitute another word for 'faith.' "Now reading is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Can you see the inherent question in that statement? Is it a magazine, a comic, a newspaper, or a book? Is it any old book, a book authored by a woman, a statesman, a psychic? If something as important as our livelihood depends on the answer, maybe we'd better know exactly what to read. We'll still have to define 'reading'. Let's repeat.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
The first verse of Hebrews 11:1 has been used almost exclusively to define faith. Indeed, this statement by Paul seems eminently appropriate, the way we think of faith in English.
While it's true that a believing attitude, and even a sure understanding of God's reality are the ground for faith, they are not verbs. A belief or knowledge is something held, not done. Faith is a verb. It's something that we do, not think.
To those who argue that thinking is doing I ask, "Is the digestive process the same as eating a meal?" Thinking and digestion are bodily activities, not actions. We don't direct the activity, only the input. We only "tell" our Thinker what to think about. Thinking is not a verb. "Faith" IS a verb.
This verb is based on a conviction or a belief, and is carried out to the verb's end by the confidence that the belief is valid.
A proper paraphrase of Hebrews 11:1 would be: An act of conviction is the essential, grounding claim to our expectations, and evidentially exposes invisible practices.
Let's go the Strong's Concordance for the definitions of the crucial words in Hebrews 11:1.
- faith Gk4102 (from a primary verb 3982, to convince) persuasion. i.e. credence; moral conviction; reliance on Christ.
- substance Gk 5287 (from 5259=under, 2476=to stand) a setting under (support); i.e. figuratively, concrete=essence; abstract=assurance
- things Gk4229 (from 4238 verb=to practice) a deed; an affair; an object
- hoped Gk1679 (from 1680=to anticipate; expectation) to expect or confide
- evidence 1650 [unique usage] (from 1651=confute, admonish) proof, conviction
- seen Gk991[primary verb used once by Paul] to look at, (lit. or fig.)
Now let's do what I call trans-substitution. We will substitute the Strong's definitions for our key words.
- Now action is the essence of an expected object, the proof of deeds/practice that can't be looked at.
- Now action (what action?) is the grounding, title deed of the expected, (and action is) the proof of repeated deeds that can't be looked at.
- Some action gives us claim to (some) expectations, and proves invisible deeds.
- An act of conviction is the essential, grounding claim to our expectations, and evidentially exposes invisible practices.
- Acting in trust of God's word is our claim to His unseen process of salvation/provision/protection/guidance.
Someone said to me, as you suggest, faith acts. We are living in the Book of Acts, not the Book of Limited Meditations. James saw this and Martin Luther wanted to remove his book from the Bible, as he apparently did not quite see what James was saying and thought he was detracting from the message of grace. "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"
Now, if we truly understand the definition of Biblical "faith," we'll see that something isn't right about James.
I'll substitute the word "action" for "faith" in his famous verse.
"Action without action is dead."
I'm afraid I have to agree with Luther. James was so steeped in legalism that you couldn't join his church unless you got circumcised. In fact, he was so legalistic that he stooped to gross deception to find out if Titus was circumcised. Paul outlines the event in Galatians.
James wasn’t an apostle, the main criteria used for other writers. His book wasn’t added until after the third century by the legalistically bound Catholic church. James’ legalism fit right into their indulgences, etc.
James would have us believe that Rahab’s salvation came from her entertaining the spies and then sending them away. That took no dependence on God. Hanging the red cord out the window was totally dependent on it being seen and her house spared destruction.
James was so legalistic that even after 20 years as pastor, the Jews came and expected him to agree that Jesus was NOT the Messiah. To his credit, James wouldn't agree and was martyred. But just the fact that they dared ask him tells the story.
I don’t think I want to place my eternal soul in the hands of such a person. I’ll stick with Jesus and Paul.
“But faith is mostly used as a noun,’ you might say. “I cannot buy that "faith" is a verb just because the primary root word is a verb.”
They play football. Bill is a player. Play is a primary verb from which we derive the noun player. Player does not become a verb because it is derived from such a primary root. Instead, the type of action involved is indicated.
Faith implies a nexus to trust in God or persuasion from God about the matter involved. Faith in Hebrews 11:1 is a noun and doesn’t become a verb anymore than player does. Faith (pistis) is used as a noun 244 times in scripture. Many who preach that healing is in the atonement and who see God confirming their gospel by healing many use the definition given. That’s because they have been ill taught.
I will make one last comment on the noun "quality" of "faith." One very confusing factor in studying Biblical faith is that the word is often presented as a noun. Paul says he has “kept the faith.” I maintain that this usage in only giving a title to the faithing process.
Bath is a noun. A noun which inherently contains the verbing of washing. Even the many times "faith" is used in its noun form, it's still referring to some trusting, depending action on the part of the Verber.
It's the dependence in faithing that God is "pleased" by. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11. If "faith" is a noun, then it's the same as belief. Belief will not save any one. The devil has more of a belief in God than I can ever have. He's still bound for the Hot Lake.
More confusion can be seen in this next comment. “You are right that many think of belief in the same way they do faith. There is a difference. Also, there is an important difference between having faith IN God and having the faith OF God. I love the way Galatians 2:20 uses the faith OF God.”
Actually, there is only one faith, just as there is only one God, one baptism. Our faith, Jesus’ faith and God’s faith are exactly the same. It’s just the God and Jesus are so much better at it. :-)
I have used this verse many times as an example of the action involved in "faith.” If we substitute the word "action" for "faith", the verse makes much more sense to our English ears. Otherwise, one might ask if God was a Methodist. In another place Paul uses the same terms when saying that certain folks’ UNbelief does not negate the "faith" of God. In other words, God's "action" is not put at naught by the fact that some don't acknowledge or faithe on the Action that God has done. That's in Romans 3:3.
I need to explain a bit more about faithing. I understand how hard it is to overcome our traditional thinking. We're stuck in English, like it or not. But we don't have to remain so.
Someone wrote me that they finally realized why they couldn't get their mind around the idea that Faith is a Verb. “Plain and simply, I don't relate to "Faith" as a "Verb. But, once I got into the Strong's and read every word in the referenced passages, and going a bit further to trace the words and their roots, I realized that I relate to the fact that Faith is truly a Moral Conviction. And yes, that is an action because we have to apply it constantly in our daily lives.
This is good to know about oneself. Many folks, I'm sure, relate to "faith" in the same way. Probably not as many as think of faith as a belief, and of course, there are some who use it as "hope." I've heard it "mixed and matched" between the last two.
But this is not on the mark. A moral conviction is not a verb. Only the action based on that conviction is the verb.
Faithing goes directly against traditional thought, and our English language. And it's hard to practical-ize, so to speak. For instance, it's hard for us to think of changing a tire as a possible faith act. But under certain circumstances, it can be. It’s not the specific action, it’s how we approach the problem.
Some folks apply moral convictions to everything in and around their lives, and those convictions can come from a profoundly, deep belief in God and His Word, which they again could take as yet another action.
Same thing here. A belief is not an action. It's important to transcend our English usage of both "faith" and "belief". This is something that has the Church's hands tied.
Try this on. If faith is a belief/moral conviction, then Faithing is an action. One must get free of specifics when thinking of Biblical "faith." Remember that substitution exercise; writing "action" over every occurrence of "faith" in the New Testament? Let’s do that with faithing. Don't even use the word faith. Use acting.
Saying “faith is a verb,” is the shortened version of the idea, and is somewhat misleading.
Here's another way to look at it. We're not saved by faith. We're saved by acting. The only specific in the faithing process is the belief upon which the action is taken. I can act in several different ways, accomplishing various goals using the same belief. God's promised provision can found many different acts of giving away our stuff. God tells us that we are to take up to 25% of what comes in and give it back. Giving of our substance is one of the main ways God teaches us to trust Him. It’s a form of surrender and dependence.
The belief that is used in saving action is a specific promise of God. This excludes things like "belief," and moral conviction, but does touch on God's Word IF that Word is one specific promise that God has uttered.
But I find belief in “God's Word” is way too general and open to Self. Yes, I believe that the Bible is God's Word, but the belief in the Devine Inspiration of the Bible isn't going to save me. Only acts that I do after claiming one of God's specific promises. Without basing the action on something God has said, that applies to my immediate situation, I am faithing in the secular realm. The Greeks had faithing long before God selected out the process and put His stamp on it.
Walking down the stairs is faithing. Every action that we do all day long is a faith act. That cup of coffee in the morning is a faith act. Just picking up the cup is a faith act. EVERY move that we make is based in some belief.
One of the generic and inherent elements of all faith acts is the element of dependence. If we are depending on something, we are faithing. We are acting in trust of that thing. With the stairs, it's the solidity of the stairs, the constancy of gravity, our bodily functions, like sight, muscle strength, etc. I think you’d agree that none of these count towards our salvation. We’re not saved by walking down some stairs.
The only trusting actions taken as Righteousness by God are those which depend on Him. And there's only one way to trust God. It's same way we act in trust of people.
One can't trust someone or some thing that’s unknown. Belief in the unknown isn’t possible. We need some evidence of existence. We need a track record. One can only trust someone's word and the faithfulness of the person to accomplish what’s been said.
In the English usage of the word, we take someone’s word on faith. The taking MUST be active, action. You can't trust those stairs by staying at the top. You have to commit your being to the steps.
Let’s give faithing a try right now. That bit of God’s spirit what we get for this faith act will also help us in our praise to God. The wine represents the blood of redemption. It saves us from death, just as the blood on the door saved the people in Egypt from death when the first-born were killed. We’re saved from death.
The bread has nothing to do with being saved from death. Representing the lamb that they ate that night of the first Passover, it had a different function. In Psalm 105 is says that when the Israelites left Egypt there wasn’t “a feeble on in their midst.” I looked up the Hebrew word that’s translated “feeble” and it turns out to be leg ailments. Anyone who had something wrong with their “walker” was healed, and my idea is that the rest of their body was also affected. That healing must have been accomplished by the Holy spirit. That Spirit would have also affected somebody’s case of the flu, or a Spring cold.
Let’s take the bread now and claim God’s promise of healing. Say it with me, “By Jesus’ bodily suffering, I was healed.” Now the wine. Thank God for His grace and ask His mercy. “Thank you for you grace, Lord, have mercy on me, in Jesus’ name.
Remember, praising God is very simple. It’s just the completion, our verbal expression, of our feeling toward God. It’s as simple as saying “Thank you” to God for some little “lucky break” that comes our way.
There’s lots more talk about praise and faith at Straight Talk about God. We’re at 88 Briceland Rd, Redway. We’ll have Dr. Gene Scott’s program at 11 o’clock this morning. I’ll be back here on the 5th of November. See you then. You can also find lots of subjects on the S.T.A.G. web site. Just go to stag.ws.
Praising God and faithing will change your life. That’s guaranteed. How it that possible? Because God is real and keeps His word.
This is Jack, bye.
I love mail.