Saturday, January 9, 2010

Anthropomorphism

The cover article in Time, September 8, 1947, was about C.S. Lewis, and it remains a very informative article. I have discovered that it was written by another of my favorite authors, one of Time's best writers, Whittaker Chambers, who would become much better known a few years later as a result of the political controversies surrounding Soviet espionage in the United States. There is a website that links to an enormous number of resources by and about Chambers at which I expect to find more good stuff. From the article about Lewis:
Whittaker Chambers
.... C.S. Lewis' new book, to be published in the U.S. this month, is called Miracles, A Preliminary Study (Macmillan; $2.50). Its tightly constructed theological argument: that the miraculous ("interference with Nature by supernatural power") not only can exist but has existed in human history. "Naturalists," who see nature as "the whole show," with no room for a creative God in the picture, will be baffled or repelled. But those who accept the basic Christian concept of a Creator-God will be rewarded with a full measure of the quality Lewis' devotees have come to expect—a strictly unorthodox presentation of strict orthodoxy.

Lewis (like T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, et al.) is one of a growing band of heretics among modern intellectuals: an intellectual who believes in God. It is not a mild and vague belief, for he accepts "all the articles of the Christian faith"—which means that he also believes in sin and in the Devil. After sneezing, he was once heard to murmur that it was "because of the Fall." He was referring, not to the season, but to the Fall of Man, which Christian theology holds responsible for the major disorders of mankind. Lewis is scornful of many modern intellectual and moral fashions: he thinks a Christian can do worse than imagine God as a fatherly ancient with a white beard. He writes:
...When [people] try to get rid of manlike, or, as they are called, 'anthropomorphic,' images, they merely succeed in substituting images of some other kinds. 'I don't believe in a personal God,' says one, 'but I do believe in a great spiritual force.' What he has not noticed is that the word 'force' has let in all sorts of images about winds and tides and electricity and gravitation. 'I don't believe in a personal God,' says another, 'but I do believe we are all parts of one great Being which moves and works through us all'—not noticing that he has merely exchanged the image of a fatherly and royal-looking man for the image of some widely extended gas or fluid.

A girl I knew was brought up by 'higher thinking' parents to regard God as perfect 'substance.' In later life she realized that this had actually led her to think of Him as something like a vast tapioca pudding. (To make matters worse, she disliked tapioca.) We may feel ourselves quite safe from this degree of absurdity, but we are mistaken. If a man watches his own mind, I believe he will find that what profess to be specially advanced or philosophic conceptions of God are, in his thinking, always accompanied by vague images which, if inspected, would turn out to be even more absurd than the manlike images aroused by Christian theology. For man, after all, is the highest of the things we meet in sensuous experience. .... [more]
Religion: Don v. Devil -- TIME, Whittaker Chambers: Witness, Anti-Communist, Spy, Communist, Editor, Journalist, Intellectual, Writer, Poet