Monday, May 18, 2015

"At the centre"

From "A Thicker Kind of Mere" by Timothy George:
The term “mere Christianity,” of course, was made famous by C.S. Lewis, whose book of that title is among the most influential religious volumes of the past one hundred years. Since 2001, more than 3.5 million copies of Mere Christianity have been sold in English alone, with many more translated into most of the world’s languages....

Richard Baxter
"Mere Christianity” is actually a phrase Lewis borrowed from the seventeenth-century Puritan divine Richard Baxter. ....

But Baxter’s “mere Christianity” was not “mere” Christianity in the weak, attenuated sense of the word mere. Both Lewis and Baxter used the word mere in what is today—regrettably—an obsolete sense, meaning “nothing less than,” “absolute,” “sure,” “unqualified,” as opposed to today’s weakened sense of “only this,” “nothing more than,” or “such and no more.” Our contemporary meaning of the word mere corresponds to the Latin vix, “barely,” “hardly,” “scarcely,” while the classical, Baxterian usage corresponds to the Latin vere, “truly,” “really,” “indeed.”

Baxter had no use for a substance-less, colorless homogeneity bought at the expense of the true catholic faith. Indeed, he had his own list of non-negotiable fundamentals, including belief in one triune God; in one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, God incarnate; in the Holy Spirit; in the gifts of God present to his covenanted people in baptism and Holy Communion; and in a life of obedience, holiness, and growth in Christ. ....

...[W]hat Baxter and Lewis called for...is a thicker kind of mere—not mere as minimal but mere as central, essential; mere as vere, not vix. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Measured against the ages, ‘mere Christianity’ turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible.” ....

“It is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to each other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.” .... [more]