This is the end of the section of Morals. Aren't you all glad?
Here's how Lewis starts out the chapter:
"I want to start by saying something that I would like every one to notice carefully. It is this. If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do not bother about it at all. There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there area great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. These things are purely practical, though they do not look as if they were. They are directions for dealing with particular cross-roads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places. Whenever you find any statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry. Leave it alone. There will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant. If one could understand it now, it would only do one harm."
I am torn on my reaction to this statement. On the one hand, it's true that there are some things in every religion that people outside of the religion cannot make sense of. I tend to think that it's a lack of proper building blocks of knowledge in many cases, a lack of the understanding of the foundation of the belief. For instance, the Trinity. It makes absolutely no sense to many people who are non-Trinitarian, whether those are non-Trinitarian Christians or members of other monotheistic faiths. I think the Trinity probably makes a bit more sense to polytheists of certain stripes since they're used to thinking of a single divine entity that presents in different aspects or forms. And for other polytheists, it doesn't make as much sense because they're used to discrete gods. So yes, there is some truth to the fact that certain aspects of a religion don't make sense to those outside of it and might confuse them. My problem is the idea that people studying the faith or converting should 'just leave' the parts that confuse them in the hopes that it will some day make sense.
There are some things that I think you need to understand before you commit to a faith! And if you don't understand them then you shouldn't join the religion. Yes, some things are 'minor' or 'not salvation issues' according to some opinions. But those are just opinions and other people may believe that those same issues are a part of the heart of the faith. So if you don't understand them to your satisfaction, because I'm not saying that you have to be able to grasp every mystery of your chosen faith perfectly of course, are you really 'saved'? Are you truly a member of that religion?
Then again, this may be part of my own personal problem. I want to understand and the not understanding drives me crazy. I do know that divinity is so different from us that we can't understand it through our filter of limited senses and I'm okay with that. But the things that we do know, I want to understand. I want it to make sense to me. If I can't grasp even that much, how can I have faith in it?
"the question of Faith in this (second) sense arises after a man has tried his level best to practise the Christian virtues, and found that he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God what was already God's own. In other words, he discovers his bankruptcy."
I have issues with the concept of moral bankruptcy as the default human condition! I always have. I don't see where people get that. In the Bible, does God create man? Yes. Is God the author of anything evil or wrong? No. That's one of the basic tenets at the heart of monotheism. God = good. End of story. He only contains good, so He can only create good. So if both of these statements are true, then man is inherently, morally good. I do know that this is a simple view of reality, really I do. But boiled down, this is what it comes to in my mind. If God created everything, then everything is at it's core good. That does not take away the fact that people do bad things. We make mistakes. Free will is a bitch, remember? But this whole idea that people are born morally corrupt and dirty just doesn't make sense to me. I much prefer and better understand the Orthodox position that the Fall didn't corrupt the core of human beings but more...smudged them up. So it's like having an incredible work of art covered by a layer of dirt and grime. The art is still there, still beautiful as the day it was created, you just have to get to it.
Since the next several paragraphs are all about the moral bankruptcy of humans and how we cannot understand our relation to God until we understand that we are scum...I just have to go, 'no' at Lewis and shake my head. I disagree. There are morally good people who don't believe in God at all. There are morally good people who believe in different gods. Believing that you are scum and inherently flawed does not necessarily lead you to being a better person or in a 'right' relationship with deity. It seems so very self-destructive to me, like being raised in a household where you're told the entire time that your every impulse is wrong, that your opinions are wrong, that you shouldn't think for yourself in some areas but leave the judgment to those who are your 'moral superiors'. This is a pattern of behavior that leads people to depression and no sense of self-worth when it occurs between human beings. How much worse is it when you believe that the creator of all things thinks that you're so bad He can't even look at you?
So...blah, blah, handwave, 'humans are morally bankrupt'. :p
"Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come."
This part I like, in a way. I view the whole faith vs. actions thing as a sort of chicken vs. egg thing. You can't have one without the other. Or, well, you can, but in the salvation economy of Christianity it doesn't work. You have to have faith *and* do good works. I'm not denying that there are arguments as to whether or not the good works are motivated by the fact that you have faith or not, but I'm not aware of any branch of Christianity (which doesn't mean that there isn't one, just that I don't know about it. My knowledge base isn't all inclusive) that says that you can earn your way into God's good graces. I know that some branches have been mis-characterised in that fashion, but it's simply not true. Even Islam, which is accused very often of being a works based religion, doesn't work without faith. I could pray salat five times a day for the rest of my life, give charity, make Hajj, do all the things that are outward signs of a good and faithful Muslim and it wouldn't mean anything if I didn't believe in the message of Islam.