Wednesday, June 09, 2010

No More Tiers

With all the recent buzz about the Archbishop of Canterbury starting to apply his principles of a two tiered approach to thinking about an Anglican Communion, I had the image of a wedding cake come to mind.

The Archbishop is not looking at things through a broad enough perspective. He should realize that there are endless possibilities when making a tiered structure. Simply dividing things into two levels seems rather arbitrary, and he might be limiting the potential of the communion. I am sorry if I am being facetious. Just imagine adding more tiers until you wind up with something like this,

Oops, too many tiers bring division don't they?

My point is that I think the Archbishop's two tiered approach to a communion of churches just ain't gonna cut it.

People's eyes are always drawn to the top of the cake. That's where the doll images of the bride and groom are usually found. The top of the cake bears the symbol of union and is usually reserved for the newlyweds. In this analogy, the dolls symbolize the union of Christ and the Church. But don't forget about the lower levels. Those are the ones that the guests get to eat.

The following was sent to me last month by the C.S. Lewis Institute. I saw some similarities between these cake tiers and Lewis' class structure. Lewis' piece stands on its own without the need for supporting comment, but I think there is plenty to chew on. I usually have to slow down and concentrate when reading his thoughts, so I have separated some of Lewis' writing into paragraphs which might help you to stay focused on his individual points. I have added emphasis as well to things that struck me.

h/t C.S. Lewis Institute.

"The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them.

In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time 'on parade' and 'off parade,' 'in school' and 'out of school.'

But the third class is of those who can say like St. Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this class we must either feel guilt because we have not paid the tax or penury because we have. The Christian doctrine that there is no 'salvation' by works done according to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. .

If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us."

C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns: Essays by C.S. Lewis, ed. Walter Hooper (Harcourt Bruce, 1986), p. 21-22.

If all those wants and desires of the natural self desert us in the end, why do we who live in that great second class continue to follow after them? Why can't we overcome our selves? What keeps us from being part of that third class?

Thankfully, God's mercy is not restricted to those in the third class or the top tier. There is plenty of work to be done in the second tier. We can't all be saints... can we?

The messy Church in which we live and pray is all too often stuck in the second tier at its best, and in the first tier at its worst. To be a force that instructs and incentivizes people to gain the bridal cake should be the Church's goal.

Begging to love Him with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul, and that I might yield all those possessive "mys" unto Him...

So I won't have need for tiers...

So I can eat some cake!



  1. If all those wants and desires of the natural self desert us in the end, why do we who live in that great second class continue to follow after them? Why can't we overcome our selves? What keeps us from being part of that third class?

    Good questions. For me, I think it's the conscious or subconscious belief that I cannot live a full life if I abandon the Self. Thus, I am forever holding back something, because I don't trust God enough to do what He promises.

    Consider the American Anglicans. Many pay lip service to God's injunctions, but they really believe that a segment of their congregation will not be "fulfilled" unless they hold on to certain things which are clearly contrary to God's Word. Yet, instead of trusting God, they turn the Self into a sacrament.


  2. Totally off-topic: Can your fine state's senate race get any weirder?

    Just askin'


  3. I just got finished watching our county's Dem. leader beating himself up over the discovery of the facts about the Dem. nominee who they elected yesterday to run against Sen. DeMint.

    And this from the Washington Post,

    "Alvin Greene -- a 32-year old unemployed veteran who paid a filing fee but did no campaigning -- upset the party's choice.

    'We take our efforts and time in the states where we have the greatest calculus of being able to engage and win,' said Menendez, 'so we weren't engaged in South Carolina. But I think one story out of South Carolina is the volatility that exists out there, where you have someone who spent no time and no effort on a campaign, and that guy could win. That shows the nature of the campaigns out there.'

    Not long after that, the South Carolina Democratic Party discovered that Greene was facing felony charges over having allegedly shown obscene material to a college student. Carol Fowler, the party chairman, has talked to Greene and asked him to quit the race. As of right now DSCC has not responded or signed on to the South Carolina party's request."


  4. UGP,
    Nice post. The three tiers remind me of the three stages of spiritual development. Purgative, Illuminative and Unitive. Put this way we seem to vacillate between the first and second stages. Blessings

  5. Thanks Dale+,

    Paul goes on to describe that unitive stage in today's reading from Galatians 2:20,

    20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

  6. UGP
    Excellent verse for stage III spiritual development. I wish I was there.