C. S. Lewis: The Sense or Nonsense of the Christian Idea (Part 5 of 5)
I ended my last post by saying that C. S. Lewis could quite easily picture a universe in which vicariousness has been redeemed and is only used in a good way. In his view, we do not have to throw out Nature with the bathwater. The Christian message neither merely confirms nor flatly contradicts our experience in nature, but offers a new twist to a recognized principle.
That point is an important one, because it distinguishes Christianity from the vicariousness of other religions that are either nature religions or anti-nature religions. The nature religions simply drive men to fulfill their natural desires: “You actually got drunk in the temple of Bacchus. You actually committed fornication in the temple of Aphrodite. […] The nature religions simply give a new sanction to what I already always thought about the universe in my moments of rude health and cheerful brutality.”
And the anti-natural religions are simply a flat denial of nature: “I starve my flesh. I care not whether I live or die.” This merely repeats “what I have always thought about it in my moods of lassitude, or delicacy, or compassion.”
But Christianity is different. It never says that death does not matter, that we ought to deny nature altogether. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus and shed tears of blood in Gethsemane. Death—that is, Christ’s vicarious suffering—is “an appalling horror; a stinking indignity.” And yet, it is not only that. It is also infinitely good. “Christianity does not simply affirm or simply deny the horror of death: it tells me something quite new about it.”
Again it does not, like Nietzsche, simply confirm my desire to be stronger, or cleverer than other people. On the other hand, it does not allow me to say, ‘Oh, Lord, won’t there be a day when everyone will be as good as everyone else?’ In the same way, about vicariousness. It will not, in any way, allow me to be an exploiter, to act as a parasite on other people; yet it will not allow me any dream of living on my own. It will teach me to accept with glad humility the enormous sacrifice that others make for me, as well as to make sacrifices for others.”
That is why C. S. Lewis considered Christianity to be the missing chapter in the story of world history, “the chapter on which the whole plot turns.”
 Lewis, “The Grand Miracle”