A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which come to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc. is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man. And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going around that some of us are some day going to come to life (p. 159).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Don’t get lost in the Greek words for life (bios and zoe). The point is not a technical one requiring precise jargon. Lewis was just giving us two different words to prepare us for a beautiful image of the gospel.
Lewis wants us to see that while we are alive we are not as alive as we desire to be or as God intends us to be. We live as consumers. We must devour something in order to maintain our current lives (bios). For this reason we find it very hard to give, although most everyone we admire tells us that real life (zoe) is found in enjoyment of blessing others.
In all our relationships we strive for a reality where we do not live off of one another, but our best and most sincere efforts at this still fall short. We long for pure zoe, but all our earthly instincts are stuck in bios.
Sometimes we surrender and we try to create patterns of mutually-sustaining bios-relationships. We try to create patterns where I agree to meet your needs and you agree to meet mine. But in order to do this we must pretend that we weren’t burning part of the fuel at each exchange to preserve ourselves.
We can’t help but talk about a world where life (bios) worked like it should (zoe). These discussions may be internal day dreams, political discussions, marriage conferences, or two people merely “solving the world’s problems” together. But for someone reason, despite generations of evidence to the contrary, these “rumors” won’t die.
We continue to believe that zoe is possible. Every psychological theory, political system, and religion in the world provides an explanation for why we’re stuck in bios and what it will take to establish a world of zoe. The Christian “rumor” is not the only rumor.
The Christian rumor says that at the Fall we all died (moved from eternal zoe to degenerating bios). We became a lesser version of what the Creator intended us to be. But that there is still enough hint at what we were meant to be that we cannot help longing for it, thinking about it, and trying to recreate it.
The Christian rumor says that if real life (zoe) is to return it will have to come from the One who created it to begin with. We will not self-help from zoe to bios. Further the Christian faith says that the Creator is just the kind of God who would be this merciful. However, in order for bios to become zoe, then zoe must become bios and transform it from within.
This is why Lewis used His second metaphor. The Christian rumor is that the Great Sculptor became a statue in order to restore His creation from being a lifeless (or, at least, life-consuming) image of His glory to a life-giving image of His glory.