All posts tagged C.S. Lewis

Other Religions Not All Wrong

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through… When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I become a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view… As in arithmetic—there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong; but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others (p. 35).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

When discussing the Gospel with the Rich Young Ruler it is said Jesus “looked at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing’ (Mark 10:21a).” It is worth noting that Jesus said he only lacked “one” thing. This implies that there are many more things he could have missed.

The young man was seeking God (even Yahweh, the One true God), he approached Jesus as the one who could give him direction, he knew the quality of his life mattered, but he was unwilling to sacrifice his material blessings for God’s kingdom.

This conversation was different from other conversations Jesus had when people asked him questions about the law or eternal life (see Matthew 22:15-46). In these cases the questioners lacked more than one thing.

What I believe C.S. Lewis is rightly pointing out is that our tone of conversation can be different with a person of faith than with an atheist. In

these conversations we know that we agree on at least some of the key questions, although not on the answers. While with the atheist we cannot agree on the answers, because we are asking different questions.

That advantage of this is that it allows us to avoid being condescending in our conversations.  C.S. Lewis is not arguing that God gives partial credit. We either enter into heaven by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ or not at all. But someone who accepts that there is one God who created the universe who is good and that we are not good and must have our sin accounted for by some means is nearer the Gospel (conversationally) than an evolutionist who believes in the inherent goodness of people.

You may (rightly) say that my assumptions about other religions are too optimistic. You would be correct. Most other religions do not believe in everything I stated (one God, the goodness of God, Creation, sin, and some form of atonement). But if we find any of these elements in the belief system of a lost friend, we have a starting point of conversation that we do not have with the atheist. We can begin talking before we begin debating.

I think the main point C.S. Lewis was making was that Christianity gave him the ability to have honest, patient conversations. He did not have to “walk off the stage” (The View) or “fire” (Juan Williams) those with whom he disagreed as being unworthy of talking to or hearing from. In our current culture this has real appeal.

While we must be careful not to compromise the end of the conversation – after all Jesus did let the Rich Young Ruler walk away sad without altering Gospel (Mark 10:22) – we should not mistake the narrow road of entering God’s kingdom with harshness, defensiveness, or abbreviated conversations about the Gospel.

What Needs to be Explained?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves (p.8).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Have you ever reached that point of exasperation with an inquisitive child and asked, “Why are you asking why?” Hopefully this blog post will not create that level of stress, but let’s ask a similar question, “When do you ask why?”

Lewis’ observation is that we only ask why about human behavior when we or someone else does something bad. We do not bother to ask the question when we do something good.

This reveals something important about how we think (do you get nervous when a counselor says that?).  Actually, it reveals two things:

  1. A belief that people are basically good, so that it is only their bad behavior that needs to be explained.
  2. A belief that bad behavior is more important, because it is what warrants our time and attention in examination.

This post will focus on the first one and leave you to ponder the second on your own.

Too often we forget that our humanity comes pre-flawed at birth.  Consider this quote from theologian Millard Erickson,

“The Bible’s depiction of the human race is that it today is actually in an abnormal condition….  In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus.  All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity (p. 518).” from Christian Theology.

If that is true, then it is our good behavior that needs to be explained. It is our kindness, patience, affection, encouragement, peace, and hope (feel free to add to the list) that do not make sense without the “interference” of an outside influence.

When we realize this, we begin to see God as being much more active in our lives and world. We should ask “why” about every good thing in us, in others, and in our world. The continual answer would be “only the grace of God.”

With that in mind, hear the words of James 1:16-17 (emphasis added).

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James began by saying “do not be deceived” because he knew there were many alternative explanations for the good things in life (the most deceptive being that it is only bad events or behaviors that need an explanation). Then he reminds his suffering brothers and sisters, see God in every good thing in your life. Use every pleasant moment as a reminder of the love and grace of your Father.

What Makes Heaven, Heavenly?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a ‘Heaven’ for them – that is, could make them happy with the deep, strong, un-shakable kind of happiness God intends for you (p. 81).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Am I prepared to enjoy Heaven? When I take away the presumed “yes,” then this question is quite startling. I might be the kind of person for whom Heaven would be miserable or, at best, boring. Heaven might be an acquired taste that only those who have been transformed by God can enjoy.

Considering this question for a moment has made me realize how self-centeredly I have thought about Heaven. Honestly, I have always thought of it as my Heaven more than God’s Heaven. I thought of it as an eternal playground built for my preferences and specifications. I thought of it as a place where “my will be done” was the guiding force.

Unless that changes, my Heaven might actually be Hell (C.S. Lewis fully develops this theme in his book The Great Divorce). Unless my way of thinking were renewed ,then my dreams come true would be so inherently contradictory, consuming, exhausting, disappointing, or otherwise damaging that if I had to live with them for eternity it would be torturous.

This reveals another dimension of my depravity: I am unable to enduringly desire and enjoy God’s goodness apart from His grace. This should humble me greatly, but not necessarily in the sense of shame (which is not really humility at all). It should humble me when I disgruntedly try to tell God He has not been good.

Discontentment is predicated on the assumption that I know (or get to define) what is truly good. If C.S. Lewis is right about Heaven, then discontentment is not only wrong but foolish. I am much more like my 4 year old who wants to only eat marshmallows for every meal than I cared to admit. I think I know what happiness (Heaven) is and am offended by anyone (even God) who would tell me differently.

If I truly believed this, I would pray differently. I would ask more questions and seek more guidance while making fewer petitions. Not that petitions are bad, but my petition-to-question ratio displays a confidence that I know what I am asking for and how it should be defined.

I pray, “Lord, help me lead a healthy family” assuming I know what “good” is and what “lead” means. It might do me more good (in terms of refining my character, not altering God’s willingness to answer) to pray, “Lord, show me more of what a good family is and how you would have a husband to lead one.” With that prayer, I am allowing God to define Heaven and lead me into it rather than verbally drawing the dots and asking God to connect them.

This view of Heaven excites me more than my previous perspective. This understanding reveals how Heaven can truly be “better than I imagined” because my imagination is not yet prepared to ask for Heaven. But as God continues to refine me I will see more clearly through a dim glass and those things that I want will be in line with the eternally satisfying place God has prepared for His children.

The Twin Obstacles to Generosity

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity. This must often be recognized as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help (p. 86-7).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

It is easy to think of the obstacle to generosity as the absence of thinking of others. We like to think of it this way because it makes our lack of generosity seem more innocent. We become like the child who knew he was to clean his room or complete his homework and is called on it. We reply, “I forgot,” hoping this will somehow make our neglect seem more neutral.

But absence is a non-entity and, therefore, cannot be an obstacle. By definition an obstacle must be a thing; not a non-thing. Lewis points out that there are two “things” that impede our lack of generosity: fear (namely insecurity) or pride.

The first part of becoming generous is to have the courage (if we are fearful) or humility (if we are prideful) to ask the question, “Which am I?” The same character deficiency which impedes our generosity will also impede our willingness to acknowledge our lack of generosity. This is why honestly asking good questions is vital to the change process.

Usually the lack of generosity rooted in fear does see the needs of others and is concerned about those needs. However, shortly after feeling compelled to be generous, they begin to consider the cost. “If I give [blank] to them, then I would not be able to handle it if something happened to me.”

The insecure person lives in a world where it is assumed that everyone else shares the same insecurity. Generosity is not assumed (believed to be available for their time of need “if” it were to arise) because fear reigns.

The lack of generosity rooted in pride either does not see the need because of its self-centeredness or condemns the needy person for not having prepared like they did. Self-centered blindness obviously prevents generosity. Condemning makes generosity seem like a reward for laziness.

The prideful person lives in a world where it is assumed that everyone else should share the same approach to life they have. Generosity is not assumed (a natural response to the ability and opportunity to help) because they are the standard and they do not practice it.

We see in this reflection that generosity is about more than giving something away. Generosity transforms our experience of community. This is consistent with the book of Acts. The early Christians were generous so / because they were experiencing a new form of community.

Our goal in being generous is not to win more points with God, but to allow the Gospel to penetrate our assumptions about life in a new way. God is not punishing us or taxing us with his call to generosity. Rather, He is continuing the work He began when we first experienced the Gospel – freeing us from ourselves. The bars of that self-bondage may be fear or pride.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Finances” post which address other facets of this subject.

The Only Law We Can Disobey

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Each man is at every moment subjected to several different sets of laws but there is only one of these he is free to disobey. As a body, he is subjected to gravitation and cannot disobey it; if you leave him unsupported in mid-air, he has no more choice about falling than a stone has… He cannot disobey those laws which he shares with other things; but the law he does not share with animals or vegetables or inorganic things, is the one he can disobey if he chooses (p.4-5).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Lewis is pointing out that most natural laws are impossible to disobey – gravity, laws of physics, or biological laws regarding health. Try to fly and you will fall. An object at rest stays at rest. Drink poison and you will get sick or die. Yet the moral law, by which we all cry “unfair” and know what we mean, is the only law we can break. We can know right and do wrong.

The other laws we can master. We can learn to fly, understand physics at the molecular level, and make fascinating changes in our body through our understanding of nutrition. Yet the moral law, no matter how much we study it, cannot be mastered.

The moral law is the only law that does not impose its outcome on humanity and it is the only law for which understanding does not result in mastery.  That is what it means to be free and fallen (not a reference to the classic rock song).

As you wrestle with the implications of this, also consider Romans 7:21-8:2.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (emphasis added)

This passage speaks of up to four laws of moral significance: the law of God, the law of my mind, the law of sin, the law of the Spirit of life. From what I understand of the passage, none of these uses of the word law refer to a set of rules, but each has the connotation we use when we say “the law of gravity.”

The reason we can break the moral law and none of the other natural laws is that human nature has been infected with a competing law (the law of sin). This is similar to the law of gravity being infected with the law of aerodynamics as a plane accelerates down the runway. The contradiction of the two does not make either less real, although it can make the moments surrounding take off a bit queasy.

As Christians with a new nature or as non-Christians by the common grace awareness of right and wrong, we live in this turbulence.

Due to this bad infection (Lewis later describes conversion as “good infection”) we are powerless to correct the problem by obeying rules or “doing better.” The broken law is not a violated rule, but a pre-birth bent disposition resisting the “law of God.” For this reason, we need a new nature (2 Cor 5:17) and a new heart (Ezek 36:26). Praise God that is what “mere Christianity” offers through Christ!

The Most Unpopular Christian Virtue

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it is now, has gone wrong (p. 95).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The either/or statement which concludes this quote is very provocative and, potentially, an effective point to begin a conversation about Christianity with a non-believer. Obviously, this would not be a standard introduction for conversation with every non-believer.

But many people have been hurt by the human sexual instinct in its current condition: rape, betrayal, or even the backlash of their own choices based upon sexual urges. In the case of rape or betrayal, people are left asking, “Why would someone do this to me?” In the case of the fallout in pursuing “sincere love” expressed sexually, people are left asking, “Why didn’t this work for me?”

Both questions echo the either/or contrast established by C.S. Lewis. If the current sexual instinct of the human race is right, normal, moral, or healthy, then there should be no rape, betrayal, or emotional trauma from the expression of sincere love. But there is. Not only do these things exist, but they affect the vast majority of the human population.

Honestly, how many people do you know who do not have deep regret about their own sexual activity pursued with good intent, or have deep pain due to unfaithfulness or some form of sexual abuse?

Those who have been touched by the devastation of the sexual instinct gone awry begin asking deep questions about the human condition. They want explanations for suffering and sin. They want to know if redemption, restoration, or hope truly exist. They want to know why the majority of what they have been taught has been proven tragically false.

The answer, at root, is that the human sexual instinct, like the rest of our being, is deeply tainted by sin. Our experience confirms this foundational tenant to the Christian faith, which so many want to condemn as judgmental or prudish.

Ask someone who has experienced the consequences of human sexuality if they would gladly accept the standard of the most unpopular Christian virtue. I believe they would gladly tell you “Yes!” if they believed it were possible. That takes us into a discussion of the necessity of Christ to keep the law on our behalf, which will have to wait.

The point is simply this: Christian virtue may be disliked or impossible apart from Christ of Christianity, but it has not been proven false. On the contrary, it is proven true in our lives constantly. When it comes to conversations with unbelievers, we can often draw upon their own experience to confirm the truths of the Bible rather than trying to convince them certain actions are wrong.

If they will not listen to the testimony of their own experience interpreted and illuminated by the truth of Scripture, then our evangelistic task might be (not always) better served continuing to build a bridge of friendship and/or waiting until their experience so confirms our faith that their heart cannot help but be tender to listen.

One Good Tennis Shot?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is a man whose eye and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on… In the same way a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character (p. 79-80).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Have you ever known one of those people who loves to tell you about their great sports achievements in high school (or little league)? I’ll refrain from asking if you have ever been that person. Usually in the midst of an argument or after a significant failure we can become that person morally. We begin to want to talk about the really nice, sacrificial, gracious, and benevolent things we’ve done.

The most dangerous part of those conversations is not the pride or self-righteousness that is present (and they are present). The most dangerous thing is how we are beginning to think about “being good.” Suddenly, our righteousness has become the “once for all” achievement that transcends circumstances and trumps any failure.

Instead, it should be Christ’s righteousness that comes to mind when we fail. Christ’s righteousness is “once for all” achievement that transcends our circumstances and trumps our failures. But we do not access Christ’s righteousness by recounting our closest attempts at emulating it. We access Christ’s righteousness by humbly acknowledging when/how we fall short of it and our perpetual need for it.

The “skill” of Christian morality is not competitive (like tennis). It is not that there are certain actions, responses, concepts, skills, or verbiage that is mastered in order to make you “great.” Actually, that whole mindset is the antithesis of Christian morality and the Christian faith.

The “skill” of Christian morality is simply seeing how much I come short of Jesus (which implies having an accurate understanding of Jesus) and being consistently willing to acknowledge that short coming while continuing to love others without shame.

Too often we do not see, we do not acknowledge, we do not love, or, if we do all three, we shrink back in shame. Stated this way we see how hard it is to be “good;” not primarily because of a skill deficiency (to see, acknowledge, and love is not that complex) but because of a will deficiency.

I do not want to see how often I come short of Jesus (even though it is clear). I do not want to acknowledge when I have fallen short (even though I know it is the best way to restore peace). I do not want to continue to love others after I have fallen short (even though I know to do otherwise is to compound my failure). My lack of desire only serves to fuel my shame (and defensiveness) after I failed.

With this in mind, we can now understand why reciting our moral achievements does nothing to help us be an agent of peace in an argument or to assuage our guilt after a failure. We have become like a golfer who is offended by a negative score (being “under par” is a very good thing… my fellow non-golfers might not know that).

Our strength (the training of our eyes, muscles, and nerves as Lewis would say) is in the promptness with which we acknowledge our need for Christ and the Gospel. This allows us to begin recalling His greatness during our failures and become agents of peace in our relationships.

Made of Better Stuff?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of – the cleverer and stronger and freer it is—then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be it if goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better or worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best—or worst—of all (p. 49).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

What do we want for our children? What would be the best thing we could ask God to grant our children? If we are honest, I think most of us (myself included), would pray that our children would do great things. Personally, I look for special moments to whisper in the ears of my boys, “I believe and pray this world will be a better place because of the life you live on it.”

After reading Lewis’ quote, I am convicted to pray differently. Now my prayers would sound something like, “Lord, grant my boys the humility to contain whatever ‘good works’ You have ordained for them to accomplish.” I realize I was inadvertently praying for a temptation without praying for the accompanying protection.

That is not to say that I think God would curse my boys for my imbalanced prayers. But my prayers (even for others) change me. When I bring things before the Father as “worthy of His attention” I am shaped to treasure those things. When I prayed for my boys to change the world without spending equal time praying for their character, I was reinforcing the distortions of my own heart.

Lewis’ quote on “better stuff” makes more sense of Jesus’ teaching/warning:

“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

Greatness must be protected from itself if it is to remain good. Power is ultimately remembered more for its impact than its magnitude. The most powerful figures in human history are rarely remembered fondly. Their character could not contain their influence.

Service (and its embedded virtue of humility) is the protection of greatness. It is one of the few cases where the wrapper should be valued more than the object. Greatness outside the wrapper of humility always mutates into evil.

May we pray regularly (for ourselves and our children), in light of the “better stuff” from which we are made, that God would grant us the humility to carry greatness (His image and the message of salvation) with integrity all of our days. Let us pray that we would pray for the wrapper with complete faith that when we have humility that God will grant all we need to accomplish all He intends (James 4:6).

Jesus Forgives Sins Committed Against Me

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitantly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really is the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin (p. 51-52).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I don’t think I was properly offended by Jesus’ words, “Your sins are forgiven (Luke 5:20),” until I read this quote. As with so many things in Scripture, I do not think we have fully grasped a truth until we are offended by it (or felt our life disrupted in some way).

If I hear “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)” as an abstract reflection on the general moral condition of people, it doesn’t change me. When I am offended by it, then it has the power to transform me and take me through the rest of the book of Romans.

I used to read Luke 5:17-26 as a philosophical discussion of the deity of Christ. Since I am for the deity of Christ and Jesus won the debate, I liked the passage. I was against (on the other team) those guys who were arguing with Jesus. I was on the bench calling out “get ‘em” to Jesus.

Then C.S. Lewis had to go and ruin the passage for me. Lewis showed me that Jesus was forgiving every person who has sinned against me without my permission (or even seeking my consent). Frankly, I would like to be consulted on the matter. After all, I have been personally harmed and violated by the subjects at hand.

Now I am having to wrestle with the deity of Christ in a way that I didn’t think I needed to. If Jesus is God and life centers on God, then in the “economy of forgiveness” I am (at best) second. I liked holding the power over those who sinned against me. I found satisfaction in knowing they had to come to me in order to have their account cleared.

Jesus’ deity took that from me. In my sense of injustice I overlooked that in making no man my slave, Jesus also freed me from being a moral slave to any man because of my sins. But I’d rather not talk about that (it’s too “negative”).

To clarify, this does not mean that interpersonal repentance is unnecessary. Scripture still calls us to go to those we have offended and seek their forgiveness. What it does mean is that I cannot hold anyone hostage by refusing to forgive their sin against me. Jesus’ deity means that his forgiveness trumps my bitterness.

This takes me to one big point: God’s view of life is the true view of life. I may still view the person I refused to forgive (this assumes their repentance) as a vile sinner with an unchanged heart (after all, I “really know them”), but Jesus view of them as forgiven is true. In that case, “my reality” is not reality at all.

This helps me greatly. There are many things that God says which I struggle to see (accept, believe, rest in), but God’s view of life is the true reality. Through my struggle to forgive, God graciously helps me to see the way out of many of my cognitive-emotional bondages. I accept His deity and live as if what He says is true (because it is truer than “my reality”).

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

Humilitarian: The New Moral Diet

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which he could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen (p. 57).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

That last line, “asking Him to let you go back without going back,” sounds so much like us. How often do we try to apologize without acknowledging wrong or personal responsibility?

  • I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.
  • I’m sorry if you took what I said in an offensive way.
  • I shouldn’t have acted that way, but you were being so unreasonable.
  • Maybe I over-reacted, but I’m only human.

We want conscience relief without moral responsibility. We want forgiveness without ever having to be guilty. We want heaven without really needing Jesus.

As C.S. Lewis concisely summarizes, “It cannot happen.”

All of this reminds us again that repentance is more than remorse. Repentance is the beginning of the end – the end of our pride, the end of justifying our sin, the end of self-reliance. At heart, we are all good addicts. We see this in the moment of conviction, but quickly convince ourselves it is not the case as soon as the crisis of our sin is over.

Lewis is staging an intervention. In a moment of non-crisis he is pointing out how wrong and self-contradictory our thinking really is. Only our fellow sin-addicted friends would even consider telling us we’re right.

The question of repentance becomes, “What do you want more: to return to God or to move forward in your sin?” There is no middle ground. We spend a lifetime trying to say this simple question is “really more complicated than that.”

But its not complicated; its just difficult. The choice is clear – die to self and live for God It’s the execution that is challenging, because repentance is a way of life not an event. This is not a one time slice of humble pie. It’s a lifestyle as a “humilitarian” (that’s a hybrid word from vegetarian and humility).

As Christians, we propose a life lived exclusively on a diet of humility. We say that it is the prescription for mental, relational, and spiritual health. We propose that diet with any amount of pride, defensiveness, or self-justification is toxic.

This is why we need Christ. We know what is healthy and can advocate it with passion for others. But we want to “go back without going back” until we are completely won over by the One who experienced the real death of which repentance only reminds us. That is what shakes us from our prideful stupor and makes it clear that what we saw as “going back” was really “going forward” all the time.