Kennedy's 'C. S. Lewis overflow'
C. S. Lewis on pride
Jonal entry 1007 | June 20 2007
C. S. Lewis, like the Fathers of the Church,* saw pride as the central sin in anyone's life, devoting a whole chapter of Mere Christianity to pride, "the great sin," and a letter about it in The Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape the middle-management-level devil describes it as the most useful snare to use against any Christian. As the Old Testament puts it, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). In other words, every fall is a consequence of pride or "high-mindedness," thinking one's self higher than others or sufficiently "elevated" to judge the shortcomings of others. Lewis puts it: "According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkeness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind."
It is anti-God because the person beset by pride puts him- or herself in the place that God tells us should be His alone, and praising one's self instead of God who, alone, is worthy of praise. Satan envied God, wanting his own kingdom to rule, and thus fell from archangel to devil. He used the same snare to entrap Eve: "You shall be like god, knowing good and evil." In other words, you'll be able to read that husband of yours (considering he was the only "other" to be judging in that early point in human history) like a book, knowing when he's trying to pull the wool over your innocent eyes and thus to have power you can use against him.
The more pride you have, Lewis goes on to say, the more you will hate the pride you perceive in others. For example, if someone claims to be a devoted follower of God, pride will whisper in your ear that it's just a show; he or she is simply trying to show up your own attainments of godliness. All religion (of others), to those so taken by pride, amounts to nothing more than hypocrisy, and any seeming display of religiosity must be exposed and opposed.
Eve fell for Satan's manipulation, fell from perfect good creation of God to self-conscious and self-serving demigod vying for a territory of her own, independent of the ground God had claimed, which was, of course, the totality of creation and of life. Eve "shared" her knowledge with Adam, who readily consumed his share, and pride was enthroned as the ruling passion of human beings for the rest of this world's history.
"Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man," Lewis explains. And when it comes to religious experience, the easiest way to have more than anyone else is to discount all evidence of anyone else seeking after God as just the opposite, as "showing off."
*Though there are several ways of defining "the fathers," as used here the term refers to those who have become teachers of the whole church through their insights and their gifts at communicating them. St. Gregory the Great (540-605), for example, is the father who most succinctly taught the seven deadly sins (or vices) and put pride in first place. And yes, by the definition used here, Lewis is to be regarded as something of a twentieth century father of the church.
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