Continue in …

2 Timothy 3.14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of …

There’s something maddening about the human mind.  It’s like the 2d law of thermodynamics.  Mental entropy. Carefully reasoned, rational truths understood and accepted degrade over time all on their own. No new evidence is produced against the belief, yet if you don’t maintain it actively, the strength of your belief starts to wane.  This happens in relationships, too.  It’s part of our fallenness, I guess.  Which is why Timothy needs to be reminded to “continue in” what he has already “become convinced of.”

C.S. Lewis has some very helpful insights on this in Mere Christianity, which I quote below.  This passage is very helpful in understanding the dynamics of living out our faith.

I must talk in this chapter about what the Christians call Faith. Roughly speaking, the word Faith seems to be used by Christians in two senses or on two levels, and I will take them in turn. In the first sense it means simply Belief—accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. That is fairly simple. But what does puzzle people—at least it used to puzzle me—is the fact that Christians regard faith in this sense as a virtue. I used to ask how on earth it can be a virtue—what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements? Obviously, I used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants or does not want to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. If he were mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence that would not mean he was a bad man, but only that he was not very clever. And if he thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, that would be merely stupid.

Well, I think I still take that view. But what I did not see then— and a good many people do not see still—was this. I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But that is not so. For example, my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anaesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.

When you think of it you will see lots of instances of this. A man knows, on perfectly good evidence, that a pretty girl of his acquaintance is a liar and cannot keep a secret and ought not to be trusted; but when he finds himself with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and he starts thinking, “Perhaps she’ll be different this time,” and once more makes a fool of himself and tells her something he ought not to have told her. His senses and emotions have destroyed his faith in what he really knows to be true. Or take a boy learning to swim. His reason knows perfectly well that an unsupported human body will not necessarily sink in water: he has seen dozens of people float and swim. But the whole question is whether he will be able to go on believing this when the instructor takes away his hand and leaves him unsupported in the water—or whether he will suddenly cease to believe it and get in a fright and go down.

Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.

This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?

I love C.S. Lewis!

2 Timothy 3.14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of …

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10 Responses to Continue in …

  1. Jenn Chen says:

    Thank you for this post, Pastor Ed! C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and I really appreciate these excerpts!

  2. Steven Chang says:

    Thanks for the encouraging reminder, Pastor Ed!

  3. Hkim says:

    Thanks, P.Ed, for this reminder and words of wisdom.

  4. Judy Shieh says:

    Reading this made me want to re-read Mere Christianity and rediscover what gems I missed from the first time I read it. And this DT is a great follow up to the college winter retreat. Thanks for the post!

    • edkang says:

      Yes! Mere Christianity bears re-reading many times. I think you can skip “Book I” and just start from “Book II: What Christians Believe.” The book is divided into 4 sections, and the first section, Book I, is the “moral argument” for the existence of God. Although I like the argument, it’s not actually all that useful, and some people find it dense, and they don’t read on, missing the rest of the book, which is full of practical wisdom for Christian life.

  5. steve kim says:

    Thank you Pastor Ed for this post!
    The excerpt from “Mere Christianity” was so refreshingly true to life and insightful!
    I’m reminded of the daily battle I and others face in trying to keep our faith, and so I recommit to being self-controlled and alert through meditating on God’s words and in prayer.
    Pressing on!

  6. Dennis says:

    Wow, this is a very powerful point. Thank you Pastor Ed for sharing this! Pray that this next semester will be one of growth for me as well as the students who are in Berkeley, Davis, Riverside, San Diego, and Minnesota! These gracepoint blogs are really helpful!

  7. yao says:

    “There’s something maddening about the human mind. It’s like the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Mental entropy.”
    This is so TRUE! This really hit home for me (I always appreciate it when you use illustrations from science :)), and paints a vivid picture of my need to fight against the natural tendencies to forget truths i’ve learned over and over again! Thank you for sharing!

  8. Jen Tse says:

    Hi Pastor Ed, thank you so much for sharing and your honest feedback to our answers. I’m really enjoying the Praxis training time, prayer meeting, and dinner. Thank you to yours, Kelly’s, and all of the other leaders’ hearts in training us up!

  9. Grace L says:

    Hi Pastor Ed, I was trying to look for your email and came across this blog instead which happened to be relevant to what I wanted to thank you for. This past semester someone I was doing course with was struggling with understanding what faith was and trusting God. Through the argument presented by C.S. Lewis, your message about three or four weeks ago regarding faith, and the material presented in the C101 Reader, this person was able to clearly understand what faith is which was the main thing holding her back, and she made her salvation decision this past week. I just wanted to thank you so much for all the effort you put in into developing the material for C101 and revising it so it is as clear as possible for anyone and everyone who is seeking. I really came to see just how helpful and clear the material was when I read what this person wrote on her response sheet on how the material was so clear and true that she no longer saw any reason to not make God her Lord. That day when we met up to go over the 6th week about Lordship, I didn’t know she had already completed the response sheet and written this, so the whole time I was nervous about her response. In the end I learned that the material in itself was so persuasive and logical I really didn’t have do anything but I just got to tag along on the ride, as the material was developed in such a way that I was able to witness the beginning and end of someone finding God and making a decision to become Christian. Thank you again for all the careful thought and planning put into the C101 as it has really helped this person come to make her decision.

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