Footnote to All Prayers

A poem by C. S. Lewis

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.

Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

 

N.B. “Pheidian fantasies” is a reference to 5th century B.C. Greek sculptor and artist Phidias (or Pheidias) who was known for his statues of Greek gods.

From a Recent Paper Discussing Trinitarian Thinking (Lack of) in Evangelical Churches

In evangelical churches where limited Trinitarian thinking prevails, the Trinity is often a concept that people are keen to affirm (indeed many will recognize that not to do so would be to slip into heresy), and yet the riches that have been given to the Church in God’s Trinitarian self-revelation (for her own edification and for the salvation of the nations) are so often absent. A little Trinitarian language here and there passes for Trinitarian thinking and the result is a kind of theological caricature, which suggests the continued presence of one of Christianity’s foundational doctrines, while effectively ensuring its functional absence, and this has the potential to be every bit as dangerous as full-fledged heresy.

The church’s claim to union with God is an audacious claim, but, precisely because we have a Trinitarian God, it is a legitimate claim. Evangelical churches are settling for less whenever they substitute robust Trinitarian thinking and practice for various brands of limited Trinitarian thinking, which can only offer a limited and a less attractive gospel. That God sanctifies and saves is good news. That in Christ and by the Spirit we are invited to enter into the eternal fellowship that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have enjoyed for eternity is very good news.