C.S. Lewis on Church


No Christian and, indeed, no historian could accept the epigram which defines religion as “what a man does with his solitude.” It was one of the Wesleys, I think, who said that the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion. We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. Christianity is already institutional in the earliest of its documents. The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are members of one another.

Though I’d never before heard that “epigram,” To paraphrase Lewis’ statement, “Christian individualism is an oxymoron,” and I’ve definitely seen it in action. Once again, he’s correct as far as he goes, but I see the need for some expansion of his ideas.

As in many areas of Biblical teaching, an apparent dichotomy exists between the Christ-followers’ corporate relationship with the Lord, and the individual’s personal relationship with the Lord. In fact, there is no dichotomy at all here, as both are required for spiritual vitality. Lewis said the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion, but in fact it does. Apostle Paul retired to the wilderness for a time to be alone with the Lord before engaging in his public ministry, as did Jesus. Then, Jesus periodically withdrew from his disciples to pray.

Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos Island.

And Apostle John spent many solitary days on Patmos, resulting in his Revelation visions. Yet, none of them were guilty of forsaking the saints’ assembly.

The coin’s other side portrays millions of “Christians” who attend church faithfully, yet have no concept of personal friendship with Christ or the Father. I’m sure that if Lewis had thought about it further, he would have seen the bigger picture; maybe he did, and wrote about it elsewhere.

Lone-wolf Christians may exist, but I guarantee they won’t remain in Christ long if other options exist, yet they prefer solitude in their faith. In my conversations with such loners I find one reason common with most: They’ve been burned by “brethren,” and haven’t forgiven them. And such unforgiveness is a terminal spiritual disease.

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