Lewis and “Little Christs”

My systematic theology students are reading Kevin Vanhoozer’s recent work Faith Speaking Understanding:  Performing the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).  In the chapter they are reading in preparation for our next class, Vanhoozer speaks of the importance of doctrine for correctly identifying Christ and allowing Christians to grow in Christ’s image.  To put it in the terms of Vanhoozer’s prevailing theatrical metaphor, the chapter is about how we learn and become our part in the great cosmic drama of salvation.  At one point Vanhoozer introduces an evocative quote from the writings of C.S. Lewis:

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.  If they are not doing that. all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself are simply a waste of time.  God became Man for no other purpose.  It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose” (Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 171, quoted in Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding, 114).

It’s a wonderful quote that displays many of the literary traits and theological sensibilities that have endeared C.S. Lewis to so many.  The image of “Little Christs” is a helpful one, and one that Martin Luther also employed in speaking of the relation of the Christian to his or her neighbour.  However, in light of Ralph Wood’s observations about the latent individualism in C.S. Lewis’s thought, I can’t help but wonder if his “little Christs” stands in need of supplementation by what Augustine referred to as the  totus Christus, which is the “whole Christ” – head and body.

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