Learning Theology from a Dog pt-1
Feb 9, 2017 // By:Dave // No Comment
What could anyone possibly learn about theology from a dog?!
I came across this article about desire, lust and the apparent contradiction to the Christian paradigm.
People often understand Christian morality to be something of a straitjacket—as if God was giving us completely arbitrary commands that we had to obey just to prove our devotion to him. When these commands (or requirements of devotion require us to sacrifice something we immediately want, we are to appreciate these conflicts as simple opportunities to prove our devotion; nothing more, nothing less.
In a collection of letters from C. S. Lewis to his lifelong friend, Arthur Greeves, on September 12, 1933, Lewis wrote on this very topic. Lewis was no stranger to lust and sexual temptation, and neither was Greeves, who experienced same-sex attraction.
But Lewis believed that the “Christian morality is arbitrary” perspective was far too shallow. It doesn’t consider what we or God really want.
He used a dog walk to illustrate this: (and here below is direct quote from the article)
“Supposing you are taking a dog on a lead through a turnstile or past a post. You know what happens (apart from his usual ceremonies in passing a post!). He tries to go to the wrong side and gets his head looped round the post. You see that he can’t do it, and therefore pull him back. You pull him back because you want to enable him to go forward. He wants exactly the same thing—namely to go forward: for that very reason he resists your pull back, or, if he is an obedient dog, yields to it reluctantly as a matter of duty which seems to him to be quite in opposition to his own will: though in fact it is only by yielding to you that he will ever succeed in getting where he wants.”
The dog believes the lie that the only way forward, the only way to get what it wants, is to push ahead. Lewis, the dog-owner, affirms the longing of the dog to go forward, but he must pull the dog back in order for it to actually make any progress.
Lewis Talks to His Dog
Next, Lewis explains what he would say to his dog, if suddenly it became a theologian and was frustrated by the owner’s thwarting of its will:
‘My dear dog, if by your will you mean what you really want to do, viz. to get forward along the road, I not only understand this desire but share it. Forward is exactly where I want you to go.
‘If by your will, on the other hand, you mean your will to pull against the collar and try to force yourself forward in a direction which is no use—why I understand it of course: but just because I understand it (and the whole situation, which you don’t understand) I cannot possibly share it. In fact the more I sympathize with your real wish—that is, the wish to get on—the less can I sympathize (in the sense of ‘share’ or ‘agree with’) your resistance to the collar: for I see that this is actually rendering the attainment of your real wish impossible.’
God Shares Our Ultimate Desire
Lewis applies this parable to our own situation. As human beings, we long for happiness, yet believe the lies that lead to evil actions:
God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my evil—the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. With these therefore He cannot sympathize or ‘agree’: His sympathy with my real will makes that impossible. (He may pity my misdirected struggles, but that is another matter.)
So, over against the person who says, “I must squelch my desires, out of duty to God” Lewis says, No, God actually shares your ultimate desire. He is redirecting your path so you can actually find that joy you long for.
And over against the person who says, “God affirms me as I am and sympathizes with all my desires,” Lewis would say, No. Because God affirms your ultimate desire, he must categorically reject your sinful actions and desires, for they will forever keep you from what you really want.
1 Cor 10:12-14, Phil 1:6, Phil 4:13, James 1:1-13
The leash is there to keep us safe (and if the dog had its way, the leash would break and the dog could run free … right to the spoiled food on the side of the road that smells so good, and perhaps even into traffic to play with those great speeding chew toys). God wants us to experience pleasure, but in a way that is good for us. He wants us to experience pleasure in a way that is safe while He is there with us, connected to us at the same time.
Is that so hard to grasp ? Perhaps harder to desire and cooperate with for our own good ?
It comes down to trust; trusting that His plan and timing are far, far much better than ours. Actually believing that His plan is the absolute best that the loving Creator of the entire universe could come up with. His best plan for us is Jesus Christ Himself. It doesn’t get any better than that!! Rom 8:29, Rom 12:1-2, Eph 1:9-10, Phil 1:6
next week, we’ll go further into the idea of fulfilling desires apart from God and see where that path leads.
εν διακονια τω θεω, Dave Cadieux