called the three Dimensions. Now notice this. If you are using only one dimension, you could
draw only a straight line. If you are using two, you could draw a figure: say, a square. And a
square is made up of four straight lines. Now a step further. If you have three dimensions, you
can then build what we call a solid body, say, a cube-a thing like a dice or a lump of sugar. And a
cube is made up of six squares.
Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional
world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world,
you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to
more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the
simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways-in ways you could not imagine if
you knew only the simpler levels.
Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple
and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two
separate beings-just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure,
and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but
up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot
imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining
one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully
conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in
space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And
when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint,
of something super-personal-something more than a person. It is something we could never have
guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able to guess
it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already.
You may ask, "If we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about
Him?" Well, there isn't any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually
drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time -tonight, if you like.
What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to
get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is
also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God
comes through Christ, the Man who was God-that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to
pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying-the
goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on-the motive
power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the
whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little
bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the
higher kind of life-what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while
still remaining himself.
And that is how Theology started. People already knew about God in a vague way. Then came a
man who claimed to be God; and yet he was not the sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic.
He made them believe Him. They met Him again after they had seen Him killed. And then, after
they had been formed into a little society or community, they found God somehow inside them
as well: directing them, making them able to do things they could not do before. And when they
worked it all out they found they had arrived at the Christian definition of the three-personal
This definition is not something we have made up; Theology is, in a sense, experimental
knowledge. It is the simple religions that are the made-up ones. When I say it is an experimental
science "in a sense," I mean that it is like the other experimental sciences in some ways, but not
in all. If you are a geologist studying rocks, you have to go and find the rocks. They will not
come to you, and if you go to them they cannot run away. The initiative lies all on your side.
They cannot either help or hinder. But suppose you are a zoologist and want to take photos of
wild animals in their native haunts. That is a bit different from studying rocks. The wild animals
will not come to you: but they can run away from you. Unless you keep very quiet, they will.
There is beginning to be a tiny little trace of initiative on their side.
Now a stage higher; suppose you want to get to know a human person. If he is determined not to
let you, you will not get to know him. You have to win his confidence. In this case the initiative
is equally divided-it takes two to make a friendship.
When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does not show Himself,
nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself
to some people than to others-not because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him
to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as
sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as a clean
You can put this another way by saying that while in other sciences the instruments you use are
things external to yourself (things like microscopes and telescopes), the instrument through
which you see God is your whole self. And if a man's self is not kept clean and bright, his
glimpse of God will be blurred-like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope. That is why
horrible nations have horrible religions: they have been looking at God through a dirty lens.
God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who
are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping
one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like
players in one band, or organs in one body.
Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God, is the whole Christian
community, waiting for Him together. Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical
equipment for this science-the laboratory outfit That is why all these people who turn up every
few years with some patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian
tradition are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old parr of field
glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. He may be a clever chap-he may be
cleverer than some of the real astronomers, but he is not giving himself a chance. And two years
later everyone has forgotten all about him, but the real science is still going on.
If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is
not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we?
We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.
3. Time And Beyond Time
It is a very silly idea that in reading a book you must never "skip." All sensible people skip freely
when they come to a chapter which they find is going to be no use to them. In this chapter I am
going to talk about something which may be helpful to some readers, but which may seem to
others merely an unnecessary complication. If you are one of the second sort of readers, then I
advise you not to bother about this chapter at all but to turn on to the next.
In the last chapter I had to touch on the subject of prayer, and while that is still fresh in your
mind and my own, I should like to deal with a difficulty that some people find about the whole
idea of prayer. A man put it to me by saying "I can believe in God all right, but what I cannot
swallow is the idea of Him attending to several hundred million human beings who are all
addressing Him at the same moment." And I have found that quite a lot of people feel this.
Now, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words at the same moment.
Most of us can imagine God attending to any number of applicants if only they came one by one
and He had an endless time to do it in. So what is really at the back of this difficulty is the idea of
God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.
Well that is of course what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment One moment
disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each. That is what
Time is like. And of course you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series-this
arrangement of past, present and future-is not simply the way life comes to us but the way all
things really exist We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always
moving on from past to future just as we do. But many learned men do not agree with that. It was
the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all: later the
Philosophers took it over: and now some of the scientists are doing the same.
Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another.
If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that
one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty-and every other moment from the beginning
of the world-is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in
which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.
That is difficult, I know. Let me try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I
am writing a novel. I write "Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!"
For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting
down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary's maker, do not live in that imaginary
time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for
three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only
character in the book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not
appear in Mary's time (the time inside the story) at all.
This is not a perfect illustration, of course. But it may give just a glimpse of what I believe to be
the truth. God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is
hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel He has infinite attention to spare for each
one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if
you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually
just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.
The way in which my illustration breaks down is this. In it the author gets out of one Time-series
(that of the novel) only by going into another Time-series (the real one). But God, I believe, does
not live in a Time-series at all. His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with
Him it is, so to speak, still 1920 and already 1960. For His life is Himself.
If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God
as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one: we
have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God,
from above or outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.
The idea is worth trying to grasp because it removes some apparent difficulties in Christianity.
Before I became a Christian one of my objections was as follows. The Christians said that the
eternal God who is everywhere and keeps the whole universe going, once became a human
being. Well then, said I, how did the whole universe keep going while He was a baby, or while
He was asleep? How could He at the same time be God who knows everything and also a man
asking his disciples "Who touched me?" You will notice that the sting lay in the time words:
"While He was a baby"-"How could He at the same time?" In other words I was assuming that
Christ's life as God was in time, and that His life as the man Jesus in Palestine was a shorter
period taken out of that time-just as my service in the army was a shorter period taken out of my
total life. And that is how most of us perhaps tend to think about it. We picture God living
through a period when His human life was still in the future: then coming to a period when it was
present: then going on to a period when He could look back on it as something in the past. But
probably these ideas correspond to nothing in the actual facts. You cannot fit Christ's earthly life
in Palestine into any time-relations with His life as God beyond all space and time. It is really, I
suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, and the human experience of weakness
and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in His whole divine life. This human life in God
is from our point of view a particular period in the history of our world (from the year A.D. one
till the Crucifixion). We therefore imagine it is also a period in the history of God's own
existence. But God has no history. He is too completely and utterly real to have one. For, of
course, to have a history means losing part of your reality (because it had already slipped away
into the past) and not yet having another part (because it is still in the future): in fact having
nothing but the tiny little present, which has gone before you can speak about it. God forbid we
should think God was like that. Even we may hope not to be always rationed in that way.
Another difficulty we get if we believe God to be in time is this. Everyone who believes in God
at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am
going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty
comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference
being that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that were true, if God foresaw our acts, it
would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is
outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just
the same way as what we call "today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember
you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost
yesterday. He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you
doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never
supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are
doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way-because He is already in
tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have
done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already "Now" for Him.
This idea has helped me a good deal. If it does not help you, leave it alone. It is a "Christian
idea" in the sense that great and wise Christians have held it and there is nothing in it contrary to
Christianity. But it is not in the Bible or any of the creeds. You can be a perfectly good Christian
without accepting it, or indeed without thinking of the matter at all
4. Good Infection
I begin this chapter by asking you to get a certain picture clear in your minds. Imagine two books
lying on a table one on top of the other. Obviously the bottom book is keeping the other one up-
supporting it. It is because of the underneath book that the top one is resting, say, two inches
from the surface of the table instead of touching the table. Let us call the underneath book A and
the top one B. The position of A is causing the position of B. That is clear? Now let us imagine-it
could not really happen, of course, but it will do for an illustration-let us imagine that both books
have been in that position for ever and ever. In that case B's position would always have been
resulting from A's position. But all the same, A's position would not have existed before B's
position. In other words the result does not come after the cause. Of course, results usually do:
you eat the cucumber first and have the indigestion afterwards. But it is not so with all causes,
and results. You will see in a moment why I think this important.
I said a few pages back that God is a Being which contains three Persons while remaining one
Being, just as a cube contains six squares while remaining one body. But as soon as I begin
trying to explain how these Persons are connected I have to use words which make it sound as if
one of them was there before the others. The First Person is called the Father and the Second the
Son. We say that the First begets or produces the second; we call it begetting, not making,
because what He produces is of the same kind as Himself. In that way the word Father is the only
word to use. But unfortunately it suggests that He is there first-just as a human father exists
before his son. But that is not so. There is no before and after about it. And that is why I have
spent some time trying to make clear how one thing can be the source, or cause, or origin, of
another without being there before it. The Son exists because the Father exists: but there never
was a tune before the Father produced the Son.
Perhaps the best way to think of it is this. I asked you just now to imagine those two books, and
probably most of you did. That is, you made an act of imagination and as a result you had a
mental picture. Quite obviously your act of imagining was the cause and the mental picture the
result. But that does not mean that you first did the imagining and then got the picture. The
moment you did it, the picture was there. Your will was keeping the picture before you all the
time. Yet that act of will and the picture began at exactly the same moment and ended at the
same moment. If there were a Being who had always existed and had always been imagining one
thing, his act would always have been producing a mental picture; but the picture would be just
as eternal as the act.
In the same way we must think of the Son always, so to speak, streaming forth from the Father,
like light from a lamp, or heat from a fire, or thoughts from a mind. He is the self-expression of
the Father-what the Father has to say. And there never was a time when He was not saying it.
But have you noticed what is happening? All these pictures of light or heat are making it sound
as if the Father and Son were two things instead of two Persons. So that after all, the New
Testament picture of a Father and a Son turns out to be much more accurate than anything we try
to substitute for it That is what always happens when you go away from the words of the Bible.
It is quite right to go away from them for a moment in order to make some special point clear.
But you must always go back. Naturally God knows how to describe Himself much better than
we know how to describe Him. He knows that Father and Son is more like the relation between
the First and Second Persons than anything else we can think of. Much the most important thing
to know is that it is a relation of love. The Father delights in His Son; the Son looks up to His
Before going on, notice the practical importance of this. All sorts of people are fond of repeating
the Christian statement that "God is love," But they seem not to notice that the words "God is
love" have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one
person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He
was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often
something quite different: they really mean "Love is God." They really mean that our feelings of
love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with
great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean
by the statement "God is love." They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been
going on in God for ever and has created everything else.
And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other
religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing-not even a person-but a dynamic, pulsating
activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of
dance. The union between the Father and Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is
also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among
human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about
the "spirit" of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk about its "spirit" because the
individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and
behaving which they would not have if they were apart. (*)
[*] This corporate behaviour may, of course, be either better or worse than their individual
It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it
is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What
grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three
Persons who are God.
This third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the "spirit" of God. Do not
be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than
the other two. I think there is a reason why that must be so. In the Christian life you are not
usually looking at Him: He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as something
"out there," in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray,
trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside
you, or behind you. Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third Person and
work backwards. God is love, and that love works through men-especially through the whole
community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the
Father and Son.
And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole
dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or
(putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that
dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as
bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near
the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal
life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes
which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and
beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are dose to it, the spray will wet you: if
you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?
But how is he to be united to God? How is it possible for us to be taken into the three-Personal
You remember what I said in Chapter II about begetting and making. We are not begotten by
God, we are only made by Him: in our natural state we are not sons of God, only (so to speak)
statues. We have not got Zoe or spiritual life: only Bios or biological life which is presently
going to run down and die. Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if
we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a
life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist Christ is the
Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father
as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order
to spread to other men the kind of life He has-by what I call "good infection." Every Christian is
to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.
5. The Obstinate Toy Soldiers
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. We do not know-anyway,
I do not know-how things would have worked if the human race had never rebelled against God
and joined the enemy. Perhaps every man would have been "in Christ," would have shared the
life of the Son of God, from the moment he was born. Perhaps the Bios or natural life would
have been drawn up into the Zoe, the uncreated life, at once and as a matter of course. But that is
guesswork. You and I are concerned with the way things work now.
And the present state of things is this. The two kinds of life are now not only different (they
would always have been that) but actually opposed. The natural life in each of us is something
self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to
exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from
anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of
the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are
afraid of a bath. And in a sense it is quite right It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all
its self-centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to
Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life?
Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real
little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it
He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He thinks you are killing
him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help
What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was
this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an
actual man-a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a
particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who
created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a
foetus inside a Woman's body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to
become a slug or a crab.
The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to
be: one man in whom the created life, derived from his Mother, allowed itself to be completely
and perfectly turned into the begotten life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully
into the divine Son. Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the
life of Christ. And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense,
"killed," He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every
turn-poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends,
being jeered at and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture. And then, after being
thus killed-killed every day in a sense-the human creature in Him, because it was united to the
divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole
point For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier-real tin, just like the rest-had come
fully and splendidly alive.
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