October 24, 2020

iMonk: “More Religious than God Himself”

Lane at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Van Gogh

Lane at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Van Gogh

From Michael Spencer’s classic post, Wretched Urgency II: My Not So Guilty Pleasures

* * *

C.S. Lewis, speaking as the senior devil in The Screwtape Letters, wrote about God:

He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are “pleasures for evermore”….He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world with pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least- sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any us to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.

Do we believe this? Or do we believe sleeping, washing eating, drinking, making love, playing, working and a hundred other human activities, are “wasting your life?” Do we really believe that the three years Jesus spent with his disciples was significantly different than the thirty years he spent at home? Does our understanding of human nature mean that the ministry was true humanity, but the years in the shop and being an ordinary person in Nazareth were somehow less of a God-filled-human experience?

VG LaneThe observant person will notice that it is not only Christians, but zealous believers of every kind, who teach that simple pleasures are somehow wrong. It is a common flaw of utopians who think that we must build heaven on earth through our own efforts or prove ourselves worthy of a heaven beyond.

…Of course, the Old Covenant vision of the Kingdom of heaven on earth is full of simple pleasures, and not only the worship services of the book of Revelation. When we read the whole Bible, we discover that “heaven” on earth includes raising animals, tending vineyards, laughter, wine and family. I do not pretend to know how this works out in history. I only know that simple pleasures are holy. The are not the enemy. They are not a waste of life. They are the gifts–even the delight–of a God who filled all of creation with simple pleasures, many of them for Himself alone.

Why are some so certain we must be more religious than God himself?


  1. So Jesus spent all but one tenth of his life just living an ordinary life. Surely, as Michael says, there is a lesson in there for us.

  2. The Wretched Urgency posts were some of the first that I discovered on this site….since then it’s a daily read.

  3. MattPurdum says

    Michael at the height of his insights and writing talent. Like so many saints, he taught us what he came to teach, and when we learned it, he left us.

    • It occurs to me that he is continuing to guide and assist us in our learning here, from his current post in the communion of saints. He didn’t leave us, he just changed his address to somewhere without internet access!

  4. This reminds me of this Bonhoeffer quote: “I am sure we ought to love God in our lives and in all the blessings He sends us. We should trust him in our lives, so that when our time comes, but not before, we may go to him in love and trust and joy. But, speaking frankly, to long for the transcendent when you are in your wife’s arms is, to put it mildly, a lack of taste, and it is certainly not what God expects of us. We ought to find God and love Him in the blessings He sends us. If He pleases to grant us some overwhelming earthly bliss, we ought not to try and be more religious than God Himself.”