Seeking After Humanity

An interview with Michael Ward about his new book, After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), in 1946, the year prior to the publication of "The Abolition of Man". (Image: Wikipedia); right: Michael Ward's "After Humanity," is published by Word on Fire Academic. (www.wordonfire.org/humanity)

Fr Michael Ward, an Ordinariate priest, is a Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of the best-selling and award-winning Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis (Oxford University Press). His new book, titled After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, was recently published by Word on Fire.

Fr. Ward corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of CWR, about After Humanity, C.S. Lewis, and the importance of The Abolition of Man, which was first published in 1947.

CWR: Why an entire volume—a 250-page Guideto this particular book by Lewis? Does The Abolition of Man deserve it?

Fr. Michael Ward: It absolutely deserves it! Lewis described The Abolition of Man as “almost my favourite among my books.” He always chose his words carefully. It was “almost” his favourite.

So, what was his actual favourite? The only other time he’s on record as describing one of his books as “favourite” is when talking about That Hideous Strength, the third volume in his trilogy of interplanetary novels. And about That Hideous Strength he said that “it has behind it a serious ‘point’ which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man.”

If you want to understand C.S. Lewis, you have to wrestle with these two books in particular, and since The Abolition of Man is the background book, the book on which the novel depends, it is obviously the one to focus on.

CWR: How would you summarize the essence of The Abolition of Man for readers who have never read it?

Fr. Ward: It’s about whether there is such a thing as objective reality. In particular, is there such a thing as objective value – good and evil, truth and falsehood, right and wrong?

Lewis answers very convincingly that there is such a thing, and his defence of the objectivity of value accounts for much of his book. But he also paints a picture of what will happen if we deny the objectivity of value. If we try to pretend that we just make up value out of our own private opinion – in other words, if we embrace subjectivism – we will be eradicating a fundamental part of what makes us human.

What’s being abolished in “the abolition of man” is our moral nature, our capacity to recognise certain moral features of reality, features that we have discovered, not invented, and that can’t be otherwise than they are, however much we might wish it.

CWR: How would you assess The Abolition of Man in terms of its reputation?

Fr. Ward: Stratospheric! Lewis’s editor and biographer, Walter Hooper, described The Abolition of Man as “an all but indispensable introduction to the entire corpus of Lewisiana.” It’s been called – rightly, in my view – “the lynchpin for understanding all of his work.”

Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, praised the “keen accuracy” of its moral diagnosis. Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar applauded its “taut brilliance.” The leading literary critic Alan Jacobs, who’s an evangelical Anglican, has described it as “the most profound of Lewis’s cultural critiques.” And the prominent British philosopher, John Gray, who’s an atheist, has called it “prophetic” and “as relevant now” as when it first came out, “if not more so.”

CWR: Catholics, Protestants, atheists! Why does The Abolition of Man appeal to such a wide readership?

Fr. Ward: Because anyone who’s serious about ethics has to grapple with whether right and wrong are objective realities or not. If morality is merely subjective, what are we even arguing about? There’s no point in trying to arrive at a reasoned conclusion about moral questions if good and evil are nothing more than private opinions. In a subjectivist world, right and wrong are really about power. Right becomes might. Ethics turns into a shouting-match, or worse.

Lewis makes his argument on purely philosophical grounds: it’s not a defence of Christianity as such, or even of theism. And that is why atheists, as well as Christians, find the book of such importance. In our “post-truth” 21st-century world, it’s becoming increasingly relevant, even urgent, that we defend the objectivity of value and see subjectivism for the self-serving dodge that it is.

CWR: You provide a great deal of context from Lewis’s personal life as he was coming of age. What aspects of that context should we pay special attention to?

Fr. Ward: We should pay attention to Lewis’s personal grappling with subjectivism in his teens and early twenties. In his autobiography, he talks about his own tendency towards “vicious subjectivism” as a young man. He knew, from direct experience, how attractive that philosophical position was. After all, if nothing was really right or wrong, he would be entirely free to please himself in all his choices, he would never have to adjust his views or his behaviour in light of external realities.

And we should also pay attention to the fact that he fought in the First World War. He nearly died in the trenches of France in 1918. Many of his friends did die. As a result, Lewis had to wrestle with whether “death for a good cause” was worth it. In The Abolition of Man, he focuses on that issue as the crucial test of the objectivity of value. Obviously, it’s of no immediate, personal benefit to someone if they die for their country, but does that mean it can’t be the right thing to do? These questions were of huge personal significance to Lewis, they weren’t just abstract or theoretical matters. And that’s partly why The Abolition of Man has such bite. It comes from a very deep part of him.

CWR: How do you seek to guide readers through and into the book?

Fr. Ward: There’s a chapter on how The Abolition of Man has been received by readers, both at the time of its publication and in the decades since. I survey the context in which Lewis wrote the book, not only the context of his personal life, but also the wider intellectual situation, looking at major players such as A.J. Ayer and I.A. Richards.

I show how Lewis’s resolutely philosophical argument fits in with his more theological works of Christian apologetics. There’s a summary chapter for those who want to know – or be reminded of – what Abolition actually argues. Also, a chapter examining the impact Lewis’s work has had on other thinkers.

But the bulk of the book is a detailed commentary, going through Abolition thoroughly and carefully, and explaining all the references and allusions, translating the many phrases in Latin, Greek or French, and quoting the best bits from other scholars who have had interesting things to say about Lewis’s work.

CWR: What was most enjoyable for you about putting this book together?

Fr. Ward: Probably the photo gallery. Word On Fire Academic allowed me to include over thirty pictures, many in full colour, showing various people, places and documents that help illuminate The Abolition of Man. Perhaps the best of these is the original “blurb” that Lewis wrote out, long hand, for the first edition of his book but which was never actually used and which nobody – not even the late, great Walter Hooper – seems to have known about before. It’s published here for the very first time.

Another very pleasing thing about the whole project is the cover image that the publishers chose, depicting a beautiful waterfall. (Lewis has lots to say about waterfalls near the start of his book.) I’m also delighted that a new tie-in edition of The Abolition of Man, with a complementary front cover, has been released by HarperCollins. If anyone buys their copy of After Humanity through the Word On Fire website, they will receive, automatically, a free copy of this companion edition.

Finally, comedy and tragedy. There are some good jokes that I unearthed about Lewis’s interactions with people like A.J. Ayer and I.A. Richards. He knew these figures and publicly debated them; the sparks that flew from their locking of horns are often very witty. You don’t necessarily expect to laugh when delving into philosophy, but I found I did. Nor, for that matter, do you expect to be moved, but Lewis’s experiences in the Great War are actually very stirring and poignant.

There’s much more going on in Abolition, and indeed in After Humanity, than simply the addressing of an important philosophical question.


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About Carl E. Olson 1161 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His new book Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021), is published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications.

27 Comments

  1. First thanks for the tutorial on CS Lewis. That John Gray atheist found The Abolition prophetic speaks to the ‘linchpin’ significance of value objectivity. Fr. Ward: It’s about whether there is objective reality, good and evil, truth and falsehood?, is the essential historical struggle to define humanness. “Moral features that we have discovered” [Fr Ward] may appear discovered as it seemed [to me] until the realization of that inherent propensity to apprehend the good. More intuitive than scientific, more realized than reasoned. A J Ayer had enormous impact on British thought as well as the entire English speaking world and beyond exacting knowledge as necessarily identifiable by direct [empirical] observation. What he refined was David Hume’s empirical refutation of mainly Catholic rationally defined natural law ethical doctrine. Hume would answer passion, or feelings determine what is good [Hume actually touched on an elusive truth that Aquinas per Aristotle calls an interior sense of the intellect]. Ayer wasn’t interested in religion except to refute it. What he blinds himself to is our interior vision of what CS Lewis calls value. Value was imputed at the Angelicum [when attended] because of its variations from good to evil simply ascribing it as ethical knowledge. Perhaps they [the staff] were correct. At any rate, not to quibble, recognition of moral value is correctly isolated by Fr Ward per CS Lewis as at the heart of our humanness, without which we’re spiritually dead.

  2. As an addendum to further explain intuitive knowledge of good, the good is objective because it possesses its own intelligibility in what we perceive, whereas evil is the invention of Man because evil is in the will.

    • Insofar as evil, we cannot always identify it, because with acts that are outwardly good, the intent may be evil. Although acts that violate the natural law are by their very nature perceivable, because of the inherent knowledge we have of the principles of the natural law.

    • Yes, corruption of the will, and then the intellect invents the rationale. In C. S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters” the devil, Screwtape, mentors his understudy, Wormwood, on the need to berate the stable or (the same old “rigid” things) in favor of, say, the Hegelian dialectic:

      “But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the Same Old Thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will. It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of modern European thought comes in so useful. The Enemy [God] loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action, He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement or our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is it the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions” (“The Screwtape Letters,” 1953).

      Some of the “relevant questions”—-all of Veritatis Splendor.

    • So SAD to read what you wrote, P. Morello: “. . evil is the invention of Man because evil is in the will.” As a Catholic I defer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and it’s 3,500 plus cites from The New Testament. No real Catholic can flout that; yet you do! Apart from John’s very clear identification of the devil and evil beings as objective realities, we have Luke reporting Jesus saying: “I saw Satan fall like a bolt of lightning . . .” We note, too, that Hell has been prepared for the Devil and his cohort. I’m reminded of Jesus instructing us that if our light is darkness, what an immense darkness is that. Even so: love and blessings in Jesus Christ from Marty

      • Maybe Fr. Morello meant that the 3,500 cites in the New Testament refer in part to our very selves, less as the damaged intellect which still is oriented toward the truth, than as the corrupted will (still free will) which is disoriented/subverted toward the self and then freely violates the truth/Truth. (E.g., even when the intellect sees the evil of abortion, it is the will that chooses the fictive and substitute universe of self-justifying slogans, evasions, euphemisms, and cultural habit—the so-called right side of history.

        In any event, Whittaker Chambers (an ex-communist, and a Quaker) had a few words about the invasive mystery of (and the tendency toward) evil, nested within our very selves—as being even worse than any outsider alone (yes, the Evil One). Speaking of his young son:

        “…I want him to understand that evil is not something that can be condescended to, waved aside or smiled away, for it is not merely an uninvited guest, but lies coiled in foro interno [that is] at home with good within ourselves. Evil can only be fought. . . .I want him to know that it is his soul, and his soul alone, that makes it possible for him to bear, without dying of his own mortality, the faint light of Hercules’ fifty thousand suns” (Witness, 1952).

        • Thanks for responding, dear Peter. Very illuminating. I respect your choices.

          My choice is to prioritize, not Whittaker Chambers and others having who-knows-what allegiances, but the the Apostolic instructions of The New Testament and their very cogent and reasoned application in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

          For an impeccable Protestant theology of evil (you sound like a protestant), please check Karl Barth’s: ‘Church Dogmatics III.3. #50: God and Nothingness’.

          From decades of work in the Christian healing ministry, I can personally assure you of the cold, hard reality of evil entities that afflict and entangle so many people; beings that must leave when those of firm faith in King Jesus Christ command them to go. Hundreds of faithful believers who work in this ministry agree that those who deny the reality of the Devil (Satan, Lucifer, etc.) and numerous other demons, are of two sorts: the ignorant deceived; and, the maliciously deceiving.

          To claim that evil is actually self-generated within humans is the pathway to burning witches and wizards. Please repent (make good use of 1 John 1:9).

          That is not to exclude the obvious: when humans willingly choose to cooperate with evil spirits (any spirit that is not of The Holy Spirit of God in Christ) they may end up as advocates and implementers of evil. They can choose to do terribly evil things, and must answer for that; though the evils that corrupted them did not originate in them.

          In the wise insights of Genesis 1, people are referred to by God as good. Only in Genesis 3 and 4 are persons depicted as being deceived by evil into ongoing evilness. What could be plainer?

          My humble comments are not made with argumentative intent but with a hope of being informative and helpful: from one whose academic research and Christian service has been in many diverse countries and cultures. By the grace of Christ Jesus, I am a witness who you can rely on.

          Keep safe, Peter. Ever in the love of Jesus; blessings from Marty

          • It is said that I “sound like a protestant,” and that I think evil is self-generated (and that your paternal tutorial is especially needed by this peasant). Speaking theologically, where the hell did you get that idea? Simply because I read Whittaker Chambers?

      • Man is fully responsible for his sins, not the devil who can only incite. Satan, once Lucifer the Angel of Light was created good, not evil. He freely, willfully chose evil by refusing God. Thereby, he became evil and the Prince of evil and this world, until entirely vanquished by Christ at the second coming. He is not evil itself as you mistakenly believe. Consequently, keep in mind your own absolute responsibility for your own sinfulness. Learn from what I say and be at peace.

      • Dear Dr Rice, I know you mean well because of your fidelity to Christ. However, you’ve made the mistake many of us have in objectifying what is not a substance. Evil is not an object. Reason is coaxed to assume that Lucifer is objectified evil, whereas he is a created being, created as good, the very highest in intellect and virtue of all God’s creatures. Although Mary Immaculate surpasses him not in native intelligence, rather in the infused virtue of Wisdom [and all virtues] of which she is preeminent and by which she surpasses his intellectual ability due to that gift from the Most High. Lucifer endowed as the highest most resplendent in virtue in the image of God had far greater knowledge of God’s goodness when he decided to create his own sovereignty over lesser angelic creatures. Because of that knowledge of God his punishment is more immediate and severe. Nonetheless in God’s justice, beyond our full comprehension although Lucifer, or Satan was condemned he was permitted to retain that sovereignty over his angelic followers, later after the Fall of Adam and Eve sovereignty over Mankind and the world as Prince of this Word. That power, then, leads many to believe Lucifer, or the Devil is objectified evil, whereas his being of itself is a created good, retaining some virtues such as intellect, even the pretension of the other virtues although by choice disposed entirely toward evil, evil which is defined as the unwillingness to do the will of God. Lucifer greatly fears Our Lady since she has surpassed him by virtue of God’s gifts, as said Wisdom, and her personal sanctity, humility, purity, and love most in the image of the Most High God, her Son. By her assent at the Annunciation she repaired Eve’s Fall from grace and reduced Satan’s sovereignty over Man. His error then was belief that power defines Justice and nobility, whereas it’s humility and the desire to fulfill God’s will, which she of all creatures fulfills perfectly.

        • Fr. Morello,
          Your dialog with Dr. Rice clarified a statement of yours. You had stated earlier “evil is the invention of Man because evil is in the will.” I thought this through and concluded that you meant to say “evil is the invention of Man and Demons because evil is in the will.”

          • Yes Steve, the Demons referring to the fallen angelic powers were created good and nonetheless chose evil by deciding to follow Lucifer, later known as Satan in his rebellion against God. Also human souls who refuse to repent and condemned to Hell are in league with the Evil One, Satan and have been recorded by exorcists to possess living souls, as was the case of possession and exorcism Earling Iowa 1928 conducted by Fr Theophilus Reisinger OFM Cap.

        • Fr. Morello, you write: “Reason is coaxed to assume that Lucifer is objectified evil, whereas he is a created being, created as good, the very highest in intellect and virtue of all God’s creatures.” But, as a created being is he/it yet an objective “entity”? To beat a dead horse, three points:

          First, St. Augustine rejects Manichaeism in its assertion of TWO equivalent entities or gods, one good and the other evil. Therefore, in the St. Michael Prayer, our wording is “do thou a prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God [!], thrust into hell Satan…”

          Second, St. Augustine finds within the unity of his own soul a divided WILL:

          “The enemy [habit] had control of my WILL, and out of it he fashioned a chain and fettered me with it [….] By such links, joined one to another, as it were—for this reason I have called it a chain—harsh bondage held me fast. A NEW WILL, which had begun within me, to wish freely to worship you and find joy in you, O God, the sole sure delight, was not yet able to overcome that PRIOR WILL, grown strong with age. Thus did MY TWO WILLS, the one old, the other new, the first carnal, and the second spiritual, contend with one another, and by their conflict they laid waste my [one] soul” (Book 8, Ch. 5:10, CAPS added). Two wills, not two gods.

          Third, there are cases (as you note) of DIABOLICAL POSSESSION, where Satan, while still only a created being (i.e., when more than “objectified evil,” and lurking as an objective/evil creature…), does get in, though still having no power without the willful consent of the unfortunate victim. There can be agreement about verified and authentic cases of possession, and that in these cases real exorcisms are performed by the Church.

          • Peter [Dr Beaulieu to be exact] you touch on controversial but resolvable issues, whether there is objective evil and whether one may experience as Augustine two wills. A being [human or angelic] can be evil, for example, Baptists believe humans on this planet can be totally depraved; we Catholics believe only if condemned and all grace is lost. Whatever the case, a human being if totally evil as in Hell with complete absence of grace is evil yet remains a person who is evil because of the evil disposition of his will. We cannot say this evil human equates the objectivity of evil. That is because he remains a man, or an angelic creature who is also evil. We cannot dismiss his human nature or angelic as not inherent to the equation, which is reductionism. Saint Augustine in that difficult passage deserving much thought is speaking metaphorically as if he possessed two wills, one evil one good. The metaphor referencing the lure of sensual pleasure and the appeal of spiritual good, a phenomenon that we all at least I and others experience in this life. Otherwise freedom of the will would be non existent and we would be inclined entirely in one direction. Only Christ possessed two wills, one human one divine [an issue of contention with eastern Orthodox]. In his human will he overcame in tandem with his divinity the propensity of all humanity to succumb to the sensual and evil. Certainly, as Dr Rice contends there are evil entities that tempt, contend with us to choose evil [Saint Paul warns don’t hold on to anger past sunset and allow the Devil to work on you]. Our struggle is with entities that are spiritual, not simply with flesh and blood [the Apostle]. Again, referencing diabolic possession we may word a reality as “more than an objectified evil’, lurking as an “objective evil” using language to narrate how we might comprehend though metaphorically, whereas metaphysically that reality is an object that is evil, not a purely evil object from which nothing other than evil may be elicited. The diabolic creature that enters into his victim remains a thinking, malevolent [evil willed] creature otherwise a purely objective evil would lack an intellect and will to decide and to possess a victim. If I missed a point you meant to discuss or disagree please inform. We benefit and learn from dialogues.

  3. Fr Peter,

    A priest at a public forum gave a speech on evil. In summation at the end of his speech he said that he personally believed that at the last judgement, Lucifer would recognize his error and come back to God. I cannot understand how this could be. Do you have an insight on this?

    • Rosemarie, it’s hope based on sentiment rather than God’s justice. God respects our will if we reject him. When a soul is judged who rejects Our Lord that soul loses all grace, and with loss of grace any desire for reconciliation with God, for whom the damned now have hatred.

      • Father,
        Thank your for your reply.
        I understand that the Angel of Light having a complete understanding of his rejection of God with his “I will not serve” will be damned forever. Is that correct? I really would like to speak with this priest, yet I do not have the theological wherewith all other than to now say that it is based on sentiment. I am troubled by his sentiment as he was appointed exorcist for this diocese 2 1/2 years ago. To speak or not to speak, ,that is the question—-

        20 years ago one of the deacons said that he prays for the devil.

        • Rosemarie the trend has been to remake God in our own image rather than making ourselves more like him. Sentiment in this instance is a form of pride in self, that we have a better sense of good than the Christ revealed in the Gospels. Christ who so frequently emphasized eternal punishment for the unrepentant. Our God who is infinitely good cannot be measured by human standards of justice regarding grievous sin. It weakens the resolve to avoid sin. You may mention that consistent message by him in the Gospels and leave it with them without engaging in argument. Your words taken from revelation can stand on their own. They will have their own power to convince.

          • Father,
            Thank you very much. I just could not find a thread to pull on. Now I am more sure of my ground. I have good repour with this priest. We have had deep discussions about the Eucharist, the death and resurrection of Christ etc. My late husband and I moved to this area almost 60 years ago. I am a charter member of the original mission, so I am very old now. I am not feisty in my personal discussions as I can be in writing.

            Your instruction helped me a lot—Now I’ll reflect on what you wrote until I can talk comfortably. Sometimes conversation comes hard to me, but since now I am sure of the eternal sentence, I can handle the rest.

            Everyday I pray for all the people that I have encountered in my lifetime, so that means the people writing here too. Thank you again.

  4. Fr. Morello,
    I meant no disagreement. Rather, the opposite, namely that (1) Manichaeism falsely asserts two equal gods; that (2) St. Augustine rejected this notion and saw, instead, that the tension between good and evil was within his own willfulness (yes, only metaphorically two wills, unlike the rejected Manichaeism); and, nevertheless, that (3) diabolical possession also does more rarely exist, quite apart from the projection or “objectification” of [our own willful] transgressions.

    The healing ministry is available for less-than-diabolical-possession (e.g., the Healing of Memories), and is fitting for the very many cases (I have heard, the 99 percent [?] screened by psychological tests, questionnaires, etc. and found to be NOT due to diabolical possession).

    My further understanding is that one can be inhabited by the truly demonic, but still not willfully or culpably consenting (free will remains intact). Yes?.

    And as for the two natures (divine and human) and the two wills of Christ, isn’t it accurate to say that the distinct human will was always in perfect conformity with the divine will? Fully “overcame” temptation even in His every predisposition and in its every microaggression. Christ was not even remotely schizophrenic. Yes?

    • Thanks for the clarification Peter. Reviewing your response here I agree with your interpretation of these questions. They’re well stated. Initially, I sought to respond to what I understood on face value. Although I assumed you didn’t believe that Augustine was actually positing two human wills. The last point here is interesting in that Jesus, in his humanness hesitated at Gethsemane, then agreed with the father’s will indicating as such a true battle of the wills and final humble submission, a true saving moment for mankind. Comparable in a sense to Mary’s consent at the annunciation.

      • There might be a different interpretation of both Gethsemane and the Annunciation….At Gethsemane was Christ simply asking to know (trepidation and the intellect, rather than will) the Father’s will(?); and at the Annunciation was Mary also simply asking for information (wondering and the intellect, rather than the will: not ‘whether’, but “‘how’ can this be?”)? In both cases, unhesitating and totally transparent humility of the will?

        • Pardon my strong wording on what I believe. The point is to elicit what most benefits us from a great mystery. There is a mystery in Christ’s incarnation and passion that we’ll never fully fathom. Christ doesn’t deceive, and his request that the Father remove this cup of suffering was real. It was indeed an act of the will. Trepidation? There was real fear. He sweated drops of blood. He agonized as to what was ahead and asked a real question, not reducible to an intellectual wonderment of whether. “Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39). Either Jesus asked, Let this cup pass from me, or he did not. We need to ask ourselves, How could he speak these words and not will to speak them? Also, at Golgotha, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Christ in his humanness, not suggestive of schizophrenia, rather in the fullness of his human nature, a human nature united with the divine, but a real, complete human nature suffered deepest anguish bordering on despair. But in a final act of faith cried out, Father! Into your hands I commend my spirit. Otherwise, the redemptive act of the Son of Man would have been equivalent to a short drama. Christ’s redemption of Man was not staged. We must always remind ourselves of the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the hypostatic union of two complete natures human and divine in one Person.

          • Further reflection on the issue of willing, there’s marked difference between a decision to outright decline, and a request to forgo while remaining determined to carry out what is asked of us. As it was with Christ in Gethsemane. Christ says somewhere [I believe to St Maria Faustina] that the man who doesn’t wish to fulfill an obligation but nevertheless does what is required of him is more meritorious. There was then as suggested by Peter Beaulieu a deliberation [an intellectual ruminating so to speak] related to his willful decision to request deferment.

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