An exercise in arrogance

An exercise in arrogance September 15, 2010

This post is one in a series about Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series.  I am using the books as a frame for talking about what kind of religion I might feel comfortable in.  Check out all posts on this topic at the series index.


The adventures of Nita and Kit in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series have a fierce urgency.  No matter whether they are called on to save a planet or to save a single person, they always have a duty and a purpose they gladly serve.  As is the case in most YA books, every character, even side characters, prove to be indispensable.  I wished to able to follow the example of Duane’s characters and be able to bring my talents, whatever they were, to bear in epic struggles.

Unfortunately, Christianity has practically the opposite message for me: the complete insignificance of my own efforts contrasted with the power of God.  I have a hard time stomaching Christian ideas of humility and irresistible grace (the idea we cannot earn salvation or be in any way deserving of forgiveness).

C.S. Lewis’s excellent book The Great Divorce is well known for its diverse portraits of sinners who reject God’s offer of grace, and I’m pretty sure I know which one I match.  I most closely resemble the theologian from early in the book.  As a scholar, he claims to be willing to enter Heaven, but he has some stipulations:

“I am perfectly ready to consider it.  Of course I should require some assurances… I should want a guarantee that you are taking me to a place where I shall find a wider sphere of usefulness–and scope for the talents that God has given me…”

“No,” said the other.  “I can promise you none of those things.  No sphere of usefulness; you are not needed there at all.  No scope for your talents; only forgiveness for having perverted them.”

Obviously, my discomfort with this idea is not a disproof, but I do find it extremely off-putting.  If I believed Christianity were true, I would have to accustom myself to this kind of humility, and I suspect I would find it extremely difficult to do.

I am a person who likes to be of use.  I like solving problems, not merely for the sake of a puzzle (though I do love that aspect), but also so I can perform a service for my friends and others.  I like to be able to think I am necessary, that I managed to help my friends more than I burdened them.

Ultimately, I can’t imagine a god looking at the wretched creatures described by Lewis and other apologists with love instead of simple pity.

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