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Encounter with Light, Part III

Here is the second letter from Sheldon Vanauken to C. S. Lewis:

"My fundamental dilemma is this: I can't believe in Christ unless I have faith, but I can't have faith unless I believe in Christ. This is 'the leap.' If to be a Christian is to have faith (and clearly it is), I can put it thus: I must accept Christ to become a Christian, but I must be a Christian to accept Him. I don't have faith and I don't as yet believe; but everyone seems to say: 'You must have faith to believe.' Where do I get it? Or will you tell me something different? Is there a proof? Can Reason carry one over the gulf . . . without faith?

"Why does God expect so much of us? Why does he require this effort to believe? If He made it clear that He is--as clear as a sunrise or a rock or a baby's cry--wouldn't we be right joyous to choose Him and His Law? Why should the right exercise of our free will contain this fear of intellectual dishonesty?

"I must write further on the subject of 'wishing it were true'--although I do agree that I probably have wishes on both sides, and my wish does not help me to solve any problem. Your point that Hitler and Stalin (and I) would be horrified at discovering a Master from whom nothing could be withheld is very strong. Indeed, there is nothing in Christianity which is so repugnant to me as humility--the bent knee. If I knew beyond hope or despair that Christianity were true, my fight for ever after would have to be against the pride of 'the spine may break but it never bends'. And yet, Sir, would not I (and even Stalin) accept the humbling of the Master to escape the horror of ceasing to be, of nothingness at death? Moreover, the knowledge that Jesus was in truth Lord would not be merely pleasant news gratifying some of our rare desires. It would mean overwhelmingly: (a) that Materialism was Error as well as ugliness; (b) that the several beastly futures predicted by the Marxists, the Freudians, and the Sociologist manipulators would not be real (even if they came about); (c) that one's growth towards wisdom--soul-building--was not to be lost; and (d), above all, that the good and the beautiful would survive. And so I wish it were true and would accept any humbling, I think, for it to be true. The bad part of wishing it were true is that any impulse I feel towards belief is regarded with suspicion as stemming from the wish; the good part is that the wish leads on. And I shall go on; I must go on, as far as I can go."

(Sheldon Vanauken, Encounter with Light, 1960, public domain)

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