“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” - C. S. Lewis
My greatest fear is to live life pursuing false positives. In this context, false positive is a supposedly positive fact that subsequently turns out to be false. For example, to the question, “Is there a god?” and the answer is “yes” (positive). And should that turn out to be false, it is a false positive. There are many false positives in this world. Religion is one. Because with millions of gods vying for our undying devotion, and only one can be deemed as the truth, false positives here exist in spates.
Another false positive is our infinite ego. What makes it so insidious is that it is invariably an inextricable part of us. And it is a false positive because it is through our ego’s distorting lens that we see the world, and everything captured by it raises up a mirage of hope. However, this hope and all its worldly promises fall like a house of cards when the penetrating light of eternity bears upon it. So, we search for what we think will positively satisfy our unquenchable appetites, mistaking happiness for the temporal and transient. Alas, at some point, we realize that what appears true on the surface is but a shadow of the real thing. And what we thought was “positive” turned out to be false.
So, CSL's quote makes life a gambit for me. Its overture is to tempt me to make this existential bet of life, to lay my stakes and never look back. It forces me to make a commitment in a definite direction where the end is expected to justify all means undertaken. It is not a gambit to be taken lightly because, like all bets, it is one between a false positive (chasing after a mirage) and a tweaked “false negative” (chasing after the Truth). Maybe Kierkegaard puts it sharper, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true (false positive) and the other is to refuse to accept what is true? (false negative)”
I believe there are two ways to live out my faith. One way is to walk away from this gambling table unconvinced, to resist the call, and to keep my stakes pending a better hand to come by. By this, I mean living a Christian life without the commitment of venturing beyond the safe walls of faith. Or standing by the existential beach with my surfboard of faith and waiting for the right spiritual wave to emerge – so to speak. The second way is to put my money where my mouth is and "spin the wheel of life" like what CSL had done. He had placed his bet with his Savior and never looked back. But such was not a conversion characteristic of a floozy groupie mind you. He took the path of the most resistance.
One of his biographers, Professor Alister McGrath, wrote, "As Lewis later remarked, his specific way of coming to faith was "a road very rarely trodden", and could not in any way be regarded as normative. His account (CSL) of his conversion represents it as an essentially private affair, marked by understatement and a studied evasion of any dramatic gestures or declarations."
CSL was literally playing a cat and mouse game with his Savior, which kind of reminds me of this unenviable struggle uncannily expressed here, "You're the one who's shoulder I want to cry on, but you're the reason for my tears. You're the one I want to hide behind, but you're the one I'm hiding from."
At this juncture, I recall that Ronald Rumsfeld once forewarned us about the unknown unknowns. In his speech, he said, “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” However clumsy the phrasing, I guess God lies between the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns”. And any believer who takes God seriously would have to take this leap of faith by laying his stakes not only in the realm of the unknowable but a little further down the estate that is beyond ever knowing.
This is definitely not a bet for the fainthearted as Eugene Peterson puts it, “The word Christian means different things to different people. To one person it means a stiff, upright, inflexible way of life, colorless and unbending. To another, it means a risky, surprise-filled venture, lived tiptoe at the edge of expectation.”
For me, the choice is not a simple and obvious one. CSL has already set an arduous, tortuous footpath for me. It is one that I would have to lay down my stake with trembling hands and a mind most tormented. Cheerz.