Friday, January 29, 2016

C.S. Lewis on the Importance of Tao in Politics

There are two polar extremes when it comes to Christian values in the American world of politics. First, there are those people who insist that the only nation which will prosper is the nation "whose God is the Lord" and has leaders that represent the Judeo-Christian values of the Bible. Then there other people who are anti-anything that has to do with Judeo-Christian values or those candidates who support them. 

During the political season, Facebook blows up with people opining whether or not this candidate--or that candidate--truly represents the historic "Christian values" of America. Some candidates seemingly void of Christian faith in their personal lives suddenly begin courting and catering to Christians, claiming that they will represent them in the political world. Then, like clockwork, the anti-everything Christian crowd skewers those candidates by pointing out that "real Christians" would never own casinos, sell liquor, declare bankruptcy, etc... Suddenly, everyone seems to be an expert on all things Christian. 

America needs a modern C.S. Lewis to remind Christians living in America about the true nature of our politics:
A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease. — C.S. Lewis
Lewis believed that like digestion, politics is not everything, nor is it nothing. It's important, but it's not life itself. Politics is a practice that is necessary to protect and promote the temporary life God has provided for us on earth. The important principle for Lewis was that Christians ought remember politics has its limits. Lewis believed that the best Christian political thought and action was accomplished not by pastors wanting a "Christian America" but by Christian businessmen in business and Christian doctors in medicine, and Christian citizens in society, practicing the craft of politics by applying the Golden Rule to the ugliness of politics.
“The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish." - [C.S. Lewis, "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," in God in the Dock, 292]. 
Lewis believed that the best way for Christians in any nation to view politics and politicians was through the lens of natural law, what Lewis called the Tao (pronounced Dow). Lewis believed that the Tao (Chinese for "The Way") was a set of "natural laws" impressed on the heart of every human being. The Tao leads people to treat others with respect and dignity, to protect and provide for the defenseless, to resist oppression, and to pursue justice. The manner in which this is done may vary, but the moral principle, or Tao, abides within all men and all religions.

I am reading The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, and in the appendix of this classic work, there is a thorough description of Lewis' Tao.  In politics, Lewis argued that you ought to listen to the words and carefully observe the behaviors of those candidates running for office, for in the end, those who live their lives by natural law will be the only effective leaders in a sick society that is anti-everything Christian.
Unfortunately, we live in a day when young people only know Tao as a nightclub in Las Vegas and have never considered it as the laxative for the clogged and polluted politics of our day. And even worse, we live in a time  when pastors don't even know Tao is a nightclub, nor do they know that in the sick society in which we live, it's more important to practice Tao in the race for office than it is to say you are a Christian. 

Don't take my word for it; listen to Lewis.  


ScottShaver said...

Excellent insightful article. Thanks Wade.

Christiane said...

"Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged (cf. Rom. 2:15-16). His conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." (Gaudium et Spes)

Unknown said...

Part 1

When I take a look at what has become of the modern day body-politic it is, indeed, disturbing. I think now I say that only in light of the interest I have in our foundational history and the many involved in our nations early character. One, I would suggest, they meant for us to keep but one we have traded away.

The accounts of Israel from the Old Testament tell of how Israel went into captivity by the Assyrians, Babylonians or the Egyptians and others who held power over them. Time & again it was seemingly the same theme, disobedience. It amazes me that the chosen people of God who were so close to the actual presence of God at one time having His commandments handed directly to them could so easily run away from Him. However, they did, several times.

Until the USA there had not been a country where the very thought of full republicanism would be used as a form of government. The very idea of self-government was laughed at and scorned by rulers & dictators of the world throughout history. Napoleon marveled at George Washington in that he laid down power at the end of the stated term. For several more presidencies it was wondered if that would be the case every time. Slowly Americans built a nation and held fast and strong to very dear principles that the founders labored over and begged us to keep. Even in his farewell address Washington implored us as a nation when he said:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
(Source: George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge), pp. 22-23. In his Farewell Address to the United States in 1796.)

Washington knew well where our foundations must lay, and to what we must adhere to and to Whom we needed to be obedient to that our nation may be blessed and prosper.

Unknown said...

Part 2

Jefferson, too, had very deep convictions as to this, he said:

“.... And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”
(Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1794), Query XVIII, p. 237)

Oh what we have given away, oh how far we have strayed. I am only saying this to make a bigger point related to the original post, IF we live out our lives as Christ has called us to do, as He has demonstrated for us and as we can be empowered to do, so much of this will take care of itself. The current condition of our nation is a result of sin and selfishness and pride and arrogance and much more. I often wonder what I have both done and NOT done to have made it worse. Thus the point Wade makes becomes very important.

The Christian MUST, therefore, be a Christian first in all things. In so doing he or she will invariable be that qualitative & engaged citizen that stands for life, holds the politician accountable, and is active in elections. The role of an empowered citizen, once abdicated, is power to the despotic. It is my position that many in politics hope fervently that you think “what good is my vote?” or “I hate politics so I don’t get involved!” Meanwhile they secure more power to themselves, marginalize citizens and people of faith with law, tear at the fabric of our nation and do more damage to your liberties daily.

What do we do then? I would maintain that we can do nothing apart from God in the first place. A focus on God and our relationship / walk with Him and in Him would do more to correct this problem than people would even dare to think. I would also suggest that Mitch McConnell and others like him are really no different than that of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They are the political version of WWF wrestling where behind the curtain, before the come out to the public, they say to each other “Okay, I will hit you on gun control and you hit me on abortion, I will lose this and you will lose that and in the end we maintain power and position…deal?” The Answer is yes, deal. This is why so many of them must go. Many of them frauds of a high order not just subverting our political offices but the nation itself.

To restore our nation, each of us who would see her restored must first be in a restored condition. Then as we set the rest before God and ask Him what there is for us to do He WILL lead the way and will hand you an already won victory. I do not need a Trump to “Make America Great Again” or a Cruz to “understand the constitution” nor do I need a Bernie Sanders to make “everything for free and all of us the same” as much as I need Jesus to redeem me, lead me, enable me and for me to be OBEDIENT to that calling. Stop sitting idle by Christian Citizen, we are called to be salt and light and our nation need that more than ever.

Tom said...

A preacher's role is to tell us how and why we are abusing our "Freedom" spiritually and what we should be doing to restore that "spiritual freedom" into its right balance.

A politician's role is to tell us how and why we are abusing our secular "freedom" and what we should be doing to restore that "secular freedom" into its right balance for society.

Sadly, both the preacher and the politician are appointed by a system outcome which is driving by the voting power of those who appoint them to their role.

Few, sadly, of either camp, the Preacher or the Politician have the courage to step up and tell it like it really is because their pay check depends on not offending the majority of the people who determine their status in life.

The other sad fact is that the people who appoint people as either preachers or politicians rarely know what the true role of either is and so we end up with people who God has not ordained in these positions. Sadly many confuse their Liberties with their Freedom.

Both the Preacher and the Politician should complement each other in leadership and understanding as they work to show and explain to us how, we the people, can restore our lost "Freedom" both individually and corporately back to the way it should be.

If people work on their individual spiritual freedom then the secular freedom will take care of itself. However, not everybody is that concerned about their Spiritual Freedom.

Rex Ray said...


Does Tao abide within terrorist?
Does Tao abide within a religion that promotes “Kill the infidel”; “Death to America”?

“Lewis believed that the best Christian political thought and action was accomplished NOT by pastors wanting a ‘Christian America’, but by Christian businessmen...,Christian doctors…, and Christian citizens…applying the Golden Rule…”

Did Lewis know that most people become Christians by hearing the Gospel?

Pastors do more that just wanting a ‘Christian America; they HELP America to stay/become Christian. If pastors don’t do that, they need to change professions.

Wade Burleson said...


I think C.S. Lewis would respond that the religion or politician who has not tao ("natural law") is both an infidel and a reprobate, and has soul so scarred the image of God is rubbed out, and the judgment of God will be rubbed in.


Unknown said...

How does it work that we can grieve the Holy Spirit if we can't disappoint God?

Wade Burleson said...


Grieving the Holy Spirit is not disappointing God, but rather by one's actions thwarting the "good work" the Holy Spirit is doing in and through you. The good news, however, is that "He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion." In other words, to "grieve the Spirit" is like wrestling Andre the Giant. You lose every time. :)

Victorious said...

Thanks for that Wade. I never quite understood that verse about grieving the Holy Spirit, but I do now. Love the Andre the Giant analogy!

Mary Ann

Rex Ray said...


There are lots of good statements ruined by the word “all”.

I think you made my point. :)

P. S. Just got home from the hospital for a hernia.

Unknown said...

Thank you Wade. I've been struggling because I love studying with Precepts but lately I've been having a really hard time because they always talk about keeping things in context and not making things fit in your preconceived ides but they do just what they warn against. I got cornered because I said that God does not get disappointed with us and they said that He does because since Him and the Holy Spirit are God if we can grieve the Holy Spirit then we can grieve Him. I didn't know how to stand up against that.

Unknown said...

So how do I explain these things from scripture? Since most people want to put the Old Covenant and the New Covenant together. It amazes me how many people don't see the old covenant as being done away with. They want to say that yes the new covenant is about grace but they do not want to admit that there is nothing they can do to add to what is done. Tonight class was about having to obey and they used 1 Cor 11:18-34. They are teaching that this passage relates to believers that need to confess before they take communion. From everything I understand about what I studied it relates to those who are taking communion in an "unworthy manner" are taking it as unbelievers. They are suffering the consequences of participating in a ceremony that they have no right to patriciate in. Of course I didn't get very far because in church we are taught that it 's talking about our sin!

Anonymous said...

"The Tao leads people to treat others with respect and dignity, to protect and provide for the defenseless, to resist oppression, and to pursue justice. The manner in which this is done may vary, but the moral principle, or Tao, abides within all men and all religions"

Which is more than living just by Faith. It is the "doing" of what we believe is truth. This is why I will never understand Calvinism.

Wade Burleson said...


You write: "Which is more than just living by Faith. IT is the "doing" of what we believe is truth. This is why I will never understand Calvinism."

Maybe I can help. I am uninterested if you understand Calvinism, because I don't consider myself a follower of John Calvin. Wrong J.C. I follow Jesus Christ. The Apostle John tells us something amazing about the "commandment" of Jesus - and remember, the Apostle John knows what Jesus commands because John walked with Him, listened to Him, heard Him audibly, and is a reliable source of the "commandment" of our Lord.

I John 3:23 - "And this is His command (singular): to believe in the name Jesus Christ and to love one another as He commanded us."

In other words, one cannot separate belief from love, nor love from belief. It's like separating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - impossible. You have faith in Christ, you show it by your love for people. Belief is the principle, love is the practice.

Therefore, I wouldn't give you a plug nickel for the kind of Christianity that emphasizes "truth" but hates people. Show me your faith in Jesus by your love for people and I'll know you are a Christian.

Hope that helps! :)