Wednesday 4 January 2012

Understanding Charles Williams Co-inherence~


Charles Williams often quoted:

Matthew 27:42 He saved othershimself he cannot save

The taunt of the priests, scribes and elders against Jesus on the cross. 

Williams took this as a profound and universal truth about Christian salvation. This is my understanding of what he meant:


Question - How are innocents saved? - babies, and young children; how are they saved who have not known Christ and accepted him during their lives?

Answer - the same way everybody else is saved: by the Love of Neighbour.


The main commandments are number one Love God and number two Love thy Neighbour. 

How does this work? We should Love our Neighbour because we Love God (and because God commanded it)

and it is through this Love-of-Neighbour-for-the-sake-of-God that we may achieve salvation, but indirectly, as a by-product.

It is (and this seems to be the crux of Williams argument) our Love that saves our Neighbour. His own efforts avail him nothing. 


And our own efforts at salvation avail nothing - except for our Love-of-Neighbour-for-the-sake-of-God. 

We too will be saved, if we are saved, by a Neighbour's Love. 


In this sense we are all of us, even the most sophisticated, in the same situation as an innocent Babe; saved by the Love of others and not by our own efforts. 


Mankind is therefore a web, a network of Neighbours Loving and saving Neighbours; everybody doing the work of salvation for each other.

(Love of God being the reason for Love of Neighbour.)

So we save each other, by prayer and service. 


We look at each other and perceive that we are wretched incapables. But the Christian message is that we can (and must) Love (and serve) these wretched and incapable others. 

That is what Christ wants us to do.


Our range of Love is, of course, limited - by our own sanctity. The reason for become more Saint-like is from Love of others - only the greatest Saints can effectively pray for the sins of many, can perhaps through their prayers help Mankind to salvation. 

Most of the rest of us have far less capacity, less range (perhaps our parents and children, spouses, close friends, those dwelling around us - perhaps for some it is a single person?), but it is our job to do what we can within our given range. 


That, I think, is what Charles Williams meant by co-inherence. 


~NOTE: By Co-inherence I also intend to include substitution and exchange - Williams distinctive triad of concerns. 


I think there are implications in co-inherence for how salvation works - that it is an offer which will be made to all, to the soul (which is always mature and able to make this choice, even in babies) and accepted or refused, and the prayers and other helps of others (their Love) may be effectual in making this choice the choice for salvation. The opposite choice, Williams called 'the exclusion of Love' - the worst a human can experience: worse than death, he said.

And, I sense an extrapolation to understand the meaning of life, the extended life, the life into adulthood which so few humans (a small proportion) experienced in history. Life may not be a test for the individual soul, a kind of obstacle course with salvation as the goal or the world as a gymnasium of The Good - but perhaps advanced age was intended for the Love of others: in brief to allow more time to pray for others. Thus life could (potentially) benefit the whole of mankind, the more life - potentially - the greater benefit to the co-inherent web. 



Wurmbrand said...

I am reading Tolkien's last /finished/ piece of writing about Middle-earth: I refer to "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth," printed in the Morgoth's Ring volume (#10) of The History of Middle-earth.

This is a remarkable work. It seems for most of it to be a metaphysical debate (cf. Plato's Phaedo). Then, with much artistic skill and tact, Tolkien reveals a new dimension to the situation and the short work (about 25 pages) becomes poignant as well as profound.

Tolkien added to the Athrabeth a lengthy commentary. Suffice here to say that there is much in the dialogue and its commentary relevant to the topic of how Men see Elves and Elves see Men very early on, relatively soon after their first encounter, and that I see a suggested element of coinherence and substitution as being evident especially in Tolkien's thinking about the shared "eschatology" of the two peoples.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - I also love this piece of writing:

Wurmbrand said...

PS to my earlier message (and I realize perhaps this isn't the best spot for an extended discussion of the Athrabeth!) -- Christopher Tolkien refers to "a very strange speculation on God's original design for mankind" (p. 355 of Morgoth's Ring), where Tolkien wrote, that "it is guessed" that Men "were destined (after tutelage) to take on the governance of all the Earth, and ultimately to become Valar, to 'enrich Heaven.'"

I'm not sure how "strange" this really is, since Tolkien could be referring to the Scriptural teaching that those in heaven are "like angels" (St. Matthew 22:30). The "governance of Earth" may correlate to the meek inheriting the earth (Matt 5:5). The "tutelage" must surely relate in some way to Galatians 4:1ff., perhaps Ephesians 3:16.

As for "enriching Heaven" -- this might refer to nothing more controversial than the glory of the Church Triumphant. But perhaps Tolkien is working with the idea that one factor in the creation of human beings was that they should come to replace the numbers of the angels who fell. I don't think we can confirm this specific idea from Holy Scripture, but St. Anthony the Great apparently taught so. The Orthodox St. John of Kronstadt is said to have taught that "Mankind was created specifically to fill the ranks in heaven vacated by the fallen angels." (See Dennis Engleman, Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End Times, Conciliar Press, 1995, pp. 154-5)

hungrytales said...

How is it that I stumble on reading this article just as I'm listening to this poignant song by the young SoKo - "Destruction of the Disgusting Ugly Hate"?