October 18, 2005

Real Presence -- Post 1

To begin this series, first it seems necessary to know our author. Leanne Payne has been active in healing prayer ministry for a few decades. Having founded Pastoral Care Ministries, in her later years she still conducts healing prayer conferences twice annually--once at Wheaton College and once in Europe.

She has taught for Wheaton College, in the graduate program in Christian Spirituality at Creighton University, as well as for the University of the Nations. She holds both a BA and an MA from Wheaton College as well as an MA from the University of Arkansas. Payne also served as a research fellow at the Yale Divinity School.1

She was born in the south, and from an early age, she was fatherless. Her mother was a faithful, godly woman who was sure to direct her children to God as their masculine Father. However, as many of us, Payne did not come away unscathed. She was married once with one child but was then divorced and left without a college education. She had come to the point where she did not understand why life was so hard for her, but she decided that even if she never experienced the fresh presence of God again and never understood why, she would obey Him. This was the beginning of significant change in her life.

She has written numerous books about her experiences including Healing Presence, The Broken Image, Healing Homosexuality, Crisis in Masculinity, Restoring the Christian Soul, and Listening Prayer.

Mrs. Payne had a special opportunity to work on a project with Dr. Clyde Kilby at Wheaton College where she read through and chronicled some of Lewis' letters. Much of what we have today of Lewis' letters come from Kilby's work. Many of the fruits of Payne's efforts on this project are contained in this book.

Front Matter
The first foreword is given by the late Bishop John Richard Sheets, former educator at Creighton University and member of the Society of Jesus since 1953. He says he met Leanne around 1990 at a Christmas party from which he left with an autographed copy of the first edition of this book. Titled Real Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Works of C.S. Lewis, he was so impressed that he "asked if she would come to teach in a program in 'Christian Spirituality' at Creighton University" where he was teaching. In his foreword, Bishop Sheets attempted to summarize how Lewis put together what he terms the "constellation of the real": first, transposition was an important concept to Lewis; second, the metaphor of "weight" translated Lewis' notion of levels of transposition; and third, incarnational reality is not neutral as evidenced in The Screwtape Letters. In the end, Bishop Sheets wants us to understand that by God descending into His people, the weight of the glory of Christ progressively grows through the Holy Spirit. This summary is elucidated in Leanne's chapters below.

The second forward was written by Wayne Martindale of Wheaton College. He describes Real Presence as a short course through Lewis' work. He goes on to say:
Her book systematically explains Lewis's views about God, creation, human nature and the human condition, sanctification, and the fundamentals of the Christian life.
In all, Martindale praises this book because it provides understanding of the Christian worldview's power to critique modern philosophical naturalism and its faults as well as to provide meaning to all of life.

In her preface, Payne provides insight into her intended audience and her purpose, and then she expresses her gratitude to those who made this book possible.
  • Audience: all who have loved and benefitted from the writings of Lewis as well as those who would like to step into Lewis' unique world of understanding.
  • Purpose: to show how "Lewis points a scholarly, imaginative, and thoroughly devout finger at the Real." Lewis puts us in touch with incarnational reality, which is what most of us hunger for most.
It is in this preface that Payne defines incarnational reality--the reality of God, present in and through His creation. Elsewhere, Christopher West highlights the significance of this concept as it pertains to understanding spirituality (see "John Paul II's Theology of the Body").
This is the very "logic" of Christianity. God communicates His life to us in and through the body — in and through the Word made flesh. The spirit that denies this "incarnational reality" is that of the anti-Christ (cf. 1 Jn. 4:2-3).
If this is true, Real Presence and Lewis' writings on which it is based may play a significant role in pointing to God and the supernatural while integrating it with the natural in His holy order.

Chapter 1 Introduction: Incarnational Reality
In this four-page chapter, Payne introduces the concepts of incarnational reality and transposition in the work of Lewis, spending most of the chapter on how Lewis' understanding of the Holy Spirit's indwelling formed the center of his theology and philosophy. According to Payne, this indwelling served as Lewis' own link to the Creator, and yet he knew this is not man's natural inclination. Like Augustine, Lewis knew that man longed for God but sought impostures, possessing restless hearts until they came to rest in Him. As this rest is in Him, it actually results from the Spirit of the resurrected Christ resting in and indwelling the very being of the Christian.

Payne then cites instances in Lewis' work (mainly Miracles but also The Weight of Glory) where he touches on the concept of transposition. She claims that this is a key principle of the universe for Lewis, citing his reference to reason incarnated in man, God incarnated in the man of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit incarnated into the believer. In fact, in Miracles he says, our existence is "but a faint image of the Divine Incarnation itself."2 Because I cannot do it justice, I quote Payne's last paragraph here in which she describes the experience of reading Lewis:
When one surfaces from a plunge into Lewis's world, he generally takes an unprecedented and swift flight upward into a universe that is not only greatly expanded but has been given back its supernatural reality. Its transcendent realm is no longer hidden. The fetters of unbelief snap and he soars the free heights with Lewis. As both philosopher and novelist, Lewis reveals the whole of reality to us that we might better apprehend the parts; he reveals the Creator to us that we might better understand creation. In his cosmic view of supernature and nature, we see that GOd reaches down to man; that man is, indeed, linked with God. The very concreteness of the realities we have all too often abstracted away (including the supernatural) returns. We have retsored to us, not only the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, but of angels, demons, and all the hosts of heaven. And within our very own selves we find a root--"a root in the Absolute, which is the utter reality."

Payne paints quite a picture of Lewis' work, and one that I admit has been true in my life. From The Great Divorce to The Chronicles of Narnia to the most dense of his theological works, Lewis points to the Kingdom of God in all its goodness (okay, not all, but let me have this hyperbole) and the either/or that one is confronted with when seeing Christ. Most signficant, Lewis provides the modern, especially the modern believer struggling with the leftover vestiges of empirical rationalism, a framework in which to see the world that allows for meaning--not only allows for it but points to the Source of that meaning and the Reality in which it can be experienced. I wonder if this book (and more likely Lewis' work itself) might be a good introduction for those leaving a naturalistic, rationalistic worldview, especially scientists seeing merit in Intelligent Design.

Additionally, I have been struck with the beauty of Lewis' transposition. Just as Christ emptied himself to be the servant, so God willingly came down to our level in the person of Jesus, and so does He continue to come down to those who invite Him. Consistent with Biblical interpretive techniques, interpreting creation as that which images God's incarnation opens up new possibilities every day. While I find it an important distinction to make, the fact that God is not the tree but made the tree to point to the incarnation grips me with awe. By His giving of this gift (the tree), I can see His heart that gave His greatest gift (Himself).

— — — — — —
1 Much of this information was taken from text posted on her website.
2 See page 178.

Go on to the next post in this series.


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