GOD: Concrete or Abstract?
C. S. Lewis wants to combat the modern tendency to associate transcendent being with abstraction so badly that he boldly calls God “concrete.” If God is a spirit, this word cannot be meant literally in its normal meaning of tangible. But Lewis wants us to think of God as something more solid than physical reality, as something at the opposite pole from nebulous. He conveys this idea effectively in his portrait of heaven in The Great Divorce, where the grass pierces the feet of the spirits from the gray town. So if we take “concrete” metaphorically, it is one of Lewis’s more brilliant descriptions of God as the One who is ultimately real. There is nothing nebulous about Him; He has a definite what-ness. “He is ‘absolute being’—or rather the Absolute Being—in the sense that He alone exists in His own right. But there are things which God is not. In that sense He has a determinate character. Thus He is righteous, not a-moral; creative, not inert” (Miracles 90). He is a Trinity, not a monad. One of the clearest statements is this one:
“God is basic Fact or Actuality, the source of all other facthood. At all costs therefore He must not be thought of as a featureless generality. If He exists at all, He is the most concrete thing there is, the most individual, ‘organized and minutely articulated.’ He is unspeakable not be being indefinite but by being too definite for the unavoidable vagueness of language” (Miracles 93).
To combine the solidity of a Being who exists necessarily and eternally and is the Source of all other existence with the definiteness of a God who is personal and holy and active taxes our imaginations and our understanding; but this is the God the Bible presents to us. This God has all the absoluteness a philosopher could desire, but He is not the god of the philosophers but of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of creation and Sinai, of the Cross and the Resurrection. His is what He is, and we must adjust to that uncompromising Reality. “And as Jill gazed at [Aslan’s] motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience” (The Silver Chair 20).
Not absolute or personal, not infinite or individual, not transcendent or dynamic: this is not the god we might have imagined but the unconditioned Reality that just is, and who is serenely and supremely both.
Donald T. Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia. For more of his writings, check out the Lantern Hollow e-store!