House Rules (Part One)

white and brown wooden house near green trees during daytime

Everyone knows when you play a board or card game at someone else’s house, you are subject to different rules. You better find out if you automatically have to take a jump in Checkers. It can come back to bite you if you don’t. Do you have to play a if you are able to, or can you snag a good car for later playing? It all depends on the house?

What about houses of faith? What rules apply there? There are a lot of faith houses, or churches, so how can we answer this question? Let’s start with the entry way, what C.S. Lewis described as the hallway. In Mere Christianity, Lewis describes it this way:

“The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light; and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if there are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

Lewis refers to this hallway as Mere Christianity. It is the ground upon which all Christians stand, those doctrines upon which all Christians agree. Such mere beliefs can be seen in creeds that have been universally accepted, like the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. Such statements contain those basic and irreducible elements that express authentic Christian faith.

I often like to tell my students that though Christians are clearly divided over a number of issues as evident by a multitude of ever splintering denominations, there is actually a deep unity. While Christians might disagree on topics like the mode and nature of baptism, hence the various rooms, they can agree on the deity of Jesus. But Lewis would remind us, we must choose a room for it is there that we will find a meal, and laughter, and fellowship. The hallway is so important, but we can’t stay there forever.