Yet Another Pod

Michael Metzger

Last week we imagined C. S. Lewis and Iain McGilchrist as two peas in a pod. Turns out they share yet another pod, one we could call “the Other.”

Like all mystics, C. S. Lewis sought to embody the medieval “coincidence of opposites,” the simultaneous reality of God’s immanence and transcendence. Immanence recognizes God is entirely within something or someone (from Latin immanere, “to dwell in, remain”). Transcendence recognizes God’s position above and beyond all that he created.[i]

OK… so what? Older church traditions are both/and, immanence and transcendence. But they emphasize immanence, the presence of God in the entirety of the world. This means everything is a revelation of the presence of God, a “sacrament”—from sandwiches to sex, lasagna to our loins. This is sacramentalism. We see this in older traditions in the Eucharist. God is bodily present in the bread and wine. Leftovers are not discarded.

Newer traditions emphasize transcendence. God is sovereign, above and beyond all that he created. They imagine the distance between God and his creation while older traditions imagine the nearness of God to his creation. Older traditions emphasize the dangers of a creation in which God is only marginally present while newer ones emphasize the risk of images (often sexual ones) where God is imagined as mysteriously present. That’s why in newer traditions (mostly Protestant Evangelical), leftovers from communion are discarded.

They wouldn’t be discarded if they understood immanence and transcendence as seamless. Lewis did. He imagined God as immanent while recognizing “we are approaching—well I won’t say ‘the Wholly Other,’ for I suspect that is meaningless, but the Unimaginably and Insupportably Other.”[ii] Other is the transcendent God who is Holy, the Hebrew word Kadosh, meaning something is “other” than something else—in this case, God and his creation. Lewis paid attention to the Other, which he recognized as God who is immanent, in our bodies.

If you get all that, consider how Iain McGilchrist is a pea in Lewis’ Other pod:


“I believe the essential difference between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere is that the right hemisphere pays attention to the Other, whatever it is that exists apart from ourselves, with which it sees itself in profound relation. It is deeply attracted to, and given life by, the relationship, the betweenness, that exists with this Other. By contrast, the left hemisphere pays attention to the virtual world that it has created, which is self-consistent, but self-contained, ultimately disconnected from the Other, making it powerful, but ultimately only able to operate on, and to know, itself.”


Translated: McGilchrist says those who bias the left hemisphere get neither immanence nor transcendence. You only get a self-referential view of yourself, your faith—which is self-consistent but self-contained, ultimately disconnected from the Other. Older church traditions, those that continue to affirm immanence and transcendence while emphasizing  immanence sees the gospel in profound relation to heterosexual marriage. Here’s why.

Immanence means God is in our body, so our bodies tell God’s story. We see this in the creeds where Jesus was “begotten, not made.” Begotten means generated, a term related to gender and genitals. This is why marriage involves two genders—male and female. Together, they tell God’s story of Jesus, the Other, being generated to “marry” us, male and female made in God’s image but other than God. The term “other” is key here, for other is the Greek hetero. This means only permanent, monogamous, heterosexual marriage tells God’s story in a meaning-full way.

Traditions emphasizing transcendence over immanence don’t see this. They break the meaning-full connection between the Other, God who is immanent in our body, our gender. This leaves people asking if God is mainly transcendent, “up there,” and he seeks to save me so that I join him “up there” in heaven, what’s that got to do with “down here,” my gender? The “disconnect” with the Other makes prohibiting same-sex marriage seem arbitrary and capricious.

Given our current controversy over same-sex marriage, it seems to me Christians might contemplate Lewis’ and McGilchrist’s Other pod.

[i] David Tracy, Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism, (Herder and Herder, 1998)

[ii] C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963), 13.


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  1. I hope an addendum clarifies what I’m trying to say this morning. Augustine said only that which is plausible is believable. For an increasing number of Americans, heterosexual marriage as the only legit form of marriage is implausible. It’s largely implausible because many of those who affirm heterosexual marriage embrace a disembodied faith. So they don’t experience God’s immanence, leaving their understanding of transcendence (if they have such an understanding) disembodied, disconnected from our body, gender, and sexuality. The result is those claiming marriage ought to be limited to heterosexual couples sound implausible to an increasing number of Americans.

    1. Ironically, the emphasis on transcendence plays into the Gnostic tendency in the evangelical church, reinforces the virtual over the actual, disembodied over the embodied, and is in the end a source of secularization. As long as the church follows this emphasis we have nothing to say to the body/self dualism that is the principle assumption behind the contemporary understanding of sexuality. Even more, we are reinforcing its error via our attempt at heightened spirituality.

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