Man’s ‘Chief End’ [v191]

JANUARY 2015

Man’s ‘Chief End’

Question: Are you still using—on a daily basis—one of the Christmas gift you received? Well, if you are, congrats, and I hope you are getting something ‘valuable’ out of it—hopefully, something that might change your life. I so happen to be experiencing something I view as ‘invaluable’.

One of the Christmas gifts I received this year is something that I believe everyone should consider during their lifetime (and it might take that long to fully understand it!). The ‘package’ I received has really helped me in my endeavor to look at who I want to become. I received an unabridged dramatic spoken presentation on CDs of the ‘book’ “Mere Christianity.” (Thank you, Michelle!).
 

For those who have not heard of it—or don’t know the specifics—the contents of the ‘compilation’ were originally given as informal radio broadcasts by the BBC during WWII by Clive Staples Lewis (C. S. Lewis) [ 1898-1963 ] while he was an English Literature professor/fellow at Oxford University in England (when hope and the moral fabric of society were threatened by the relentless inhumanity of global war). The broadcasts were then published in three separate parts: “The Case for Christianity” (1943); “Christian Behavior” (1943); and “Beyond Personality” (1945).

It is generally regarded as THE classic ‘apologetic’ of Christian belief, written in a very ‘accessible’ manner (since it originated on the radio), and clearly demonstrates that Christianity is not a religion of “flitting angels and blind faith,” but of free will, and an innate sense of the justice and the grace of God. It is a collection of scintillating brilliance that remains strikingly fresh, employs logical arguments that are eloquently expressed, and confirms Lewis’ reputation as one of the leading writers and thinkers of our age.
 

[ FYI: Lewis is the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” which has sold over 100 million copies, and was transformed into three major motion pictures: “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005), “Prince Caspian” (2008) and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (2010):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia_(film_series)].
 

Whether or not you are a Christian at this point, this book will ‘prompt’ you to consider “what’s life all about” and “what’s man’s main purpose” (“chief end”).

Well, that’s a pretty ‘tall order’, but I think C. S. Lewis does a great job of laying a ‘foundation’ before he presents his thoughts on Christianity [ FYI: Lewis was an atheist for over half of his life (35 years), and once called himself a “most reluctant convert” to faith ].

[ “C. S. Lewis as Atheist turned Apostle”:
https://www.cslewis.com/blog/c-s-lewis-as-atheist-turned-apostle/]

Lewis’ very reluctance is a sign of his spiritual integrity. He fully recognized that commitment to Christian faith would be a life-changing event, not just a casual decision about where to spend his Sunday mornings, and when he was ready to make the surrender of his will that was required of him, Lewis entered into faith with his whole heart, and mind, and soul. So, Lewis starts his presentation from a ‘sceptical’ and ‘humanistic’ viewpoint—building a ‘foundation’, step-by-step, so most people can follow his logic.
 

Lewis begins with the premise that a Natural Law must exist, as humans did not invent it, but humans respond to it and cannot escape its influences. From this he proposes that God must exist, and that this God must be made up of three parts: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (or Spirit). Love springs from the relationship between the Father and Son. The Holy Ghost is a conduit for the divine love, and the Son has the responsibility to bring as many human souls to the Father as possible.

Lewis describes what a Christian believes and how a Christian should behave. The beliefs follow the logical argument, and the behavior involves several virtues that should be practiced, with the help of Jesus Christ. The first steps in being a Christian are to accept Jesus Christ and to try to be more like Him. The more closely one can be more like Jesus Christ, the better. However, one does not, and probably cannot, achieve ‘perfection’ before death. This is acceptable, according to Lewis, and God looks with more favor upon those who struggle harder to be Christian.

Lewis says that there is no other way to everlasting life than through the help of Jesus Christ, and there is no other correct religion. However, he allows that people of other religions or who have never heard of Christianity could be in the process he describes anyway. He extends this possibility to any intelligent being in the universe.

Ultimately, Lewis sees becoming Christian and achieving everlasting life as next step in human ‘evolution’ (not “Darwinian” evolution). He does not expect any further biological evolution, and as a result, “new men” walk the earth—those who are true Christians and who have achieved a level of ‘perfection’.

The book consists of four ‘sub’ books:
Book I: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe
Book II: What Christians Believe
Book III: Christian Behaviour
Book IV: Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity

Final perfection of the human soul occurs after death in a kind of perfection ‘training camp’ lead by Jesus Christ. Once perfect, Jesus takes a soul to the Father. What happens then is out of Lewis’s scope, as it is for every human being. Only the first ‘part’ of the plan—the part that directly involves human beings—is revealed to humanity.
 

After listening to the 6 CDs—two times through—the final disk (chapters 7-11 of book 4) ‘pulled’ it all together for me:

– God really wants to ‘transform’ all of us into persons like His Son—truly sons and daughters, not merely His creatures. We may try to change our ‘nature’ by ourselves, but this can only really be done by God. [ “It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through” ].

– Just like anything else we want to ‘become’, if we first ‘pretend’ to be what we want to be—even though we are not yet like that—it soon becomes reality. So, if we pretend that we are like Jesus, we will become more like Him!

– The ‘essence’ of Christianity is to become “little Christs.” In one sense it’s hard and in another sense it’s easy. Hard because it requires the giving up—total surrender. It’s easy because Jesus will do it all for us! (He ‘carries’ all our burdens, ‘lightens’ our concerns, and gives us peace and joy).

– God’s ultimate plan for each one of us is nothing less than “perfection”—not in this life, but as close a possible to it before we die [ “The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment” ]. So, sometimes His ‘pruning’ and ‘purifying’ is uncomfortable (not just ‘updating’ our ‘house’, sometimes totally ‘reconstructing’ it!) [ “Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection. On the other hand, you must realise from the outset that the goal towards which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal” ].

– Counting the cost: Lewis suggests that all of this will be well worth the ‘effort’ in the long run! [ “Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect-until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less” ].

– We have “free will” and can refuse God’s help at any time—He will not ‘force’ us to do any of this (just be sure to consider the after death ‘consequences’).

– God doesn’t merely want “nice” people (surface level), He wants “new men” [and women] (in His likeness). What God wants from us, whether we have a natural tendency to be nice or not, is for us to give ourselves to Him and trust in Him so that He may transform our nature into His likeness. It goes without saying that men who are new and transformed also are ‘nice’. [ “If Christianity is true then it ought to follow (a) That any Christian will be nicer than the same person would be if he were not a Christian. (b) That any man who becomes a Christian will be nicer than he was before” ].

– If there is a God in Heaven, He has a right to make a call on what the ‘guidelines’ should be, and that you are, in a sense, ‘alone’ with Him. [ “You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbours or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anaesthetic fog which we call “nature” or “the real world” fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?” ].

– There will be a ‘new kind’ of evolution—a transformation from a lower form of life to a higher form of life. But unlike [ Darwinian ] “evolution,” it won’t involve a natural (sexual) processes. Rather, it will come to Nature from the “outside.” Jesus was the “first instance” of this evolution into the “new man.” [ “God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man” ]. Everyone gets this “good infection” by ‘personal’ contact with Jesus.

– The great paradox is that the only way we can ‘find’ our true self is if we ‘lose it’ and ‘give in’ totally to Jesus. His thoughts will then become our thoughts, and we will discover our true ‘personality’ in Him. [ “Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in” ].

– The stakes are very high for each of us individually. We are choosing more than merely how we will live this ‘natural’ life. We are choosing now how we are going to ‘live’ eternally—in ‘Heaven’ or hell!
 

So then, what has all this got to do about the title of this ‘post’, the “chief end of man?” Isn’t ‘happiness’ the ‘chief end’ of every person?

Well, although Lewis never specifically used this phrase in Mere Christianity, he did ‘hint’ at it (and, of course, he did say what God’s chief end for man was: to be ‘perfect’ like His Son, Jesus).

Lewis’ conviction about the purpose of life complements the first question and what the Westminster Catechism says: “What is the chief end of man?”—which is “To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” The assumption behind this is that God made us in a certain way, for His own purposes. Lewis said of this:

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they ‘could be like Gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God to make Him happy. The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as man made the engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
 

We actually do not get to decide what will make us ‘happy’. Our happiness, as much as the place of our birth and the color of our skin, has been ‘chosen’ for us. Yes, we are happiness-seeking beings and, yes, we have been made that way. Notice also that this end of happiness is unavoidable and actually shapes all of our decisions. The French philosopher Pascal wrote in his “Pensees” that,

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”

Note that the man who improves his life and the man who ends his life both wanted to be happy. Their own good was the motive in their action. One was simply mistaken. Hence, the actual good of a being is not the same thing as his own assessment of the good. There is a simple logic to it:

If a) man is finite and b) man has the capacity for happiness, then it follows that his capacity for happiness is finite. He did not always have it because there was a time when he was not. Thus ‘happiness’ is not a synonym for “whatever I darn well please.” God has made us exactly the kind of beings that we are. Being finite and sinful our chief end is like a “light refracted through a shattered image.” The result is that we are always pursuing our ‘chief end’, but always seeking after the ‘shadows’ instead of the ‘light source’. Lewis adds to this:

“Now if we are made for Heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object…If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes, must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”
 

‘Holy’ living results in bringing pleasure to God and to man himself. In the Bible, it commands Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” [ Colossians 1:10 ] (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Hebrews 13:16).

When Christians walk in a manner worthy of their ‘calling’, this pleases God. This should be motivation enough since God has designed man to will and to work for His good pleasure [ Philippians 2:13 ]. In the course of this process, the Christian will find his own desires satisfied [ Psalm 37:4] . For as Lewis said, “God designed man to find his supreme happiness in God alone,” and put forth that all of us need to become ‘perfect’ like His Son, Jesus!
 

So, our “chief end”? Well, ‘enjoy’ God, and He’ll be ‘glorified’ through our lives.

So then how do we enjoy Him? Well, there’s no ‘12-step’ process or spiritual ‘formula’, but by looking to Him to meet every need, to comfort every heartache, to fill every void, and to guide our every step, this is how we will experience true happiness and fulfill our “chief end” for our lives!
 

Hopefully this has encouraged you to look a bit ‘deeper’ into all of this. I’d be interested in knowing how it goes for you!
 

[ Excerpts from: Focus on the Family; Open Discipleship; Dr. Joseph Parle; James Merritt; Westminster Catechism;   ]

[ NOTE: This has been an attempt by me to ‘whet your appetite’ to want to read/listen to this brilliant resource about the Christian faith—one that will take a bit of time to understand, but is well worth the effort! Mere Christianity is perhaps the most brilliant explanation for Christian beliefs any adult can read ].
 

RESOURCES:

C. S. Lewis at War
By: Focus on the Family – Radio Theatre

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis is widely considered one of the greatest Christian books of the twentieth century. What most people don’t realize is that it was first created as a series of radio broadcasts that came about due to the conflict and adversity faced by Britain during World War II.

C. S. Lewis at War is a powerful and entertaining radio theatre—style audio drama on CD that brings to life this amazing period in Lewis’s life. It provides a rare insight into Lewis’s life, friends, and family, illuminating a time of personal difficulty that also brought forth some of his most influential works: The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, and Mere Christianity. Recorded in London and written by Paul McCusker, the script comes alive with a full cast of award-winning British voice actors, cinematic sound effects, and an original score.

The story begins when England was at war with Germany. Injury and death impacted everyone. Day-to-day living was immensely difficult. Children were evacuated from London and sent to other parts of the country (Lewis himself took in a few). It was a time of strain, heartbreak, and weariness. A visionary in the BBC’s religious department—James Welch—passionately believed Christianity should be meaningful and relevant to the British people in this hour of need. Looking for new and diverse ways to present programs that explored Christian ideas, he contacted Oxford tutor, lecturer, and writer C. S. Lewis. Reluctant at first, Lewis finally agreed to make a case for a “moral law,” drawn from common human experience that he believed was essential as a foundation for faith in Christ. He presented his thoughts in a series of Broadcast Talks that were later gathered together and published as Mere Christianity.

This behind-the-scenes drama powerfully integrates the ideas Lewis explored in Mere Christianity with the very real influence that comes from living out a Christian life in a period of trauma, proclaiming the reasons to trust God even when the world screams otherwise.

In addition to the three-hour Radio Theatre production, C. S. Lewis at War includes a complete and unabridged dramatic reading of Mere Christianity—capturing the clarity, intelligence, and wit of the original classic. This provides listeners with a full ten hours of audio entertainment on 8 CDs.

Radio Theatre productions from Focus on the Family are more than just audio storytelling. They are full dramatic productions with award-winning scripts, renowned actors, original music, and cinematic sound—like an audio movie that plays on the biggest screen of all: your imagination. Other best-selling Radio Theatre productions that feature the works of C. S. Lewis include The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters.

http://www.amazon.com/C-S-Lewis-War-Christianity/dp/1624052185

http://www.amazon.com/C-S-Lewis-War-Christianity/dp/1624052185

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C.S Lewis’s surviving BBC radio address

The lone surviving reel of audio with Lewis’s voice on it. He deals with prayer and evolution (Evolution on the second installment). Recorded during WW ll these talks eventually became “Mere Christianity”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHxs3gdtV8A

The last installment of Lewis’ BBC addresses left on tape. This is what would eventually become the chapter of Mere Christianity entitled “Beyond Personality”. I encourage the translation of this video into different languages (with due sourcing of course) so if you are so inclined and have the talent…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYoU5_MQOU0

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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
(Entire book read by Jeffrey Howard):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_G031ygEeE

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The Screwtape Letters
(First Ever Full-cast Dramatization of the Diabolical Classic)

By: Focus on the Family – Radio Theatre

From the award-winning audio drama team that brought you Radio Theatre’s Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia. In his enduringly popular masterpiece The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis re-imagines Hell as a gruesome bureaucracy. With spiritual insight and wry wit, Lewis suggests that demons, laboring in a vast enterprise, have horribly recognizable human attributes: competition, greed, and totalitarian punishment. Avoiding their own painful torture as well as a desire to dominate are what drive demons to torment their “patients.”

The style and unique dark humor of The Screwtape Letters are retained in this full-cast dramatization, as is the original setting of London during World War II. The story is carried by the senior demon Screwtape played magnificently by award-winning actor Andy Serkis (“Gollum” in Lord of the Rings) as he shares correspondence to his apprentice demon Wormwood. All 31 letters lead into dramatic scenes, set in either Hell or the real world with humans—aka “the patient,” as the demons say—along with his circle of friends and family. This Radio Theatre release also stars Geoffrey Palmer (Tomorrow Never Dies), Laura Michelle Kelly (Sweeney Todd), Eileen Page (The Secret Garden), and other world-class actors.

Includes 10 new songs inspired by the classic book, four behind-the-scenes video documentary featurettes, and a 5.1 surround sound mix. Four CDs, approx. 4 hours total.

http://www.amazon.com/Screwtape-Letters-Full-cast-Dramatization-Diabolical/dp/1589973240

http://www.amazon.com/Screwtape-Letters-Full-cast-Dramatization-Diabolical/dp/1589973240

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Official C. S. Lewis Website:
https://www.cslewis.com/us

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C. S. Lewis Timeline:
http://www.cslewis.org/resource/chronocsl/

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Wikipedia Page for C. S. Lewis:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis

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‘SUMMARY’ OF THE BOOK “MERE CHRISTIANITY”
By: “Open Discipleship”

http://www.opendiscipleship.org/mere-christianity-leaders-notes/

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this ‘post’, “Mere Christianity” is considered, by most, THE classic ‘apologetic’ of Christian belief. Well, by favorite band, “ApologetiX,” was named this way back in 1992 because this was the focus of their music:

http://www.apologetix.com/apologetics/apologetics.php

http://www.apologetix.com/music/music.php

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/apologetix/id251478046

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[P.S.: If you would like to investigate what the Bible says about God’s promises to help us become more like His Son, Jesus, visit the following link:

http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d5_1of10.html

 

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v191) for JANUARY 2015

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

 

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MERE CHRISTIANITY REVIEW
When you read C. S. Lewis’ work, you can hear his voice. Sometimes I forget I am reading. Like a friend with a cup of coffee in hand, he sits across from us. He then leads us up a ladder of logical thinking. He starts on the lowest step and gives us confidence to climb the next step. He guides us through an incredible thought process to a conclusion, which is perhaps so logical it becomes irrevocable truth.

If you were to fall off a real ladder, your body would simply be obeying the laws of Gravity. He brilliantly explains how there is an eternal Law of Human Nature. This is the law of how mankind “ought” to behave in order to maintain a safe and happy society where everyone plays fair. Unfortunately, we all know how our society has failed to practice this law in all aspects of life.

If you want a definition for this law it can only be “morals.” A word from which many reel, as if a light was shining brightly in their eyes. To others: it is a light by which they see the path they walk through life. C. S. Lewis divides morality into three main sections: the actions, reasons behind the actions and why man was created. When you realize that different beliefs about the universe can make us behave differently; you can then make some compelling arguments in favor of Christianity.

C. S. Lewis was an atheist (as was my father once and his writing reminds me of a conversation with my father for some reason, perhaps they came to some of the same conclusions) who later became a Christian. He is perhaps one of the most qualified individuals to discuss a universe at war, for the idea of atheism and Christianity could not be more diametrically opposed.

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” [ C. S. Lewis ].

Like a voice from the grave (he passed away in 1963), C. S. Lewis speaks as if this message was for the year 2000. I read this work 53 years after it was written and the truths are still eternal. Good and Evil are perhaps the oldest concept we know of. I found it interesting when he pointed out that without good, evil would not exist. That good allows evil to occur. For example: selfishness is undesirable, while unselfishness is desirable. The basis for this is founded in some deep religious beliefs. He explains how this all relates to the moral laws of nature.

I enjoyed his discussion of the Theological Virtues (Faith/Hope/Charity) and the Cardinal (pivotal) Virtues (Prudence/Temperance/Justice/Fortitude). His chapter on the issue of “Pride” (the most evil of all vices) also shows how “power” is what pride wants.

“There is nothing that makes a man feel more superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers.” [ C. S. Lewis ].

Through this book, you will gain a greater understanding of what holds us all together, what makes us responsible to one another. You may even conclude that those who find morals threatening, may in fact be the largest threat to a civilized society. If we all had morals we would simply have a safer environment to thrive and be happy in. It is simply the way you look at it.

Mere Christianity is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read to date! If you are at all interested in the logical basis for Christianity, this book goes to the depths of thought and reveals the essence of the beliefs behind the beliefs. This book becomes perfume, which completely seduces your soul.

For Christians, it will be a reminder of the truth you hold dear and a reminder of our eternal life. For those who love the Narnia Chronicles, page 146 gives you an insight into the “time factor.” (The children in the story can leave the material world and when they return, time never changes.)

One of my favorite quotes from Mere Christianity:

” When it (Christianity) tells you to feed the hungry it does not give you a lesson in cookery.” [ C. S. Lewis, page 79 ]

On page 87 you will also find a beautiful passage. It is my all-time favorite passage to explain LIFE! It is a must read.

This book will put your brain in gear and send you on a drive to enlightenment. I intend to read every one of Lewis’ books. His work is deep, yet understandable. Eternally Recommended.

C. S. Lewis is my all-time favorite author. I was first introduced to his writing as a very young child in second grade. It was then that I fell in love with his writing. Through the Narnia Chronicles, C.S. Lewis weaves the morals and beliefs children need to learn.

I recommend Mere Christianity for non-Christians and Christians. For all children, The Chronicles of Narnia will enlighten them and they will never forget the stories! I also reviewed the set. They are the most magical stories a child can read.

[ The Rebecca Review ]

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BEYOND MERE CHRISTIANITY
This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 27, number 4 (2004).

SYNOPSIS

C. S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the twentieth century, and he remains influential today. His apologetic works explain essential Christian teachings in ordinary, nontechnical language, and his writings usually focus on beliefs that all Christians hold in common— what he called “mere Christianity.” He thought this approach would best serve those who did not know Jesus Christ. Once they came to faith, Lewis believed, they would learn about theological differences between churches and join a Christian fellowship of their choosing.

Lewis claimed to have limited his apologetic writings to mere Christianity; however, there were times when he addressed teachings that are not held by all Christians. He believed, for instance, that Scripture is in some sense the word of God, but he questioned its inerrancy. He also believed in the existence of purgatory, though he did not consider it to be a place of punishment. Lewis, rather, believed saved people were purified of their sins in purgatory before entering heaven itself. Another controversial belief he held was that a person could belong to Jesus Christ and be saved without necessarily knowing Him specifically. This is not exactly universalism, but it goes beyond the clear teaching of Scripture.

A full consideration of Lewis needs to include his strengths and his weaknesses. A discerning reader can recognize that many of his writings and strategies are helpful and are a valuable contribution to apologetics and theology while also recognizing that some of his teachings go beyond the scope of mere Christianity.

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) is often called the foremost Christian apologist of the twentieth century. His many writings have introduced countless people to the Christian faith. Apologetic works such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain explain and defend essential beliefs of Christianity. Children’s stories from the Chronicles of Narnia recast biblical themes, enabling readers to consider them from new perspectives. Popular books, such as The Screwtape Letters, have given many people ample material for thought and reflection.

Lewis believed that theology should be accessible to any Christian who was willing to read and think. His clear, concise writing addresses significant theological issues and invites the reader to explore a greater depth of faith. Consequently, many Christians from a variety of denominational backgrounds note Lewis’s influence on their own conversion and understanding.

In the decades since his death, Lewis’s books have remained popular, but they are not without their critics. Some from outside of Christianity dislike his works because of their biblical message, but critical voices have emerged from within Christianity as well.

When a reader encounters a description of Christianity that resonates with his or her own understanding, that reader may conclude that the writer shares his or her theological perspective. Further reading, however, may reveal some surprising contrasts. Lewis’s readers are often confused by unexpected teachings in his books. How should one respond to a writer who shared some remarkable insights but who also presented some questionable teachings?

Some readers consider any critical assessment of Lewis to be inappropriate, not wanting a champion of Christian outreach to be disparaged. This concern is legitimate. Lewis’s significant accomplishments should not be overlooked, but the opposite error is equally troublesome. Concealing or ignoring his shortcomings does no service to Lewis or the truth he defended. Lewis was not an inerrant writer, nor was he the ultimate theological authority. He was a human being who made a significant contribution, but his writings contain some flaws. A legitimate assessment of Lewis must account for both.

LEWIS’S APOLOGETICS

Lewis offered a diverse yet consistent presentation of Christianity. Through many literary genres (types) and in a variety of settings, he winsomely presented his faith to a modern audience. Though raised in a Christian home, Lewis abandoned his faith at a young age and became a self-professed atheist. He had many objections to Christianity and did not return to it until these objections were answered satisfactorily. With those answers, he answered the objections of others. His writings, therefore, focus on the most essential teachings of Christianity and on obstacles that unbelievers often face.

Some of these obstacles are addressed in his apologetic works: Is there a universal moral law? If so, must there also be a universal moral lawgiver? Is the universe a closed system, or is supernatural intervention possible? Is it logical to consider Jesus to be a good ethical teacher while denying His deity? Can miracles really occur? How can an omnipotent God allow suffering and still be good? Lewis addressed such questions with candor and ease.

He, moreover, “translated” theology into ordinary speech, making it more intelligible to laypeople. Part of the reason Lewis was able to do this is because he was a layman. He did not make his living from religious writing but from his secular professorship. This “outsider” status helped make him a more engaging and effective writer.

Another factor contributing to Lewis’s effective apologetic was his diverse style. Lewis used every avenue available to him to present his faith. His nonfiction books directly address theological issues. Likewise, his fictional works present significant religious themes. His speeches, essays, and letters show that his faith was an essential part of his life. Even his academic works present Christian themes when they are appropriate to the subject at hand. Lewis used his entire life as a platform for sharing his belief in Christ.

The Common Hall

Much of the success of C. S. Lewis’s apologetics, and his writing in general, lies in its focus. Lewis knew how to precisely delineate a topic and focus his writing. This precise focus is evident throughout his works. In the preface to Mere Christianity, Lewis explicitly noted his purpose: “The best, perhaps the only, service I can do for my unbelieving neighbours [is] to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.”1 He decided not to discuss differences between denominations or attempt to convert anyone to his own Anglican faith. Instead, he presented the basic teachings of orthodox Christianity—teachings he labeled “mere Christianity.”

Lewis had three motives for this focus:

First, he believed that the disputed doctrines required a depth of theological and historical understanding that he did not possess. He humbly considered others better qualified to discuss such topics. Second, Lewis said that this type of writing, while important for those who are already Christians, would not bring unbelievers into the church. His goal was not to persuade those who were debating which denomination to join or which congregation to attend; rather, he wrote for those who did not know Jesus Christ. Third, he noted that many writers already addressed the controversial points, but few focused on the basics.

This emphasis on common teachings makes Lewis quite appealing. Nonbelievers find that he presents the central beliefs of Christianity clearly. Christians generally find significant agreement with his presentation. Many readers, unfortunately, do not take to heart what

Lewis said about the limits of his approach:

“I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions—as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. 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.”

The “common hall” of Christianity—the teachings and practices shared by all Christians—is not the end. Christians should rejoice in this commonality but not overlook the significant challenges that remain. Lewis encouraged those who have entered the common hall to seek a “room” where true doctrine and holiness may be found, but he gave little counsel on which room to choose. He left that task to others. He did, however, caution Christians to be charitable toward those who dwell in other rooms and those who had not yet found a room of their own.

Challenges of the Common Hall

Lewis’s common hall is a helpful illustration of the common faith of the church, but it is accompanied by two challenges. First, who determines what is common to all Christians? No individual Christian can express what is common only in terms of his or her church or his or her own particular beliefs. Lewis, consequently, was careful to note that his definition of mere Christianity was not intended to be a summary of Anglicanism (though Anglican influences on Lewis’s work are evident), nor was it meant to be a complete summary of his own faith. Some (including myself) have suggested that the ecumenical creeds comprise a summary of essential Christianity, yet not all Christians formally acknowledge the creeds. It may be simply that each reader has his or her own definition of mere Christianity through which he or she evaluates Lewis’s words; but, if the definitions vary, does a common hall truly exist?

It is clear, moreover, that not all Christians share Lewis’s beliefs on certain points. We will consider three of them: the authority of Scripture, the existence of purgatory, and the inclusivity of salvation. Lewis addressed other issues that are disputed by Christians as well, such as the nature of Christ’s atonement, the existence of human free will, the depravity of fallen humanity, principles of Christian behavior, and the possibility of evolution.

If Christians can overcome this first challenge, and I believe they can, they will likely face a second problem. Lewis wrote about the need to find a proper church, yet some of his readers seem hesitant to do this. In this ecumenical age, many are reluctant to make any commitment to a confession or a congregation. They seem satisfied with the common hall without “fires and chairs and meals.” Such complacency is not the result Lewis had in mind.

BEYOND THE COMMON HALL

Despite these challenges, Lewis’s presentation of basic Christian teaching is powerful and effective, and his description of Jesus Christ is biblical and compelling to his readers. At times, however, Lewis addressed topics that are controversial among Christians. We will now consider three of these forays beyond mere Christianity.

Is Scripture Inerrant?

Attracted by Lewis’s clear presentation of Christianity, readers often are surprised when they discover Lewis’s assessment of the Bible. He discussed questions such as: What does it mean for Scripture to be “inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16)? Is it true and trustworthy? At first glance, readers may assume that Lewis had a high view of Scripture. He had said that the Gospels were not myths. He had been critical of those who reject supernatural elements of Scripture and had observed that modern theologians often base their conclusions on naturalistic assumptions instead of the biblical text. Further reading, however, calls his own view into question:

“I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold, any more than St. Jerome did when he said that Moses described Creation “after the manner of a popular poet” (as we should say, mythically) or than Calvin did when he doubted whether the story of Job were history or fiction.”

Lewis believed that “all Holy Scripture is in some sense—though not all parts of it in the same sense—the word of God.” The book of Job, for instance, lacking historical details and context, appeared to Lewis to be unhistorical. The idea that the creation account in Genesis was derived from earlier mythical and pagan accounts did not trouble Lewis. These earlier stories were retold and modified (whether consciously or unconsciously) until they became an account of “true Creation and of a transcendent Creator.” When this happens in Genesis, Lewis concluded, there is no reason to “believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.” In Lewis’s thought, Genesis conveys divine truth but not necessarily scientific or historical truth; still, God reaches us through its message.

In this same way, all Scripture, written in many literary styles, and for different purposes, may all be “taken into the service of God’s word.” Whether it was produced by poets, by the Jewish community, by early Christians, whether modified by redactors (revisors) and editors, Lewis concluded, “On all of these I suppose a Divine pressure; of which not by any means all need have been conscious.”

In a personal letter, Lewis raised other issues that he thought were difficulties in the doctrine of inspiration, including inconsistencies in the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, inconsistencies in the account of the death of Judas, the admitted unhistorical nature of parables (which he believed may extend also to the stories of Job and Jonah), and Luke’s admission that he conducted research on his Gospel. Lewis concluded that because of this:

“The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone and temper and so learning its overall message.”

Similarly, he wrote, “That the over-all operation of Scripture is to convey God’s Word to the reader (he also needs inspiration) who reads in the right spirit, I fully believe. That it also gives true answers to all the questions (often religiously irrelevant) which he might ask, I don’t. The very kind of truth we are often demanding was, in my opinion, not even envisaged by the ancients.” Indeed, Lewis considered this challenge of Scripture to be an asset: understanding God’s Word requires not only the intellect but also the entire person.

Lewis clearly believed Scripture has authority and communicates God’s word, but his grounding of that authority is confusing to many. On this point, Lewis, who was ordinarily objective in his theological understanding, added a layer of subjectivity. If Scripture only in some sense is the word of God, then in some sense it is not. Parts of it are trustworthy; others must be less so. The problem such a view creates is, how is the Christian to decide which part to trust? If all Scripture can be the word of God but not communicate truth, then inspiration is of little practical consequence.

Lewis’s statements may frustrate Christians who hold that Scripture is inerrant. One wishes that Lewis had taken more time to examine other apologetic responses to his objections against inerrancy, but the message of his writings remains clear. Lewis did not believe in an inerrant Bible, though he did believe that Scripture was in some sense inspired. Some have tried to harmonize Lewis’s words with biblical inerrancy and infallibility; unfortunately, this attempt is futile.

Purgatory

Many readers are willing to overlook Lewis’s view on Scripture; by contrast, it is likely that no controversial issue catches the Protestant eye more quickly than the topic of purgatory. Many readers first encounter this teaching in The Great Divorce where, in a fictional context, the damned are allowed a brief respite from their suffering to travel to the fringes of heaven. There Lewis showed the choices that they made in their earthly lives and demonstrated that their own rejection of God’s grace had damned them. In Lewis’s narrative, one of the damned spirits is told that if he doesn’t return to hell, that place can be called purgatory.

Lewis’s nonfiction confirms his belief in purgatory. One of the clearest examples is in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer where Lewis wrote, “I believe in Purgatory. Mind you, the Reformers had good reasons for throwing doubt on ‘the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory’ as that Romish doctrine had then become.” The phrase, “Romish doctrine,” comes from the Anglican Articles of Religion, which reject the “Romish doctrine of purgatory.” Instead of the Romish doctrine, which sees purgatory as a place of punishment for sins, Lewis considered purgatory to be a place of purification. Souls in purgatory are saved, but they are not yet pure enough to enter heaven. Lewis suggested that “our souls demand Purgatory.” It is neither a second chance for salvation nor an outpouring of divine wrath over sin. Instead, Lewis viewed it as a purification of the sinner, or a completion of the work of redemption.

This view is also found in Mere Christianity where Lewis discussed what Jesus meant when he told people to “count the cost” before becoming Christians. Lewis paraphrased Jesus, saying, “If you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me.”

More personally, Lewis pondered purgatory at the death of his wife, saying, “I never believed…that the faithfulest soul could leap straight into perfection and peace the moment death has rattled in the throat.” Just weeks before his own death, Lewis wrote to a friend, “When you die, and if prison visiting is allowed, come down and look me up in Purgatory.”

Lewis provided an articulate description of purgatory, but clear articulation does not make it true. Lewis consistently presented a doctrine that is not grounded in Scripture. It makes some logical sense that a religion would call for the purification of the sinner after death; nevertheless, this belief has no biblical warrant. Indeed, it detracts from the work of Christ. Scripture notes that the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sins (1 John 1:7), whereas Lewis reserved some of the believer’s purification for purgatory. Jesus assured believers that their souls go immediately to heaven (Luke 23:43), whereas Lewis doubted this.

Was Lewis a Universalist?

A third departure from mere Christianity is found near the end of his fictional work The Last Battle. Lewis offers the account of Emeth, a Calmorene soldier who spent his life in service to the false god, Tash. When the world of Narnia comes to its final end, Emeth finds himself in King Aslan’s country before the Lion (Aslan) Himself. Emeth kneels before Aslan, expecting to be judged and executed, but Aslan welcomes him. Confused, Emeth asks if Aslan and Tash are names for the same God. Aslan emphatically asserts that He and Tash are opposites, and explains why Emeth has been saved.

“I take to me the services which thou hast done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”

The passage above parallels a description of the acts of unbelievers in Mere Christianity:

“There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.”

Many readers who encounter these words are stunned. Some read these words to mean that Lewis is a universalist (universalism is the view that everyone will be saved). If a follower of Tash or a Buddhist can be saved, then this must logically mean that everyone must be saved. This, however, was not Lewis’s position.

A closer examination of the Chronicles of Narnia shows that Lewis was not a universalist. Emeth does, indeed, arrive in Aslan’s country, but all those who were truly serving Tash pass into Aslan’s shadow. This damnation is irreconcilable with universalism; if some are damned, then not all are saved. The passage in Mere Christianity, while holding out hope for a righteous pagan, also notes that many do not belong to Christ—even those who call themselves Christians may really be unbelievers. Throughout his writings, Lewis consistently maintained that hell exists. He explained in The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” Lewis explicitly denied universalism. When a reader asked why Lewis disagreed with George MacDonald on universalism, Lewis answered, “I parted company from MacDonald on that point because a higher authority—the Dominical utterances themselves—seemed to me irreconcilable with universalism.”

Lewis was not a universalist; nevertheless, his description of salvation lacks biblical support. Lewis said salvation is through Jesus Christ our Lord but also asserted that a person might belong to Christ without realizing it or explicitly knowing Him. The only way to the Father is through the Son, but “we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” In other words, there can be anonymous Christians. It appears that here the medieval conception of the “righteous pagan” influenced Lewis. The passage from Mere Christianity describes such “good pagans” who may have belonged to Christ. Elsewhere, Lewis suggested Akhenaten, Plato, and Virgil as examples of righteous pagans.

The problem with Lewis’s presentation is that he gives a specific answer about these cases without clear biblical support. God certainly can do whatever He pleases, and He alone sees and judges the heart, but Lewis’s speculation on this topic goes beyond God’s clear revelation. It is particularly disturbing that he did this in a children’s story. The story of Emeth would have been no less compelling if Emeth had known and loved Aslan while his countrymen served Tash. Lewis did not present universalism, but through speculation he did cloud the issue of salvation.

WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE OF LEWIS?

Lewis wanted to present those aspects of the Christian faith that are common to all Christians. Many Christians accept and welcome those writings in which he did this. At times, however, he drifted from this focus to address topics that are not really part of mere Christianity. Some find these wanderings too far from orthodoxy and shun his work entirely. This reaction may be understandable, but they miss useful biblical material in the rest of his writings. Others may be so enamored with Lewis that they are willing to excuse or even embrace his theological errors. Embracing error, however, makes Lewis superior to Scripture. Is there a mediating view that can use the best of Lewis without embracing his errors?

The solution lies in Lewis’s own description of Christianity. For the most part, he described the common hall—shared teachings. Sometimes, however, he spoke about his own room—a theology that is not universally believed. We can recognize his work for what it is, and, without accepting as true everything he wrote, make use of that which is commonly held.

We must read Lewis, and any human author, with an awareness of human fallibility. Lewis’s works are helpful and insightful, but they are not part of Holy Scripture. They need to be subject to the authority of God’s inspired Word. Was Lewis perfect? No, but he wrote many useful things. He had some inconsistencies, but in the end, he proclaimed the crucified and resurrected Savior to a world that needs the gospel.

What are we to make of Lewis? Perhaps we might heed his counsel in his description of the common hall and the rooms that make up Christianity: “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 they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

Lewis no longer needs our prayers, but we can still be gracious to the memory of one who has helped many to find the common hall. With careful use, his words can continue to be a blessing to many others.

[ Steven P. Mueller – Christian Research Institute ]

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WHY ‘MERE CHRISTIANITY’ SHOULD HAVE BOMBED
(Knowing why it didn’t can help us strengthen our witness today).

Sixty years ago, London publisher Geoffrey Bles first released a revision of four sets of radio talks by an Oxford literature don. The book was called Mere Christianity, and there was nothing “mere” about it. A somewhat disjointed set of C. S. Lewis’s views on a wide range of theological, philosophical, and ethical matters, the book became the most important and effective defense of the Christian faith in its century.

As Mere Christianity (henceforth “MC”) goes into its seventh decade of publishing success, rivaled still by no other apologetic, it’s worth taking a look at its unlikely success.

Why It Shouldn’t Have Worked

The first reason why MC should not have worked is rather basic: It doesn’t deliver what its title promises. It does not do even what John Stott’s classic Basic Christianity does—namely, outline at least the basics of evangelicalism’s understanding of the gospel. Given the title’s own promise and Lewis’s express intent of offering “mere Christianity,” we get something substantially less than that, as I think Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, from whom the phrase comes, would affirm.

Furthermore, MC offers not only less than “MC,” but also more: Lewis’s own opinions about domestic relationships, marriage, and gender; and his particular take on the vexed question of God and time (which, in my view, has powerfully perpetuated Christian Platonism and its “timeless God” among many people who have never read Plato). The danger here is the danger that resides also in C. I. Scofield’s dispensationalist notes to his famous Reference Bible. (I recognize that this is perhaps the first time anyone has claimed that Lewis and Scofield are peas in a pod, but they are both remarkable publishing successes.) The danger is that the secondary and idiosyncratic are bundled with the primary and universal, and taken in together by the trusting reader as being “simply Christian.”

A second reason why MC should not have worked is that it is, after all, an extended set of philosophical and theological arguments. Even worse, it is front-loaded with its densest material, a reworking of the moral argument for the existence of God: briefly, all human beings have a strong sense of moral obligation that cannot be explained on purely naturalistic grounds and instead requires a God very much like the Christian God to explain properly. This argument’s distinguished heritage goes back through Immanuel Kant to Thomas Aquinas and beyond. It is among the most powerful and controversial of apologetics.

Hard as it is to believe that contemporary readers will sit still for such things, it strains plausibility to contend that modern people a few decades ago would enjoy following such an argument listening to a crackly radio, as MC was first introduced. And while lots of people didn’t, and wouldn’t, find such exposition interesting, lots of people apparently did—with enough positive response to have Lewis return to the BBC for the subsequent sections that made up the eventual book.

Sixty years on, however, we all know that people nowadays don’t want such arguments. Our audiences demand snappy stories and quick changes of subject, in a kind of literary or homiletical MTV.

Oddly enough, this observation leads directly to our next set of considerations.

Why It Did Work

MC works because Lewis was a master at two rhetorical arts, which he combined fluently: argument and depiction. Indeed, his friend Austin Farrer emphasized the latter as his chief talent, and Lewis himself spoke, not only of creating Narnia in terms of “seeing pictures in his head,” but of his entire writing career in this way. In the last months of his life, he explained to a friend why he was no longer generating new work. He was ill, but he was not old: only in his mid-60s. The situation was simple, he said: “The pictures have stopped.”

Whichever side of the Atlantic you’re on, ‘Mere Christianity’ gives you permission to be both intelligent and Christian.

Despite Lewis’s protestations that he was not a theologian and his profession was a scholar of literature, it must be remembered that his first training was in philosophy and that he evidently took a subsequent degree (and a job) in literature only when he failed to obtain a position in philosophy. Thus we happily find a keen philosophical mind in harness with a lively literary mind—and a literary mind both critical and creative, which is another unusual combination.

MC works, then, because Lewis can both show and tell. He can tell us what he thinks we should think, and then make it appear for us in an image that usually lasts long after the middle steps of the argument have vanished from memory.

MC also works because Lewis pulls off another extremely difficult balancing act: adopting a persona of “just plain folk” who also has a first-class mind. He comes off to most audiences as a likeable chap “down the pub” who lives the same sort of life that the rest of us do, who feels what we feel and speaks to the issues we care about, but who just happens to have the ability to sort out knotty questions of theology, philosophy, and ethics into everyday categories, vocabulary, and illustrations.

This “act,” furthermore, is authentic. In the preface to MC, Lewis describes himself as “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England.” This is patently untrue, of course. Lewis was, after all, a brilliant scholar. But he was also a war veteran in a generation of war veterans, a family man in a very odd and demanding family system, a late convert who could sympathize with others who were not yet or not yet fully Christian, and a bon vivant who enjoyed beer, laughter, salacious jokes, and tramping about the countryside. Let me offer an American phrasing I suspect is not common among scholars of Lewisiana: he was, I suggest, the Ulstercum-Oxonian equivalent of a “good ol’ boy with a Ph.D.”

What seems effortless for Lewis is actually extraordinarily difficult to emulate. The market is now flooded with books by Ph.D.s who cannot write an interesting and intelligible paragraph, and by wannabe pop apologists who just aren’t very smart.

Lewis’s common touch was nevertheless very British. What explains MC’s popularity particularly among Americans? Lewis depicts a highly individualistic Christianity in all his writings, a form of the faith that appeals to modern people and especially to Americans, arguably the world’s most modern people. But we also must not overlook three other factors that, in combination, help boost sales on this side of the Atlantic: The combination of Lewis’s British accent plus his Oxford professor status plus the aura of Anglicanism virtually guarantees big numbers, as others who possess this triple treasure have found to their delight.

(No, I’m not thinking of N. T. Wright or Alister McGrath. Well, okay, I am.)

The more serious point here is that, whichever side of the Atlantic you’re on, MC gives you permission to be both intelligent and Christian. That is its subtext, and it is crucial to understanding its success.

Having celebrated something of MC’s mysterious power, let me offer two warnings to fans who like to plunk a copy on anyone who shows a spark of thoughtful interest in the faith.

First, Lewis’s remarks in MC about gender are off-putting to many women and men today. He comes across to many people, frankly, as a sexist. Note particularly the end of the section on “Christian marriage,” which fairly bristles with troubling statements and concludes with the assertion that men should handle disputes with the neighbors because women tend to be too protective of their families while men usually are more levelheaded and just.

It doesn’t matter that lots of women like MC and aren’t offended; what matters is that MC contains pockets of annoyance or even outright offense that render it tactically unwise to give to people who otherwise are willing to consider a good book about Christianity.

Second, weaknesses come packaged with strengths. The very voice of the Oxford don that so many find attractive is also repellent to some. I had a very bright Christian student at Regent College tell me that, as an English working-class girl who had subsequently graduated from a good public university in Britain, she found Lewis to be insufferably condescending in just the way Oxbridgeans can be. (Surrounded as I am on the faculty of Regent College with Oxford and Cambridge graduates, I have nothing whatsoever to say on the matter.) So to the problems of gender sensitivity we must add class consciousness as well.

But now let’s look at the staying power of MC—and books like it.

Argument plus depiction still offer a potent combination. Argument without depiction risks being dull to all but highly motivated specialists, while depiction without argument risks confusion and even appropriation by contrary convictions.

The combination of a casual, common persona and high intellectual quality is still appealing, even if it is also hard to pull off. Two contrary currents affect apologetics in this respect. The tug of popular culture on intellectuals and academicians has been tremendous in this last generation. Titles of papers at scholarly society meetings now routinely include attempts at hip references to popular culture. Yet academic discourse, paradoxically, has become more arcane than ever—indeed, perhaps precisely in areas of cultural studies, in which artifacts of pop culture are submitted to endless high-altitude games (without sufficient oxygen, to be sure).

People today do want arguments, but they want them the way Lewis delivered them: in plain language, about issues that matter, in a methodical step-by-step fashion, and with illustrations that literally illustrate and commend the point being made. For scholars to write this way today is at least as much of a challenge as it was in Lewis’s day.

MC therefore will continue to work. But it shouldn’t have to do it alone, nor should Lewis’s apologetic corpus in general. I’ve tried my hand at it, as have Wright and McGrath and Tim Keller, among others. We need more such efforts, and I hope that reflection on MC—and its genesis as radio talks—will inspire some of us to write blogs, op-eds, and books, and perhaps also create podcasts and videos that communicate with publics outside Christian subcultures.

Missiologists like to talk about targeting “people groups,” and I will conclude with this thesis: The category of “thoughtful inquirers”—whether inside the church or outside it—still denotes the “people group” least well served by contemporary Christianity. It is the group best served by C. S. Lewis, and can be better served by us.

[ John G. Stackhouse Jr. – published in “Christianity Today” December 27, 2012 ]

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DEEP THOUGHT(s):
(All quotes by C. S. Lewis)

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.”

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’”

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

“Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” [ Psalm 16:8-11 ].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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