Mere Christianity: Part I

Here I go again, reading old books. C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity was published in 1952, though its contents had previously been separately published 8-10 years earlier. It has since become a Christian classic, though as many discerning readers will find out, there are parts of it that are best skipped. Lewis comes close to open theism (the belief that God doesn’t know the future) and inclusivism (the belief that people of other religious persuasions will receive eternal life), and supports evolution (which he regretted in later life, according to a comment I read on a blog).

Book I: Right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe

Book I was originally a series of talks given on air during WWII, in which he deals with the existence of  a universal moral law from a philosophical point of view. Not being a philosopher, I’ll leave it at that.

Book II: What Christians Believe

Lewis was an atheist before his conversion, and he says this about atheism:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.  Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies.  Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found that I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. 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 a word without meaning.

On Christ, he had this to say:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Continue to Part 2.