Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Year with C.S. Lewis

I received 'A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from his Classic Works' as a Christmas present. It was from a friend who knew that I was reading religious books, and so picked this one because it really made her think. She's an evangelical, and I've heard from her, and others, that CS Lewis is a great reader. He's often recommended by devout Christians. I think they're under the impression that if non-Christians read it, it'll be completely convincing?

Not quite. Here are some of my impressions, based on what I've read.

Exploration #1: "All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that 'God is love.' But they seem not to notice that the words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love." Page. 41

This doesn't seem to take into account the very character of God. First, we go with the idea that God is omniscienct. Ergo, God is all-knowing. Therefore, can there ever be an instance where God does not 'know' of His creation?

This gets even trickier when the concept of time comes into play. If part of creating the universe includes the creation of time, then God is not bound by time. God created time. So God is 'outside' of time. What occurs to us in a linear fashion would occur to God all at once. To God, Henry the VIII is king while simutaneously, I'm typing on this computer. God doesn't have to 'wait' for something to occur like we do.

So why couldn't God, if always knowing of us, and having creating time, have also constantly be in a relationship with the humans He creates? Constantly love His creation? God's love would always be directed outwards, to those whom He created. Does the world need to be 'made' in order for God to love outwards? In order for God to be love?

As it is, Lewis explores this idea: "All times are eternally present to God. Is it not at least possible that along some one line of His multi-dimensional eternity He sees you forever in the nursery pulling the wings off a fly, forever toadying, lying, and lusting as a schoolboy, forever in that moment of cowardice or insolence as a subaltern? Pg. 75

As soon as you remove God from being constrained by time, and give God that type of knowledge, the idea that there must be more than one 'Person' in God is no longer applicable.

Exploration #2: "We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if he was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if he really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceint univalled by any other character in history." Page 49.

Okay, I'm only aware of two instances in the New Testament where Jesus specifically announces forgiveness. The first is Mark 2: 1-12. There, Jesus says to the paralyzed man, 'My son, your sins are forgiven.' The laywers says that its blasphemy, and only God can forgive sins. Jesus knows what they're thinking, and asks if its easier to say 'sins are forgiven' or 'Stand up, take your bed, and walk? But to convince you that the Son of Man has the right on earth to forgive sins .' The man does.

Luke 5: 17-26. Same situation. Jesus says, "Man, your sins are forgiven," the lawyers and Pharisees say its blasphemous, only God can forgive, and Jesus asks the same thing as in Mark, says that the Son of Man has the right, and so forth."

A few things about what Lewis says. Matthew 28:18 has Jesus saying that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him. Given. It would have to be 'given' by God. Wouldn't that authority include the 'right to forgive sins?' Wouldn't Jesus, since he is one with the Father and the Father dwells in him, know who God forgives, and thus announce it for God?

Exploration #3: "Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even his enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that he is 'humble and meek' and we believe him; not noticing that, if he were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of his sayings." Page 49.

Okay. Let's say I'm the smartest person at math in the world. It's an obvious fact. If this is true, would it be prideful or wrong of me to acknowledge that? To tell people that I'm the smarest person at math in the world? So in the case of Jesus, if God did choose him as the Messiah, and part of being that Messiah is a light unto the world, or the bread of life ... how does that not make Jesus humble or meek if both are simple facts? It would be neither 'silliness' nor 'conceit.' It's simply what God designated Jesus to be. Jesus is the Messiah, and as the Messiah, plays a pretty big role. How is it not humble or not meek to declare that? If judgement is left up to the Son of Man, then stating that is stating a fact.

Exploration #4: The Trilimma. Arguments against that have been done to death.

Exploration #5: "Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possiblel any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -- of creatures that worked like machines -- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other ..." Pg. 57.

So, if evil must be possible so that goodness or love are worth having, what about God? Doesn't this mean it must be possible for God to do evil? Except if God is perfect, and abhors sin, then God cannot possess the ability to even contemplate evil. Not only that, but is anyone else bothered by the fact that he's essentially saying it wouldn't be worth creating something that can only do good? Could only be good? That somehow, lacking the ability to do evil means that one is a robot? (Again, I wonder what that makes God). I mean, there are thousands of ways in which to express goodness. To only express good makes one a robot?

The other thing this would call into question is the idea of 'freedom.' THe idea here seems to be that God won't 'force' someone to choose Him. However, force only comes into play if God is going against what the person wants. If a person willingly chooses God, then the person is not forced.

But the force itself only comes into play if a person has the ability to either want to choose God, or want to choose against God. To choose against God is to choose against good. So the person has the ability to choose evil or good. If the person is created to only have the ability to choose good, to only want to do good, then the person would never be forced to choose God. The person's free will would always align with good, and thus voluntarily always choose God.

So what Lewis is saying is that the whole thing is worthless unless we also have the ability to choose evil? It just seems very odd that an entity that is all good, abhors evil, would rather create something with the capability of doing evil instead of a being that can do only good. It's like He'd be going against everything in His nature to create that.

I'm only into the month of February, in terms of reading the book. I'm not sure I'll be able to finish, just because I'm finding it frustrating. It's praised left and right, and yet I'm finding it ... not that complex. At all. It's another one of those things written for those who already believe, and with every new entry I read, my reaction is, "Seriously? This is the best you've got?"

My friend did hope it would make me think. Which it's doing, only not in the way she was probably expecting.

23 comments:

cipher said...

This is one of my favorite topics. It always floors me that they think this obscure, middle-aged English lit professor had all the answers to any question or challenge any skeptic could ever put forth. I’ve tried to read him, too; I can’t get beyond a couple of pages. His arguments are puerile; as an atheist said to me not long ago, “Lewis is weak tea even by the mediocre standards of Christian apologetics” – yet they think he’s the greatest thing since tea and crumpets.

And, the really ludicrous thing is – he’s been adopted posthumously by people with whom he would never have associated in life. He was an intellectual who taught at Oxford, yet these anti-intellectual fundamentalists from middle-America have somehow convinced themselves that he was “one of them” (of course, they’ve convinced themselves of that about Bush as well, so obviously it isn’t too difficult).

Re: “God is love” – you ever notice that legalistic fundies will pay lip service to the idea, then go to all sorts of lengths to limit that love? I agree with you about the time factor. In addition, could it not be said that God’s very nature is love? When I was in college, I had a religion professor who told us the Biblical definition of love is other-centeredness, as opposed to self-centeredness. If God’s nature is love, it could be argued that that’s why he created us – to have an object for that love. When he says, “But they seem not to notice that the words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love.”, he’s merely playing semantic games. Conservative evangelicals absolutely love to do that, when it works to their advantage, but when it doesn’t – all of a sudden, there has to be a purely literal understanding of the text.

And the trilemma argument – for God’s sake, how freaking simple do you have to be to find that convincing? He might have been deluded, the reporting, might have been bad, but, no – this never occurs to them. There are actually papers available online written by their “scholars” defending the argument. Good grief!

Free will – as I’ve said, the Calvinist influence among them is pervasive, and good luck trying to reconcile Calvinism with that. And, of course, Christians in general ignore the passage in the OT where God states explicitly that all things, good and bad, come from him. They got infected with dualism early on, and they’ve been running with it ever since.

You know, the particular way in which Lewis justified suffering is something about him that I've long found significant. He was a product of his culture. Years ago, I saw William F. Buckley interview Malcolm Muggeridge, British author, journalist and promoter of Mother Theresa in the West (Buckley was always interested in mid-life converts to Catholicism, for some reason. Perhaps he felt it validated his own conservative beliefs.). They were talking about the problem of suffering, and Muggeridge told a story – an old woman read King Lear, then passed away and met Shakespeare in the afterlife. She asked him, “How could you make that poor old man suffer so? It’s appalling!” He replied, “Madam, I quite agree - but, if I hadn’t, there would have been no play!” So, Buckley said, “There are those who would prefer that there be no play”, to which Muggeridge replied, “But that would be cowardice, you see.”

I think this speaks volumes about the English character. They have a long tradition of “carrying on in quiet desperation”. Like Samurai, only with bad food and umbrellas. I think this must have had a profound effect upon Lewis’ theology.

My friend did hope it would make me think. Which it's doing, only not in the way she was probably expecting.

They never get this. Ever. They’ll push their guru of the month on you, insisting you’ll find him/her life-transforming. You’ll read the book/watch the video/listen to the tape, and it’ll be the same crap as always. And when you try to tell them this, they either become angry and defensive – or they just look at you like a deer caught in the headlights. They just don’t get it.

societyvs said...

Exploration #1 is quite interesting - it sounds like Lewis thinks God is moe than 'one'. However, I think your argument is quite valid - couldn't "God's love' just be directed outwards - into His creation - thus the very reason to make anything.

"It just seems very odd that an entity that is all good, abhors evil, would rather create something with the capability of doing evil instead of a being that can do only good. It's like He'd be going against everything in His nature to create that." (OSS)

It's an interesting arguement that is for sure - is God good and evil? Obviuously we are created with choice - but I am not sure creating someone with choice makes God bad in some way. Isn't choice in and of itself a good thing? People can use their choice for any reason they choose - but some choose evil (actually a whole hell of a lot do)...does it taint choice as a 'good gift'?

I find choice to be a good thing since even someone committing evil (with their choices) can always turn away and make up for those bad choices (again via choice). Having the potential to do good and bad - oddly enough - makes one learn more about humanity than it does God (my opinion). We may be created in God's imake/likeness - that doesn't mean we are identical twins with God - we share similar qualities - choice being one of them. I see choice as good.

societyvs said...

"Re: “God is love” – you ever notice that legalistic fundies will pay lip service to the idea, then go to all sorts of lengths to limit that love?" (Cinder)

Tragedy if you ask me. They almost say something the do not truly believe - and then when you argue with them - they are always quick to throw in judgment with love (to justify their own hypocrisy). Which shows to me - they are both narrow minded in thought but also in practice.

"They’ll push their guru of the month on you" (Cipher)

Funny thing about the faith I am in - the conservatives will do this - almost as if they are trying to replace Jesus with a new updated image of him - this flavor of the week. If you ask me, there is way too much messianic complexes in Christianity leading to actual faith in certain leaders and power hungry people who lack even small measures of humility.

cipher said...

I think it's a matter of perspective. I don't see choice as good; I don't perceive free will as a gift. But then, I don't really see life as a gift; I see it as something that's been forced upon me, very much against my "will". This is why I can't talk to conservative Christians, such as the people who frequent your site, Jason. We're coming at this from vastly different conceptual frameworks, and all I can ever get from them (when I can get anything at all) is, "We're God's creation, to do with as He pleases. It simply isn't your prerogative to tell God what to do."

Which works out well for them, because they're "saved". Meanwhile, all they have to offer me is an eternity of torment.

Michelle said...

"If you ask me, there is way too much messianic complexes in Christianity leading to actual faith in certain leaders and power hungry people who lack even small measures of humility."

That would be me, the messianic complex. I struggle with thinking I need to get people "saved" when I haven't been called by Jesus to do so -I'm just suppose to get the word out there - the rest is up to Him.

Very interesting post. CS Lewis is one of my favorites - but I think it's because I see him as such a flawed figure, like me.

OneSmallStep said...

Cipher,

**I’ve tried to read him, too; I can’t get beyond a couple of pages. His arguments are puerile; as an atheist said to me not long ago, “Lewis is weak tea even by the mediocre standards of Christian apologetics”**

And I really like to read. I was trying to be incredibly fair, and give the book a chance. Unfortunatly, I keep reading when I'm about to go to bed, and it gets the blood pressure up, and then I don't sleep ... fortunatly, I just had my walls painted, so I can't throw it. ;)

The other thing that's bothering me about what I've read, and maybe I'm "reading" too much into this, is that he seems very condescending in some ways, if you don't agree with him. It's like it's ridiculous to hold that Jesus was not God, or that the Trinity is wrong.

**“God is love” – you ever notice that legalistic fundies will pay lip service to the idea, then go to all sorts of lengths to limit that love?**

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. And if they aren't loving to you, well, it's a harsh kind of love to save you from going to hell. And even if they aren't that loving, it's okay, because they're still forgiven. I find that view incredibly dangerous, because it can produce some very mean and petty people, and even make them dangerous. No matter what you do, it's okay, because you're forgiven, and who cares if you hurt someone else? It's for their own good.

** And, of course, Christians in general ignore the passage in the OT where God states explicitly that all things, good and bad, come from him.**
Or play semantic games. ;)

**I think this must have had a profound effect upon Lewis’ theology.**
I think we often don't take this into account with any writer -- they aren't producing their work in a vacuum. What we're reading today needs that cultural context, or we'll just be making up our own interpretation.

**or they just look at you like a deer caught in the headlights. They just don’t get it.**

The sad part is, it took me seconds to come with these counter-arguments. Well, maybe not seconds. First, I had to deal with the frustation, and get a handle on it, and then discover why I was frustrated.

Society,

**but I am not sure creating someone with choice makes God bad in some way. Isn't choice in and of itself a good thing?**

It depends what that choice entails. Do we need to be able to choose evil in order for the "choosing" to be valid? Why can't it be limited between two things that are good? It still qualifies as a choice.

**Having the potential to do good and bad - oddly enough - makes one learn more about humanity than it does God (my opinion).**

It does produce some fascinating study, into the different ways people can be.

**We may be created in God's imake/likeness - that doesn't mean we are identical twins with God - we share similar qualities - choice being one of them.**

Are you saying that we share similar qualities with God, or each other? Because I'm not sure choice is a similar quality we'd share with God, if God is incapable of choosing evil. There would never be a choice for Him.

But it still comes down to the fact that if people are creating with the ability to choose both good and evil, then God didn't create people to be 100% good, as if one was 100% good, one couldn't choose evil.

It also calls into question the things behind the choice -- in order to make a choice, doesn't this mean one must have a desire, as well? Wouldn't we have to be created to desire both good and evil, in order to then choose between the two?

Michelle,

**Very interesting post. CS Lewis is one of my favorites - but I think it's because I see him as such a flawed figure, like me.**

I'd be interested in any responses you'd have, given that Lewis is a favorite of yours. Is the critique valid/getting the point of what Lewis is saying?

Mystical Seeker said...

Regarding point 1, maybe it is because I find the Trinity to be an incomprehensible and illogical doctrine, but it seems like it if you took Lewis's argument seriously it would imply that there is more than one God, since parts of the Godhead loving other parts of the Godhead seems a little too much like love of self. But hey, maybe that's just me.

I think all your counter-arguments about time are very good. Seriously, how can you even talk about "before" there was a world if God also created time? Can there be an infinite past before there was a world? Does there have to be a world, with a procession of events, in order for there even to be time? I'm not enough of a philosopher to know how to even begin to tackle that question, but my guess is that neither was Lewis.

Note also that Lewis is assuming creation ex nihilo. If there was no creation ex nihilo, then his entire argument also gets blown out of the water, since that implies that there was always a "world" with which God related. (Genesis, by the way suggests that the world already existed as a formless chaos before God created it; and process theology does not generally support the idea of creation ex nihilo either.)

As for the free will argument, that has also been debated to death, I would point out that the world is full of morally neutral choices that allow me to have free will. Unless Lewis wants to claim that every single choice that we make has a moral consequence, then the free will argument for the existence of evil doesn't really hold water. I can freely choose who to mate with, what tv shows to watch, what baseball teams to root for; what are the moral consequences of those actions? On the other hand, if I murder someone, that has moral consequences big time. If I stop someone from committing murder, am I violating that person's free will?

If God can stop evil but chooses not to, I fail to see the difference between that and my choosing not to stop a murder from happening because I want to grant the murderer "free will". That is one reason why I could not accept omnipotence as a divine characteristic.

However, my guess is (I could be wrong) that it probably never occurred to Lewis that God could be anything but omnipotent, which is an example of one sometimes can have built in assumptions when making theological arguments. The "trilemma", of course, is full of assumptions on Lewis's part, in some cases assumptions that he is trying to prove.

cipher said...

The other thing that's bothering me about what I've read, and maybe I'm "reading" too much into this, is that he seems very condescending in some ways, if you don't agree with him. It's like it's ridiculous to hold that Jesus was not God, or that the Trinity is wrong.

Yeah. Well he was condescending. Part of it was being British, I think, and belonging to a certain class. It's just the way they came across, especially in those days. And part of it is that he was an Oxford don, an intellectual. And, don't forget - theology wasn't his specialty. His field was English literature. He came to religion late in life, and his theological works were produced for common people. He gave public lectures as well. His main audience consisted of the lower to middle classes, to whom he undoubtedly felt intellectually superior.

This is the cosmic joke - they've taken as one of their chief apologists a man who wrote about theology for people who didn't have the education or intelligence (or, to be fair, the opportunity) to study the "genuine article".

Michelle - I'm not saying these things to make you feel badly. It's just that, in the Christian world, Lewis is used to fortify just about any argument. As the young people say today, "He ain't all that!"

societyvs said...

"This is why I can't talk to conservative Christians, such as the people who frequent your site, Jason. We're coming at this from vastly different conceptual frameworks" (Cipher)

Give it a chance Cipher - even our forgiveness should not know bounds that small. They make mistakes like all of us do - so what if they failk to realize that now...who is to say 5 years down the road it just doesn't hit them. Sometimes mercy is long going process. We don't play their game - we play by what is precious.

"Which works out well for them, because they're "saved". Meanwhile, all they have to offer me is an eternity of torment." (Cipher)

Tragic I know...join the club. I always stand by the idea they are wrong and they need to make their point that much clearer before I admit any hell. Although I think hell is real - here and now - I am not sure of the torment there and then.

"That would be me, the messianic complex" (Michelle)

Judging by your sincerity - I think this title does not suit you. Only those that think they can determine for you the answers exacrly from God have this problem - you're too humble.

"Do we need to be able to choose evil in order for the "choosing" to be valid? Why can't it be limited between two things that are good?" (OSS)

I would ask you plainly - decide if choice is good or bad - if those are the 2 categories - which pile do you put it in?

However, choosing the better good is a choice - ex: giving a bum money or taking him/her out for food - both are quite good to do. Choice is choice - evil and good or indifferent - choice is something only comparable to a gif - and gifts are usually good (or why recieve them?).

"I'm not sure choice is a similar quality we'd share with God, if God is incapable of choosing evil. There would never be a choice for Him." (OSS)

God choose to create - or is this just His nature? God choose to give the 10 commandments to Moses - or does he do that for everyone? God chose to pick Abraham's lineage - or could it waited until Lot? It always seemed like to me God made choices to show up in certain places - I am willing to stand corrected in this.

"then God didn't create people to be 100% good, as if one was 100% good, one couldn't choose evil." (OSS)

To me, choice is choice and that is that - we can attach whatever on the end of that - but choice in and of itself is not a bad thing. I am very thankful for choice - I would hate to be a robot personally - with no real choice. We can get into the morality issue - but isn't that up to each of us and our use of choice? We can say someone choose bad after tha fact - but that doesn't choice a bad characteristic.

"Wouldn't we have to be created to desire both good and evil, in order to then choose between the two?" (OSS)

No - they would just have to be presented to us (it could be external to us and dependant on perspective). External things could effect internal processes?

cipher said...

Give it a chance Cipher - even our forgiveness should not know bounds that small.

You do it, Jason. You obviously have the patience. I haven't any longer, insofar as I ever did. I encounter a guy like Fishon, with his "Mom's in hell and I'm OK with that", and I just want to go after him with a blunt instrument.

I'm 51, and I'm tired. They've worn me out.

I am very thankful for choice - I would hate to be a robot personally - with no real choice.

I can't even begin to go there. I'm not thankful for anything. I'm angry about being in a position in which I have to choose - especially if those choices determine the eternal state of my "soul". If God does exist (which I don't really believe), I resent Him for having created me.

You can see how difficult it is to communicate with these people, and you are much closer to their belief system than I am. Can you see how impossible it would be for me?

Michelle said...

One Small Step:

I came to Lewis late in life. I was 24, working in a Christian bookstore in Manchester, England, surrounded by Brits of all faiths. They were amazed I had never read his works, I hadn't even heard of the Chronicles of Narnia. I came from a denomination that did not encourage reading outside of their belief structure.

He was like a breath of fresh air. I had been stifled and needed to see life from a different perspective. I'm also an anglophile, I love the word pictures they bring to their writing and Lewis, in particular, was a poet.

After I read his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, I better understood his struggles with the faith and his willingness to admit his faults (he recognized his conceit - it's a British thing). He brings all of that to his writing and chooses to speak simply. It was also a critique of his close friend, JRR Tolkien, who could never understand why he chose to write in such a childish manner.

He was a storyteller from his youth and never wanted to leave that part of him behind.

It's just a matter of taste - I like his manner.

OneSmallStep said...

Mystical,

**but it seems like it if you took Lewis's argument seriously it would imply that there is more than one God, since parts of the Godhead loving other parts of the Godhead seems a little too much like love of self. But hey, maybe that's just me.**

Oh, I didn't think of that one. That's a very good point. If you have the idea that it's the same essence, then it would be God still loving Himself, wouldn't it. If saying that Jesus is the image of the invisible God means that Jesus is God, then that almost has narcissistic tendencies, doesn't it -- God loving His image and reflection and so forth, since Jesus is God as well.

**(Genesis, by the way suggests that the world already existed as a formless chaos before God created it; and process theology does not generally support the idea of creation ex nihilo either.)**
That's actually a good point as well. I knew about the formless chaos, but I don't think I was picking up the concept behind Lewis' idea of creation.

**I would point out that the world is full of morally neutral choices that allow me to have free will.**
True.

**If I stop someone from committing murder, am I violating that person's free will?**
That's one of the biggest problems I have with the free will argument -- because of what it does to the victim's free will.

Society,

**Only those that think they can determine for you the answers exacrly from God have this problem - you're too humble.**

I think this is a difficult thing for all of us. I'm sure some of the ways I define God are wrong, simply because of who God is, and who I am. On the other hand, I know that many of the ways others define God are wrong. Does that make me non-humble? Because they'd say that I am wrong, as well.

To me, the difference always seems to be that the support for my side is much stronger than their support (obviously, given that I'm holding to my viewpoint). But it often seems as though the other side hasn't put as much thought into it, or something.

**I would ask you plainly - decide if choice is good or bad - if those are the 2 categories - which pile do you put it in?**
I'm not sure this is something I can answer, because I don't see 'choice' as neutral. For your example: you can choose to give the bum food or money. Either is a good choice. However, I could also choose to either give the bum food, or torture him to death. Under the free argument, it seems that I have to have the ability to choose the torture idea, or I'm a robot.

**It always seemed like to me God made choices to show up in certain places - I am willing to stand corrected in this.**
I think this might again come down to the nature of choice. When I say that God does not have free will, I mean that in the sense that God cannot choose to do evil. God can't even think of doing evil. I say this because it's usually as soon as you ask why bad things happen in the world, the response is that God gave us free will.

**I am very thankful for choice - I would hate to be a robot personally - with no real choice.**

But can't you still have the 'real choice' option without needing to choose evil?

**No - they would just have to be presented to us (it could be external to us and dependant on perspective). External things could effect internal processes?**

Ah, but then this opens up a new concept: if we go back to the bum option, say my choice is to feed the bum, or murder the bum. I must pick between the two. However, I am designed in such a way that I can't murder -- it's not an appealing thought. It's not something I'm even allowed to contemplate. So I don't murder. But have I "chosen" to not murder? Because I haven't choosen against some desire to murder, it was simply never an option for me, because I can't contemplate murder. I choose the food option by default.

Michelle,

Thank you for your perspective. It sounds like you aren't treating him as "the best thing next to sliced bread." Rather, your prior theology was on the rigid side, and he allowed you to help it expand? He helped you when you needed help, but he wasn't used as the strongest possible argument.

Michelle said...

It sounds like you aren't treating him as "the best thing next to sliced bread." Rather, your prior theology was on the rigid side, and he allowed you to help it expand? He helped you when you needed help, but he wasn't used as the strongest possible argument.

I can't hold up any man as "the best thing since sliced bread." No one is completely right - except Jesus, I am a christian. Lewis spoke to me and offered another perspective I hadn't ever heard. He opened my mind to something more than my narrow interpretation. He was far from legalism, which was what I was under.

cipher said...

He was far from legalism, which was what I was under.

If he helped you to overcome legalism, that was certainly a good thing.

cipher said...

Re: free will. I'll offer this for everyone's consideration. The Asian religions, and the mystical traditions within Western religions, see everyone (and sometimes all of creation) as being a manifestation of the one underlying reality that we call "God". Ultimately, there is only one Being. (It's a bit trickier in Buddhism, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.)

Radical theists (conservative Christians and Muslims, primarily) react vehemently to this: "You're trying to make yourself equal to God! You don't want to be held accountable!" They're deeply attached to the idea of God as sovereign, like a monarch in the Middle Ages, when much of this theology was developed.

This puts me in mind of a story that Ram Dass used to tell. For those who don't know, Ram Dass is a Westerner who was among the first to go to India in the sixties and become a student of an Indian teacher, or guru. He then became a very popular and influential teacher for my generation. He used to tell this story - one time, when he was in India, he was on his way to a particular destination. For no apparent reason, he changed his mind and decided to go to an altogether different place. When he got there, his guru, whom he hadn't seen for a while, was waiting for him. The people there were obviously expecting him, and had prepared for his arrival - food, accommodations, etc. They told him that the guru (who was a wandering mystic) had insisted upon going there, and had told his other students, "Ram Dass is coming to..." whatever the name of the town was. "Let's go and get things ready."

So, Ram Dass used to ask, "Who was it that made the decision to go to one town, rather than another? Who is this being that I think of as myself? Who is it that I think is home?"

Michelle said...

Sorry, I didn't see this the first time through:

Is the critique valid/getting the point of what Lewis is saying?

If you can handle his manner then I would suggest reading a whole work vs. excerpts from his writings. He builds with his apologetics and it's rather difficult to find his points without knowing how he got there. I'm sure you know, he came to popularity through his radio addresses during WWII, and so much of his apologetics were written for a listening public - and were published in book form later. His novels are loads of fun and quite insightful, when you see them as analogies. Just my 2 cents.

OneSmallStep said...

Cipher,

** and the mystical traditions within Western religions, see everyone (and sometimes all of creation) as being a manifestation of the one underlying reality that we call "God". Ultimately, there is only one Being. (It's a bit trickier in Buddhism, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.)**

That's how I tend to view God as well, and I find support for it in the Bible. Particularly Psalms 139, and Paul saying in Acts, "In Him we live and move and have our being." Or even Jesus saying that God is a spirit, and those that worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. Any other idea just seems to constrain the very idea of God, with the notion that God is "seperate." I don't see how God cannot not be somewhere.

Michelle,

Like Ciper, I'm glad that you're away from legalism. I'm sure it's created a much healthier mindset.

And I appreciate the response in terms of my question -- however, does this mean that I missed his points altogether? The book I'm reading had a *lot* of excerpts from 'Mere Christianity.' Enough that I felt I got the gist of what he was writing.

I would read the entire book itself. Except if I became this frustrated based on three paragraphs at a time, I don't think a whole book would make it go away. :)

cipher said...

I don't see how God cannot not be somewhere.

This has been a central idea in Jewish mysticism for centuries. There is nowhere that God is not. The idea of hell as the absence of God is completely foreign to Judaism. But, of course, we don't know what we're talking about. (Jesus, am I bitter?)

Heather, you aren't missing any points. Go to the Amazon listing for Mere Christianity and check out the one-star reviews. They keep saying the same things that we are.

Michelle said...

OneSmallStep:

Given I haven't read the excerpts, I don't know if you missed his points. I'm not the brightest bulb in the box, so to evaluate your opinion would be insufficient.

I do not have a problem with the concept of Trinity - although the word cannot be found in scripture, I believe the concept is there.

I understand God's character as good, holy, just, loving, longsuffering, jealous, all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful and I can't even give an exhaustive list because He is way beyond where my mind will go. I also believe He can never divorce Himself of His character - in His Justice He will always be Love and Holy and Good. I see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the same essence; yet three distinct persons. The best example I've ever heard is the example of water - it's probably one you've heard before, but just in case you haven't. H2O is everywhere and can be observed in three distinct forms: solid, liquid, and gas. It's an incomplete picture, but one I can begin to get my mind around. The essence is the same - God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all have the same will and characteristics, yet different roles. They are One in essence yet distinct in persons.

The Son does the Father's bidding, they do not go against eachother's will, for their will (good purpose) is the same - to love the creation and have the creation love in return.

Oh, it's so beyond my ability to explain - forgive my inadequacies. I suppose that's why I enjoy Lewis and other Christian writers, they write so much better than me.

So, I'm sorry I can't give an opinion of your review - my bulb is quite dim. ;)

My blog is in wordpress so it won't show on blogger, or I can't figure out how to do it. I want to give my address in case you're interested:

considerjesus.wordpress.com

But then, you might find me even more frustrating than Lewis. :)

OneSmallStep said...

Cipher,

**But, of course, we don't know what we're talking about. (Jesus, am I bitter?)**

And isn't it great to know that you never did??? I posed this question to another blogger, in terms of interpreting the Tanakh. I asked him that if it took the NT to truly reveal the purpose behind the Tanakh, then did that mean that every single writing and interpretation prior to the NT was wrong? He said yes. So congrats! Judaism never really understood itself. :)

I'm just as frustrated by that mindset, and I'm not Jewish. So I'm sure it's just compounded for you.

Michelle,

**I see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the same essence; yet three distinct persons. The best example I've ever heard is the example of water - it's probably one you've heard before, but just in case you haven't. H2O is everywhere and can be observed in three distinct forms: solid, liquid, and gas. **

I have a few problems with this idea, which I am, of course, going to elaborate on. :) Saying that God is three distinct persons yet one is essence is, to me, like attempting to have the best of both polytheism and monotheism. By the very act of defining something as a 'person,' you are setting up that thing to be distinct from everything else. No two 'persons' can be the same, yet this is what the Trinity goes against. That, and in any other context, when you have two seperate people claiming to be 'God' in the same religion, that is going directly against monotheism. The Trinity almost attempts to redefine what monotheism is.

The water analogy falls apart for me because ice and liquid do have seperate charateristics (one is solid, one is not), yet it's explained that all members of the Trinity have the same characteristics. The very definition of ice and liquid preclude them from being considered "the same" the way that the Trinity considers all members the same.

The Trinity also comes across as you can't have the Christian God without all three members -- 'God' could not simply be the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet if you take a H20 molecule, it can only exist in one state at one time. It cannot be both liquid and ice. But 'God' is both the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit at the same time.

And I could go on. :) But I won't, because you were using the quote to demonstrate your mindset, not for me to spend pages analyzing the comparison.

But I think my biggest 'fault' the the Trinity is that if this is suppose to be a 'core' element in the Gospel, then it should have been stated outright, from the beginning, such as the idea of the resurrection, Christ dying and so forth. Yet if you look at Acts 2: 14-37, the core focus is that Jesus was a man whom God singled out. It never once mentions that God became flesh. Or 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul is focusing on what the 'good news' is. It never once mentions God becoming flesh, and it specifically mentions that since a man brought death into the world, another man was needed to bring life, and then in the end, everything, including Christ, will be subordinate to God.

I'll check out your blog, though. :)

Anonymous said...

Liar, Lunatic or Lord..........Just wondering if hes all 3 :)

Pastor Bob said...

Re: free will or not: How would we ever know?

OneSmallStep said...

Pastor Bob,

Because we're just that smart, and we know everything? ;)