The Case For Christianity

July 31, 2008 at 7:20 am 40 comments

The Case for Christianity is a series of transcribed radio talks given by C.S. Lewis during WWII, and edited together with additional notes into book form. It is one of three books that ultimately made up his famous apologetic work Mere Christianity.

Reading the book reminded me of some mathematics seminars I used to attend. The speaker would spend great effort in setting up the initial steps of some elaborate proof, only to spend the last 3 minutes of his talk rushing through the rest to get to his conclusion. It is the classic cartoon of a math professor writing “Poof, a miracle occurs here” in the middle of his equation list. Lewis attempts to build the case for Jesus Christ on first principles. The argumentation style is that of a long chain of assumptions and arguments, with one continuously built on the other. The problem with this type of argument is that when any argument or assumption in the chain is shown wrong, or even questioned or doubted, everything else that follows is discredited. If the foundational argument fails, the whole structure collapses and we might as well not read the rest of the book.

Lewis begins his arguments, indeed the first half of the book, with the argument of our moral conscience. He claims that since we have a moral baseline, which seems to be a standard across humanity, that it must have been implanted into us upon creation. Since our moral conscience cannot conceive of the abstract notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ unless they exist, they must then exist outside of our selves. Has our moral base been implanted into us, or are we born with it? It is the classic sociological problem of ‘nature versus nurture’, which I am not well versed in. But even if we are born with a moral conscience, is it truly universal? Is right and correct in one culture equally abhorrent in another? Does this moral base exist in the same sense as a universal multiplication table, as Lewis claims? Is this truly evidence of a transcendent creator who implanted that base into every human? I really don’t know the answer to this, but they are important questions to consider when reading Lewis’s line of reasoning.

The subject of morality without God bores me a little, so any reader who wants to comment on this, please feel free to do so. Lewis spends over half the book establishing this argument, so he needs to move quickly to get from here to the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Lewis then argues the subjectivity of good and bad. By defining these terms with the frame of reference of an observer standing outside of each, Lewis rejects the concept of Pantheism. Lewis uses a frequent tactic by assuming that humanity cannot conceive of an abstract concept if it does not exist. For instance, consider this quote:

“If the 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.”

This type of argument permeates the book. He could have saved a lot of space by simply claiming that if God did not exist, we could not conceive of him, therefore God exists. But are arguments like these valid? If something can be imagined, does that mean it must exist? I am no cognitive scientist, but having attended numerous seminars on abstract mathematics, I tend to doubt it. Topology comes off the top of my head as an abstract concept which has little practical value, little physical construction, but fills countless journal articles. Just because topological objects are abstractions that we represent with symbols does not mean any of it really exists. It doesn’t. What about the concept of God? Modern science has forced God out of the physical world and into some abstract space. The only way to imagine our modern concept of God is through symbols which represent him in some abstract space – and I see no difference between that and mathematics. After all, if Lewis is correct in that we cannot imagine or even perceive of the non-existent, then I think we would all imagine the concept of ‘God’ the same way, which we all know is absurd.

Unlike ‘hot’ or ‘cold’, ‘God’ has different meanings for everyone – different symbols to represent some concept of higher power. If Lewis is correct, then the Hindu is fooling the entire Western world with their claimed belief in Krishna, because since Krishna does not exist to the Christian, he must be inconceivable. No, Krishna, like the God of the Bible is one more abstraction that is represented purely with symbols.

Can we imagine the non-existent through symbols? I really don’t see why not. That is why it was frustrating to read page after page of similar arguments in Lewis’ book.

The ultimate conclusion to this book is the divinity and salvific nature of Jesus Christ. He concludes with the famous ‘Lord, Liar, Lunatic’ argument that is famous amongst Christian apologetic circles. In a nutshell, Lewis considers the claims of Jesus as God, which are mostly found in the Gospel of John. Then he argues that Jesus could not be just a great moral teacher without being God:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he’s a poached egg – or else he’d 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.”

I first remember reading this argument in Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict about 20 years ago where, if memory serves, he devotes an entire section to the above quote. I was astounded, even as a Christian, that I could refute it about 5 seconds after I read it. There are other options besides the three that Lewis has given. Because in order to accept this thesis, you have to accept that the Gospel of John is recording the whole, accurate, and un-exaggerated words of Jesus claiming to be God lock, stock and barrel. And if you are that far along in your acceptance of Scripture, then you are probably a Christian anyway. In other words, this argument, like many of the apologetic arguments out there, will only work if you already believe. It is a book that is designed, not to persuade the questioning or even seeking unbeliever, but to bolster the faith and soothe the doubts of the committed Christian.

In the end, The Case for Christianity is a long case of circular reasoning, and I was left disappointed. This is too bad, because Lewis is a clever writer, and I really enjoy his fiction. But it frankly amazes me that Lewis is held up in Christian circles as a great intellectual champion of the Faith. He was not as popular when I first read him in the mid-1970s as he is now. I think that perhaps his legend has grown 45 years after his death. But as interesting as he is to read, his apologetic work just does not hold much water for this reader.

- HeIsSailing
(originally published on 27 Aug 2007)

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , .

From Gospel Preacher to Good Atheist Shopping For God

40 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Indeed. The “Lord, Lunatic, Liar” false trilemma is one that always irks me when I hear or read about it, mainly because it’s such a deceptive tactic. I don’t think Lewis was a fool, and surely he could have thought of the (several) other options that exist. It seems that he used the arguments to assuage his own doubts as well. Like you pointed out, John could have exaggerated Jesus’ actual sayings relating to him being God. In fact, there are verses in the synoptics where Jesus’ actions and sayings hint at him not being God, which are what many Jehovah’s Witnesses base their disbelief in the trinity on. Also, Jesus could indeed have thought he was God, but with no malicious intention. Perhaps he just wanted to make his message that much more potent. Who knows?

  • 2. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:57 am

    For humour sake, maybe he is all 3. After all you could use scripture to point out that hes God. You can then make the argument, based on the fact that Jesus talks in parables, which is much like a schizophrenic in his delusional(lunatic) phase. And isnt there also some scripture that God uses deception? So there you have it, The Trifecta……….Liar, Lunatic and Lord…… ;)

  • 3. LeoPardus  |  July 31, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Could we have folks contribute their refutations or objections to the trilemma here? I’d like to hear what others have come up with.

    In the article HIS gives one objection to it as: you can’t be sure that Jesus really claimed he was God unless you already believe the Gospels.

    One that occurred to me back when one of my parents tossed the trilemma to me was: Jesus could teach great moral ideals and yet be immoral himself. My parents, like Lewis, seemed to think that anyone who taught high moral standards couldn’t be a moral scumbag at the same time. I though this was really idiotic as it was easy to point out known examples. (e.g. – Mike Warnke)

    So what else have y’all come up with? Let’s hear them.

  • 4. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Jesus was a member of an advanced alien race, testing humanity to see how gullible and naive we are. We failed, miserably.

  • 5. Scholaster  |  July 31, 2008 at 11:39 am

    a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he’s a poached egg

    Even assuming that (a) the Gospels record Jesus’ words perfectly and (b) these teachings really include the claim to be God — a claim that many Christian heretics have disputed — the above description still would not apply to Jesus.

    The lunatic who believes himself to be God is not claiming anything as ridiculous as being a poached egg. I can show a man that he is no poached egg by handing him a mirror. But proving that he is not God is much more difficult. Who knows what God would be like if he took on human form?

    In fact, plenty of people — even apparently sane ones — have claimed to embody various kinds of divinity without descending into the kind of dribbling idiocy that Lewis imagines to be attached to that claim. Pantheists, for example, seem to have a knack for saying things about themselves (and other people) that are quite extraordinary, then going off to write beautiful poetry or lead peaceful political movements. And even those who claim to be the One True God needn’t be absolutely starkers in other respects. I recently read an article (can’t remember where) about a very nice gentleman in England who had made such a claim. His wife seemed to put up with it well enough.

  • 6. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Another thing I find wrong here is Lewis’ argument for God based on morality. Sometimes I wonder if he had every read or studied about the theory of evolution and how it relates to the subject. He states that because humans share a “universal” moral code (which isn’t even the case) that some external, intangible, invisible creator must have imbued them with said shared conscience. However, I think he fails to realize that the (fairly) universal aversion to things such as murder, theft, lying, and the like that humans share can be explained through evolutionary terms by positing that these traits helped social animals such as humans and their ancestors survive. Stealing food from the tribe as a whole would put everyone at a disadvantage; murdering an individual would cause conflict as well as lower the amount of people available for hunting, watching guard, et cetera; lying about the nature of an animal threat (crying wolf) could get the entire tribe killed, and so on.

    However, he also fails to realize that some people do not have an aversion to these things, and said people are the type of individuals that we lock up in asylums due to the threats they pose to society and even themselves — and in large part, most of these people don’t consciously choose to be this way. Hereditary illness or structural deficieny or enviromentally caused damage to the brain can do these things to a person, and it’s completely out of their control.

    Not only that, but human societies throughout history have had vastly different conceptions of “right” and “wrong”. 150 years ago slavery was accepted by a majority of those in the souther United States as perfectly fine, and even Biblically condoned. Today it’s been abolished throughout the world, and is being combatted where it sprouts up illegally (and immorally). Then we have the issue of the suppression/subjugation of women (strangely, another thing that is Biblically condoned which we condemn today), as well as human sacrifice, genocide (and another), genital mutilation (and yet another), et cetera. All of these things have been practiced and condoned in the past, but are seen as immoral and uncivilized today. Human morality definitely isn’t completely universal nor absolute and constant.

    Whoa. Long post over.

  • 7. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Obi, you can also explain some of society’s miscreants (probably not all, or even most) through evolution. In a society where we have such aversions to certain behaviors, a person without those aversions has a personal advantage. If you have no qualms about taking advantage of others, you have an advantage over all those others in your survival. That psychopaths also tend to be very charismatic helps them pass along those traits to offspring. It may not help the species overall, but the detriments aren’t strong enough to keep such individuals from showing up.

  • 8. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Snuggly —

    Hmm, I don’t really think that it would be very advantageous to be a miscreant at all in a species of social animals such as humans, though. Perhaps in a species of solitary hunters such as the tiger it would be useful to be selfish and work for personal advantage, but humans must rely on each other and therefore be able to co-exist comfortably with others to survive.

  • 9. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Snuggly

    “If you have no qualms about taking advantage of others, you have an advantage over all those others in your survival.”

    This is not necessarily an advantage. After all, as soon as youre found out to be like this, the group will turn on you. So your advantage can quickly end, which does not benefit your survival chances. And as we all know its just a matter of time before someone will find out what you are really like.

  • 10. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    john t,

    I’ve linked it before, but checkout Damn Interesting’s article, The Unburdended Mind.

    Some excerpts:

    Spanning all cultures and eras, roughly one man in every 100 is born a clinical psychopath, as well as one woman in every 300. They are so common that every person reading this sentence almost certainly knows one personally; indeed, a significant number of readers are likely psychopaths themselves.

    Despite this emotional deficiency, most psychopaths learn to mimic the appearance of normal emotion well enough to fit into ordinary society, not unlike the way that the hearing impaired or illiterate learn to use other cues to compensate for their disabilities.

    In a civilization made up primarily of law-abiding citizenry, the theory goes, an evolutionary niche opens up for a minority who would exploit the trusting masses.

    The successful psychopath isn’t the one getting caught. It’s the one who takes advantage of people but maintains enough of a facade of a conscience to blend in.

    Seriously, though, it’s a good, fascinating read.

  • 11. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Each of those quoted paragraphs comes from a distinct part of the article, I should have done something to separate them. They are not meant to be read in succession as a single flow of writing.

  • 12. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Snuggly

    Thanks for the suggestion, I will read it later. I have a question for you, do you think that our experiences in life can change our genetic codes?

  • 13. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    John T. —

    Epigenetics. Our environment can change which genes are expressed (colloquially, turn them “on and off”) through methylation and acetylation. That’s why identical (monozygotic) twins who share the exact same genetic information can mature to look differently, “contract” (for lack of a better word at the moment) cancer or other hereditary diseases differently if at all, et cetera.

    Snuggly —

    Hmm, someone being intelligent enough to do that is quite different from what I thought you were talking about before, which was someone murdering, stealing and lying, and making it quite obvious that their intentions were self-serving. The group would quickly excise such an individual for their own good. Intelligent (and secretive) manipulation on the other hand…

    What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate, heh.

  • 14. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    That damned emoticon…

  • 15. The Nerd  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I wish there was a ninja emoticon we could send after the ;) one.

  • 16. The Nerd  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I have to admit, I couldn’t finish that book even when I was a Christian, because it just didn’t follow. As a devotional, maybe… Proof? No. It really was a long way for C. S. Lewis to say “I’m a Christian because it feels right to me.”

  • 17. orDover  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    At my Christian school we had to read The Case for Christianity in AP English. (Yeah, it was a bad AP English course). I honestly can’t remember what I thought of it at the time, but it didn’t make a large impression on me obviously, and now I find the arguments laughably weak. You’re exactly right, HIS, when you say that it’s written for people who are already Christians, looking for a little validation, and don’t know how to point out poor logic.

    As for the “Lord, Lunatic, Liar” argument, I don’t know that I can say much more than has already been said. First of all, it’s built upon the false premises that 1) Jesus actually existed, something which I haven’t really made up my mind about, 2) that Jesus did and said everything just as the Bible claims, and 3) that Jesus’ teachings, which the Bible shows are often cryptic, were not misunderstood by his followers. Second, it’s a false dichotomy (or technically, trichotomy). It greatly simplifies the vast continuum of possibilities that could explain a man who calls himself God, reducing them to ridiculous polarities. He could be perfectly sane, just delusional, for example. I know plenty of people like that.

  • 18. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Obi

    Epigenetics. Our environment can change which genes are expressed

    My question is more, Is there a possibility our enviroment can change the actual properties of the gene?

  • 19. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Obi-

    Hmm, someone being intelligent enough to do that is quite different from what I thought you were talking about before, which was someone murdering, stealing and lying, and making it quite obvious that their intentions were self-serving. The group would quickly excise such an individual for their own good. Intelligent (and secretive) manipulation on the other hand…

    What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate, heh.

    Before, I was talking about human empathy, and the fact that some people just don’t have it, mainly to counter the idea that we have some innate morality. Whether that’s the sort of person who goes about murdering, lying and stealing or the sort who manages to remain undetected yet still doesn’t empathize with others is ultimately irrelevant to that point.

    My basic point in this thread is that it actually makes evolutionary sense for a small group of people to lack morality (some because of their environment, others because of their nature), just as it makes evolutionary sense for the species as a whole to generally have morality. So, I’m basically agreeing with you, while pointing out that people who do not behave morally may not be evolutionary aberrations, but are in fact something we would expect to find.

    To John T.
    As Obi pointed out, our environment can affect which genes are expressed.

    If you’re alluding to a psychopath changing his nature, I don’t think that’s really possible. Once a psychopath’s brain has fully developed, even if you change the genetic code, you still haven’t changed the physical structure of his brain; the lack of empathy cannot be undone short of sending in nanites to rebuild his brain to allow for it.

    My question is more, Is there a possibility our enviroment can change the actual properties of the gene?

    Obviously, we can change our genetic code. This happens all the time with radiation, though this is usually disastrous; it tends to result in cancer, or at best a benign mutation.

  • 20. LeoPardus  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Snuggly: Re post #10 –

    Hey! I’ve found myself! :D [Emoticon intended this time]

    It’s interesting that I recall my uncle (who was in the VietNam war) telling me about the special forces guys he got to know. He talked with their sergeant who told him that many military trainers keep an eye out for potential special forces recruits. One thing they look for is a recruit who, when being trained to kill, never wonders if he can kill; he just learns the skills and is obviously prepared to use them. According the the sergeant, about 1-5 guys out of 100 fit this criterion.

  • 21. john t.  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Snuggly
    “Obviously, we can change our genetic code. This happens all the time with radiation, though this is usually disastrous; it tends to result in cancer, or at best a benign mutation.”

    Ok I know our physical enviroment can do that. But do you think it could happen from lets say a “loving enviroment”?

  • 22. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    John T.

    Definitely not. DNA doesn’t work that way. There is simply no way a “loving environment” would change the DNA bases. I think a loving environment might affect gene expression, but there is simply no mechanism by which it can change the genetic structure itself.

    Leo,

    Not really surprising. It’s easy to not wonder whether you can kill, if you feel no empathy for a person you are killing. I’ll bet your uncle describes those special forces guys as being fairly charismatic, likable guys?

  • 23. OneSmallStep  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    **Jesus could teach great moral ideals and yet be immoral himself. My parents, like Lewis, seemed to think that anyone who taught high moral standards couldn’t be a moral scumbag at the same time**

    This was one of the first things that occured to me as well, upon hearing the trilemma. Techincally speaking, we determine who is a great moral teacher by the morality of their teachings. We determine if they are a moral *person* by the morals they then follow. If anything, this sounds more like an ad hominum attack — attacking the character of Jesus in order to detract from the merits of his moral teachings.

    Plus, is saying that someone is the son of God the same as saying the person is God? There are others in the Bible who are called “sons of God” and yet that doesn’t make those people God.

    And there’s the whole idea of one must first accept the BIble as literally true before accepting this argument.

  • 24. Steelman  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    To Leopardus

    IIRC, Richard Carrier, or someone else on the Secular Web, had a rejoinder to the “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” trilemma of “Mistaken, Misquoted, Misunderstood.”

    Mistaken: Jesus may simply have been incorrect in his assessment of his own divinity, persuaded by coincidence, selective thinking, and confirmation bias. He wasn’t crazy, just not a very critical thinker who engaged in magical thinking (like a number of people I’ve met, from Christians to New Agers).

    Misquoted: As others have mentioned, maybe the gospel writers made mistakes when writing down Jesus’ words. Their accounts disagree in a number of areas, so misquotation isn’t at all a far fetched possibility. They may even have known the correct quotes, but changed them for artistic or political reasons, or just because they thought they needed to be modified to suit a particular audience. They may have seen no harm in doing this; literalism may not have been a consideration in the early gospel traditions.

    Misunderstood: There are instances of Jesus having to explain what he meant to the apostles, because they just didn’t get it. He’s quoted in Mark 4:11-12, “He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ Maybe the apostles never quite caught on to what he really meant about being God?

  • 25. Steelman  |  July 31, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Oh, and, HIS, I enjoy your rare posts!

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Is there a possibility our enviroment can change the actual properties of the gene?

    Tossing my bit in here. The answer depends on what properties you mean.

    If you mean, “Can the nucleic acid sequence change?” , then the only environmental things that will work are radiation or toxins.

    But there are other properties. Acetylation, methylation, and other epigenetic factors can repress or drive gene expression. These can be triggered by many changes. Growth, hormones, stress, diet, toxins, age, illness, etc. But at that, such changes are usually slow and subtle.

    I don’t think a loving environment would do much. If it did, it would be mighty subtle.

  • 27. LeoPardus  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Steelman:

    “Mistaken, Misquoted, Misunderstood.”

    Heh heh. I like that. :)

  • 28. The de-Convert  |  July 31, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Here’s what DagoodS posted on an earlier blog:

    Let me share with you something I wrote for a friend on Lewis’ Trilemma (which as I understand Lewis actually got from Chesterton). This is presented thusly on p55 of Mere Christianity:

    “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 said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the 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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

    If you type this into Google, you’ll find thousands of Christian websites that apparently feel this is a high point of Christian apologetics. It’s actually illogical and uninformed, and it does not reflect well on people who accept it as serious thinking.

    You can see the first problem here. Lewis writes “A man who said the sort of things Jesus said…” but accepting this premise first requires that we establish what Jesus said. It is not easy to separate what Jesus said from what was added to his sayings later. There is widespread disagreement among scholars on what goes back to Jesus. Many scholars believe, for example, that nothing in John goes back to Jesus. Others argue that anything about Gentiles or food laws is a later addition. Still others point out that Jesus’ sayings closely resemble popular philosophical sayings of his time.

    What arguments or evidence does Lewis offer about what Jesus said? Well, I’ve read Mere Christianity, and I didn’t see any. So unless Lewis can tell me how he knows what Jesus intended, I do not see that there is any support for his claim from that direction. In fact, Lewis even writes that Jesus claimed to be God, but nowhere is there a clear statement of that in the Gospels (even a statement like “I and the Father are one” can be interpreted in many ways). Many, many scholars would dispute that historical Jesus ever made such a claim.

    But it gets worse, because in addition to lacking scriptural support, Lewis’ position is a string of logical fallacies. First, he offers you three choices. Either Jesus was really God, or he was a devil, or he was crazy. “A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell.” Any time someone gives you violently opposed choices you should start becoming suspicious about his arguments.

    Think about it. Could a liar be a great moral teacher? Of course! All the great moral teachers of history were human beings, and like all humans, must have been liars. Martin Luther King plagiarized his doctoral thesis and cheated on his wife. His “I have a dream” is taken unacknowledged from a speech written by a friend of his. Does that mean he wasn’t a great moral teacher and leader? Of course not! Just imagine all the great moral leaders and teachers you know – didn’t they all have human failings? So with Jesus. There is no reason to imagine that simply because he was a great moral teacher, he must be divine.

    Furthermore, there is no reason to imagine that Jesus had to have been a liar to make the claims that he did. He might have sincerely believed in what he said. He might even have sincerely believed he was God. His followers might have believed it too. That sort of thing has happened before as well. But even if he were crazy, would that invalidate him as a great moral teacher? Crazy people are as likely to say intelligent and insightful things as anybody. After all, saying Jesus was a nut doesn’t really say anything about what kind of nut he was. He might have been a nut like Kurt Godel, one of the great philosophers of all time, who in his later years insisted on communicating with everyone by phone even if they were in the same room. Yet his social strangenesses did not prevent him from being a truly great thinker and teacher.

    Another problem with this point of view is that in fact there is nothing particularly divine about Jesus’ teachings in any case; they can be found in the popular philosophy, Cynic and Stoic, of his day, and in the Old Testament. For example, when Jesus tells people that the physicians do not heal the healthy, he quotes a famous Cynic maxim going back several centuries. Do we then claim that the Cynic philosopher who first thought that up was divine? Probably most people would not. When Jesus cites the famous Shema in Mark 12:29-31, he is citing a bit of Jewish moral teaching. So should we then regard all the Jewish teachers who taught this as divine also? The Golden Rule, found in many cultures, is another example of this. Were all those teachers divine?

    In fact, there are many more than the three dramatic choices – God, Devil, or Nutcase – that Lewis offers us. Maybe Jesus was just a human like you and me. Maybe he was misunderstood. Maybe the things he said were made up, or spoken by others and then attributed to Jesus. So next time someone says “Lord, liar, or lunatic?” You can respond by thoughtfully saying, “No, more like man, myth, or misunderstood.” – Michael Turton

  • 29. Obi  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    The de-Convert‘s post reminded me of something that the author of that passage mentioned as well. Many geniuses exhibit rather eccentric behaviours (such as those of Mr. Godel), that often serve to make them look “crazy” to others around them. Does this mean that we should completely disregard their findings/teachings? Of course not.

    Also, I think that the concept of “God” has been used throughout human history to validate arguments/rules/beliefs by appealing to the supposedly ultimate authority. We also know that ancient people used myth to convey moral truths and concepts, so perhaps the disciples did this as well? I see the gospels and Jesus’ ministry in general as perhaps using the authority that comes with the concept of “God” to convey important teachings, such as those of peace and tolerance (ignoring for now some of the unsavory parts) that are important to all humans.

    Hmm…

  • 30. Stephen P  |  August 1, 2008 at 2:04 am

    It’s really just a variation on what has already been said, but once or twice I’ve answered this as follows.

    “Lord, Liar, Lunatic, are the three choices you’d love to impose on me. But the three choices I actually have are:
    – the gospels are accurate;
    – the gospels are inaccurate;
    – the gospels are fiction;
    and I don’t choose the first.”

  • 31. nixam  |  August 2, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    “I can understand why people would have doubts about the Bible. It’s a weird, strange, goofy book!” Rich Mullins

    While saying this Rich in ways proved that the book could not have been written by a group of people with mere rationality as a guiding light… no one would have left so many gaps unfilled…

    anyways in the end, its faith… :)

  • 32. nixam  |  August 2, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Hey de-Convert…

    I like the number of “Maybe’s” in Michael Turton’s post..

    It gets us on the same page for argument and its counter argument..

    Both sides are just as liable to proof as each other….

  • 33. Obi  |  August 2, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    nixam said, “While saying this Rich in ways proved that the book could not have been written by a group of people with mere rationality as a guiding light… no one would have left so many gaps unfilled…

    Hoho, I don’t think that anyone has ever accused those who wrote the Bible or any of the other ancient religious books of being rational. Far from it actually, as is evidenced by all of the impossibilities and plain falsities described in the book.
    ;)

  • 34. nixam  |  August 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Obi…

    “rationality” – hmm! u mean the redefined one right?

  • 35. Scott Ferguson  |  August 8, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I have to disagree with the the blogger on the quality of Lewis’ fiction. I just finished blogging my experience of reading the Narnia series. I have find his writing style as well as his attitudes and theology as more appropriate to the turn of the 20th century rather than the middle of the century. Compare his writing with that of his contemporaries – Tolkien or the great early writers of science fiction.

    I, too, gave up on Mere Christianity when I found found Lewis floundering on universal morality. My opinion is that Lewis writings, outside his specialty – early literature, should be disregarded entirely. One exception would be A Grief Observed which I found refreshingly human and humble. It is remarkable that so many Christians consider his work so praise worthy. Greatest Apologist of the Twentieth Century indeed!

  • 36. Austin Davis  |  September 25, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Lewis speaks about how we cannot imagine or perceive things that do not exist. The critic made a reference to the Hindu god, Karishna. What you must understand is that in Hindu, the gods are imagined to have a character similar to that of a human, and human character exists. They give form to the idols they make out of combinations of things that exist, like humans and animals. They cannot know the wills of their gods just as they cannot know the will of any ordinary human, so ultimately, their concept of a god is entirely based on what exists.

  • 37. Quester  |  September 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Austin,

    How does that differ from any other group’s concept of any other god?

  • 38. Eve's Apple  |  April 30, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    The big problem I have with C. S. Lewis is his background before and after he became a Christian. If I recall correctly, his specality as a professor was mythology, not science; and that even as a child he was fond of making up fantasy worlds. Not that there is anything wrong with fantasy–as fantasy–but when you start talking about truth, I for one am not comfortable with mixing the two. I don’t find the account of his conversion very convincing; I would argue the case that he “returned” to Christianity because of its commonality to the myths he loved so well. According to the recent book “Planet Narnia” which talks about the astrological/mythological symbolism which pervades Lewis’ fiction, Lewis turned to writing the Narnia series after a particularly severe defeat in a debate with an atheist; licking his wounds, so to speak. I think it significant that in these stories the lion Aslan very decisively “kicks butt” unlike the Jesus of the gospels who goes passively to his death and then disappears afterwards. Is Lewis engaging in some wishful thinking here?

    Lewis may be a good writer, but for someone who is looking for a faith grounded in rationality, he is not the one I would recommend. Unfortunately, if there are Christian writers of the stature of Dawkins, Gould, Asimov, et al, who are firmly grounded in the sciences and history–who are firmly grounded in reality, not mythology–I have yet to encounter them.

  • 39. betterwayofliving  |  May 12, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Hello, all you people have valid points here. Anyways, you took effort to really study your religion. CONGRATS FOR THINKING!
    May I suggest a simple , humble thing, for just 7 days of your life. please….?
    Please try to get a translated copy of the QURAN that belongs to so called “bombers & terrorists”..
    please open it a fine morning around 3 or 4am, with a refreshed mind, with no prejudices.
    please do it 7 days.please.
    This is a special request to HelsSailing. Because he is really truthful in his account.
    All others ,too, please try.
    If you get any answer..’any’ answer to your doubt, continue reading..If not, close the book.
    You may contact me at alwaysthinkgood@yahoo.com.

  • 40. cag  |  May 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    betterwayofliving # 39, what does the bullshit in the koran and the bullshit in the bible have in common? They are both bullshit. I do not need 7 days to detect bullshit, it can usually be accomplished in less than a minute.

    You are not presenting any reason that the lies in the koran are compelling. You are dealing here with rational humans, not deluded ones. We reject superstitious crap like religion. We read “holy” books critically, not reverently. When these books are read skeptically, they do not have the same effect as when they are read for confirmation. As my Iranian friend explained, the koran is not chronological. When rearranged in chronological order, it shows that Mo started out weak and conciliatory. As he gained power, this all shifted to kill, kill, kill.

    The koran, like the bible, is a control mechanism, designed to give power to the in group over out groups. It is all about power, power I will not cede to these immoral, disgusting ayatollahs, imams, popes, archbishops and preachers. Scam artists the lot of them.

    That book is closed. No amount of excuses for the monster you wish to impose on the rest of us will ever make your allah palatable.

    Look up kafirgirl in google or yahoo. An interesting, irreverent take on some of the chapters in the koran.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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