Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
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A Critique and Synopsis of “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis.
In brief, Mere Christianity is somewhat short on philosophical justification for Christianity. I will touch on the arguments, chapter by chapter, in the synopsis, but for the moment, I will outline the argument as a whole.
1.There is a Moral Law, which is not contrived by humans, and exists apart from any individual, or even a society.
1.Humans know this law intuitively.
2.It is the only law which is known from within instead of without
3.It is agreed upon by religious and non-religious people
2.Either the universe is here by chance or it was created.
3.The existence of Moral Law, which is apart from humans, but within them, proves that the Universe was created.
4.Because humans have the Moral Law, we know the Creator to be a Mind, similar to our concept of mind.
5.Because the Moral Law is about Good and Evil, we know the Creator to be Good.
6.Either Evil existed eternally, or it is the result of something going wrong with creation
7.Because God is good, evil must not have always existed.
8.Therefore, God and Satan.
I recognize that I have probably not reproduced this argument sufficiently for anyone who might still be taken in by Lewis' arguments. For that, I do apologize, but the leaps of logic do not get any better if you add any more of the details.
I will deal with a few specifics in the synopsis, but for now I will address the primary failures of the main premises, and thus, with the conclusion of the book. Lewis fails miserably at the task of proving the existence of a Moral Law, or as he puts it, the Law of Nature. Each example he gives of humans being different from animals can be parsimoniously explained by psychologists and evolutionary biologists. Altruism is predicted by evolutionary theory. Conscience is a natural result of the combination of moral instincts and the capacity for abstraction. The uniformity of moral imperatives across cultures is not an argument for a transcendent moral law. In fact, it is very good evidence that the predictions of evolutionary theory are correct! If humans didn't have roughly the same moral imperatives, we would suspect that something was awry.
The idea of knowing the law internally being proof of its existence external to human consciousness is absurd. I would challenge any philosopher to explain how else a human being can know anything about himself if not internally. All of our observations of self must be internal, else we would not be the ones making them.
The leaps from Prime Mover to Mind to Absolute Good to Christian God are all non sequiturs. I could deconstruct each one in great detail, but to be honest, Lewis has not given us much detail to work with. In virtually every case, he has given the appearance of deductive certainty, or at least inductive probability, but at the heart of each new conclusion is an unsupported assertion. To anyone familiar with materialism, pragmatism, or empiricism, these arguments will appear naïve if not intentionally manipulative. Lewis' obvious lack of knowledge in the fields of evolution and history will be obvious to even the casual reader today, and some of his attitudes about sex, politics, and culture are positively Victorian in their prudishness.
It is sad to see any modern apologists cite this book as a sound argument for theism, much less Christianity. The majority of the book does not even deal with establishing the validity of theism. Instead, it is a recitation of Christian dogma, with the occasional attempt to rationally justify irrational concepts. There is nothing in the section on theology that can't be found in Aquinas or any one of a dozen earlier theologians. In short, this book is a half hearted attempt at philosophy followed by three times as much volume devoted to preaching Christian doctrine.
Chapter 1. The Law of Human Nature.
Lewis's first page dives straight into the assertion that there is a Law of Human Nature. He asserts that quarreling demonstrates its existence. Because we can observe that a human quarrel is not a primal contest of strength. It is an attempt by both parties to show that they are justified in their actions, as in the case of a man who takes another man's seat. The seat-taker believes that there is a good reason for him to have taken the seat, and the first man believes he had a preexisting right to sit there. In all such situations, Lewis declares, it is evident that there is “some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are...” (pg 18)
Interestingly, Lewis is one of the first writers to fall victim to Godwin's Law, and it only took him a couple of pages into the first chapter. Mere Christianity was published for the first time in 1943, so we can hardly blame him. Nevertheless, he asserts that if it were not for this Law of Human Nature on which we all inherently agree, we could not speak of the Allies being on the side of Good, and we might as well “have blamed them for the colour of their hair.” (pg 19)
The next paragraph acknowledges the existence of objections to the Law of Human Nature. After all, many civilizations have different moralities. Nevertheless, he says, “there have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference.” (pg 19) He notes that selfishness has never been admired. Though some men have four wives and some only one, it has always been agreed that men do not simply have any woman they want.
In the book's first strawman against atheists, we learn that those who say they do not believe in a real “Right and Wrong” will change their tune when someone does something unfair to them. Countries that break treaties are doing so because they feel the treaties to be unfair, not because they have a different Right and Wrong than anyone else. People sometimes get them wrong, but that's precisely what it is – getting them wrong. It's the same as getting an addition problem wrong.
Here, Lewis asserts his second major point: “None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature.” (pg 20) As further justification for the existence of the Law of Nature, he points out that if it were not so, we would not work so hard to make excuses when we knowingly break it, for instance, when we break a promise, but insist that if you knew our circumstance, you would not fault us.
It is tempting for me to criticize this first chapter now, but I will leave it until after Chapter Two, when we are to examine objections to this point of view.
Chapter 2. Some Objections
Before addressing the first objection, it's important to understand that Lewis wrote this book several years before James Watson and Francis Crick unlocked the molecular structure of DNA and made possible much of our current understanding of what kinds of things can be passed on genetically. Lewis had no way of knowing what revolutionary leaps would be made in the next several decades. Nevertheless, this does not excuse him from criticism, and it is with the preceding caveat that I shall continue.
The most obvious objection to the Law of Nature proposition is the observation that we, like other social animals, have a “herd instinct.” It's obvious that within other species, mothers care for their young, and individuals help others for the good of the herd. Even so, Lewis assures us that the Law of Nature is different. As an example, he grants that upon hearing a man call for help, we will be torn between two instinctual urges: to help a member of the herd, and to run away – altruism vs. self preservation. The Moral Law, which tells us to override our self preservation instinct and help the man, is the manifestation of The Law of Nature within us. There is more evidence, we are told. When two instincts collide, the stronger of the two would always win if it were not for the existence of a mitigating force. Of course, he means the Law of Nature. The Law of Nature is an outside agent which “wakes up” our herd instinct when it is asleep, and urges us on to behaviors that go above and beyond our instincts, such as risking our own life to save a drowning man. In addition, if the Law of Nature was just instinctual, we ought to be able to point to one impulse and call it universally good. Since we cannot do this, the Law of Nature must be outside of instinct.
The Law of Nature is like a piano. Each note on the piano is both right and wrong. It depends on the context. So, too, are morals both right and wrong, depending on the context. The tune is bigger than the notes, and the Law of Nature is what directs the tune.
Clearly, Lewis has made a number of errors which, in light of many advances in psychology, seem barking mad. I will leave the science to the scientists, however, and deal with the philosophical problems. Though it may be dismissing many errors, I want to focus on just one. In virtually every example, he is creating an ad hoc explanation to justify his premise. He has arbitrarily placed a dividing line between instinct and the Law of Nature (henceforth, LON), and has not given us much more than his word on which to base our belief. Why should we assume that because instincts sometimes clash, there is an outside force that is not inherited? (Lewis is going to eventually get to the supernatural. Just be patient.) If a man chooses to try to save a dying man, why should we not assume that his altruistic instinct was the dominant instinct? If you place a body of water in between a cat and food, the cat will sometimes swim to the food, and sometimes it will not. Clearly, instincts' value relative to the individual can change according to different circumstances. How hungry the cat is will have a direct bearing on whether the drive to eat will overcome a cat's natural aversion to water. Trust me – my cats are well fed. They would never go for a swim. Feral cats, on the other hand, might do it quite often, depending on how plentiful food is in their environment.
Though the word “conscience” is not used in the first chapter, clearly we are meant to recognize it. Again, we have been presented with a bizarre dichotomy. Despite having admitted, in as many words, to moral relativity, Lewis expects us to accept that conscience is somehow removed from our instinctual existence. A very simple question follows. Why would we not expect conscience to exist if there are indeed examples of conflicting moral actions? If we are to choose between two good actions, like trying to help a man being robbed or running away so that we can continue to live and provide for our families, would we not expect to feel a certain uneasiness when we have chosen between two things, each of which would be good in its own right? In a single stroke of ad-hoc reasoning, we have been told that contrary to what we would expect, natural selection can only take us so far – at some arbitrary point, selective pressure will no longer function, and we can no longer expect animals to do what is best in a complex environment. In short, Lewis is proposing the premise that human culture is too complex for natural selection to explain. I hope the backward logic and ad hoc reasoning is clear. If natural selection is real, (and it most certainly is!) and our culture exists, then it follows logically that our culture is a result of natural selection, else we would not have it. If our culture is a result of natural selection, then obviously our choices with in it are, too.
Continuing on, Lewis asserts two main reasons why the Law of Nature is different in kind from anything else. First, reiterating from chapter one, moral differences between culture are different in degree, but not ultimately in kind. Second is the fact that we all agree that some morals are better than others. Finally, he glosses over an enormous equivocation. Morality is like New York, in that there is some kind of a platonic ideal against which each person's individual perception can be measured.
Chapter 3. The Reality of the Law.
In order to keep this review shorter than the actual book, I will be addressing only the primary points in most chapters. Now that we have seen the first, and most fundamental premise, we can examine the rest of the book more quickly.
The first thing we find in chapter three is another unsupported, arbitrary division between people and nature. Stones, trees, and other non-human things obey the Law of Nature, in that they are behaving exactly the way they ought. More precisely, they are doing what natural things do. Humans, on the other hand, regularly break their own moral codes, and so cannot be regarded as acting naturally. The most obvious objection is this: If humans are part of nature, why would we not assume that our complex society, and thus our complex morals, are naturally what people do?
We are next assaulted by an equivocation between pragmatism and nature. Since morals are not always practical, they are necessarily outside of natural law. This, of course, ignores the vast complexity of human interactions, and yet again begs a question: Why would we not assume that the very complexity of human interactions are the natural result of the evolution of intelligence?
Again, Lewis reverses logic and asserts that because individuals in a society do not make individual decisions specifically to benefit society, there must be some morality separate from society. Again, he misses the simple, parsimonious answer. Humans don't act the way they do so that humanity can survive. Humanity survives because humans act the way they do!
Chapter 4. What Lies Behind the Law
For the first time, we are introduced to two competing philosophies: Materialist and Religious. I will only mention that Lewis appears to grossly misunderstand the materialist point of view. For evidence, I offer this quote. “... matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, nobody knows why... [M]atter, behaving in certain fixed ways, has just happened, by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are able to think... and then, by a long series of chances, the living creatures developed into things like us.” (pg 31) The equivocation between natural selection and cosmology ought, by now, to be well vanquished. It is easier to forgive Lewis when we remember that he was writing in the 1940s. Religious viewpoints, he avers, focus on something we can conceive as Mind as the origin of the universe.
We are now introduced to a familiar apologist refrain. Science is for answering the questions of “how” and religion is for answering the question of “why.” It seems difficult to give this viewpoint much consideration when one realizes the simple fact that even asking the question “why” presupposes a purpose! This is a classic example of an anthropomorphic fallacy. Since we have a purpose for everything we do, everything else must also be here for a purpose.
In one of his most bafflingly ignorant assertions, Lewis now tells us that an alien race, studying humanity from afar, would never come to understand our moral law because it is separate from us. He offers no justification for this, other than his earlier assertions that our morality is, in fact, separate from us. Once we are comfortable with this, we can easily accept the next conclusion. Since morality exists separate from humans, the universe was created by an intelligent being.
To sum up the book so far, we have the following argument:
1.Morality exists separate from humans.
2.Either the universe “just exists” or it was created.
3.Since we can observe morality as external to humans, we know the universe was created.
Our next false analogy follows within seconds: Since a house builder cannot be a wall, the creator of the universe cannot be the universe. The only way, we are told, for this creator to manifest himself, is within us. Since we have morality, that proves the whole thing.
There have been very eloquent refutations of the argument from morality, so I will not go into detail here, as the purpose of this critique is to familiarize the reader with Lewis' arguments, not necessarily to conclusively refute them all.
Chapter 5. We Have Cause to be Uneasy.
This chapter, which is shockingly brief, gives us a rather convoluted series of “if-then” statements which are supposed to provide the foundation for the leap from “First Cause” to Christianity. It would be a tenuous link if indeed there were any link at all. Unfortunately, the best argument that one can pull out of the chapter goes something like this.
IF we have moral sense THEN there is a creator,
IF there is a creator THEN he might be Absolute Good.
IF he is Absolute Good, then we're screwed because we are pissing him off by not being absolute good.
If that's as baffling to you as it is to me, good for you. You've managed to pass muster for an elementary logic class.
PART II: WHAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE
Chapter 1. The Rival Conceptions of God.
The first paragraph in this new section is one of the most appalling to me. In it, Lewis asserts that if one is to be an atheist, then he must believe that the point of all religions is wrong. In fact, he says, he didn't begin to acquire the ability to think liberally until becoming a Christian. As a religious person, he can believe that each religion may contain a kernel of truth, but as a Christian, he must believe that Christianity contains the ultimate truth.
First, an atheist need not believe that the point of all religions is wrong primarily because he need not believe that the point of all religions is a particular thing! This statement presumes god to exist, for it presumes the purpose of religion. Second, it's quite disgusting to hear the blatant and unconcealed sense of superiority he feels towards every other religion in the world. I could opine at length on just the first paragraph, but I am conscious of the need for brevity.
We are presented with an odd, and inaccurate dichotomy. There are only two kinds of religious people – those who believe god is removed from good and evil, and those who believe he is good. How he can gloss over religion with such a wide brush is not immediately evident to me. Nevertheless, he makes a very relevant, and a very revealing comment soon afterward. “...Christianity is a fighting religion.” God made the world a certain way, and “a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again. (pg 45) Note that Lewis has eliminated the possibility of an omnipotent god. As to the assertion that Christianity is a fighting religion, I leave you to draw your own conclusions. I see no reason to belabor the obvious.
The next false analogy is best quoted. “A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.” (pg 45) From this bizarre analogy, we move to the more oft quoted turn of phrase: “[A]theism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” (pg 46) When reading this whole paragraph in context, it becomes gibberish. Justice, we are told, is something that god invented. We know that because we feel it inside of us (LON). Since we recognize the injustice in the world, we know that god exists, else we would not have recognized the injustice. Again, I leave it to you to recognize the complete incoherence of this argument.
Chapter 2. The Invasion.
In this chapter, we are presented with the idea that those who would present a simple idea of Christianity are subconsciously or consciously trying to destroy it. Another mind numbing quote: “Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed.” In other words, because Christianity is contrary to reason, it's true. Following in this vein, we are informed that there are only two views of good and evil. Either 1) Things were good, and now have gone bad, or 2) Things have always been good and bad, and both have always existed. (Incidentally, we are told that this is called Dualism.)
Dualism's flaw, apparently, is that good and evil are independent. They both existed from all eternity. Since we have justice in our hearts, and God is the creator, and what is in our hearts is a proof of Absolute Good, then things were good and have now gone bad.
Chapter 3. The Shocking Alternative
If it seems to you as if you've been led down a disturbing series of non-sequiturs, it's not because I'm leaving out salient details. Of course, I'm necessarily leaving out some of the book. If I didn't I might as well copy the book word for word. I encourage you to read the book yourself and decide if I'm leaving out anything crucial. Though the leaps may appear shockingly unjustified in condensed form, if they appear less so in the book, it's because of distance, not cohesion. In other words, by the time he gets around to making his next point, we've already forgotten some of the shock we felt when we tried to make the last leap.
Beginning chapter three, we have been fully inculcated into the notion that there is a God who is good and another spirit who is evil. As I have already promised, I will be getting more terse as this critique moves along. The most important parts of the book, in my opinion, are two major leaps: First, (and it is a grand leap) from morality to god; Second, from God to Christianity. Chapter three, then, is primarily concerned with how God and Satan coexist. The only option Lewis sees is free will. Satan indulged his sense of self, and in so doing, made possible a separation from the will of god. Thus, bad moral things are of Satan, and good moral things are of God. Doing bad things can sometimes give people momentary good things, but only religion can give people real happiness. Clever readers notice the setup for the No True Scotsman.
We are then introduced to Jesus, and in another example of the “This is absurd, therefore it is true” defense, we are told that because Jesus announced that God would forgive people for what they do to other people, that he is also verifiably part of this god thing. This is reminiscent of the Lord, Lunatic, or Liar trichotomy, but it isn't a full fledged recitation of it.
Chapter 4. The Perfect Penitent
Chapter 5. The Practical Conclusion.
In these two chapters, Lewis outlines, with dubious logic, an orderly and “reasonable” progression through the basic idea of Christianity – that man is imperfect, that god arranged to give man a way to redeem himself, and that he'll be rewarded for it. I'll spare you the details. They're short chapters, and you can read them very easily if you like. At this point, he's running with Christianity, and there's not going to be any turning back. Any pretense at objective skepticism is gone.
At this point, I'm going to change my approach substantially. The meat of the philosophical argument is past, and for the rest of the book, Lewis is primarily concerned with extolling the virtues of his interpretations of Christianity. Most of what follows is synopsis, with only a smattering of my own commentary.
PART III Christian Behavior
Chapter 1. The Three Parts of Morality
The platonic ideal of morality introduced earlier is resurrected now to explain how every human has a set standard of behavior which is unattainable, but must be striven towards. It is a mistake, we are told, to regard one man as a man of high ideals, and another of having low standards. The standards are the same for everyone, and some people just get farther than others. Nevertheless, everyone fails. In the end, morality has three purposes:
1.Fair play between individuals
2.Harmony within individuals
3.The overall good of humankind. The purpose of being.
The most notable thing in this chapter is the return to the conceit we witnessed earlier. Christianity is more right than other religions – is, in fact, ultimately right – and since humans are going to live forever, the individual is more important than the society.
Chapter 2. The Cardinal Virtues
There are seven virtues. Four are called “Cardinal.” Three are “Theological.” Only the Cardinal Virtues are addressed in this chapter. They are Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. Prudence means common sense. Temperance means moderation in all pleasures. Justice is a catch-all for “fairness, including honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises, and all that side of life.” (pg 76) Fortitude is courage, both to face danger, and the ability to “tough it out” when things are bad or painful. We are reminded that virtues can be actions or personality traits. An intemperate man can act with temperance, but the two are different in kind.
An important point of which to take notice. Lewis affirms that “we might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.” (pg 77) I mention this because it necessarily implies that there are people that God doesn't want.
Chapter 3. Social Morality
It is acknowledged that Jesus did not teach any new morality. In fact, it's quite obvious that Christian morality is not unique to Christianity. The morality, presumably instilled in us by God, is eternal, and works for any society. Lewis asserts that a Christian society would closely resemble socialism and that Christian morality and family life would be quite conservative. He astutely remarks that most people wouldn't particularly like the society as a whole. He avoids the question of lending, which is proscribed in the Bible, by pleading ignorance of the intricacies of economics. Then, he asserts that charity (which, to me, seems intrinsic to economics in some way, but no matter) is always a good thing.
Chapter 4. Morality and Psychoanalysis
We are encouraged to begin two jobs at once: “(1) the job of seeing how “Do as you would be done by” can be applied in detail to modern society, and (2) the job of becoming the sort of people who really would apply it if we saw how.” (pg 83) Freud's theories are in direct contradiction to Christianity. Psychoanalysis is not inherently contradictory, however. Both psychoanalysis and Christian morality are interested in correcting abnormalities like homosexuality and fear of spiders. Psychological disorders are not sin. Rather, they are akin to diseases, and we should work towards eradicating them in the same way we do cancer. Christians should not judge because situations combined with mental disease can cause people to do really bad things. Himmler is given as an example.
Christian morality is not a bargain with God. Rather, it is a moment by moment series of choices, in which we are either becoming more God-like, or more un-God-like. This is what explains the apparent contradiction by which a mass murderer and a man who lusts after a woman not his wife are equal. Each has done harm to himself, and each sin is a step down the path to evil. In either case, repentance cures the problem.
As we move down the path of Christian morality, we understand it better. If this sounds to you like the argument, “If you understood what it means to be a Christian, you'd understand it,” it's because that's how it sounds. The most notable quote from the chapter is at the very end. “You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.”
Chapter 5. Sexual Morality.
Rules of propriety can change. In other words, women can show knees in some places, and it's ok, but it wouldn't be ok in other places. In all places, the rules of who you can have sex with, and what's normal or abnormal, are the same. The reason it is so difficult to adhere to the strict (and correct) rule of no sex before marriage is that human morality has gone wrong. We are presented with a false analogy. Sex is like eating. Therefore, some sex is good, but too much is bad. As further proof, we are told that if men have too much sex, they will produce enough children for a whole village. It baffles me that a man living in the middle twentieth century does not even take contraception into the equation. We are also given the ludicrous example of a country where people gathered in theaters to watch a cover being slowly lifted off of a plate of food. Since we can clearly deduce that this country has a problem with food obsession, we also know that wherever people like to watch women strip, there's a problem with sex. If you can't figure out the reason this analogy is false, I'm not going to help you.
I'll spare you the gory details of the rest of the chapter, but Lewis sounds like a ranting Victorian, prattling on about how lewd and debaucherous society has become, and how everybody ought to keep their pants on until they get married. Again, without going into detail, his knowledge of the history of human sexuality would be unforgivably ignorant today, but he might be partially forgiven because of when he was writing. After a lengthy harangue, he attempts to placate those who think Christians are obsessed with sex by conceding that sexual misconduct is not the worst of all sins. To my ears, his concession rings hollow, both in duration and in contrast to the content of the chapter.
Chapter 6. Christian Marriage
After admitting his lack of expertise on marriage, having never been married, Lewis proceeds to opine on the subject. A man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism – one flesh. Sex outside of marriage is monstrous because it leaves out all the ways men and women are supposed to fit together, save for the physical one. Marriage is for life. Divorce is really bad because it's breaking a promise, and is contrary to the ideal of justice. Love is important in marriage, but keeping the promise of staying married is more important. Christians should not try to enforce their standards of divorce on non-Christians. The man should be the head of the family. This is obvious because women get upset when they see other women acting too much like the head of their own family. I leave the guffaws and angry claims of sexism to you. It hardly seems necessary in the twenty first century to spend much time on this kind of nonsense.
Chapter 7. Forgiveness
We must forgive others so that God will forgive us. Forgiveness is like mathematics. You must start small, and once you learn to forgive, it becomes easier. “Love thy neighbor” is not the same as “Feel fondness for thy neighbor.” We must love the sinner and hate the sin. The model for what this means is our relationship with ourselves. We often hate our own actions, but we love ourselves nonetheless.
Though I have been reserving comment through most of these synopsis, I think it's important to point out that not everyone loves themselves, and that there are most certainly people who have ended their own lives because of their actions. The Bible even mentions one, namely Judas.
Continuing with the chapter synopsis, it is good for Christians to support the death penalty. Loving your neighbor sometimes means killing him. As long as we don't enjoy killing, and we are aware that we're doing people's soul a favor by killing them, it can be a good thing.
Chapter 8. The Great Sin
The vice of pride is possibly the worst of sins, from an earthly perspective. Here is a notable quote: “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. (pg 110-111, Emphasis mine -HD) Pride leads to every other vice. A proud man cannot know God. If someone is outwardly prideful and claims to be a Christian, he is not. He is worshiping an imaginary God. The Devil laughs when we employ a person's pride to try to get them to behave properly. Pleasure in being praised is not pride. Being proud of your son is not pride if it's “warm hearted admiration.” (pg 113) Despite the appearance, God is not proud. Men who appear humble are not always so.
Chapter 9. Charity
Charity is one of the three Theological Virtues mentioned in chapter 3. It means, “simply what used to be called “alms” -- that is, giving to the poor.” (pg 115) It also has connotations of being “Charitable.” This is the essence of Christian love. It is not necessary to feel fondness to practice charity. Don't bother trying to work up the feelings of fondness for your neighbor. Just go ahead and be charitable to them. Act as if you feel fondness. That leads to fondness. The same spiritual law works in revers. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate. Some people find that they can't work up feelings of love for God. That's fine, because if you act as if you love God, you will grow to love him.
Chapter 10. Hope
Hope is the next Theological Virtue. It is “a continual looking forward to the eternal world .” (pg 118) It is not escapist. It does not imply that we are not to try to leave the world a better place. Feelings of emptiness or vague longing are actually our desire to go to Heaven, whether we know it or not. A fool blames things for his feelings of emptiness, and tries to do better on earth. The Disillusioned Man gives up on the whole thing and doesn't expect anything good from the world. The Christian, however, recognizes the imperfect nature of earthly pleasures, and looks forward to getting to heaven where everything will be great.
Chapter 11. Faith
Faith is used on two levels. The first sense means belief – “accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity.” Though man appears to take things on reason, it is not always so. For example, even someone who knows that being put to sleep for an operation is good, they still panic when the mask is applied. One doesn't get faith before one is a Christian. Lewis is “not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it... But supposing a man's reason once decides... for it. (sic)” (pg 123) If one decides that Christianity is true, and then doubts later, he should use faith. “Now Faith... is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” (pg 123) Church is important because it reminds us of what we believe.
The second sense of faith involves a test. We should try to live up to the Christian ideal. Only when we realize that we are completely incapable of achieving it do we realize that Jesus, by virtue of being the only man who never sinned, is the only being capable of fully understanding the terrible power of temptation. After discovering this, a man will also learn that every faculty he has is God given. At this point, we can discuss the second sense of Faith coherently.
Chapter 12. Faith
If things about Christianity don't make sense to you, it's because you're not a Christian. Having reached a point of discovery – namely the discovery that we cannot live up to God's standards, we will soon reach a point at which we can say, “You must do this. I can't.” (pg 128) All that we have done, and will do, and can do, is nothing. Faith and works are like two blades of scissors. Neither works without the other.
If it seems that this chapter is woefully deficient of a real definition of the second kind of faith, it's not because of my lack of faithful reporting. -HD
PART IV. BEYOND PERSONALITY: or FIRST STEPS IN THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY
Chapter 1. Making and Begetting
Because of increased education for the average person, Theology is more necessary than it used to be. People are asking hard questions about the nature of God and Christianity, and Theology is like a roadmap for providing answers. Just as birds beget birds, so God begets God. Just as birds create nests, so God creates man. Christ, therefore, by virtue of being begotten of God, is God. Men, having been created, are Sons of God, but not The Son of God. Man, in his natural condition does not have Spiritual Life. There is physical life and spiritual life. Physical life is Bios. Spiritual life is Zoe.
Chapter 2. The Three-Personal God
“The whole purpose for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of God.” (pg 141) This means that we are “taken in” to the life of God, while remaining human, and retaining our physical life on earth. Understanding the higher level of God is like understanding dimensions. When we move from two to three dimensions, we don't abandon the concept of the line, or the square. Rather, we add a new concept – depth. In the same way, when we consider God's level, it is adding to what we understand of life in our limited human understanding. This is why the Trinity is possible. Each aspect of God is a function within the Christian's life. If God decides not to reveal himself, there is nothing you can do to find him. Man is like a telescope. If the telescope is dirty, you can't see the sky properly. Likewise, if man is overly sinful, he can't see God clearly. Man is the device through which man sees God. The Christian community is the one adequate instrument for clear understanding, since one man can never live up to the three ideals of morality: Self, others, and humanity. Again, we are told that because this is all so complicated, it must be true, because man would invent a simpler religion.
Chapter 3. Time and Beyond Time
God is not in time. This is how he can answer millions, or billions, of prayers simultaneously. It is similar to an author writing a book. If the author puts down his pen, the character in the book must wait until he comes back before he can perform his next action, or even have his next thought. Even so, the action in the book is seamless, as if the break never happened. This analogy is flawed because both the author and the character are bound by time. God is not. If Time is a straight line on a page, then God is the page. The dilemma of free will is solved in this way. God does not see the past or the future. He only sees now, but it encompasses all of the past and future. He doesn't “remember” or “foresee” the way we perceive it.
Again, if it seems as if I'm not doing justice to this, read it yourself. The whole chapter is four pages in a small paperback.
Chapter 4. Good Infection
If two books existed, one on top of the other, the bottom book would be the cause of the top book's position in space. However, if both books existed for eternity in exactly the same place, there would not be cause in the sense that we imagine. This is analogous to the Father and the Son. Though God the Father begot the Son, they have both always existed. The existence of the Father and the Son make possible the statement, “God is Love.” This “is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing – not even a person – but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama.”
The Holy Spirit is the part of God that acts through us. The Trinity is crucial to happiness, for we must each enter the three part existence to be one with God. If we share in life with the Son of God, we will become sons of God, and get Zoe. We will become a little bit Christ. This is the “good infection.”
Chapter 5. The Obstinate Toy Soldiers
Natural life and spiritual life (Bios and Zoe) are opposed. If you were a child, and wanted your tin soldier to be alive, and had the power to do so, you might begin to make him flesh. Being tin, he would rebel against this, seeing only the tin being spoiled. That's why people rebel against the spiritual life of God. God became man so that man could kill him, and that meant that a real tin soldier had allowed himself to become flesh. That's why salvation is important. God sees humanity as a giant organism, not individuals, because he's outside of time. Thus, when Christ died, it affected all of humanity, not just one individual. You can look at it any way you want, because any of the metaphors in the Bible are true.
Chapter 6. Two Notes
1.If God wanted men instead of toy soldiers, why did he make soldiers, and then go through all the trouble of having them become men? There are two answers. First, if man hadn't rebelled, the process wouldn't have been difficult. The second is that he already had one 'Son of God,' and couldn't very well make many if he only wanted 'sons of God.' When discussing God, it is nonsensical to ask “What if things had been different,” because God is not different. He just is.
2.We shouldn't confuse the idea that God sees us as a big organism with the idea that individuals don't exist and have differences. The nose and the lungs are both part of one organism. Christians must not be individualists or totalitarians.
Chapter 7. Let's Pretend
If you've read this far in the book, you should say the Our Father. When you begin by saying the words, “Our Father,” you are literally pretending, because you know at this point that you're not a son of God. It's alright, though, because God has told us to do it. This is the good kind of pretending, akin to when we act nicely even when we are grumpy. If you don't feel like continuing to pray, you shouldn't. You are beginning to experience the Son of God at your side, and the pretend activity of acting like a son of God is already starting to make you into one.
Men are “carriers” of the “good infection” of Christ. Do not pin your hopes on human beings. It is always God when something good happens to you. Once you are saved, you will notice your sinfulness more. This is not us doing anything. It's us allowing God to do it.
Chapter 8. Is Christianity Hard or Easy?
“Being Good” is not a special exercise for Christians. Christianity only offers the union with God. The attempt to try to be good will fail because we will give up trying, or we will try and be unhappy. The Christian way is harder, and easier. When Jesus says, “Take up your cross” he means that being a Christian will sometimes be akin to being in a concentration camp. Laziness means more work in the long run. Christianity is like learning why we do a math problem (and is thus harder at first, easier in the end) and the earthly way is like learning by rote, where each new problem must be learned as if from scratch. Shoving back the urges of humanity is a very hard part of being a Christian, and it begins upon waking each morning.
Chapter 9. Counting the Cost
When God said, “be ye perfect,” he did not mean, “'Unless you are perfect, I will not help you' ... I think He meant 'The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.'” (pg 171) This is why when some people ask God to help them stop masturbating, he gives them the “full treatment.” The cost of Christianity is that if we are in for a penny, we are in for a pound. Though we may not like the results immediately, we'll be closer to God in the end, and it will be for the better. It is wrong to want only a simple, ordinary, humble life. God expects us to want to be saints.
Chapter 10. Nice People or New Men
Those who become Christians will become perfect. Not in this life, but in the hereafter. This is why Christians are no better than anyone else, and why Christianity is not obviously better than any other religion to outsiders. If someone claims to be a Christian and hasn't improved his behavior, he's not really a Christian. It's unreasonable to ask that Christians be demonstrably better as a group because 1) The world is more complicated than that, and 2) Some people who become Christians were really bad, so they've improved, but they still are really bad compared to some non-Christians who were pretty good when they became Christians and have improved even more, and 3) God is not so much concerned with everybody being exactly the same. Each person's experience is different, and those God blesses with better behavior have received a gift from Him. It is not that they are actually any better. God doesn't look at it that way. Even so, God doesn't like nasty temperaments, but when he gives somebody something better, it's his gift. Humans are pretty much nasty. A nice person is not really nice. They have a gift from God. When they become Christians, the niceness becomes their own.
For all these reasons, we shouldn't be surprised when Christians are nasty. Mere improvement is not redemption. Only unity with God is redemption.
Chapter 11. The New Men
Becoming Christian is not an improvement. It's a transformation. The next step in human evolution is not evolution at all. It is different in the following ways:
1.It is not carried on by sexual reproduction
2.Unlike evolution, we can choose to make the next step
3.We become new by being one with Christ, who is eternal
4.Christianity has spread much faster than organisms can evolve
5.The stakes are higher
In order to truly be a Christian, we must have a real giving up of the self. Christ will give us a new personality, but it will be what he wants it to be, not what we think we want.
I think it is appropriate to quote the last sentences of the book verbatim. “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.” (pg 190)
*For this critique, I have used the paperback edition, first published in 1960.