C.S. Lewis' Nonsenical Argument for the Divinity of Christ

C.S. Lewis is frightfully dull, pompous and dreary. I have never understood the fascination and loyalty that his readers muster for him. Even as a young boy attempting to read the Chronicles of Narnia I found that it just gave me headaches even before I knew of the underlying themes of Christian apologetics. I must have read or started The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe 3 times before I could stomach it through to the end. The rest were not much better. At the same time I was reading Tolkien, Alexander and other masters of fantasy so it had nothing to do with literacy. It had everything to do with Lewis’ writing style. Ugh.

 

As an adult I find him screamingly disappointing. Here is this great don of Oxford who resorts to the most feebleminded of arguments to create a case for Christianity. He is often celebrated as the grandfather of 20th Century Christian apologetics. This is not saying much especially given that it is coming from an otherwise well educated and literate man. Of all his works the only one worth reading is A Grief Observed, and only because he deals with an intensely personal subject matter – the death of his wife. Even then the writing is somewhat detached as if it was being observed by a third party rather than being experienced first hand by Lewis himself. For a humanist and an atheist it makes little sense to read it as in the end Lewis reclaims the faith that I simply do not have.

 

Perhaps the most perplexing of all Lewis’ statements comes from Mere Christianity, in which he is responding to the liberal or progressive who dismisses Jesus as divine or the second person of the holy trinity and sees him, instead, as simply a good or moral teacher. Many such as Thomas Jefferson and the English Deists, who influenced his thinking, held Jesus in that human category as do many do today. To such folk as these Lewis says:

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with 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. – Mere Christianity, pages 40-41.

 

On this point I agree with Lewis, “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic…or else the devil of hell. Well, I don’t believe in the devil or hell, for that matter, so I will decide for lunatic. When I first came upon this when reading Mere Christianity I stopped abruptly. I read it and reread it. I was overcome by Lewis’ stark lunacy.

 

You could almost paraphrase this statement this way: Jesus has to be the son of God. Because if he isn’t Christianity is a bunch of bullshit. That is no argument in favor Jesus’ Christ like divinity. Too many a liberal and progressive Christian view Jesus through a humanist glass darkly and ascribe motives and interpretation of the hearsay accounts of his teaching from entirely a post modern perspective. Forget for a moment that the historical evidence in favor of Jesus’ actual existence is minimal to nonexistent. On that point I will also concede to Lewis.

 

If you are inclined to think I am making too much of C.S. Lewis argument above for the divinity of Jesus I would ask you to consider:

 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. – Is Theology Poetry?

 

And

 

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? - Mere Christianity

 

As well as

 

Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning. . ." – Mere Christianity

 

Throughout Lewis’ writing he simply falls back on the same tired old ideas that were never really very good ones to begin with. His proofs for god are subjectively validated and like many an evangelical today claims that we know the difference between good and evil because god put it within us. Lewis also sums all atheism up to be nothing more than nihilism. Yet, as a faithless humanist I find that life can have definite meaning and purpose and I can live a fulfilling existence even though I am going to eventually die and turn to worm food.

 

C.S. Lewis is a perplexing example of how even the most intelligent and classically educated among us can still fall prey to the romance of religion. But, hardly surprising given his specialty of medieval romance literature.

 

 

 

Views: 99

Comment by Derek on May 23, 2011 at 11:22pm

Hitchens has a good take on Lewis here

 

Comment by Ezra T. Klatt on May 24, 2011 at 11:26am

Hi Flower:

It sounds like we have a common ground in our experience. That was about the time I took to reading Lewis and for the same reason, at least his apologetics. I wonder if our experience of doubt comes from the fact that many thinkers have attempted to determine a rational basis for Christianity and god, in general, and simply can't do it. Some such as Kant and even Pascal conclude ultimately that it is impossible, but others such as Lewis ignore it and cop out.

Comment by Ezra T. Klatt on May 24, 2011 at 11:28am
Thanks Derek...great video. have you posted that yet?
Comment by Ezra T. Klatt on May 24, 2011 at 11:36am

And a much more cogent exploration of Lewis' argument as well.

Comment by Derek on May 24, 2011 at 11:43am
Nope have not posted it up yet. I like that line: "Poor old Lewis, he just couldn't go one further and complete the syllogism". He was almost there, so close but still so far away!

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