Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some People Say the Silliest Things About Jesus—Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

What You Don't Want to Say About Jesus and Why
Mere Christianity Book 2, Chapter 3 is widely recognized as one of the most important book chapters ever written. Why? Because of how clearly it explains why things are as they are in our universe, and why Christ must be who He said He is. 

C.S. Lewis begins this all-important chapter by saying, "Christians ... believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of this World.... Is this state of affairs in accordance with God's will, or not?... How can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power? But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another." For example, any mother prefers her children to be tidy, but "it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible. It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will.... If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad.... Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.... The happiness God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water."

"Of course, God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He though it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him, you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on. If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will—that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world that moves only when He pulls the strings—then we may take it it is worth paying."

Which Is Better?
"The better stuff a creature is made ofthe cleverer and stronger and freer it isthen the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit bestor worstof all. How did the Dark Power go wrong?... A reasonable (and traditional) guess: ...The moment you have a self at all, there is the possibility of putting yourself firstwanting to be the centerwanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race ... the idea that [people] could 'be like gods' ... be their own mastersinvent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God." 

"Out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history ... poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires slaverythe long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God that will make him happy. The reason it can never succeed is this: God made us, invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself.... There is no such thing. That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expendedcivilizations are built upexcellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.

The Old Testament Hammering Process
"And what did God do? First of all, He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever quite succeeded. Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes back to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He wasthat there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.

What Does Forgiveness Imply?
"Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.... What this man said was ... the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.... What should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that He forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money?... Jesus ... told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaves as if He was the party chiefly concerned.... This makes sense only if He was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin....

"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 [or prophet], but I don't accept His claim to be God.'... 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 ... or else he would be the Devil of Hell. 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 up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

The idea of the Road Closed sign comes from one of my favorite editorial projects with the Grace to You ministry: a Gospel tract that illustrates each biblical point with road signs.
GTY Gospel Tract

Highlights from chapter 3: The Shocking Alternative, book 2: What Christians Believe in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Click here for a clear view of how this chapter relates to the whole book.

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