October 4th, 2016

C.S. Lewis: about Christianity and its importance

First, the obligatory opening caveat: I’m not a Christian. Nor am I an expert on Christianity. But I have read more than a superficial bit about it, and I know and deeply respect Christians generally.

But one person who has always puzzled me is C. S. Lewis. Maybe “puzzled” isn’t exactly the right word, but I’m not sure what would be a more accurate way to describe my reaction to him. I’ve read lots of his works, at least in part; I can’t always bring myself to finish them because they just don’t resonate with me. I know he’s speaking English, I know he’s a very important writer who moves and convinces many people, but something about him doesn’t speak to me. I don’t even like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so that tells you something.

The reason I bring Lewis up is a famous quote of Lewis’ that commenter “Frog” offered today in the Pope Frances thread:

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

I’ve seen the quote before. I’ve thought about it before. And it doesn’t make sense to me.

It seems to me that the question of the “importance” of Christianity—or any other religion, for that matter—must be defined in terms of what realm you’re talking about. To the believer in Christianity or in any other religion that posits an afterlife, particularly an eternal afterlife, of course that religion (be it Christianity or any other such religion) is of “infinite importance.”

I don’t quarrel with that—although it also depends whether the religion is one which also posits that it is the only path, the only way, to an eternal afterlife. Some religions say that, some say that all religions (or most) lead the way to an afterlife, and some don’t really focus on the afterlife piece of it all that much. So, to a religion that considers itself the only way to an afterlife, that particular religion is of “infinite importance,” whereas to a religion that says there are many ways to heaven, all such religions would be of “infinite importance.”

It is my understanding that Christians are somewhat divided on the issue of whether Christianity is the only way, but that generally they think it is. At any rate, it’s not something I know much about and in any event isn’t all that relevant to the “infinite importance” discussion. Christianity would be of “infinite importance” either way—particularly if it is the only religion that leads to an eternal afterlife in some sort of heaven, but also if it is one of several or even many religions that do, because they all would then be of infinite importance.

It’s the rest of the Lewis quote that gives me particular trouble: the idea that if this isn’t true—that is, let’s say, if atheists are correct about Christianity—then Christianity is of no importance and that it cannot be of moderate importance. For example, even though I am not a Christian, I believe Christianity to be of great importance and I am pretty sure that even if I were an atheist (I’m not) that I would continue to think so. That’s because I would be looking at the question of “importance” in terms of life on earth and in particular of human history both macro and micro.

Christianity has had an enormous influence on the history of the Western world and therefore of humanity. It has had and continues to have enormous influence on people’s lives and how they live them in the personal sense as well. It has also been responsible for vast quantities of art, music, and literature, at least as the inspiration for so many works of genius. It has even, in some cases, inspired many scientists (for example, Kepler).

Perhaps it can be argued that this influence is hardly “moderate.” But it’s certainly not “nothing,” and it’s certainly not “infinite,” so in that sense it would have to be “moderate” (that is, something in-between “nothing” and “infinite”). Did Lewis’ statement come from a belief that the only sphere to be considered was the infinite vs. non-infinite one, and that human history should be discounted in the equation? I suppose in contrast to eternal life, human history seems small. But it’s not nothing, and to non-believers it’s a lot (perhaps everything).

It seems to me that in Lewis’ statement he was really preaching mainly to the choir—almost literally.

So I would revise Lewis’ statement to go something like this:

Christianity, if false, is nevertheless of some importance, in its influence on people’s lives and on history. If true, Christianity is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is of no importance—unless you think that human beings’ lives on earth and human history are of no importance.

130 Responses to “C.S. Lewis: about Christianity and its importance”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    I’m guessing Clive was a black and white guy. No muddled middle. Play to win; not tie. Binary outcomes. Everything isn’t relative. He was no post modernist, for sure.

  2. Wooly Bully Says:

    “It seems to me that in Lewis’ statement he was really preaching mainly to the choir…”.

    Lewis was always preaching to the choir. Christians love him, but I don’t know of any non-Christian who was ever persuaded by him. His arguments sound good to Christians but to no one else.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Wooly Bully:

    That’s interesting.

  4. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    He was binary in his view of how things would ultimately play out, but allowed for a great deal of ambiguity in this life. He thought there was much truth in some other religions, and some truth in even some unlikely, repugnant-looking ones.

    Lewis would agree entirely that in terms of what happens here, Christianity could be of some importance. But he insisted in all his thinking to “Think it out to the ruddy end.” In this case, it is as you understood, neo. He is speaking of where ideas ultimately resolve, whatever else they may do on the way. If you imagine a game of pachinko or better still, pinball, the ball eventually comes to rest in one place, and that place matters. Many things may happen on the way.

    Compare also his Trilemma, of Lord, Liar Lunatic. People quickly object that there are many other possibilities, not only those three. There are of course many thousands of possibilities – at first. But if one pushes them, strips them, plays them out, reduces them to their final value (whichever metaphor most appeals to you), then his claim is that all the thousand fall into one of those three baskets.

    It may come down to one’s sense of reality. I am aware that this world is temporary and not my ultimate home many times a day, sometimes only vaguely, sometimes intensely. I am comfortable with the longest of long views – it has always come naturally to me. For those who are more grounded, more at home in the present, the ultimate resolution of an idea might seem more abstract, less real.

  5. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    @ Wooly Bully. Well now you know one, me. Tolkien to Lewis to Christ. I have read of many others, but can’t vouch for those stories personally.

    Did you mean to sound insulting and condescending, or did it just come out that way because you were in a hurry?

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Assistant Village Idiot:

    Did he think that human life on earth and human history was of “no importance”?

    His statement just didn’t make his thinking clear. On the face of it, it does not make sense. If he needed to explain further what he meant, why didn’t he?

    Perhaps in context he did. But people quote it as though the quote is self-explanatorily correct and obviously so. I just don’t see that.

  7. T Says:

    I offer that Lewis’s quote strikes me as a variation of Pascal’s wager; it, too, is binary. This makes sense from that one particular solipsistic view. A corollary to that view, is the aphorism about the death of Jean Paul Sartre, the existentialist. Upon his death someone remarked that Sartre either was wrong and he now knows it or he was correct and he doesn’t; another binary.

    As you point out, Neo, Lewis’ pronouncement comes into question when viewed from a differing perspective.

    In my background (medieval art and architecture) a very large percentage of the great first generation scholars have been Jewish (Erwin Panofsky, Kurt Weitzman, Meyer Shapiro among others). I’ve always believed that one of the reasons for this was that they could examine the Christian evidence with an eye unencumbered by being inured to Christianity as a religion. (This, of course, is not to say that there are no worthy Christian scholars of Christianity or Christian art, for that matter).

    Lewis, for whom I have a great admiration, is more an apologist for Christianity than a detached observer, but this doesn’t mean (and you do not imply) that he has little to offer either.

  8. gcotharn Says:

    Re Lewis statement

    He was coming at the definition of Christianity from a grace angle, which means Christianity is about a relationship with God. Therefore, if there is no Father/Son/Holy Ghost, then there is no ongoing relationship(with give and take; with guidance via the Holy Spirit), then Christianity is of no importance.

    Lewis, in this particular context, would have argued that the morals which are espoused by Christianity were arrived at wholly separate from any guidance from Christian God, and thereforemost would have been arrived at anyway, as they were (in this example) without guidance of the nonexistent Christian God, and therefore Christianity would be of no importance.

  9. T Says:

    Neo,

    Having just now read AVI’s comment let me take a stab at clarifying his/her point through a parallel.

    You ask: “Did he think that human life on earth and human history was of ‘no importance’?”

    Numerous times on this site I have quoted what has become my motto:Nihil sub sole novum (there is nothing new under the sun).

    I use that to refer to human behavior. In fact there is very much new under the sun: Computers; vaccines; flying machines; radios and televisions. None of these ever existed in history before. However, as novel as those things might be, they do not negate that human behavior has hardly changed in 40,000 years.

    AS AVI writes above, like a pinball, it comes to rest somewhere that it’s repeated carom from various bumpers may always be different and unique, or that it may trace a path that has been traced before does not affect the place it comes to rest.

  10. gcotharn Says:

    In other words, man could have been worshiping any lie and still arrived at the particular moral precepts. It is of no importance that man was worshipping the Christian God when happenstance man arrived at the particular set of moral precepts. Man could have been worshipping a Martian and still happened upon a similar group of moral precepts.

  11. MikeII Says:

    Just a bit of background: Again this is from memory so take it as mostly factual.
    I believe CS Lewis grew up Anglican and after serving in WWI adopted atheism . He had a friendship with Tolkien ( Catholic )aka Lord of the Rings. From that friendship and dialog he re embraced Christianity. I don’t know if it is any good or not but Amazon has a preview read which might shed more information on the topic.

    https://www.amazon.com/Tolkien-C-S-Lewis-Gift-Friendship/dp/1587680262/

    “Both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are literary superstars, known around the world as the creators of Middle-earth and Narnia. But few of their readers and fans know about the important and complex friendship between Tolkien and his fellow Oxford academic C.S. Lewis. Without the persistent encouragement of his friend, Tolkien would never have completed The Lord of the Rings. This great tale, along with the connected matter of The Silmarillion, would have remained merely a private hobby. Likewise, all of Lewis’ fiction, after the two met at Oxford University in 1926, bears the mark of Tolkien’s influence, whether in names he used or in the creation of convincing fantasy worlds. They quickly discovered their affinity–a love of language and the imagination, a wide reading in northern myth and fairy tale, a desire to write stories themselves in both poetry and prose. Both Tolkien and Lewis were central figures in the informal Oxford literary circle, the Inklings. This book explores their lives, unfolding the extraordinary story of their complex friendship that lasted, with its ups and downs, until Lewis’s death in 1963. Despite their differences, what united them was, a shared vision that continues to inspire their millions of readers throughout the world.”

  12. Frog Says:

    Well, Lewis’ remark had a different effect on me than on others, and I was a nominal Christian when I read it.
    “And shall the ears of the deaf be unstopped.”
    So it goes.

  13. DNW Says:

    ” ‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.’

    I’ve seen the quote before. I’ve thought about it before. And it doesn’t make sense to me. “

    Christianity incorporates certain doctrines concerning the existence of objective values and a reality which has intrinsic meaning, that are not per se exclusive to Christianity.

    However Christianity also posits that this assumed objective reality has a particular end, and a manner of achieving that end which is exclusive to it; or, somewhat more precisely, one wherein admittance to it ultimately is strictly conditional upon One, and only One’s, way and/or allowance. (Christianity has long made an allowance for invincible ignorance and “natural light”)

    So, if true then that Jesus personally is/expresses the light and the way, and that: “No one comes to the Father but through me” (however that is resolved) then that is a matter of eternal and unfathomable importance.

    If it is not true, if the Gate is not the gate, and the Way, not the only (with allowances) way, then Christianity which is not Christianity without that doctrine, is of no real importance; unless you are into the historical effects of “niceness”, and the pleasant environments sometimes generated by people who sacrifice all in pursuit of an illusion; and thereby make others feel more comfortable.

    Lewis himself said that if Christianity were not true, the most honorable way of life would be something approximating what was once called Master, or Heroic Morality.

    Jesus, or Achilles …

  14. Nick Says:

    Lewis was a writer, a creator of fictional worlds. He was not a binary thinker. It’d be more accurate to say that he was persuaded.

    He wrote prose poetically. Quotes of his need context. Indeed, the way he built his arguments, sometimes a whole chapter might not make sense unless viewed within the larger work. I’d say that his style was exactly the opposite of our Neo, who appreciates the art of poetry but builds things from facts.

  15. J.J. Says:

    I have just finished reading “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” It is primarily a history of Christianity from Jesus’ ministry through to the codification of the Gospels by the Council of Nicaea. (AD 325). What I gleaned from this interesting book was that Christianity was an unlikely religion to sweep over so much of the world and become so important. It’s beginning was fragile and fraught with danger to its adherents and marked by disputes between various disciples and followers as to who Jesus really was and what his message was.

    In my view one of the things that made it successful was that it was essentially classless. The poor were just as important to God and Jesus as the well to do. Also, it was easy to understand. Repent, believe in Jesus as your savior, and follow the Ten Commandments. Compared with many religions of the time, it was a breath of fresh air.

    Another thing that propelled it was the compilation of the Gospels into the Bible, which provided authority for the teaching of, and adherence to, a life of faith. That created a Universal (Catholic) church that was available to all who were searching for meaning in their lives and accepted the message of Jesus.

    Of course having it become the official religion of Rome when Constantine converted was a major step forward for Christianity.

    In spite of all the internecine wars among the Catholics and Protestants, it provided a path for faith and a blue print for life all through the Medieval times. When science began to grow, Christianity slowly embraced it. Many religions would not have. The doctrine of free will was helpful in Christianity’s acceptance of science. From wiki:
    “The Bible views all humanity as naturally possessing the free choice of the will. If free will is taken to mean unconstrained and voluntary choice, the Bible assumes that all people, unregenerate and regenerate, possess it. For examples, free will is taught in Matthew 23:37 and Revelation 22:17.” As a result of the embrace of science, the Christian world has been able to produce a better standard of living and spread Christianity to most parts of the world.

    Is it the one and only true religion? Aye, that is the question. I come down on the side of the Baha’i faith. From wiki:
    ” Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, that all humans have been created equal, coupled with the unity in diversity, that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.[2] According to the Bahá’í Faith’s teachings, the human purpose is to learn to know and to love God through such methods as prayer, reflection, and being of service to humanity.”

    Obviously, some may question whether Islam, with its violence and intolerance, fits within these parameters. That is a question that will only be resolved when/if Islam is able to reform.

    Dangerous waters I know, but what the heck. I’m sick of talking about the comparative evils of Trump and Hillary.

  16. Wooly Bully Says:

    Assistant Village Idiot Says: “Did you mean to sound insulting and condescending, or did it just come out that way because you were in a hurry?”

    No, I wasn’t trying to sound condescending; I guess it just comes naturally. Anyway, I’m not sure what you would be insulted by in what I said. I was just reporting my sense of matters based on my reading of Lewis. I may well be wrong, but you would be the first person I’ve ever heard of who was convinced by Lewis.

  17. Matt_SE Says:

    Christianity, if false, is of no importance
    Untrue.
    The idea of religion itself can be false, but if the act of believing has definite effects it can still be important. This is the same phenomenon as bank runs on sound institutions.

  18. n.n Says:

    Christianity is a faith, religion, and organization. Faith is one of four logical domains. Religion is a moral philosophy that describes a behavioral protocol. An organization directs its realization.

    A religious/moral philosophy should be judged by its principles, not principals.

    The equation that will be solved, by choice or force, is a reconciliation of moral, natural, and personal imperatives.

  19. Vanderleun Says:

    “Although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion.

    It lay with its head raised and its two fore-paws out in front of it, like the lions in Trafalgar Square. She knew at once that it had seen her, for it eyes looked straight into hers for a moment and then turned away– as if it knew her quite well and didn’t think much of her.

    ‘If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,’ thought Jill. ‘And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth.’ Anyway, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it.

    How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

    ‘If you’re thirsty, you may drink.’

    They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken.

    Then the voice said again, ‘If you are thirsty, come and drink,’ and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking.

    Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in a rather different way.

    ‘Are you not thirsty?’ said the Lion.

    ‘I’m dying of thirst,’ said Jill

    ‘Then drink,’ said the Lion.

    ‘May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?’ said Jill.

    The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

    ‘Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?’ said Jill.

    ‘I make no promise,’ said the Lion.

    ‘Do you eat girls?’ she said.

    ‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

    ‘I daren’t come and drink,’ said Jill.

    ‘Then you will die of thirst,’ said the Lion.

    ‘Oh dear!’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’

    ‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.”

    –C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

  20. Wooly Bully Says:

    “‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.”

    Lyin’ Lion.

  21. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” CS Lewis

    I’m one of those who has offered that quote here before and it does resonate with me, despite my never having read Lewis’s fantasy novels. (I’m a hard scifi fan, fantasy… not so much.)

    IMO, in that statement, Lewis is NOT referring to Christianity’s moral attributes and contributions, which are indeed of at least moderate importance.

    Lewis is referring to Christianity’s spiritual importance to all of mankind. IF Jesus’ divinity is in fact so.

    Specifically, he is referring to the consequential reality for mankind inherent to Christianity’s assertion of Jesus’ divinity. And of the promise it holds for humanity.

    Reportedly, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

    IMO, by that Jesus was not speaking of himself as an object of worship (IMO, a mistake in perception that most Christians make) but rather Jesus was reporting that he had found how to pass through the narrow gateway to reconnection with the Divine creative essence of the universe… i.e. Jehovah, Yahweh, etc, etc.

    And, that to pass through that gateway, of necessity one must emulate the qualities that led Jesus to that gateway because it is the embodying of those qualities that allow passage through that gateway and thus, to reconnection with the divine.

    It is a fact that Jesus was born, lived his life and died, a Jew.

    IMO, it’s clear that he was not trying to found a new religion but instead fulfill God’s purpose in forming his covenant with Israel. Jesus is the way shower. The spiritual explorer who has found his way through the maze that has befallen mankind, the result of taking on the knowledge of good and evil without the requisite ability to reliably discern between the two. (think of a corrupted OS)

    Lewis is saying that if Jesus’ divinity is true, that is of inestimable importance to mankind. But if not true, all of Christianity’s contributions pale into insignificance because… Buddha’s observation that “the natural state of mankind is one of pain and suffering” never ends…

  22. huxley Says:

    Count me in with Wooly Bully.

    I was raised Catholic, complete with parochial school. I became disillusioned with Catholicism by the time I graduated. On Good Friday 2001, much to my surprise, I had a conversion experience, and thus re-engaged with Christianity, but eight years of hassling with Episcopalians extinguished that fire.

    I never found CS Lewis useful. Even at the height of my conversion fervor I came close to throwing “Mere Christianity” across the room. To my ears much of what Lewis says sounds profound at first but falls apart within 30 seconds of scrutiny. neo’s deconstruction is a perfect example.

    Lewis’s famous Trilemma argument that Jesus was either God or a lunatic, but not a great human teacher, strikes me as similarly flawed.

    From what I’ve read of his life, though, I gather Lewis was an admirable person.

    I did enjoy Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet” trilogy and I would like to take another crack at it someday.

  23. Vanderleun Says:

    So much pride here. So far to fall.

  24. Frog Says:

    Geoffrey: Thanks. You convey what I think and believe better than I could.

  25. c Says:

    It’s simply a statement based on salvation and where one spends eternity. If false,then it’s irrelevant and truly of no importance. Its effect on morals and the world is irrelevant. If true then its of utmost importance because the majority of the world is lost and will spend eternity separated from Christ. His statement is just as simple as that. It’s no different than asking about Jesus; either he was a liar and lunatic or He is the Son of God. There’s no room for middle ground in either case.

    BTW, if I was raised catholic like some here, I would feel like yall do. Its a hopeless, empty religious system like all the other cults.

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    Vanderleun:

    Are you referring to yourself? Because I have no idea what you’re referring to. No one here seems to be particularly prideful. What I see are a lot of people searching. Some are believers in Christianity, some not.

  27. kolnai Says:

    wooly bully –

    I don’t think you’re condescending, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that Lewis has converted more people in the time since he wrote than perhaps anyone else. I personally know several people who were either drawn closer to Christianity (myself, for example) or drawn back into active practice by his work.

    It’s not for everyone, of course, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it deeply resonates with a whole lot of people, and not the Deepak Chopra crowd either, but highly intelligent, demanding thinkers, even atheists and agnostics (like myself). A crude way to put it is that Lewis’s work is self-help for those who cannot be helped. To help those types – that’s really something.

    After my fiancee passed away, Lewis’s book “A Grief Observed” helped me more than anything else. I suppose I am severely biased by my love for the man for writing that book. Many writers persuade, several writers enlighten, a handful show us tremendous beauty; very few change our lives. I think I can say, after a few years reflection, that Lewis changed my life. Together with Chesterton (who was even more prone to shocking “binarism” than Lewis) and Ed Feser, he made me a “fellow traveling” Christian, but above all he gave me a crutch to help me walk again, as it were, after being crippled by grief.

    As for the passage under discussion, I think AVI, T, and DNW nailed it, so I won’t comment on it. I will only add that the passage is as close as Lewis comes to Kierkegaard. Indeed, if I just saw the passage without knowing its source, I probably would have guessed that it came from Kierkegaard (as T notes, Pascal is another option, although Pascal didn’t tend to express himself like that). Kierkegaard’s whole schtick, in the Philosophical Fragments for instance, was to set up an opposition between “historicized” or Hegelianized Christianity, which to him was “of no importance,” and real Christianity or Faith (as he called it), which was of infinite importance. Naturally he like Lewis was aware that a historical belief system called “Christianity” could do some earthly good for people and in that sense could be of some importance. But ultimately, that itself was of no importance. (I’m being very general here, so take it with all the necessary caveats and qualifications.)

    Hence the shocking binary, which Lewis more or less borrowed from Kierkegaard/Pascal.

  28. Sharon W Says:

    Since taking my faith seriously (at 24 years old after my first child) I have always appreciated C.S. Lewis’ writings. I equate that sentence along the lines of what St. Paul stated when he wrote, If Christ did not rise from the dead, we are of all men, the most pitiable.” I was raised Catholic and my parents stopped going to church right after I made my first holy communion. After awakening to salvation in the Lord, I went back to Catholicism and then the evangelical (Foursquare) church for 13 years. Nineteen years ago, as a result of my study of history, I rejoined the Catholic church and count the fact that I was raised a Catholic as one of my top five things I’m grateful for in my life.

  29. kolnai Says:

    PS –

    Thank you, Neo, for keeping it fresh here and giving us something else to talk about than you-know-what.

  30. huxley Says:

    So much pride here. So far to fall.

    So saith one of the most egotistical writers I have read.

    It gives his work a certain bravado which is at first pleasantly bracing but soon cloys.

  31. Boz Says:

    Thanks Neo for this thread. I’ve read most of Lewis’s work and always admired his disciplined and clear thinking. I agree with GB’s comments above and would add that Lewis’s trilemma (awful neologism) concerns Christ himself rather than Christianity. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain”. Corinthians 15: 15-17. St Paul recognized the fundamental question 2000 years ago.

  32. Jamie Says:

    What a fascinating thread. Neo, you have written at length about how difficult it is to change one’s mind, and about your own less-than-likely journey to neoconservatism. I would’ve thought that the same would be true in matters of religion – but this thread is full of people who have fluidly moved between and among belief systems, and to and from belief itself and unbelief itself. (I wish we had some non-Christian non-atheist/agnostic voices in the thread!)

    I was raised Catholic, went through an agnostic period, married Episcopalian and have been in that church ever since, have faith “dry spells” on a pretty regular basis… I wasn’t ever converted by Lewis, but I do appreciate him as an apologist. In my life, he has sometimes caused me to look again at my belief system and, more fundamentally, my faith, and decide (in essence), “What do I have to lose?”

    It’s more complex than that; as a committed Episcopalian, I don’t believe that those who believe differently from me (or do not believe in a Creator of any kind) are damned, and I don’t in any way believe that I can earn or deserve God’s love and whatever it does or does not “get” me. But at root, I look at the world and see widely appreciated beauty, a kind of order expressed in natural law and elegant fractals, humanity that recognizes, in the main, a uniform moral code; I conclude, for myself, that we share a common origin that can be (though it need not be) explained by an Originator who wants us to experience beauty, order, and a moral code, and I embrace a faith that calls that Originator “Abba” – not just “father” but “papa” – and that compares that Originator to a nursing mother. What do I have to lose by that belief?

  33. GRA Says:

    Always interesting to read the comment section when a post talks about Christianity.

  34. T Says:

    Kolnai,

    Good to hear from you. It’s been too long.

  35. CV Says:

    This seems like an appropriate thread to share this deeply compelling article about the firsthand experience of the small group of Mass attendees who witnessed Father Jaques Hamel’s murder at the hands of Muslim extremists. They recently spoke with French journalists about what they experienced that day. Pope Francis has already put Father Hamel on the path to sainthood:

    http://aleteia.org/2016/10/04/witnesses-to-martyrdom-father-hamels-last-moments/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en

  36. CV Says:

    I’ll just add one of my favorite CS Lewis quotes:

    “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”

  37. Stephen J. Says:

    One thing that may be helpful in understanding that particular quote is bearing in mind the theological currents of debate among Christian scholarship in the middle of the 20th century. One of the strains of thought that was — and still is to some degree — ascendant at the time was a concept of “social Christianity”, which to take a somewhat reductionist stance was essentially the argument that the objective truth or falsehood of Christian doctrine was less useful or relevant than its utility in improving society.

    The idea that Christianity is “moderately” important is, in Lewis’s view, the same argument that many post-Christian freethinkers liked to advance: that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but that you didn’t have to believe He was actually the Son of God to find His teachings valuable or useful. Lewis had no patience for this kind of thinking; it struck him as, essentially, an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too, to obtain all the benefits of Christian thinking and morality without subscribing to the costs and requirements, and to abandon what he considered a real defining characteristic of humanity: the desire to know what really was, not just to accept the first plausible and convenient hypothesis. To call Christianity “moderately” important is to try to claim its benefits to human history without incurring the obligations it lays upon human character, to state that it doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not so long as it’s useful. The hypocrisy of this stance may be more understandable if we recall the wholly justified outrage provoked by the infamous Presidential candidate’s remark “What difference, at this point, does it make?”.

  38. Sharon W Says:

    CV, thank you for that link. I attend daily Mass and from time-to-time think about what happened in Rouen. This quote from the 87 year old man (his birthday that very day), lying there bleeding from 3 stab wounds after having been forced to film the slaying of the priest is REMARKABLE: “convinced he was going to die, Coponet says he felt an overwhelming sense of serenity. ‘I had no remorse, only love in me. In fact, it was a moment of great bliss.’”

  39. Ann Says:

    Ed Morrissey at Hot Air had some thoughts on this Lewis quote last year, and had this to say about its meaning:

    If the basic tenets of Christianity are false, then it means nothing. The basic philosophy can and has been synthesized in other forms, all of which are easily accessible. The teachings of Jesus and his disciples — most of whom were gruesomely martyred rather than give up their faith in Christ — would be just the notes from either lunatics or con artists. There is no seraph staff, no healing from sin, and no reconciliation with God, only our own devices in a fallen world and a bleak destiny no matter what we do or believe. If, however, Jesus was the Son of God and offers us the perfect sacrifice for our sins throughout time, then Christianity means everything — eternally, infinitely, and in every other measure possible. And all we need do is embrace the cross to have it all.

  40. jon baker Says:

    Regarding the question of C.S. Lewis writings persuasiveness to non Christians. During a crisis of faith a quarter of a century ago now- how time flies-I looked hard at the writings of former skeptic turned Christian defender Josh Mcdowell. His book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” was most helpful to me . He quotes C.S. Lewis to a certain extent but I am not sure how much Lewis influenced him before his own conversion. That being said, Lewis still never resonated with me all that well.

  41. jon baker Says:

    http://www.josh.org/about-us/joshs-bio/

  42. Mark30339 Says:

    I think the best way to get an impression of Lewis is to see the recent Socrates In The City interview of his personal secretary, Walter Hooper (parts 1, 2 & 3). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slMLk4dhh0M.
    .
    The statement Neo reviews here is largely provocative, and is given by a giant intellect who examined the claims of Christianity extremely critically from the perspective of an atheist, and then as a “theist.” His intended audience was likely those in the Christian West who did not ponder their faith with the seriousness he felt it deserved. Most of us who are over 40 saw Christianity as a socially appropriate place to belong. To a great extent, our faith and its profound gospel messages are familiar decorations. We are so close to them, we miss their transforming impact and overlook its claims on our comfort.
    .
    Lewis is telling Christians that they might as well include themselves among the non-believers if their lives are not demonstrating the infinite importance of Christian Gospel.
    Christianity proclaims that existence is only possible with God, and that God is revealed in an amazing inter-relationship of three persons: a divine father, a crucified and resurrected son, and a father/son bond that pervades everywhere (the holy spirit).
    .
    These complex notions are not welcomed by Jews — and Muslims are in vigorous rebellion against them. Yet the West’s embrace of them have vastly improved standards of conduct all over the secular world. Recognizing the dignity of women, of children, of the elderly, of the sick and dying, and of servants, recognizing an obligation to do charity and a duty upon rulers and governments to serve rather than exploit — all of these standards gained recognition because they were imperatives of a Christian West.

  43. Molly Brown Says:

    The central point – from Mere Christianity; “Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are many good things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years…
    And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the INDIVIDUAL is not only more important but INCOMPARABLY more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.”
    Mere Christianity was based on talks Lewis gave during WWII, but his point remains relevant regarding the source of individual liberty and why it matters.

  44. huxley Says:

    Just to ruin things a bit for Kolnai, Lewis’s reasoning in the topic quote and the Trilemma is IMO the same sort of fallacious straitjacket the Trump Binary Choice poses, where the argument is posed in the most restrictive way possible allowing only two outcomes and with a heavy thumb on the scale for the outcome desired by Lewis or the Trump supporter.

    I look at that kind of argument and see all sorts of excluded middle fallacies and hidden assumptions plus an absolute refusal to think outside the argument box.

    But that seems typical for apologetics because the apologist starts with his conclusion and attempts to justify it by reasoning backward.

  45. AesopFan Says:

    It appears from this thread that the world is divided into two kinds of people: those to whom Lewis’s work “speaks” (even if it doesn’t convert them) and those to whom it does not (even if they are already Christians).

    Fortunately, at the moment, there are no Christian Religious Police rounding up the heretics, just the Leftist analogue; it’s an unusual time and place in history.

    I was not converted by Lewis’s writings, but I was educated about Christianity by them, and I enjoy reading his books because I enjoy both what he says and how he says it.
    That’s a matter of temperament and taste, however, and not a measure of truth — I do think Lewis gets most things right in terms of Christian doctrine and faith, but not everything; he speaks out of his own life-matrix (briefly summarized above). For the process of conversion itself, see his personal statement in his book “Surprised by Joy” about his late-life marriage and its effect on his own spiritual journey.

    * * *
    Wooly Bully Says:
    October 4th, 2016 at 6:03 pm…. I may well be wrong, but you would be the first person I’ve ever heard of who was convinced by Lewis.
    * * *
    Pauline Kael, is that you? 😉

  46. Bumsrush Says:

    @ Wooly Bully
    You can add Chuck Colson to the list. In his book “Born Again” Colson makes it clear that his reading of Lewis’s book “Mere Christianity” was persuasive in his conversion to Christianity. Of course what followed was a lifelong dedication to the work of bringing meaning to the lives of the incarcerated.

  47. AesopFan Says:

    Mark30339 Says:
    October 4th, 2016 at 11:43 pm…
    The statement Neo reviews here is largely provocative, and is given by a giant intellect who examined the claims of Christianity extremely critically from the perspective of an atheist, and then as a “theist.” His intended audience was likely those in the Christian West who did not ponder their faith with the seriousness he felt it deserved.
    * * *
    I would change “likely” to “certainly” —

    Interestingly, another Christian apologist of the same era was the mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers, who is not generally known as the serious academic that she also was.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/musiciansartistsandwriters/dorothy-sayers.html

  48. AesopFan Says:

    Molly Brown Says:
    October 4th, 2016 at 11:46 pm
    The central point – from Mere Christianity; “Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are many good things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years…
    And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the INDIVIDUAL is not only more important but INCOMPARABLY more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.”
    Mere Christianity was based on talks Lewis gave during WWII, but his point remains relevant regarding the source of individual liberty and why it matters.

    * * *
    A succinct explanation of why the primary agenda of the Left in the West has been the marginalization, and destruction where it can, of Christian doctrine and practice.

    I think the point of Lewis’s “tweet” is that the primacy of the individual in Christian doctrine sets it apart, in the binary fashion he stated, from every other religion then extant (and most of the departed ones, in the study of which he was a Master). If this foundational point of individual salvation through the grace of Christ is not true, then Christianity has no more eternal relevance than the worship of the gods of Rome, Greece, and Valhalla did in their time.

  49. neo-neocon Says:

    Molly Brown, and several others:

    I am also puzzled by the quote you offered from Lewis. He wrote:

    Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false…But if Christianity is true, then the INDIVIDUAL is not only more important but INCOMPARABLY more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.”

    But why would that depend on Christianity being true? Christianity involves the idea (faith, belief, whatever word you want to use) that the individual is saved to eternal life because of Jesus. But many other faiths posit the same thing for their belief systems, and some also posit the idea (or belief, faith, etc.) that everyone has some share in the world to come and has some version of everlasting heaven. Some religions believe this will be as part of some cosmic whole where individual identity either doesn’t exist or is greatly changed, but some believe it will be as individuals.

    I don’t see what’s so different except the Christian idea that this can only happen through Christ, and apparently some Christians don’t even believe that’s the only way it happens.

  50. huxley Says:

    Neo, you have written at length about how difficult it is to change one’s mind, and about your own less-than-likely journey to neoconservatism. I would’ve thought that the same would be true in matters of religion — but this thread is full of people who have fluidly moved between and among belief systems, and to and from belief itself and unbelief itself.

    Jamie: Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t call my journey back to Christianity a matter of changing my mind. I still don’t understand what happened there. It was more like finding myself on an acid trip, minus the hallucinations and dysfunction, which lasted several months. It was quite disturbing and I felt like two persons in one body for years afterward.

    So, not only do I find Lewis’s reasoning and most Christian apologetics weak tea from a rational view, I couldn’t connect it to my conversion. It sounded like a flimsy post-hoc baby-talk layer pasted over something huge and transcendent.

    Catholics would call my experience grace or consolation and say I was fortunate. I do feel fortunate but I got worn out being two people and dealing with the messiness of church life exacerbated by being conservative in a very progressive church.

    I was relieved when I stopped going to that church. I thought I might try some other churches or Christian approaches, but I was so relieved not to be two people anymore I shelved Christianity indefinitely. It remains unresolved. I suspect I’ll have to bite into it again someday, but as St. Augustine once prayed, “Not yet, Lord.”

  51. Laura in Jerusalem Says:

    I am another to whom Lewis’ works spoke with great power. I am Jewish and was raised Conservative. In high school and the beginning of college I left off being kosher but still had (and have) and strong Jewish identity. I had read the Narnia books in childhood and loved them as well as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. (I also read a lot of junk, and would have told you that somehow I found the air of Lewis’ and Tolkien’s worlds to be more wholesome and safe.) In college I encountered some very rational, intelligent people who believed in Jesus. I didn’t tell them I was curious, but I was. Unbenownst to them (I lived with them) I “borrowed” some of their Lewis books, as well as a spare Bible, and did a lot of reading and thinking. The Lewis books confronted me with truth I couldn’t reason my way out of. The Bible (at first just the Old Testament, the Tenach) confronted me with myself, and with the wall I had built between myself and God by taking myself as my god, as my standard, and rejecting his authority over my life. When I finally opened the New Testament, during the week of Pesach/Easter 1984, I met Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. The journey has been long since that day, but worth any sufferings or challenges that have come my way. He gave me a new heart! I think there are many parallels between my change story and the political change stories I have read about here. (And I also went through a political change story – liberal to conservative – as the years went by.)

    Many times I have returned to Lewis’ writings to sort of get my bearings and clear up my thinking. But of course his works – like any other books – are no substitute for the Bible. And they are not everyone’s cup of tea. The particular quote Neo discussed doesn’t really trouble me – I can see what she means, but I think Lewis meant something a little different, as several commentators have elucidated. As some have noted, he was pushing back against the concept of a lukewarm, socially acceptable Christianity that had nothing to do with why Jesus came and more to do with being nice and acceptable.

  52. Caedmon Says:

    Wow, a long and lively thread, to which, as usual, I have arrived late.

    There is room still, I think, to address this from a non-Christian perspective, although I am Christian.

    Neo, you have put your finger on one of the many tensions within Christianity, between the Ahistorical, and the Historical.

    The view of the Ahistorical can be summed up as: “That’s all settled now. All that’s to be done is for the Elect to withdraw from the World, and wait for the Second Coming.”

    It was a view of some the first settlers in North America, and it tends to be Bible centered.

    The Historical view sees the Crucifixion and Resurrection as both the End and the Beginning, and declares “Faith without Works is dead.” And seeks to engage with the World as participants in a struggle. It is Church centered.

    If the Historical view sounds familiar, it is because it is similar (perhaps the origin of) Hegelianism as adapted by Marx.

    So from the Historical perspective, Christianity does have significance beyond its Truth or Falsehood, because it is History itself, and without it the World would be one long episode of Game OF Thrones.

    Which is not to say I disagree with the Lewis. quotation, either.

  53. Tom G Says:

    I think most conversions, or reversions, are based on the person “being struck” with some idea, often due to some experience.

    Many are converted, or revert back to with more faith to Christianity partly because of Lewis. His binary certainty helps those with whom his style resonates to both understand the intellectual argument, as well as feel the truth of the argument.

    I strongly support the goal of making more Christians, as well as helping them be more Christ-like.

    Nevertheless, for myself the binary choice is more fundamental.
    God exists. Or doesn’t.

    If there is no God, then religions’ importance is merely the effect they have on the people’s actions, both the believers and the non-believers. And “Evil” is merely the opinion of those naming it. (So clearly I’m with Neo contra Lewis’s “no importance”.)

    If there IS a God, which I believe, then “Evil” is that which opposes God. I am very comfy with believing that Jesus was the Son of God, and thus Christianity is true. However, even in this case, it’s “infinite importance” seems too much, since other things like earthly love, family, children, are also important.

    I do understand that infinity minus even a large number remains infinite, but it doesn’t resonate with me. Instead, I’m more worldly oriented with a 100% level of importance, like seconds in my life, and those I choose to spend on blog posts, or work, or game playing, or prayer; most actions on most days are not dominated by Christianity.

    Love others. Smile at, and even talk a bit, with strangers. Be happy. That’s my own Christianity in practice, but I don’t try to convert others explicitly.

    Lewis did, and was often successful.
    Great thread (except for getting work done).

  54. bruce Says:

    Caedmon, there’s an easier way to express that. Marx as a Young Hegelian was inspired by Feurbach:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theses_on_Feuerbach
    Feurbach wrote about “The Essence of Christianity”:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Feuerbach#Das_Wesen_des_Christentums_.28The_Essence_of_Christianity.29

    Would believers here mind if I contrast Paul with James, and say that Paul, having broken from his community, was more of a “black and white guy” while it was James who said “Faith without works is dead”? Very crudely summarising, James kept Jewish Christianity going until Jerusalem was wiped out. You could say that James was the proto-Catholic, while Paul inspired protest and reformation (sorry if that is far too simple). But I was raised a Catholic, and we just follow “the Law” as James requires, as we understand it from our tradition. And from that perspective, all this churning and questioning isn’t very fruitful. Above all, as Irish Catholics, it’s the culture of our grandmothers and forefathers.

  55. bruce Says:

    And yet, like many supposedly English literature greats, I’ll bet CS Lewis was Irish. Well, there you are then as my granny might have said, while reaching for her rosary.

  56. kolnai Says:

    Aw, Huxley – you spoiled it!

    Seriously, though, I’m really pleased with this thread. Reminds me of old times here.

  57. Sergey Says:

    “His statement just didn’t make his thinking clear.” I beg to differ: it is crystal clear for me, just as for everyone who experienced in his life an existential crisis of faith. Without God, without eternal life, without eventual redemption and salvation of the world as a whole, everything temporal lose any meaning at all: human history, individual life, all successes and victories – everything. And in context of Lewis other works it is also clear what he was fighting against: secularization of Christianity itself, reducing it to moralism (like Leo Tolstoy did) or to “cultural” decoration of otherwise non-religious way of life. To understand his main thesis, one needs only to re-read “Ecclesiast”: everything earthy is vain and void without sincere belief in eventual redemption.

  58. Phil Christensen Says:

    C.S. Lewis is not for everyone. I read the Narnia books as a kid and enjoyed them immensely.

    In 1Corinthians 15, Paul wrote “If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain.”

    That being said, Christianity’s role in Western Civilization remains key. Even lip-service served as a glue to hold things together. One can assert that there is a correlation between the reluctance to acknowledge our Christian roots on both the civil and personal levels and the coarsening of our culture. This has lead to a decided weakening of the national fabric.

  59. Artfldgr Says:

    Without God, real or not, there is/are no morals…

    in our heads we run the “program” and act upon and by belief in that “program”, so those that believe are running the idea that god is watching, etc… those that have no belief, have no such program and morals therefore fall to opinion and other that arbitrary agreement have no basis.

    the “program” is simple
    brain programs are premises that flower outwards
    not heuristic

    if god exists, then
    if god does not exist, then

    if we are equal, then
    if we are unequal, then

    if race matters, then
    if race does not matter, then

    these are the way programs of the mind are written and injected. you do not need to write the whole thing, you just need a seed of a premise… then wait and watch as it flowers outwards… expands and grows beyond its simple seed

    Why not kill 100 million people to make room for more? Not one argument will suffice to actually say its bad or evil!!! all arguments from that point are basically opinion or self interest… and self interest against self interest is not a moral argument.

    in fact, this is so much so that athiest moralists have tried to come up with some form of non arbitrary morals and cant..

    without god, we are just animated material (ergo materialism and death of metaphysical existence under communism, atheism, etc)… it would be no mor immoral to murder someone than it would be to break a rock in two to use it.

    Without god we live in a capricious random universe that if its the only reality, has no purpose, no reason to exist, no basis for anything other than it just IS.

    if they universe itself has no purpose and no reason, then there are no morals… destroying a whole planet full of people is just doing the same thing as an asteroid, witho no more moral compunction than that.

    🙂

    now you know why athiest states tend towards totalitarianism… in a society absent of all morals, the state provides arbitrary morals that fit its needs and are justifid by the power to employ them and enforce them… hitlers morals and stalins morals and maos morals are just a different choice of being as is ghandis morals, martin luthors morals, the popes morals, etc.

    ISIS is a goodness under this theme..
    mass extermination is just a practicality…

    enjoy…

  60. MikeII Says:

    c Says:
    October 4th, 2016 at 8:24 pm.

    “BTW, if I was raised catholic like some here, I would feel like yall do. Its a hopeless, empty religious system like all the other cults.”

    Funny how you consider it a “cult” but your foundational document was codified into the Bible by this same “cult” at the First Council of Nicæa in (A.D. 325).
    A fanatic is one who having forgotten the destination redoubles their efforts. The destination? Union with God.
    If you doubt this consider the followers of Islam when confronted with competing religions? Anger and Rage is natural to them having forgotten the destination. While they may believe they are helping those that are on the wrong path, they are simply fanatics. Their Faith is so weak it cannot tolerate a competitor.
    Sometime stop being the Pharisee and simply follow the path you have been given and let others follow the path they have been given. Reconnect with the final destination and stop being a fanatic. 🙂

  61. messianicdruid Says:

    I must make destination between churchianity ( which you are calling christian religion ) and christianity.

    Denominationalism has misidentified the players:

    http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/who-is-a-jew

    http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/who-is-an-israelite

    Religionists teach that what is believed doesn’t really matter. Christians say ” Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of ( under the authority of ) Jesus Christ.

    The kingdom of God is a form of government, not a religion.

  62. Artfldgr Says:

    and given current news we have ignored for a long while and never gave seriousness to… we may all find out the answer soon

    Russia tells citizens ‘nuclear war with the West could happen soon’
    http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/04/russia-tells-citizens-nuclear-war-with-the-west-could-happen-soon-6171489/

    kind of goes with the 40 million person evacuation as a practice towards such warfare…

    the US has reduced its military to the lowest point post WWII, and a major reason that these world wars started in both cases was our withdrawel and drawing down.

    we have lost our most experienced leaders which are replaced with new ones who do not have the “morals” or understanding

    many think their job is to protect the president, not the constituition. many have been tested as to whether they would open fire on citizens, and more

    we have ignored tech transfers, new war tech, the chinese islands, russias nuclear focused readiness (including yamentau mountain and others), our denuement of nuclear readiness, and this list goes on very long

    so soon, we may all be singing in the choir triumphant, or will find there is nothing and not know we were or existed at all..

    get ready, as the new man made islands china has created that are specifically “fixed unsinkable aircraft carriers” in the pacific right in the middle of 7 countries seaways, and so on…

    someone will either have to give in to their control of all of asia and shipping and more… or fight… with 35 million military aged young men without wives or ever to have them thanks to one child… will be up agianst less than 2 million..

    we are in a world of trouble and wont look at this in any form of detail… then once it starts, neo will have years of commentary (if we survive) as to how it started and how she mised it being wared for nearly 10 years and the texts and papers about thats where it HAS to go… from fabian glass, to russian first strike, and more.

    oh.. unlike the past, the US has no manufacturing to rely on… we dont have healthy men (and our women are not up to it), the skill set of the general population is a lot lower than before in our capitalist self sufficiency population era’s, military is demoralized, etc

    the WORST part is severl expansions of satellite warfare (knock out GPS and then what happens to US miltiary?)… and a clear path for nuclear attack from the southern or northern track in which we do not have protections

    our government is more intent on spying on its own as the KGB did, to polcie the morals it wants, and now, we are basically bankrupt of capacity, infrastructure, healthy people, knowlege, ability to self organize, willpower, material, credit, and more.

    maybe they WANT to lose to communism, and the result would be a world order utopia a la russia and china…

  63. messianicdruid Says:

    distinction, I must make distinction

    ( technology – quit heppin me )

  64. messianicdruid Says:

    Caedmon, “you have put your finger on one of the many tensions within Christianity, between the Ahistorical, and the Historical.”

    http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/creations-jubilee/chapter-13-the-tension-in-creation

  65. Frog Says:

    A fascinating thread to read, with moving moments along the way.
    But I believe, and have experienced, that faith is a gift from God. The Christian faith, above all. The faith of peace and charity, the faith of John Paul II and of St. Theresa of Calcutta, the faith that is in its third millenium.
    It is difficult, even silly, to reason about faith, that some have, and others don’t, and those that don’t have never experienced. Faith is faith; it is not reason.
    Finally, consider the Gospels, written by four different men in two languages, Aramaic and Greek, within thirty years of His crucifixion and resurrection. Think of the Gospels as recording history, what actually occurred. Note the overlaps, the similarities in these independently written narratives, despite the differing styles (Mark reads differently than Matthew). Witnesses.

    Consider the believing faith of the earliest Christians, who willingly died for it, within a few years of the crucifixion. Were they nuts? Deluded? I think not.
    One believes, or one does not.
    I believe.

  66. sdferr Says:

    Yeesh, what a dreadful theological tripe those links promote, messianicdruid. Awful. Any Christians who wonder why many Jews, as well as many nonpartisan irreligious onlookers, regard Christianity as one entity prominent among the powerful sources of the European persecution against the Jews down the ages can take such a testimony as a residual (if yet thoroughly debased) evidence.

    The political knock-on effects, one might say, are made self-evident.

    Raul Hilberg, in The Destruction of the European Jews, limned a history of this political “progression” in this series of diminishing propositions:

    1) You may not live among us as Jews (solution: ghetto)

    2) You may not live among us (solution: expulsion)

    3) You may not live (solution: final)

  67. Nick Says:

    Neo – “But if Christianity is true, then the INDIVIDUAL is not only more important but INCOMPARABLY more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.”

    When reading an argument for something, you need to consider what the argument is against. Lewis wasn’t addressing a society of Muslims and Jews. He was addressing the 20th-century West, which was prone to a lack of religious fervor and a faith in political salvation. The average Brit of the era wasn’t considering worshiping another god or holy law, he was thinking about whether science had supplanted the need for gods, and whether the UN had replaced holy law.

    There have been great defenders of the faith throughout history, but not all of them are going to speak to a contemporary reader, because they were arguing against positions the reader doesn’t share (or even hasn’t heard of). Ambrose was eloquent against the Arians. If you’re not an Arian, or your thinking isn’t influenced by Arianism, then Ambrose isn’t going to resonate with you.

  68. DNW Says:

    “I don’t see what’s so different except the Christian idea that this can only happen through Christ, and apparently some Christians don’t even believe that’s the only way it happens.”

    I am sure that you could be referring to any number of things different people here have written.

    However what I wrote should not be misunderstood as positing that the Church offers up an alternative to Christ scenario. The Christian doctrine is that the “soul” will face Christ one way or another, and that there is no way around it. The Church simply allows that as God is sovereign and just, judgment will take circumstances, though not excuses, into account.

  69. John Says:

    I am a (Christian) atheist but I have always loved the writing of C.S. Lewis. Not for his apologetics. I agree that his logic is not persuasive and the quote you refer to always seemed wrong to me, for the same reason. A thing can be false and yet still have a positive effect.

    Lewis himself in his fiction recognized this in the character of Emeth in “The Last Battle”, a devout worshipper of Tash, an evil god (clearly based on Mohammad). Even though Emeth worships the evil Tash, he does so honestly and is a seeker of the truth. His goodness is explained by Lewis that all seekers of the truth are inspired by the goodness in Aslan (Christ) and all who use religion for a base motive, whatever they call themselves, are actually serving Tash. As an atheist, I don’t have much of a problem with this, since there are clearly both good and bad people who are devout believers in all religions.

    Obviously, I love the Narnian Chronicles, and still read them every couple of years. I found Lewis’ autobiography “Surprised by Joy” to be a good read too and I am a huge fan of “That Hideous Strength”, mainly because if its conservative worldview in contrast to the dystopian vision it presents of a world run by progressives. Orwell liked the book too, but said it would have been better without the supernatural elements, and I am inclined to agree with him about that. Still, I highly recommend it for any conservative.

  70. Molly Brown Says:

    Neo,
    To clarify, I am one of those Christians who believes Jesus is not the only path to grace. For me, the quote is not about redemption but rather, illustrates the meaning of human existence. That we each have a unique and personal relationship with God that supersedes all other entities and is the essence of our being in this or any other world. As for how this plays out in the material world, this idea was the impetus for both the Reformation and the 1st Amendment.
    And thank you, Neo, for sparking this wonderful thread!

  71. CV Says:

    Must put in a plug for The Screwtape Letters, the CS Lewis classic on the weakness of human nature and the unseen spiritual battle that is raging around all of us.

    It’s a short masterpiece of satire and packs a powerful punch. Funny, too!

  72. neo-neocon Says:

    Nick:

    But Jews are most definitely part of “the 20th-century West.”

    Was Lewis addressing Christians only? If so, that’s never been made clear to me, but as I said I haven’t read most of his books to the end.

  73. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    I don’t question nor do I reason about anyone’s faith.

    However, you write, “It is difficult, even silly, to reason about faith, that some have, and others don’t, and those that don’t have never experienced. Faith is faith; it is not reason.”

    But that’s what I see Lewis as having done in this quote, at least to a certain extent: reasoning about faith. And I’m trying to understand what his reasoning is, and it doesn’t make sense to me.

    However, as I said, I’m not questioning his or anyone else’s faith itself.

  74. Michael Adams Says:

    The Kolnai who used to comment here was an Atheist. This one is not. Is there a new person using the name? Or, is the same Kolnai a new creation? (If so, he’ll understand the reference.)

  75. neo-neocon Says:

    Sergey:

    No, not clear to me. Lewis is not saying that, at least not exactly and not explicitly; he’s saying something else. He’s not speaking generally of religions that offer salvation. He’s speaking only of Christianity as offering this.

    He’s also saying that if it’s not true, Christianity is nothing rather than something, even a moderate something.

    So let’s just say for the sake of argument that the divinity of Christ is not true, but that Christians nevertheless (and many other people) will have some sort of heavenly afterlife nonetheless. Does that mean that Christianity was nothing (as Lewis says)? I don’t see that that follows.

  76. Rick Ballard Says:

    “Was Lewis addressing Christians only?”

    No, much of the time he writes as a sower in the certain knowledge faith is a gift which not all receive. He can be rather ambiguous with regard to the nature of the intended recipient of the message but this one is intended for those who profess – as an aid to self examination.

  77. Sharon W Says:

    Neo–Christ is recorded as saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.” And “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

    That is Christian dogma. So as you say, Lewis was speaking of Christianity, so if one embraces it, as it is “handed down” then the premise that “for the sake of argument the divinity of Christ is not true” doesn’t come into play. It is true or it isn’t. Thousands of people have died, some, extremely horrible deaths, believing the John 3:16 promise, along with “There is no other name given among men, by which you must be saved.” So yes, historical Christianity would be nothing if it isn’t true as handed down. 3 times St. Paul’s words about “being the most pitiable” among men, if Christ did not rise from the dead, has come up in this thread. This man was knocked off a horse and blinded, wrote most of the New Testament and alluded to the afterlife saying “eye has not seen, ear has not heard” borne of revelation he received directly from the Lord. He suffered amazing difficulties and spoke before Magistrates, was chained to a prison wall in the bowels of Rome and ultimately martyred for his teachings. The faith I have is directly related to his and other testimonies as recorded in the scriptures. The same way I don’t question whether the Founders exist and formed our country, complete with documents, I accept that which has been handed down. What I have and haven’t done, do and wouldn’t do is daily informed by the Christian faith. Yes, if it isn’t reality, I would consider myself indeed pitiable, because many, many things, I would do differently…especially when it comes to my time and finances.

  78. T Says:

    ” [Paul] was knocked off a horse and blinded, wrote most of the New Testament . . . .” [Sharon W @ 2:51]

    No. Only the Epistles (and some say only seven of those) are attributed to Paul without question, the remainder of Paul’s attributed works are the subject of disagreement among biblical scholars (of which I am certainly not one). At any rate, THE most important part of the New Testament the four Gospels, were decidedly NOT Pauline.

  79. Sharon W Says:

    T–I didn’t intend to argue scripture. I referenced Paul because of the quote and indeed because he was the first eyewitness that didn’t have relationship with Jesus while on earth. His testimony for that reason (as well as his writings) have figured into my “yes” to the faith.

  80. T Says:

    Sharon,

    Not arguing scripture or questioning your (or anyone’s belief); it’s a question of accurate authorship. If I were to say that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote Harry Potter I would be immediately corrected. To state outright that Paul wrote most of the New Testament does not stand up to historical scrutiny, at least not at this time.

  81. Sharon W Says:

    T-Point taken. Thank you.

  82. messianicdruid Says:

    “We are not saved ( justified ) by believing, we realize we are saved ( justified ) by believing.” Oswald Chambers

    The crux is the resurrection.

    You are such a quick reader ( guesser ).

    https://adask.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/reading-is-guessing/

  83. OM Says:

    Great comments.

    Hillsdale College has a short course on C.S. Lewis, lectures Q&A available for on line, no cost other than getting on their “mailing” list. Video and podcast (audio). It covers the apologetics and science fiction.

    http://online.hillsdale.edu/courses/cslewis/home/schedule

    “An Introduction to C.S. Lewis: Writings and Significance

    C.S. Lewis was the greatest Christian apologist of the twentieth century. He was also the author of works of fiction, including the Chronicles of Narnia, and of philosophy, including The Abolition of Man. This course will consider Lewis’s apologetics and his fiction, as well as his philosophical and literary writings, and their continuing significance today.”

  84. Sergey Says:

    Neo: Social and cultural context of Lewis’s exegesis is clear: he was not proselyting, other, non-Christian religions and atheism were of no concern for him. His audience was nominal Christians, mostly liberal Protestants who reduced their religion to moralism, to socially acceptable behavior and tossed off all mystical and ritualistic elements in it, that is, faith itself and religious observance. “Mere Christianity” meant to him exactly what were tossed away by these people – not anything else. They were seeing Jesus just like Leo Tolstoy, that is, simply as a perfect ideal of a moral person to imitate, not as God or Son of God, and everything supernatural was just a superstition for them. That was ideology against which he launched his crusade, and nothing else.

  85. kolnai Says:

    Michael Adams –

    It’s the same one. I don’t *think* I ever said directly I was an atheist – I was and remain agnostic (a very conflicted half-believer who has yet to get the whole way there). Probably I said something like “I’m not a believer,” which it is admittedly natural to take as a statement of atheism. If, however, I did say I was an atheist, I was likely in a fit of melancholy and felt like being all-the-way flippant that day (God knows).

    Of course, in a former (teenage and undergraduate) life I was a hardline atheist with a chip on my shoulder, and I may have also recounted that before. I used to read Prometheus books like “The Case for Atheism” and Bertrand Russell’s unbelievably bad “Why I Am Not A Christian” and commit their silly arguments to memory just so I could rattle the next proselytizer I ran into. Then I grew a brain and learned that disliking simple-minded and sanctimonious Christians was not enough to judge Christianity itself to be simple-minded and sanctimonious. It helped that nearly all of the wisest people I knew were religious, and meant business about their religion – one of them a Rabbi, another a serious Catholic. That ended that phase of moronism (this was circa 2002).

    Nonetheless, I suppose it’s true to say that I’m more of a fellow-traveling Christian now than I was before – a peeping Thomist, getting more comfortable with what I see in my voyeuristic activities. One of these days, I hope to get beyond my ego-addicted lostness and do more than passionately and sympathetically observe.

    That’s the state of the union.

  86. T Says:

    “a peeping Thomist”

    That deserves a call out — That’s funny right there!

  87. Sergey Says:

    My experience with Lewis began with my meeting to his Russian translator, Natali Trauberg, a philologist. She was a devoted Catholic, later a nun of Tertiary Order. And I was just a young university student interested in English literature. We had long, serious conversations about meaning of his works. It was impossible to publish Lewis in Soviet Union, so all these translations were accessible only to a narrow circle of Samizdat readers, and reprinting and even reading of such literature was then a crime often punishable by prison terms. In such circumstances importance of such texts was immeasurable. That is why I confident in my understanding of them, at least, from perspective of a serious Catholic scholar of Christianity and literature.

  88. Ann Says:

    I think if Lewis had been discussing whether or not Christianity had had a beneficent impact on the history of the West even though its concepts had been imperfectly grasped that he likely would have said but of course.

    Neo’s quote, though, appears in a lecture he gave before a group of Anglican priests and youth leaders titled “Christian Apologetics” (in the book God in the Dock). He was talking about how to teach the rubrics of the faith and that was all he was concerned about. Here’s that quote in context:

    One of the great difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of Truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true but because it is good. And in the discussion they will try at every moment to escape from the issue ‘True — or False’ into stuff about a good society, or morals, or the incomes of Bishops, of the Spanish Inquisition, or France, or Poland — or anything whatever. You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point. Only thus will you be able to undermine (a) Their belief that a certain amount of ‘religion’ is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important. (b)…

    You can read excerpts from the book, including that entire lecture, at Amazon.

  89. huxley Says:

    neo keeps asking questions from outside the box of Christianity and she keeps getting answers from within that box.

    Which is the basic problem with Lewis’s Christian writing. His arguments work only if you already accept, more or less, the Christian framework.

    For instance, his claim that Christianity has no importance if false, makes sense if you are only assessing Christianity against the cosmic claims it makes for itself.

    If you are outside the Christianity box and not attached to the idea that Christianity is the key to eternal life, then that response looks silly given the obvious boons Christianity has provided society and individuals.

    Christianity is beset with bootstrap problems and most Christians don’t notice it.

  90. brdavis9 Says:

    What a delight to read. Simply wonderful.

    I was another Christian convert definitely influenced by Lewis …so we’re not as rare as all that, perhaps.

    I’d probably read all his fiction before I was sixteen or so. And most of his “apologetics works” during my middle years (the time of my conversion).

    But his work Miracles (as I recall: it’s been a while), was of more direct importance, perhaps, than his other works (like Mere Christianity).

    As an aside, the [complete] Narnia books I’ve also read aloud to several children (and gf’s) over the years (it’s been a while tho’): bedtime (plus) stories.

    I was also happy to see mention made of McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict (the reading of which was the “trigger event” after decades of having strayed lol).

    And the mention of Arianism (re: Ambrose vs Arianus)! Now that was truly unexpected.

    But.

    Neoneocon! And why not this [discussion] lol. Very pleased.

    To the point ….

    After my conversion (in the early ’90’s), I took this particular quote by Lewis to be speaking primarily to the divinity question of the incarnation of the Creator.

    IOW, I understood Lewis was saying (within the context of the times, and the intellectual and progressive arguments raging within the denominations of the Faithful) that if Jesus is not who He says He is, per …

    John 14:9 (KJV) Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

    …then the very foundation of Christianity was/is based upon at best a misreading, and at worst, a falsehood.

    Lewis to my thinking (which of course probably may be saying much more about me than about Lewis) was saying the Christ wasn’t merely the Messiah the Jewish prophets foretold in the Tanakh/OT, but rather that Jesus of Nazareth was the very incarnation of the Creator.

    Lewis was asserting that Jesus wasn’t some mere human avatar. He was, literally God Among Us (born human and divine). But …not Human! At! All! He was the very One who spoke to Moses on Sinai …the tetragrammaton …YHWH.

    So while the values [espoused] of Christianity can be (and are) important in the philosophical/moral sense …his argument was pointing out there was no middle ground on the case for the divinity of the incarnation.

    The claims of Christianity regarding the divinity of the being that walked among us are either true and hence of utmost importance and consideration, or they are based upon a lie …and there’s no point in even considering those claims that have reached down to us through history as of their being of some intermediate level of importance.

    There’s no middle ground within the Faithful.

    Lewis argument here maintained that those “inside the faith” needed to understand the importance of that central tenet of the Christian claim.

    Oh. And his middle and later non-fiction writing (I’m only vaguely familiar with the earliest, pre-Tolkein period stuff) is best understood as Apologetics (in defense of the faith), and viewed through that particular prism.

    I should further add that my understanding of his meaning isn’t from the trinitarianist view per se, but rather colored by my faith and understanding: which is a modern variant of modalism known originally as monarchianism as promulgated by Sabellius (there’s perhaps some minor differences).

    …in other words, technically I s’pose I’m an heretic by most of Christianity lol.

    In essence, it’s all just word games at this corporeal level, and a difference in syntax (well, from my perspective); I don’t have a problem with the triune God.

    2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
    15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    …my two bits.

    Oh. And my sincerest thanks to everyone for such a thoughtful discussion, and pleasant interlude. I’m sure this made my entire week.

  91. Mark30339 Says:

    Kolnai: thanks for your contributions. Soldiers in combat claim there are no atheists in a foxhole, but I bet there’s room for a “peeping Thomist.”

  92. huxley Says:

    Back in my Christian days I had a discussion with an earnest fundamentalist fellow who was bascially trying to slap me into line to be his idea of a Good Christian. I was asking Too Many Questions and thinking too many Wrong Thoughts for his taste. I was coming to conclusions using My Own Authority. The horror!

    I asked him who he knew I was wrong and he was right. He told me the Bible was his authority and the Bible told him so. Then I asked how he knew the Bible was the authority. He told me he knew the Bible was the authority because the Bible told him that too. Then he reeled off a string of scriptural cites in which the Bible seems to vouch for itself as the authority as God’s Word.

    This is obviously a circular argument, though my fundamentalist friend couldn’t see it.

    Furthermore, at some point he took it upon himself and his own authority to decide the Bible was the authority, then forgot or didn’t notice he had done so.

  93. Stephen J. Says:

    I bet there’s room for a “peeping Thomist.”

    AAARRRRGGHHHH. That’s the worst and cleverest pun I’ve heard in a while. Well-played, sir, well-played.

  94. kolnai Says:

    Re: “peeping Thomist” – While I would dearly love to be that clever, I definitely can’t take credit for that one. Someone famous said it somewhere, but it came to me via a Catholic professor of mine (the one I mentioned) who was good friends with Hadley Arkes. Arkes eventually converted after years of waffling, but in any case, sitting in the prof’s office one day and discussing these things as one does, he told me he used to say to Arkes that he was a peeping Thomist. Then he charged me with same.

    Guilty!

  95. DNW Says:

    @ Sergey @
    October 5th, 2016 at 3:44 pm …”

    That was very good, Sergey

  96. Nick Says:

    Lewis didn’t play a major role in my faith, but I do have to credit two other writings which were mentioned on this thread. A friend read “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”, and his enthusiasm over the book exposed me to a lot of its arguments. But it was “Why I Am Not A Christian” that made atheism seem intellectually untenable.

    I read and enjoyed a lot of Lewis in my younger days, but I really consider Chesterton to be the superior writer and mind. I tend toward being factual and analytical, and Chesterton is not that at all. It does me good to see that a completely different mindset than mine can reach the same answers. Indeed, that’s one of Chesterton’s themes: that only a God who exists can be the answer to all of our different longings. The superstitious peasant shepherds and the elite theoretician magi could kneel at the same manger. There’s no temperament that can’t find contentment in God, or can find contentment in something other than God.

  97. Sergey Says:

    To question if “mere Christianity” important to Western culture is like asking if heart is important to human being: Christianity is the heart of Western civilization, and without it this civilization will unravel and cease to exist in lifespan of 3 generations. And this, arguably, is almost happening before our eyes. Paganism which inevitably follows after abdication from Christianity for average Western citizen is not compatible with preservation of civilized society and as itself is not sustainable, it leads to individual and collective suicide and it can not resist against barbarian (Islamic, for example) onslaught on it. This is true now just it was true in 4th century, in agony of Roman empire, when embracing of Christianity was the only escape from existential despair and losing of the very reason to live. That is the main point in Lewis argument, and I see nothing to counter it. While it is true that there are other religions that promise salvation and eternal life, they are either beyond rich of an average Western man (too complex and burdensome to observe, like Judaism), or easy to grasp, but too primitive and incompatible with advanced civilization (like Islam).

  98. DNW Says:

    For what it’s worth, I have never read any of the children’s works and probably never could have brought myself to do so even as a child.

    Of the fictional works then, it is the Science-Fantasy series that I find more readable … at least in part. Frankly I find them entertaining for their quick character sketches and some really great descriptive moments … until about the denouement, where they become way too turgid for my taste. The larger part of That Hideous Strength is pretty good for a didactic parable in my estimation.

    Nonetheless, I could recommend The Pilgrim’s Regress, one of his earliest and least respected for the hilariously sharp eye he shows for social criticism and his profound ability to skewer intellectual pretensions. If you are going to have admitted storyline mannequins spouting doctrines and standing as symbols, I don’t think you could do much better.

    It’s not meant to be capital “L” literature.

  99. n.n Says:

    too complex and burdensome to observe, like Judaism

    The perception of complexity arises from a conflation of faith, religion, tradition, and organization.

    Burdensome, perhaps. Judaism does not avoid reconciliation of moral, natural, and personal imperatives. Neither does Christianity. The Judaeo-Christian religious/moral philosophies are bulwarks against the divergence of liberalism and unqualified progressivism.

    That said, the human moral center is a precarious thing that is vulnerable to secular corruption by choice and force.

  100. Sergey Says:

    huxley: “Christianity is beset with bootstrap problems and most Christians don’t notice it.”
    All religions and even all philosophies are beset by bootstrap problems, since logic as such can not prove its own basic assumptions. And without such assumptions we can not even began to argue. All medieval Christian scholars knew this, that is why they asserted that “No disputes are possible with deniers of fundamentals”. Freedom of conscience is not a legal principle, it is a medical, anthropological fact. Nobody can coerce anybody to believe in something as basic as fundamentals of faith, neither by physical force, nor by power of logic. And a man himself can not coerce himself. To bootstrap, an act of faith is needed, an act of free will. As a saying goes, “You can ride a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink”.

  101. huxley Says:

    Sergey: Of course “all religions and philosphies are beset by bootstrap problems.”

    However, Christian proselytizers are one of the few major groups I am aware of who believe they can set up a logical “A->B->C” chain of logic, and say voila, you must believe “D” as we do. Or you are stupid or insincere or maybe even evil.

    C.S. Lewis is a perfect example. Thus, neo, an intelligent non-Christian willing to read Lewis in good faith, reads him and says “Huh? That doesn’t follow.”

    Lewis doesn’t include an asterisk clarifying he is speaking “within the Faithful” — the excellent distinction brdavis9 made a few comments earlier.

    Wooly Bully’s assertion that Lewis is only preaching to the Christian choir is correct with the proviso that the choir includes those who are on their way to conversion, for whom the Christian framework of belief is what William James called a “live choice” in “The Will to Believe.”

    For most non-Christians the whole Christian theological rigamoraole about Jesus being God and redeeming humanity by his crucifixion comes across like L. Ron Hubbard going on about Xenu and Teegeack in Scientology, i.e. a “dead option” in William James’s essay.

  102. messianicdruid Says:

    Playing cause and effect games ( riddles ) with numbers and letters is like the bread crumbs of Hansel that get left to befuddle the wicked, and yet grant hope to the weary who still cast some upon the waters, knowing they will find them again after many days.

    Time is the fence around your pasture.

  103. huxley Says:

    BTW, let me recommend William James’s essay, “The Will to Believe.” It’s short and not difficult.

    http://educ.jmu.edu//~omearawm/ph101willtobelieve.html

    Bottom line: “The Will to Believe” is a green light to those whose inner promptings nudge them towards belief — in James’s time that meant Christianity — even if they know they can’t prove every logical step on the way.

    I read “The Will to Believe” as a teenager and it changed my life, as much reading anything changes one’s life.

    When I had an experience suggesting I had some sort of direct relationship with God and Jesus, I rode that horse. I didn’t worry that I didn’t have everything worked out ahead of time.

  104. huxley Says:

    I read and enjoyed a lot of Lewis in my younger days, but I really consider Chesterton to be the superior writer and mind.

    Nick: Amen to that.

    Chesterton absolutely won my heart and mind when he was presented with the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” and he answered, “I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

    Others may disagree, but for me — to the extent I remember the Christian me — that is the correct Christian answer.

    Also, Chesterton’s novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday,” was the first boxes-within-boxes mindfuck book and it still holds up.

  105. jon baker Says:

    brdavis9,
    In 1992 I went thru Army AIT (after Basic training) at Fort Knox , Kentucky. There was an agnostic in my unit that I sent a copy of “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” after returning home. Some months later he called me up on Easter Day thanking me and saying he had become a believer. There was another agnostic acquaintance after that I gave a copy of the same book to. I lost track of him after moving from that town, but my parents ran into him much later and reported he claimed to be a youth director in a church. Mcdowell had some updates printed that relied heavily on the earlier book. “Evidence for Christianity” is one I have since given: https://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Christianity-Josh-McDowell/dp/1418506281

  106. Ymarsakar Says:

    It seems to me that the question of the “importance” of Christianity—or any other religion, for that matter—must be defined in terms of what realm you’re talking about. To the believer in Christianity or in any other religion that posits an afterlife, particularly an eternal afterlife, of course that religion (be it Christianity or any other such religion) is of “infinite importance.”

    It mostly concerns itself with the perfection of mankind, which is not in absence of human history but because of human history that it is often needed or desired.

    Human laws are merely a band aid on human evil. It doesn’t deal with the original source or cause. Often times people talk about world peace or various other things of a political nature, but that also is directly derived from human evil or how people fail at dealing with human evil or just evil in general.

    The Christian Gospel as I would sum it up in this context, deals with the spiritual transformation of the human soul and body into something perfect or close to God’s grace. What that something is, is beyond human comprehension, other than that it is a better or more perfect state than current humanity’s decline. The reason why it is named the Christian label and not something like Obamacan or Marxism, is because people who take on Christ’s name, is emulating more than some priest’s theology born of human logic and education. They are disciples of Christ, which metaphysically is the mortal avatar of the God of Isaac, Jacob, etc. Humans cannot understand what humans cannot understand. But humans can emulate another human, monkey see wise, and copy the behavior, thus improve. If God wanted a way to teach humans how not to be stupid and sinful, first God would need an example. The teacher has to understand the student and the student has to understand the teacher.

    From a human anthropomorphic pov, we do something similar when we teach. We teach addition and subtraction before geometry or calculus. We teach people at the level they can handle. That is grossly one way of looking at Jesus Christ’s mission on Earth. You can’t save people from sinning, if the fundamental weakness of humanity isn’t addressed. You just get more sinners born every year than you save. That’s not something a superior being should have issues figuring out.

    Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

    If Jesus Christ is truly an avatar of God, put on this mortal earth to become mortal so that teacher may understand the students, and the students the teacher, then it provides humanity the solution infinite generations of fallen humans have sought for. The ability to reconnect to their spirit and souls, without the evils and excesses of mortal life, materialistic fallibility. The Buddhists may call that Nirvana, or breaking free of the cycle of karmic reincarnation. The Taoists may perceive it as the perfect balance between Yang and Yin, the ability to follow the Way of the universe without flaw or mistake.

    If Jesus of Nazareth was merely another human, if the personal God of the Jews and Jacob and Abraham was merely a human ideal created Deus Ex Machina like Hussein Obola’s Marxism, then it would matter about as much as any other human made up thing would matter. Half of it will be wrong, and the parts that are right, will be impossible to make work without sacrificing millions of innocent lives. And even after sacrificing so much, it still won’t work. Or rather, it won’t work as advertised, but for totalitarian dictators, it will work to give them power. Morally, it wouldn’t matter if a person chose Islam or Marxism or Gaia warming since all would be about of equal worth to the shaping of the morality of the eternal soul. But if people reject that, then it has to be based on a premise that they aren’t all equally true.

    But why would that depend on Christianity being true? Christianity involves the idea (faith, belief, whatever word you want to use) that the individual is saved to eternal life because of Jesus.

    It doesn’t depend on Jesus Christ being a mortal avatar of God, since either the human soul is eternal or it doesn’t exist at all. There’s also a bunch of other options, but without the human ability to see and experiment with the soul, it’s pretty much moot.

    Whether humans are resurrected, completely “Restored” body, mind, memories, and soul in some higher or different dimension, doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether humans are born and then die, with an eternal soul attached to them. That soul will be affected by the human journey on Earth.

    There are also philosophical arguments why an individual life matters more than the state, even assuming the premise that the state lasts longer than the individual. But if Christianity’s basic Gospel is true, then the ultimate fealty a human being owes is to their soul, and their soul owes it to whomever or whatever controls the spiritual realm in which they reside before birth and after death. The “State”, being of human construction, is of little Authority in that grand scheme of things.

    One of the problems of Chalcedonian Christianity, the former Patriarch of Rome and now the Pope of the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Christian church, is their collusion with the State, such that they became vestiges of State Christianity, no longer of the 1st AD discipleship of Jesus Christ. Which was more or less closer to a martial arts story of the age of heroes. The people under Roman Catholicism are taught to obey the teachings and commands of cardinals and Popes. It diminishes the connection of the Holy Spirit/Ghost, and it teaches humans to obey other humans, not God or Jesus Christ. The problem with obeying humans is the problem with humanity itself. All top down organizations have the same problems in general. The Catholics have fallen to corruption, selling out the Gospel for human coin, tolerated Islam’s human trafficking, tolerated the Leftists and homosexuals which led to the child molestation scandals and lawsuits, as well as have tolerated the declaration of Holy War against other Christians. All of that is the result of obeying the Human Hierarchy, and not the Godly Hierarchy. On top of which, humans have individual flaws and successes. But they don’t make up or cover up the problem of the Catholic hierarchy itself.

    I don’t see what’s so different except the Christian idea that this can only happen through Christ, and apparently some Christians don’t even believe that’s the only way it happens.

    As illustrated before, there are many ways to come to value the individual and Christianity is not the only Gospel that proves or contends the existence of a soul.

    However, Christianity is one of the few who provides a way for the soul to purify itself and become greater. Unlike the Cycle of Reincarnation, which posits that your karma goes up or down due to things beyond your control, Christianity directly relates that your soul’s progression is based on free will and what you do on this Earth. Much like a martial arts lineage that seeks to improve the body and mind to produce great feats, Christianity seeks to design and produce a better soul for humans, of which eternal life without an eternal soul would not be life as people know. And if your soul is as petty or evil as humans behave on Earth, then it would be better if you shattered your own soul than live eternity with yourself. That would be an eternal hell, created by your own desires or actions. Imagine a Castro or Mao, left to their own devices, never able to exert power over another soul, because everyone would know them for what they are, and just left to stew on their own, with whatever they have in their soul heart as being the Entire Essence of their life to look forward to eternally. It would be a pretty barren existence, to say the least. They who find joy in domination and destroying others, will eventually come to destroy themselves, just because they would get so bored.

    However, humans that can learn to forge the bonds of love and mutual cooperation now, on this Earth and life, will be capable of even more, in the event that they can only exert force in the spiritual realm through the power and knowledge of their own soul.

    None of which can be proven or disproven, the only way it can be proven is by following Jesus and seeing what happens. Although, for some, proof has already been presented on life, in the life of disciples of Jesus.

    It was quite disturbing and I felt like two persons in one body for years afterward.-huxley

    If you had been acting against your soul’s true desires, because you’ve forgotten everything in your past existence after being born on Earth, it would feel like you would be fighting yourself. Since the identity and habits you constructed on life were influenced by other humans, which runs counter to whatever existence you had before life.

    There’s also the Lucifer angle, as people weakly connected to their body, mind, and spirit, are easier to manipulate and control. Humans, like Leftists, are not easy to steal away if they dedicate themselves to a leader or Authority even on pain of death. Thus all the decadence and evil temptations of humanity or Lucifer, would matter little to someone who had pledged their allegiance to a force that opposes evil.

    I was relieved when I stopped going to that church.

    Serving two masters generally never ends well. A Progressive church might as well be for Lucifer as Jesus, it’s hard to tell the difference.

    That we each have a unique and personal relationship with God that supersedes all other entities and is the essence of our being in this or any other world.-Molly

    Your unique and personal relationship is a special mercy as a result of Jesus interceding with the Father.

    The God of Abraham, if the old stories are true, is responsible for things like destruction of Soddom and Gomorah or the flooding of the Earth to reset the human race and to wipe out a bunch of other mistakes. That God exiled the Jews for almost 2000 years, because the Jews denied and betrayed the Holy One of Israel, thus until the Jews experienced enough of what Christ experienced to become like Jesus, they wouldn’t be let back into the home of their forefathers. Since Israel, the state, came back after the Holocaust and a bunch of other things the Jews complain about, that should be its own evidence.

    This is not a “God” that the naked human spirit full of problems wants to have a personal relationship with, without somebody interceding on your behalf. Because absolute justice, without mercy, is not something humans can tolerate. The prophets of God were special people. They often sounded, acted, and looked crazy to other normal humans. I wonder how much of that is the effect of dealing with God before Jesus and how much of it was their own inherent strangeness which allowed them to commune with the Great Spirit.

    Socrates was a notable one, having read his last court speech transcribed by Plato, for being like that.

    There is a logic to proving whether the Christian Gospels are correct, but it has little to do with which church hierarchy you belong to or how you interpret the Bible or scriptures.

    It’s much the same logic behind someone trying to figure out which martial arts is the “best” or “effective”. Instead of trying to argue the theology via reason, it’s often better to take the short cut and start working on it. Then you’ll see what works or what doesn’t work.

    As for me, Lewis’ writings about Christianity wasn’t something I read, it was his fantasy books which I had read. Later on when I realized Lewis did write about Christianity, then I read some excerpts.

    As for my beliefs, I defined them as being Deist, meaning someone who believes in the existence of God, but not in the Revealed Truths of the Bible or other human written works. I’m very practical minded, I want to learn about things that matter now, not histories which can never be replicated because miracles no longer happen. Of course, if miracles do happen, then I then become capable of proving they do or connecting the dots. I’m very good at the connecting the dots, assuming the data points exist.

    Part of my research into the Islamic Jihad, all 1400 years of it, involved cross referencing various other issues that happened with Christianity. The Christendom, or the people under the name of Christ, that we have today is a broken, shattered thing. Mostly due to Islam but also due to the holy wars waged by Chalcedonian Christianity (Roman Empire Christianity), against other Christians. That was even before the Catholic Pope finished the task in France, with the Albigensian Holy War, which was another name for getting rid of Christians who had a different dogma and doctrine. It supports and promotes State power, which is all the Catholic hierarchy came to be when it butted heads against Luther. Martin Luther that is.

    What is in the Bible, is also itself a section split off, and not the complete scriptures or Gospel. Jesus’ disciples weren’t ready to take on the mission to spread the word, since they themselves didn’t feel like they had learned enough. It reminds me of Bruce Lee, when he had to go to the US and away from his childhood friends and Yipman teacher. Humans being humans, they were going to make mistake. The life of Saul/Paul in itself should be a testament to that.

    I was talking to some Jews of Judaism or Christians who argued against the Judaism doctrines and histories via theology points. I found it interesting that many Christian scholars wanted to use Jewish knowledge of the Old Testament to bring them to a fuller and better understanding of the time of Christ. But they could not accept Judaism’ rejection of the Holy One of Israel. Nor could Judaism accept that Jesus Christ invalidated much of the human Laws written by Rabbis and interpreted by Jewish lawyers in the Torah and other works of the religion, such as the mitzvoh.

    One Christian I wrote to online, argued that the Holy Spirit was not something that taught or talked to people, in this age and era. Similar to the whole “miracles can’t ever occur, so we we have to take on faith what happened before”. If God is the eternal, unchanging God, then that is hard to believe. If The Holy Spirit and miraculous powers no longer touch us, it is because humans have changed and fallen away in disbelief and evil. As demonstration of this proof, so to speak, he wrote that the Holy Spirit was something that only taught prophets, that only prophets had this strong connection with God. Thus the only way for him and others like him, to know of Christ and the plans of their Savior, is to read the Bible and interpret it as accurately as they can. I countered that they were just using human flaws to read the products of human flaws. If they were looking for divine truth, they would have to look for it from the Holy Spirit/Ghost.

    That is the one flaw in the system. If the Holy Spirit exists, then it should be easy to observe how humans gain knowledge that could be gained by no other way than a divine connection. I say flaw, but it’s more like the contradiction in the Matrix. It’s something humans can reason out, even if we don’t understand the full truth.

    Most humans, being incapable or unwilling to commune with the Holy Spirit, or perhaps they think the voices talking to them comes from God but it comes from Lucifer (or Hussein, their other Messiah), cannot produce such results. But I have enough data points that I’ve connected the dots, and there have been some humans who have. All 3% of them that is.

  107. Ymarsakar Says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial_of_Peter

    Peter, curiously was also the guy who cut the ear off one of the mob members who were looking to lynch or kick out Jesus from the city.

    Passionate, hot headed, young, reckless, all are human qualities. But denying his personal loyalty and oath of fealty to his teacher (in martial arts that would be Sensei or Sifu, or any number of other Asian titles) 3 times in public, was something else entirely.

    I often envision or work out how much of the US Constitution would be usable and true today, if all the Founding Fathers died, except Madison or pick any one really. It wouldn’t be much. A lot of people would be arguing.

    If the Catholic Church deems themselves true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ based on Peter as the Rock, they have misguided themselves and their successors. The Gospel, by God, does not come from a human disciple, certainly not with as many flaws as humans can expect.

    It is precisely because those with sins and flaws gravitated towards Jesus, that demonstrates the aura of Jesus. Just as many youth who lack self confidence gravitate towards a Sensei or Master, someone to teach them how to be people and men.

    If the Jewish authorities and Romans hadn’t killed so many of Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples, perhaps what we know of Christianity would be very different now. Then again, they weren’t the only ones getting rid of Christians, as I mentioned before the Catholic and Chalcedonian churches did their part in destroying Apocryphal scripture.

  108. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar:

    What on earth are you talking about? The “Jewish authorities” killed the disciples? No they didn’t.

  109. Tom G Says:

    YES to “peeping Thomist”! Tho when growing up (as Tom) I was more compared to the logical Thomas Aquinas, I often felt agnostically close to Thomas the Doubter.

    There’s a small 1969 book I read in college which helped me in reversion: A Rumor of Angels, by Peter Berger.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/40038514?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    Today I am more strongly anti-“anti-Christian”, where I see most post-Christian atheists and secularists. Often because of abortion.
    (Let’s not highjack this fine thread with such questions: Do the unborn fetal babies have souls? )

    The willingness of Christ to tolerate a Doubting Thomas is also somewhat reflected in the Western Civ idea of Free Speech.

    The historical progress of Western Civ owes most to Christianity, and was dependent upon it. All secular attempts to create moral societies without religious based morality have failed, and I claim will all fail.
    That’s the Truth which I believe, and to which I wish I could be as eloquent as Lewis, or Chesterton, or especially JRR Tolkien.

    With Lewis, in particular, in attempting to stem the tide of PC-BS, often spoke with reason in the binary choice so as to help push more “possible Christians” into becoming practicing (church-going?) Christians. Maximizing the success rate of generating new practicing Christians.

    Sort of like AA oriented anti-alcoholics have a 12 step program including faith, which maximizes the cure rate.

    Still, not for everybody.

  110. Gary Baker Says:

    Dear Neo,

    It may help in your understanding to perform a “substitution” experiment. Consider the following statement:

    Food is required to maintain life.

    If this statement is true, then food is of infinite importance for maintaining life. If the statement is false, then food is of no importance. The one thing food cannot be is moderately important.

    Now, it is possible to debate fine shades of meaning, but they amount to little. Whether you believe the statement or not is of no consequence. If you have no food or don’t eat, you will still die. If you are in a famine struck area and cannot get food, you may comfort others, continue loving, continue building until you give out, but you will still die. Those around you without food will die. No one will remember or care what you did. It will all be gone.

    Christianity is not a moral code or collection of precepts. Christianity was God’s way of telling us how we can attain life. All the rest that has been done here on earth, the art, music, good deeds, etc., are nice for us while we are here, but in the end they will just be dust (consult any archeologist on the subject). We may feel good about them at the time, others may appreciate them, but if that all fades when we’re gone, it doesn’t mean much. It means that we have something to feel good about ourselves. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems to be a pretty shallow existence.

    On the other hand, if Christianity is true, if we have that life, then we have the chance to participate in things that last forever. We can have fellowship with God who loves us forever. We can help to build a kingdom that lasts forever.

    You proceed from a mistaken belief when you say that other religions offer similar things. Some give the promise of continuing. Some give the promise of a “paradise,” but it is a paradise of their choosing, the images focused on what pleases them most. In Christianity, heaven is a paradise because it is spent in worship and fellowship with God. And unlike Islam, it offers certainty of that provision by God’s promise, not the words of a “prophet.”

    Perhaps this will clarify things. Perhaps not. Either way, I wish you well.

  111. Sergey Says:

    huxley: Of course, this does not follows. One of the most autoritative early Christian theologican and the most famous apologist, Tertullian, even formulated this in the most explicit terms: It is certain because it is impossible. (Credo quia absurdum.)
    Modern Christian prozelyters are obviously making not only logical, but a heretical mistake when they assert otherwise. This is one of cardinal blunders of Enlightenment: deification of human reason, while all early Christian theologists knew and asserted impossibility for humans to know the religious Truth by reason itself, without divine revelation and mere faith.

  112. Sergey Says:

    Neo’s dissatisfaction with Lewis apology of Christianity is based on the same mistake: she suppose that Lewis is making some logical case for his faith, and found his reasoning inconclusive. Yes, it is not, but Lewis does not attempt to make argument for unbelievers, he, of course, knew too well that this is not possible, so he address only to lukewarm believers.

  113. Chris Says:

    Lewis has a Hegelian apologetic approach. He takes an opponent’s viewpoint, and then posits an opposing viewpoint or value of the opponent, completely at odds with the opponent’s first view, and exposes the contradiction/tension in the opponent’s first viewpoint. Then he shows how his own view or Christian value avoids this problem. Again and again, he would take a popular view of the culture, in this case, that Christianity is a “good” cultural religion or that it’s important for the culture in general, and expose the problem with this view. So I think you may be missing his point. He is not saying that Christianity isn’t important, or good for culture or people in general. But he is saying that if that’s where you go, you’re missing the point. Christianity as a faith, although infinitely significant for the general culture, doesn’t allow you the option of making it about culture. There is something much more significant, individually, as well as, cosmically, at stake, that doesn’t allow us the option of making Christianity about culture or religion. It is the same argument he makes in his “liar, lunatic, Lord” apologetic in ‘Mere Christianity.’ Jesus (and Christianity) do not allow for the middle ground position. Jesus is either who he says he is, and Christianity is true in all it’s parts, and therefore, Christ makes claims over every square inch of my life, or it is one of the most delusional lies in history. But there is no middle ground that many in the broader culture, including many cultural Christians, wish to take as an option.

  114. Ymarsakar Says:

    What am I talking about, Neo?

    I’m talking about the story as it is according to the Bible.

    The Jewish authorities at the time, not only tried to get rid of Jesus and his disciples (followers, we’ll ignore for the moment the difference between Apostles and other rankings), but succeeded at times.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+5&version=NIV

    29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

    33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

    It is as if the Athenian assembly tried to vote on executing Socrates, but some guy convinced everybody else not to do that.

    Stephen Seized
    8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

    11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

    12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

    15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+6&version=NIV

    Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”

    2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’[a]

    4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’[b] 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

    9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

    11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

    17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’[c] 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.

    20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child.[d] For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

    23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

    27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’[e] 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

    30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’[f] Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

    33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’[g]

    35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.

    37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’[h] 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

    39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’[i] 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:

    “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
    forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
    43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
    and the star of your god Rephan,
    the idols you made to worship.
    Therefore I will send you into exile’[j] beyond Babylon.
    44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[k] 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.

    48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

    51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

    The Stoning of Stephen
    54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

    57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

    Saul happened to be the Saul/Paul conversion, it seemed.

    The problem with reading the histories lightly and counting only the Apostles of Jesus Christ as legitimate, is that isn’t how humans obtain truth from history. It requires a manifold list of primary and secondary sources, data points, cross referencing each other, to obtain accuracy and truth. Absent a direct line to the godhead. It’s far too easy to cherry pick some circumstances that a few people wrote about, to cater to human pride and power megalomania. None of that has changed with the human species over 2000 years, I would note.

    There is something much more significant, individually, as well as, cosmically, at stake, that doesn’t allow us the option of making Christianity about culture or religion.

    As the Apostles claimed, they obey God, not men. A religious hierarchy is just a bunch of humans, mostly men, in charge. A culture or a government is again, a bunch of humans telling other humans what to do. When a person seeks to serve Jesus Christ as their liege lord and through him, the Divine God and creator, then they have a problem of serving two masters if they also think they are obedient to a culture or religious hierarchy.

    The Jews 2000 years ago, had many complaints about the same topic, hence when Jesus advised them to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (gold, wealth, social status) and give unto God what is God’s.

  115. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar:

    According to the link I provided, eleven of the twelve disciples were killed. But only one involves a Biblical account in the New Testament that involves any killing by Jews.

    That was my point. Your statement was “If the Jewish authorities and Romans hadn’t killed so many of Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples…”

    Why single out the Jews? Why not all the others who killed the disciples, in other parts of the world?

    Because the New Testament is full of anti-Jewish sentiment. Riddled with it. The early followers of Jesus originally thought the Jews would be receptive to Jesus’ message and although some were, many were not, and had reason to give them a bad press in the New Testament.

    If you believe that every word of the New Testament was dictated to the writers of it by the deity (or was at the very least divinely inspired), then of course you believe everything in it. If you don’t (and I don’t) you look on it as a document that has some historical truth and some historical falsehood, and that was written by people for their own purposes.

    But either way, it’s only Stephen of the disciples who was supposedly killed by Jews.

  116. Gary Baker Says:

    Neo,

    Given your statement that the New Testament “was written by people for their own purposes,” that explains your difficulty in understanding Lewis in this case. Since you have already decided that Christianity is false, it can have no more value than you are willing to assign it. However, your decision in no way affects the truth or falsity of the statement, or negates the consequences if true.

  117. Gary Baker Says:

    Neo,

    BTW – Did you try my “Substitution experiment?”

  118. Nick Says:

    Of course, the New Testament sounds like flattery to the Jews compared to the Book of Amos. But if you accept Amos as G-d’s word, it’s easier to take. If you accept the NT in the same way, it seems very much like the OT in its condemnation of religious hypocrisy and laziness. Sure, the world would be better off if there had been a pivotal book condemning the ancient Irish and the Koreans of 2600 years ago. Everyone merits scrutiny. The fact that this text, the Bible, runs through Western civilization means that we have hard documentation of the most important successes and failures in Jewish religious history.

  119. neo-neocon Says:

    Gary Baker:

    I read your comment, but the analogy doesn’t work for me.

    You write:

    Food is required to maintain life.

    If this statement is true, then food is of infinite importance for maintaining life. If the statement is false, then food is of no importance. The one thing food cannot be is moderately important…

    On the other hand, if Christianity is true, if we have that life, then we have the chance to participate in things that last forever. We can have fellowship with God who loves us forever. We can help to build a kingdom that lasts forever.

    You proceed from a mistaken belief when you say that other religions offer similar things…

    Read my post again. I write:

    To the believer in Christianity or in any other religion that posits an afterlife, particularly an eternal afterlife, of course that religion (be it Christianity or any other such religion) is of “infinite importance.”

    I don’t quarrel with that—although it also depends whether the religion is one which also posits that it is the only path, the only way, to an eternal afterlife.

    So I made it clear that, to the Christian believer, I understand the “infinite importance” part. My disagreement was with Lewis’s saying Christianity either must have infinite importance or no importance, but never moderate importance. I was saying that even to the unbeliever, or even if untrue, it still has at least “moderate importance.”

    Your argument and Lewis’ come from the stance of a Christian believer.

    As for the food analogy, the fact that we need food is a physiological fact not subject to debate. Christianity (and religion in general) is quite different—very open to belief and debate. Now, of course, whether a certain religion (in this case Christianity) is in fact true or not is not a matter of debate (although we all can debate about it), it either is or isn’t. But the truth of Christianity is not something universally known on this earth among living people, so the analogy breaks down in terms of the people it’s addressed to: living people on earth making decisions about their lives, and perhaps confused about what is true and what is not.

    And by the way, I have no idea why you state that the heaven of all other religions “is a paradise of [people’s own] choosing, the images focused on what pleases them most.”

    The paradises of different religions are described in different ways to Christianity and sometimes in ways that are similar, but most religions that do believe in an afterlife have one that isn’t just “whatever you want it to be.”

    I do agree with many of the commenters here who say that Lewis seems to be addressing people who are already Christian believers and urging them to regard Christianity in a certain way, and very seriously rather than superficially.

  120. Gary Baker Says:

    “Your argument and Lewis’ come from the stance of a Christian believer.”

    I can’t speak for Lewis, but my argument is not made from the stance of a Christian believer, but from the stance of history. History tells us that there were people who did things of great or moderate importance in the past, but in the end, they are dust. What small good they did was lost with their civilizations. And while some things from the past, wisdom or art or whatever we value of the past now lingers, eventually it too will be dust. Life as we know it is finite. Civilizations are finite. Even the world, our solar system will end, quite possibly with no one living elsewhere in the universe to know or remember.

    As for my food analogy, I believe that you missed the point: I was not asserting the truth of Christianity, or even that we need food, for that matter. I used food because it was a common thought, but posit anything unknown. If it is true, it reflects reality and has value. Whether you agree with it or not, you are still subject to the consequences of acting as you do or do not believe it. If it is not true, you may assign it value. You may even see a benefit of convincing others, but it has no power to affect people other than what they give it.

    You seem to believe that Christianity has value because of its affect in the earthly realm. While it has contributed greatly to what we consider good, that was never God’s major intent or purpose. His purpose was to bring others to fellowship with Him. If Christianity were not true, then I daresay it would have had no greater impact for good than Islam or philosophy or other things contrived by man. Not that many things not related to Christianity do not achieve temporal goods, but history shows they tend to crumble eventually.

    I stand by my statement that the other afterlives are “what people want them to be,” however I freely admit that is from a believer’s standpoint. You see, most religions are based on the idea that you choose to pursue it. Muslims choose Islam in the hope that Allah will notice them, though there are few cases it is guaranteed. People choose East Indian religions where there is no creator at all, choosing a path they believe will merge them with… something. Christianity is based on the principle that God called first to us. He chose. Our choice is whether or not to submit.

  121. Bill Says:

    A post on C.S. Lewis – thank you Neo! I haven’t read all the responses, but a few toward the top echoed my thoughts so I won’t necessarily weigh in. But he is one of my literary heroes and I love that you got some conversation going regarding good ol’ Jack.

  122. brdavis9 Says:

    @neoneocon Because the New Testament is full of anti-Jewish sentiment. Riddled with it.

    Uh.

    I commend to you this Google search “how many new testament verses are anti-Semitic”.

    (Just a reading of the first page of references in the search shows the complexity and divergence of opinion on the subject of NT anti-Semitism …some of it rather compelling on both side of the issue.)

    The subject of anti-Semitism in the NT is far more complex (and dare I say “riddled with the political”) than your blanket condemnation that “…the New Testament is full of anti-Jewish sentiment. Riddled with it” consigns it to be.

    Quite, quite unhelpful.

    Just sayin’.

    JIC: I’m specifically not saying that certain verses of the NT haven’t been used to justify and exploit anti-Semitism (they most assuredly have), nor am I denying that Christendom hasn’t been “riddled” with anti-Semites both individual and corporate (again: it most assuredly has).

    But a blanket assertion of the NT being riddled with anti-Semitism “as factual statement” is far too broad and ultimately simplistic even for non-believers. Not worthy of your usual depth.

  123. Ann Says:

    Interesting article here on the origins of Christian anti-Semitism which says that the most virulent anti-Semitism in the New Testament is in the Gospel of John and in one of Paul’s letters, and that overall the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke emphasize Jesus as a messenger of God to the Jews and as a member of the Jewish people.

    Unfortunately, John Chrysostom, “one of the best-known [and influential] church fathers, is one of the most anti-Jewish” and he took what was there and ran with it, combining “horrific Christian anti-Jewish elements derived from the New Testament with originally pagan ones”.

  124. messianicdruid Says:

    The thing about antisemitism is it has been turned into a club to be used to beat down anyone ( even s[h]emites ) that have any beef with zionism.

    The communication is always corrupted by a word with far too many definitions.

  125. Chris Says:

    “But either way, it’s only Stephen of the disciples who was supposedly killed by Jews”

    Cool to see civilized posts on such divisive issues. Great stuff.

    Concerning the statement above, I’m not sure, but I think that’s accurate, but a pretty good case can be made that the apostle Paul, a converted Jew, who once lead the persecution of the church himself, including Stephen’s death and possibly the deaths of many more, gives a very balanced but devastating historical critique, of the Jewish/Judaizers’ long-running persecution of the church. He is equally critical and emotional in his epistles, towards Christians who fall into the error of Judaizing the faith, while being committed to loving them in spite of their harsh treatment towards him personally, as well as, towards the church. His past involvement in persecuting the church, and his ongoing love for the Jewish people he still identified with on many levels, makes it difficult to accuse Paul of anti-semitism. I think this is why his critique historically has held so much influence on this subject of the Jewish/Judaizers’ persecution of the church, because Paul sees himself as no better than those who are persecuting him/Christ/the church, and yet he records what he sees, and strongly, simultaneously condemns those who from a Jewish/Judaizer theology, are persecuting the church. This is really astonishing to me. Quite a paradox is Paul.

  126. Ymarsakar Says:

    This reaction is generally why from my experience, the members of Judaism, although not necessarily the ones in the State of Israel, are the ones with the most anti-Christ beliefs and sentiments. And by that I mean it’s similar to the ancestor hatred Southerners passed down generation after generation concerning Lincoln (they call him the Tyrant), the War of Northern Aggression (because the North started it), and Sherman (they call him names too).

    To Southern dynasties, it is personal. Although why Jews, often secular as well as religious, have the same personal beef against Jesus Christ (the actual person, not just Christian religious claptrap or the Pope), is a different pov.

  127. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar:

    I have no idea where you get your information, but most Jews are indifferent to Jesus.

  128. Ymarsakar Says:

    If you believe that every word of the New Testament was dictated to the writers of it by the deity (or was at the very least divinely inspired), then of course you believe everything in it.

    There are some Christians, fundamentalists or so, who believe like that, but I have a different pov.

    I believe in getting to the source, which is the Holy Spirit and the direct connection to the godhead. I am less interested in learning about things from other humans, because other humans are stupid, fallen, and corrupt. That’s not going to change any time soon.

    Peter denied Christ, his mentor teacher authority figure, three times in public, probably because Peter, from Galilee as was the same of Jesus of Nazareth, was ashamed or afraid of being associated with a guy the Romans just took away for execution.

    The reason why it is 3 times is because once is happenstance/joke, twice could be a mistake, three times is what ancient husbands say to divorce their wives.

    That is the Peter, the Catholics later called a “rock” of the Church. How did this fallen human that was reckless and so afraid, get to be a rock? By the Holy Spirit and the divine light of Jesus/God, whatever people interpret it as.

    It wasn’t just some human reading a self help book, learning from Marxism, and then “enlightening” himself via reason or self improvement.

    So the truth of divine level entities is only partially contained in the gospels and testimonies of Jesus of Nazareth’s 12 Apostles (well, one did replace Judas, although technically Judas’ spot is left empty: hence the 13th seat or unlucky number).

    To get to the truth of the Bible or anything really, one must get closer to the Holy Spirit/Ghost, spoken of in the New Testament but also seen in other sources as well unrelated to Christianity.

    Interpreting the Bible, even if correct, only leads to understanding human truths, since humans wrote the Bible, even if they were inspired by God, that doesn’t mean we get the full transference.

    What is important is the personal connection to the godhead, and not in a vague New Age sense of spiritualism. I mean in the sense that Socrates or Jean De Arc had a personal connection to the divine. You receive instructions from it, and you are told what is or isn’t truth, and are directly educated through the spirit. Human knowledge is used, but mostly as a foundation, not as the primary building material.

    By doing it that way, a human can known for certain that what they got wasn’t human knowledge. There is no mistranslation, there is no misunderstanding, there is no contention.

    The reason why I used the Bible to thwart the National G interpretation is because… the National G interpretation came from the Bible. Thus the Bible has greater authority and is closer to a first person account. It’s just basic scholarship.

  129. Ymarsakar Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    October 9th, 2016 at 12:26 am
    Ymarsakar:

    I have no idea where you get your information, but most Jews are indifferent to Jesus.

    The fact that you directly labeled the New Testament as anti semitic, directly contradicts that claim.

    Jews are not “indifferent” to even the claim of anti semitism, even though they only use it the way the German Nazis used it against Jews that weren’t part of Judaism.

    My information as always, comes from the source, directly communicating with secular Jews and Jews under Judaism, although I never asked them if that was Reform Judaism or Orthodox Judaism, and it does matter if they live in Israel or not.

  130. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar:

    First of all (and it’s only first of all), I have never identified myself as a member of any religion.

    Nor, if I am indeed Jewish, would what I say stand for all Jews, the majority of Jews, or anyone except myself. One person.

    Nor do the Jews you know stand for the majority of Jews, or many Jews.

    Nor does saying the New Testament has a lot of anti-Semitism in it have anything to do with Jesus, or my opinion of Jesus, to whom I have no antipathy whatsoever and who is not the least bit responsible for the anti-Semitism I see in the New Testament.

    I see the New Testament as a historical document written by a number of people, some of whom were very angry at the Jews for not following Jesus. Some also wanted to appeal to the Romans and absolve them of guilt because they hoped that Christianity would find more fertile ground among them. There is a host of discussion back and forth, pro and con, about these and many other theories about parts of the New Testament, why they were written, when they were written, why only certain gospels contain certain accounts, etc. etc. etc., much too complex to go into here—see this, this, this, and lots more.

    I am fairly sure you are familiar with such arguments and don’t accept them. You appear (at least from my reading of what you’ve written here) to accept the gospel as—well—gospel on the issue. I don’t know whether that’s because you’re a believing Christian or for some other reason, but I am not and do not, so we disagree on that.

    Jews are indifferent to Jesus for the most part, and most regard him as an important man of some wisdom but not the Messiah. That is what I mean by indifference; he is just not that important as a figure, but there is no reason to dislike him (although I’m sure some Jews do, just as some ex-Christians do and some people all around the world do).

    You write:

    “Jews are not ‘indifferent’ to even the claim of anti semitism, even though they only use it the way the German Nazis used it against Jews that weren’t part of Judaism.”

    I have no idea what that sentence means. I don’t have time to go on and on with this discussion, either. So I’ll just briefly say I have no idea why you would think a Jew should be indifferent to a claim of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has harmed Jews for many centuries, and continues to do so. Of course Jews are not indifferent to it. But that has little or nothing to do with Jesus himself, who was certainly no anti-Semite.

    The last part of your sentence “…only use it the way the German Nazis used it against Jews that weren’t part of Judaism” has no meaning to me.

    As I said, I don’t have time to continue this discussion. We seem to be speaking at complete cross-purposes. Perhaps we define terms differently and that’s part of it.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
Read More >>






Monthly Archives



Blogroll

Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge