C.S. Lewis's book Mere Christianity


#1

I’m reading it… not done with it yet. I was planning on reading it in an evening–it was short and a fairly easy read. But, no.

It’s a book where you read a chapter, think for a half hour, reread the chapter, think some more, read it again…

But Lewis’s logical arguments for Christianity are good, but they have their fallacies. Or, it seems. I’m only 16.

Some of you are probably familiar with the “Jesus can’t be a good man” argument: He claimed he was God, which is either insanity or excessive pride.

Using this argument only… if Jesus was just a good man, he would not be a perfect man, and therefore would have to sin every now and then, and be subject to the pride that comes with original sin.

Or am I not understanding Lewis entirely?


#2

I think Lewis’s point was that Jesus wasn’t just a good man. Either he was God, a liar, or a lunatic. If he told the truth, he was God. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good man, but it means he couldn’t be just a good man, because no merely good man would claim to be God if he wasn’t. Lewis’s point wasn’t that Jesus wasn’t perfect; rather, it was that if Jesus was indeed a good man, he had to also be God.

I hope this helps; I’m not sure if I understood your question correctly.


#3

[quote=cardenio]Some of you are probably familiar with the “Jesus can’t be a good man” argument: He claimed he was God, which is either insanity or excessive pride.

Using this argument only… if Jesus was just a good man, he would not be a perfect man, and therefore would have to sin every now and then, and be subject to the pride that comes with original sin.

Or am I not understanding Lewis entirely?
[/quote]

cardenio,

The gist of the “not just a good man” argument is that to say that Jesus was a virtuous man who was not God is logically inconsistent. He claimed to be God; either He was right or He was wrong. If He was right, then He is indeed God. If He was wrong, then either He was sincere (in which case He was insane) or He was not sincere (in which case He was thoroughly evil to mislead people like that on purpose). About the only description of Jesus that does not hold water at all is that He was just a good man.

The argument that Jesus was insane does not stand up very well either because of the other things He said. Winning on-the-spot arguments with Pharisees and Sadducees, confounding the scribes in the Temple, and coming up with parables like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are not the hallmarks of a lunatic.

  • Liberian

#4

Hello All,

I’ve been reading Mere Christianity for several weeks now. It seems that I would read a few sentences, pause, and spend a few minutes pondering all sorts of things related to what I read. It is an absolute classic. Every Catholic Christian should read it! :thumbsup:


#5

Peace be with you!

I need to read this book, but I haven’t gotten a chance yet. I’m reading The Screwtape Letters right now, and I highly highly recommend that to all Christians of every denomination. It’s great!

In Christ,
Rand


#6

C.S. Lewis is my hero. I returned to Christianity because of Mere Christianity.
Lewis was very close to Catholicism, but if I recall correctlly, people speculate that he had been raised in such an anti-Catholic time and place that he couldn’t make the switch.

Peter Kreeft is a writer who is very much like Lewis, and is Catholic. I enjoy him too, especially Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Heaven.


#7

I’ve read a great many of C.S. Lewis’ books and can’t think of one that would be a problem for Catholics. Can you imagine if this guy had hung out with Bishop Sheen? WOW! :eek:

Lewis was very close friends with J.R.R. Tolkein & I read somewhere that it was our dear Catholic author that encouraged Lewis to find his faith in Christ.

Other excellent books by him are “Surprised By Joy” (and yes, it did inspire the titles to the Catholic “Surpised By Truth” series according to Patrick Madrid) “The Great Divorce” and “The Problem of Pain”. Lewis said that “Screwtape Letters” was the hardest for him to write because he had to really attempt to put himself in a diabolic frame of mind to think like a demon.

His Christian children’s stories, “The Chronicles of Narnia” is one that everyone who loves good books should read and pass on to ther kids. This is one that you can read your kids to sleep with.

Lewis also wrote a FANTASTIC Christian science fiction trilogy that consists of the titles, “Out of the Silent Planet”, “Perelandra” and “That Hideous Strength”. I have to replace my set of both Narnia and the Scifi… they were loaned out and never came home.

His analogy of Jesus in “Mere Christianity” certainly fails at some point as do all such relative to God & His works, but in the end one is forced to consider that either Jesus is who and what He claimed to be, or some sort of whacko diabolical deceiver. I’ll go with the former. As Larry Norman used to sing in his song “the Outlaw”, “That’s who I believe He is 'cos that’s who I believe”.
Pax vobiscum,


#8

No, no, I mean… If Jesus was just a human, he would be entitled to sin. Maybe entitled is the wrong word…

If I went around telling everybody “Hey, be nice, and by the way, I’m God,” you can separate it. Listen to me when I tell you to be nice, don’t listen when I say I’m God. No great teacher is perfect as long as he is only human. MLK, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, they probably all said some things that people disagree with. When you look up to a saint, you don’t say “I want to be like [name of saint] entirely, faults and all,” you say “I admire [name of saint]'s good qualities and want to attain them.” Nobody is entirely consistant in his teachings. Why, then, if Jesus is just a good man, should we expect him to be consistant?

The idea that Jesus would be perfectly consistant is deifying him. See–

“Jesus was inconsistant, therefore he was a lunatic” doesn’t make any sense. No just-man has a complete idea of everything, and his philosophy and teachings should evolve and grow as this just-man’s understanding grows.

Maybe a just-man Jesus could have thought “I’ll tell people to be nice and maybe if I can get a following, they’ll think I’m God, and haha power power power!!!”


#9

If you went around saying be nice, hey I’m God, then you’re either God, insane, or a liar. Nice people don’t claim to be God!!

Inconsistant and therefore a lunatic makes perfect sense. If He is inconsistant, then he can’t be God, so there has to be some other option!

Hope this helped some.


#10

[quote=cardenio]No, no, I mean… If Jesus was just a human, he would be entitled to sin. Maybe entitled is the wrong word…

If I went around telling everybody “Hey, be nice, and by the way, I’m God,” you can separate it. Listen to me when I tell you to be nice, don’t listen when I say I’m God. No great teacher is perfect as long as he is only human. MLK, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, they probably all said some things that people disagree with. When you look up to a saint, you don’t say “I want to be like [name of saint] entirely, faults and all,” you say “I admire [name of saint]'s good qualities and want to attain them.” Nobody is entirely consistant in his teachings. Why, then, if Jesus is just a good man, should we expect him to be consistant?

The idea that Jesus would be perfectly consistant is deifying him. See–

“Jesus was inconsistant, therefore he was a lunatic” doesn’t make any sense. No just-man has a complete idea of everything, and his philosophy and teachings should evolve and grow as this just-man’s understanding grows.

Maybe a just-man Jesus could have thought “I’ll tell people to be nice and maybe if I can get a following, they’ll think I’m God, and haha power power power!!!”
[/quote]

You kind of answer you’re own question there…the point is Jesus IS God therefore He is not just-man…and scripture shows his consistency - the very consistency you claim no just-man would be capable of - as proof of His Truthfulness.

C.S. Lewis, by raising the point the way he does, gets the reader to reach the appropriate conclusion. There’s no real way around it.


#11

Jesus said He is God. What you need to remember He backed it up with deeds.


#12

Maybe a just-man Jesus could have thought “I’ll tell people to be nice and maybe if I can get a following, they’ll think I’m God, and haha power power power!!!”

My point is… is the above not a normal human way to think?


#13

[quote=cardenio]Maybe a just-man Jesus could have thought "I’ll tell people to be nice and maybe if I can get a following, they’ll think I’m God, and haha power power power!!!"My point is… is the above not a normal human way to think?
[/quote]

What do you mean when you call that “normal human”? Lewis says that Jesus must be one of the following four things:

  1. Good-sane-man-but-not-God. This is the position that Lewis says is impossible.
  2. Insane - Really thinks he is God, but isn’t.
  3. Wicked Liar - Someone deliberately deceiving people into thinking he is God in order to accomplish whatever purpose he has.
  4. God.

If by “normal human” you mean options 1 through 3, then yes, it is a normal human way to think. I put it in category 3.

Your examples of Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and MLK had their human imperfections, but presumably they still qualify for category 1. They didn’t claim to be gods. If I remember correctly, Lewis’ point is that Jesus’ claims about himself and the way of salvation are so monumental that they cannot be written off as the minor flaw of an otherwise good man. The claims and their ramifications are so big that they utterly disqualify him from category 1, so he’s either nuts, evil, or God.

–Bill


#14

Lewis’ point is that Jesus’ claims about himself and the way of salvation are so monumental that they cannot be written off as the minor flaw of an otherwise good man.

Mot Juste - Now it makes sense. Thank you.


#15

[quote=cardenio]I’m reading it… not done with it yet. I was planning on reading it in an evening–it was short and a fairly easy read. But, no.

It’s a book where you read a chapter, think for a half hour, reread the chapter, think some more, read it again…
?
[/quote]

good for you, only 16 and you have already learned the secret of how to read spiritual books, thanks for giving us the reminder, this is exactly what is supposed to happen with this kind of reading.


#16

Mere Christianity is a great book (though I can never get into Lewis’s writing style be it fiction or non-fiction).

My half-uncle once gave a copy to my grandad in the hopes that reading it would help bring him to Jesus. However, this was my grandad - rational, sceptical, devoutly atheist. A few weeks later he returned the book with a long typed report on Lewis’s arguments and how to answer them. That sums up my grandad.

I got sick of the lord/liar/lunatic argument at college. The Christian Union there had a different visiting speaker each week. For the course of an entire term, every speaker would without fail make this argument. And every speaker would include the same quotation from this book, the one about being a madman on the scale of someone who thinks he is a poached egg.

Yes, it is a much loved book by preachers!


#17

As usual in arguments like this one (Pascal’s Wager is another good example), other possibilies are willfully omitted. So the “either” is unjustified.

Out of my head I can think of 4 other scenarios:

  • Jesus never said, he was God, the gospel-writers put it in his mouth.
  • Jesus meant that metaphorically and the gospel-writers misunderstood him. He did speak in parables after all.
  • Jesus said something different, but the gospel-writers were lost in translation.
  • Jesus never existed, the gospel-writers made the whole story up.

That argument is only a good argument, if you already believe a great deal of the NT, or better to say, you already are a Christian. But then, you don’t need the argument…


#18

[quote=AnAtheist]As usual in arguments like this one (Pascal’s Wager is another good example), other possibilies are willfully omitted. So the “either” is unjustified.

Out of my head I can think of 4 other scenarios:

  • Jesus never said, he was God, the gospel-writers put it in his mouth.
  • Jesus meant that metaphorically and the gospel-writers misunderstood him. He did speak in parables after all.
  • Jesus said something different, but the gospel-writers were lost in translation.
  • Jesus never existed, the gospel-writers made the whole story up.

That argument is only a good argument, if you already believe a great deal of the NT, or better to say, you already are a Christian. But then, you don’t need the argument…
[/quote]

Anathiest…you forgot…the gospels coincide with each other, each writer saying in his own words his experience with events that happened while Christ was on Earth…so you would have to have Mathew, Mark, Luke and John sitting down together and plotting to deceive their religion (devout Jews), or misunderstanding simultaneously what Jesus said, or facing death for Heresy in effect for nothing…What would they gain?


#19

[quote=Lillith]so you would have to have Mathew, Mark, Luke and John sitting down together and plotting to deceive their religion (devout Jews), or misunderstanding simultaneously what Jesus said, or facing death for Heresy in effect for nothing…What would they gain?
[/quote]

Facing death for heresy? :rotfl:
Heresy was not a crime in the Roman Empire, noone was put to death by the Romans for having a diffierent religion. And the Jews were not allowed to hand out death sentences.
One did not face death for heresy in the Empire until the Christians took over.


#20

[quote=AnAtheist]As usual in arguments like this one (Pascal’s Wager is another good example), other possibilies are willfully omitted. So the “either” is unjustified.

Out of my head I can think of 4 other scenarios:

  • Jesus never said, he was God, the gospel-writers put it in his mouth…
    [/quote]

Glad to hear you were there to take down every word. You really don’t know what Jesus said or didn’t say so that argument falls flat.

[quote=AnAtheist]- Jesus meant that metaphorically and the gospel-writers misunderstood him. He did speak in parables after all.

  • Jesus said something different, but the gospel-writers were lost in translation…
    [/quote]

There were too many separate sources that came to the same conclusions to imagine all of them came to the same conclusion out of thin air. Further as several have noted, he backed up words with deeds. Not every street preacher was bringing people back from death.

[quote=AnAtheist]- Jesus never existed, the gospel-writers made the whole story up…
[/quote]

Actually a number of sources indicate that Jesus was not ‘made up’ including the respected historian Josephus. I also think it’s hard to believe that a made up figure would have the kind of influence Jesus had some 2000+ years after his ministry.

[quote=AnAtheist]That argument is only a good argument, if you already believe a great deal of the NT, or better to say, you already are a Christian. But then, you don’t need the argument…
[/quote]

Actually I used to be “an atheist” One of the better apologetics IMO is the series by Lee Stroebel. He was agnostic at best and by trying to disprove Christ, became a believer.

Sorry for the thread hijacking!

FWIW there is a GREAT book about the friendship of Lewis and Tolkein that I read over the weekend. It’s not a ‘spiritual’ book but is very helpful in understanding both of these two great men.

Lisa N


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