Skip to comments.C.S. Lewis: The one thing Jesus is not -
Posted on 12/16/2005 11:31:42 AM PST by UnklGene
God sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. He also selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.
Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other mens toes and stealing other mens money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned; the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.
Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is humble and meek and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: Im ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I dont accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
This is an extract from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It is reprinted with permission from C.S. Lewis Pte Ltd (CSL). All rights reserved. CSL has not otherwise approved the content of this publication or the views expressed herein and assumes no responsibility or liability for such content or views.
Run away or toward the hissing sound.
My favorite book on Christianity (other than the Bible). I re-read it at least once a year and never fail to gain new insight.
"Mere Christianity" is one of the greatest apologetics for Christianity there is. When I was first coming to know Jesus several years ago, my wife (girlfriend back then) gave me "Mere Christianity" to read. I was blown away. Lewis has a relentless, steady, plodding, hammering way of making his points, and it leaves them irrefutable.
One of my favorite authors, and one of my favorite passages. TKS for posting!
Someone should send this passage to Bill O'Reilly. He's always talking about how he regards Jesus as "a great philosopher", and how Christmas, the federal holiday, is meant to commemorate Jesus, "the great philosopher". Sorry Bill....
I recommend The Great Divorce.
Thanks for sharing this; I get the feeling I'd really enjoy the book.
Another great one!
I reccomend it wholeheartedly.
A great Christmas present for yourself and your family.
Whoa--Hideous Strength fan here! I usually always carry a copy in my book bag, just to dip into once in a while. It has become an uncanny prophecy of the kinds of things that eventually began to happen during the 50-60 years after he Lewis wrote the novel.
But I'll agree it's hard to get into. In some ways, it's unlike other stuff that Lewis wrote.
I read somewhere that Out of the Silent Planet has been optioned for movies and the screenplay already being written. Can't wait till Perelandra appears on screen, though the nudity might cause a film-rating war.
I love the book, and it it very dear to me...
However, to me, the "lord, lier, or lunatic" argument was among the weakest.
I have little problem with one person being nuts in one are, yet having great insights into another..
But, the book provided such a barrage of good arguments so that even if one round misses, others are bound to hit the mark.
And, apparently, the above excerpt for many was indeed powerful. And that is a great thing...
The Lincoln - Douglas debates debates went on for hours. Ever read them? Talk about thick and complex. This is, people understood them.
I don't know Screwtape Letters are pretty amusing as well.
I don't know what the percentages are of Catholics being "born again" but I doubt it is very high.
This was one of my favorite passages in Mere Christianity. The concept that you had to agree that Jesus was God or that he was a nutter had a great impact on me. I chose the former.
"God sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men."
Uh-uh. God didn't send those notions of false gods.
What point are you trying to make? If you're a practicing Catholic, you believe Jesus is Lord and he died for your sins. And you say a prayer repenting your sins every week at Mass (The Confitior). If you don't believe that, you're not really a Catholic. These things seem to be very close to what happens when many born-again Christians are born again (seems to be similar to what happened at the last Billy Graham Crusade I saw). So if that's the definition of born again that you accept, then all practicing Catholics are "born again."
If I understand the tale correctly, the main characture in Hidious Strenght is Tolkein himself (Name changed of course). Lewis and Tolkien had a deal, one would write a Sci-Fi and the other a Ghost story, and find which would be more popular. Tolkien's ghost story lost, but, it did have Lewis as the protagonist (name changed of course)
I've been thinking about Lewis much lately, I think I'll re-read those two.
"Born Again" means that one states to himself and God that he accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Hoards of "Christians" have not done this. I know many Catholics and Protestants that have never done this. You wonder how I know, I asked them.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman is an excellent lamentation on this phenomenon.
It has been one of the most influential books on my life.
Good idea. Who knows, it may even work.
We've all been baptized, so we've all been "born again of water and the spirit."
Don't forget the Great Commission either: "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of..."
No doubt about it. Postman just nails it. A book that every consumer of the media should read. It's what, 30 years or more old? But, more relevent today than ever
Here we go!
I remember the feeling of blunt force trauma when I read these words the first time. The man is right and I was a fool.
Ransom is a linguist, and I could see other similarities to Tolkein as well.
I love the character, but I thought he was better in the first two.
HHMmmmmmm, where are you going?
Better tell George Bush too. Didn't he answer in a debate that Christ was his most admired philosopher.
Better tell George Bush too. Didn't he answer in a debate that Christ was his most admired philosopher.
We are born again at every Mass!
Except for one being a "great philosopher" is just the beginning while for the other it is the end.
I think GWB should have said, without flinching:
"Wittgenstein. Definitely Wittgenstein."
And then wait to see what the journalist would offer as a follow up.
My personal favorite
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
This tale of two princesses - one beautiful and one unattractive - and of the struggle between sacred and profane love is Lewiss reworking of the myth of Cupid and Psyche and one of his most enduring works.
I don't think the ability to compartmentalize is what Lewis meant there. He is not arguing that Christ, if only a man, could not have been inconsistent.
He is arguing against the rather common and condescending notion that Christ was a great, humble, moral teacher. He argues that Christ purposefully took this off the table as an option. His teachings were not humble (as in John 8:58, my favorite verse in all of scripture where Christ states that "before Abraham was, I AM!"), and if you listen to his words and believe that he was not the Son of God, you must decide whether He was a liar, or a nutjob. You cannot call yourself the Son of God, "I AM", and claim to exert the authority that Christ did, and be a good teacher, if you are not God.
Your counter-argument is logical, but Christ's positions and His rationale for the Authority to hold them are not easily seperated in the record. To do so, to strip away his divinity and look only at his more universally accepted moral teachings, He then MIGHT be a moral teacher, but I would argue, not a "great" one.
I think Josh McDowell expanded on this in "More Than a Carpenter", another must read for introductory Apologetics. My favorite author in Apologetics is a tie between Lewis and Norman Geisler. Geisler is more theologically learned, but Lewis far more poetic.
If this thread develops according to pattern, down a wore out road. The "born again" thing has been argued to death many times.
Lewis was a true voice calling out to 20th century Christianity. He is my hero.