Tuesday, October 09, 2007

C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity

I am currently reading C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. I have to say. It's gold. I don't agree with all of his arguments for believing Christianity, but the way that he describes Christianity fits together rationally and logically. I love it.

Here are some of his thoughts on science:
You cannot find out which view is the right one by science in the ordinary sense. Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like "I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2.20am on January 15th and saw so-and-so," or, "I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such and such a temperature and it did so-and-so." Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what I believe it's job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science - and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes - something of a different kind - this is not a scientific question. If there is something behind, either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men, or make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements which science can make... Suppose science became so complete that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not clear that the questions, "Why is there a universe?", "Why does it go on as it does?", and "Has it any meaning?" would remain just as they were?
Or his view of God, which is something quite terrifying and awesome. He is unapologetic about this, saying:
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over this pre-war wishful thinking about politics. It is time we did the same with religion.
And I particularly liked how he talks about the problems in the world. I have seen New-Agers actually say this. I found that view quite inhumane and disturbing.
Confronted with a cancer or a slum, a Pantheist can say, "If you could only see it from a divine point of view, you would realize that this was also God." The Christian replies, "Don't talk damned nonsense."
He then goes on to argue, convincingly for me, that
Evil is a parasite, not an original thing.
So why did God let there be evil in the world? Why allow us free will if he knew it would end in bad things? Lewis says,
Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also that thing which makes possible any love, or goodness, or joy worth having. A world of automata - of creatures which worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating.
Provoking stuff. Even more so when he gets on the topic of Jesus! Then things really get good. I think a lot of people have read this already - that Jesus was either mad or the son of God. He cannot simply have been a virtuous teacher.

But getting back to the topic that I've been wondering about in this blog. He writes about revelation:
In other words, I believe it on His authority. Do not be scared of the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the solar system, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of blood on authority. None of us have seen the Norman conquest, or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you would prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.
I'm only halfway through. I've been reading classics, both from China and from the West recently and none have excited me as much as reading this book!

1 comment:

Canada said...

This is one of the best books on the Christian faith that I have read. In fact, I would propose Mere Christianity to anyone who may be "on the fence" about becoming a Christian or whether not to leave the Christian faith. C.S. Lewis had the rare ability to appeal to the spirit, heart and intellect alike with an equal power of persuasion.