Here is my review of Chapter 3, “The Shocking Alternative,” in the second book of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:
Lewis begins by stating that God had to make it possible for people to sin in order for this to be the best possible world. He uses the example that “It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, ‘I’m not going to go and and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.'” I have to say this is a silly example. As a kid, if my mo hadn’t made me clean my room I would have been happy to leave it messy all the time. I wouldn’t have learned anything about being neat were I never told that I should clean up. That’s part of growing up: you adopt the lessons that your parents take the time to teach you, not the ones that they ignore. I have cats. They like to climb onto our desks, but we don’t want them on our desks lest they knock something off and break it. So we teach them to stay off our desks by putting them on the floor every time they climb onto them. We don’t take them off every second time, or most of the time, we take them off every time? Why? Because we want them to associate climbing onto the desks with being taken off and put on the ground. If we aren’t consistent, then they won’t make the connection. Humans are the same: we learn by consistency. If parents aren’t consistent, their children won’t learn the lessons they are trying to teach. As far as consistency is concerned, God sucks at it.
Lewis continues his argument by stating that “The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.” I’d like to know where Lewis is getting this from. God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This means that God didn’t want people to know the difference between good and evil. Not only that, but God says in the Bible that people will be punished for not believing in him and disobeying him. This is not freedom. If anything, the Bible suggests that freewill is a trap: if we choose to go against God we suffer an eternity of torture, so our only real option is to follow him. Where does this idea of happiness come from? Where is the voluntary aspect? And where is the morality?
Lewis then discusses the idea of people disagreeing with, or going against, God. He argues about God that “He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than it’s own source.” Where is the evidence? Where is the evidence that God exists? Where is the evidence that reasoning comes from God? And where is the evidence that God can’t be wrong? We have a lot of assertions here, but Lewis offers us no reason to believe his assertions.
He then goes back to discussing morality and freewill. He claims that “The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first-wanting to be the center-wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake.” Lucifer never wanted to be God. In fact, Lucifer worshiped God, he loved God more than anything, anyone else. That was his sin: he loved God more than man. Lewis is also mistaking the snake from the garden as Lucifer. Lucifer was not the snake who convinced Eve to eat the fruit. Lucifer never caused the human fall. Who thinks the fall has anything to do with sex? It was about morality in general. It was about good and evil.
Lewis goes on to state “Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn.” He uses the example of vehicles running on petroleum as a comparison. We know that cars don’t need to run on fossil fuels. So, if we keep with Lewis’s example, since cars don’t need to run on gas, can we assume that humans can run just fine without God? After all, I do just fine with food, water, and sleep. I haven’t run on God in over a decade. Of course, this is another statement that requires evidence: where’s the evidence that we have spirits? I’ll ignore the lack of evidence for the rest of the claim, because I’ve already offered counter-evidence against it.
He goes on to say of God “He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men.” Really Lewis? You’re going to make the argument that God sent these beliefs to ancient people as opposed to the more likely case that Christians borrowed certain beliefs from other cultures? Where is your evidence? Why should we believe this? Especially when we have a far simpler explanation on hand.
Lewis finishes the chapter with a discussion about Jesus. He claims that if Jesus is not the son of God and God himself, then he is either insane or the devil. He uses the forgiveness of all sins as his example. I agree that anybody who said that they forgave a wrong done to another would be arrogant in the extreme. But I doubt that those three options are the only ones for Jesus. Every religion that I’ve heard of has had it’s prophets. I don’t know why these people believe that they are the messengers of gods, but they do. In some cases it’s probably drugs, in others it’s likely greed. Jesus lived in a time when it was quite common for people to claim to be prophets. He wasn’t even the only Jesus to claim to be the messiah. As such, there are many possibilities as to why he made the claim that he did. Maybe he thought he’d get power from it. After all, if he survived, he could have been named king. Maybe he just wanted to improve the lives of the Jews, and thought that convincing them that he was the messiah was the only way to do so. Maybe he thought he was the messiah: he could have been convinced by his parents, his followers, a dream, drugs, or any number of other things. Maybe he was insane. But insanity or devil possession are not the only alternatives. Lewis also argued that it is problematic to say that Jesus was a moral teacher, but not the son of God. According to Lewis, this is because you’d then be accepting your morality form Lucifer or a crazy person. I agree that Jesus should not be called a moral teacher, but not for the same reasons as Lewis: if Jesus was a moral teacher as the son of God, then he was a moral teacher regardless. Sanity notwithstanding, he was either a moral leader or he wasn’t. I’d argue that his moral teachings are not worth following given what we know today.