Mere Christianity Part 11


In Mere Christianity book two chapter 5, “The Practical Conclusion,” C.S. Lewis continues his discussion of the resurrection and gives some advice.

He begins by stating that “People often ask when the next step in evolution-the step to something beyond man-will happen.” This is a sever misunderstanding of biology. It won’t be the next step in evolution that leads us to be something other than human, it will be the next tens of thousands of steps. One step is so small as to be unnoticeable. Though I have heard it argued that human evolution isn’t really a thing anymore because we have removed a good portion of the selective pressures that lead to evolution. This theory may not have been developed in Lewis’s time, but the concept that evolution takes millions of years is much older than Lewis. There’s no reason why he, or anyone else, should assume that there should be a line where we can suddenly say we are no longer human and are now a new species all together. He then goes on to say “But in the Christian view, it has happened already. In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.” Where is the evidence? How can it be said that Jesus was a new species? Or even that he was anything other than a man?

Lewis then goes on to discuss sex: “We derive it from others, from our fathers and mothers and all our ancestors, without our consent-and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, do not believe it-and I’m not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd.” How is sex odd? It’s quite common among animals. In fact, very few animals can reproduce asexually. Sexual reproduction is a great way to encourage genetic diversity, which means that animals are able to adapt to environmental changes, limits genetic defects, and can increase the chances of immunity to diseases. Scientists have been observing the sex habits of animals for centuries. Humans have always had sex, at least, we have for as long as there have been humans. It’s not odd at all. What’s odd is the shame that people are made to feel for having a sexuality. What’s odd is our attempt to hide it, not only from our children, but from other people who themselves presumably engage in sex. The view that sex is in any way wrong is odd.

He then gives some advice. He argues “Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority.” This really depends on how you define authority. One definition is “an accepted source of information, advice, etc,” which can be found here: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/authority. This definition seems to be the closest to the one Lewis uses, and it does encompass most kinds of knowledge. Though I feel the need to warn against appeals to authority: “Testimonial (also Questionable Authority, Faulty Use of Authority): A fallacy in which support for a standpoint or product is provided by a well-known or respected figure (e.g. a star athlete or entertainer) who is not an expert and who was probably well paid to make the endorsement (e.g., “Olympic gold-medal pole-vaulter Fulano de Tal uses Quick Flush Internet-shouldn’t you?”). Also includes other false, meaningless or paid means of associating oneself or one’s product with the ethos of a famous person or event (e.g. “Try Salsa Cabria, the official taco sauce of the Winter Olympics!”)  This is a corrupted argument from ethos.” The source for that definition can be found here: http://utminers.utep.edu/omwilliamson/ENGL1311/fallacies.htm. Authorities are fine so long as they are actual authorities, and so long as you have more reason to believe less obvious things than simply an authority figure. Also, the Bible is not a useful authority and neither is Jesus. This is because they require evidence themselves (Jesus for his existence and the Bible for it’s unproven claims).

Lewis shows his lack of understanding of what an authority actually is by stating “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.” You do not need to rely solely on authority to believe in New York. Lewis may never have been there, but he could have easily gone and seen that it exists. There were also pictures and videos of New York even in the 1930’s. And many people have written about New York, or even had books published in New York. So you need not rely on any single authority that New York exists. He then claims that “Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority.” As a historian, this annoys me to no end. History is based on writings, but it is not based on authority. The people who wrote about the events we study are not necessarily experts in history or in the event we are studying. We use there work not because they are experts, but because we can use the writings of those who were alive at the time to verify other writings. We can compare and contrast various sources to get the best understanding of what actually happened. We cannot trust any one source, or even one type of source, because all sources have their flaws. The work of historians also isn’t our only source of knowledge about the past. Historians use writing, but we also have archeologists, who use artifacts, anthropologists, who use various sources including human remains, geologists, who study the earth, and many other such fields. These people are authorities to those who are outside of their fields, but they do not use authorities. Lewis then argues that “A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.” Some people are comfortable to say that they can know nothing. We call them Skeptics (the philosophical kind, not the atheist kind): http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/. But that ignores the fact that we can actually have knowledge without authority, and there is in fact a right and wrong way to use authority.

Lewis then goes on to talk about morality. He claims that “the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him.” What implications does this have on society? I hope anybody who believes this stays Christian because I don’t want a bunch of people running around society believing that they can suddenly do whatever they want whenever they want to whoever they want with no consequences. I don’t want people who can’t determine right from wrong on their own making decisions for the rest of society, though this is already something that we have to deal with.

He then states that “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” Evidence? How do we know that we need to be saved, let alone that only Jesus can save us? And what’s the point of missionary work, why did Jesus tell his disciples to spread the news about him, if people don’t need to know about Jesus to be saved?

Lewis finishes the chapter with a discussion about the end times. He says that he is often asked “Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough?” Is this honestly a common criticism that Lewis came across? Or is this another straw-atheist? This is really an unimportant question compared to all the others related to the end times. For example, if God is waiting as Lewis claims, why is he waiting while Christianity loses popularity? There was a time when few people would be willing to miss church let alone question Christianity. But people are leaving Christianity in droves now. Is God going to wait until there are too few Christians for him to win this supposed battle? And Christianity is anything but a secret society, though that’s just an aside. Lewis then argues “Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely.” Again, this is a claim that requires evidence. True, he said it was a guess, but he hasn’t even offered evidence to suggest that God is waiting, or that the end times are actually going to happen. Here is the Wikipedia article on the Book of Revelations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation, this article suggests that there is little reason to believe the apocalypse is actually going to happen. We know very little about the book, so how can we say it’s accurate? Though, I have heard one argument that John was a priest, as opposed to a disciple, in exile by the Romans, and that he was writing Revelations as a sermon to his parishioners. All of the symbology was in reference to the Romans and was never meant to be taken literally. People have also been making claims about the Christian end times since Jesus, and even Jesus got it wrong: he said that his second coming would happen before all his disciples died in Luke. Luke 9:27 says “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” So a lot of evidence is needed before the story of the end times should be believed.

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5 responses to “Mere Christianity Part 11

  • rollingblogger

    A week after Jesus made that statement He was transfigured in The Full Glory of Heaven before his disciples Peter, James and John. They saw Heaven through Jesus a week after his statement. So, your argument is invalid. Jesus sits on the throne and is alive and well today. All Praise Honor And Glory to Him.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Do you have any proof that any of that actually happened? All you’ve made is an assertion, which is useless.

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      • hessianwithteeth

        Not to mention it would be adorable if the person writing wasn’t over the age of 6. Just because a bunch of people think book is true doesn’t mean it actually is, and in the case of the bible that even before you get to all the contradictions.

        Withteeth

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      • rollingblogger

        I guess we are at an impass then as All I have is The Bible and my faith. No other history was written on the event.

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        • hessianwithteeth

          But doesn’t that bother you, such a pivotal path of your whole theology is resting so precariously upon your faith. Should eternal damnation or salvation rest on so little? How could it be in the interests of a just or loving deity to offer hell at all let alone make it eternal should you not buy into a claim with essentially nonexistent evidence? Should you find satisfying answers to these questions and then you might find yourself in less impasses.

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