Mere Christianity Part 18


In “Forgiveness,” chapter 7 of the third book of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Lewis discusses the importance of forgiving your enemies in Christian doctrine.

“It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven.” I like this bit. It makes me think:  if Christianity is true, and C.S. Lewis is correct, then all those parents who throw their children onto the streets for being gay, or even because they are atheists or drug addicts, won’t be forgiven because they could not “forgive” (since I don’t view sin as real, and I don’t believe homosexuality is wrong, I put forgive in quotes because I don’t think it is in need of being forgiven) their own child for what they perceive to be a sin.

“Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I’m afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments).” This is just sad. The fact that anyone would say that it is only in their worst moments that they think of themselves as nice…that’s depressing. Nobody should think so little of themselves (unless they aren’t actually a nice person, but that’s a whole other discussion in itself). “but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself.” Don’t you have to think yourself worthy of love before you can love yourself? Thinking yourself nice is one way to gain the view that you are worthy of love. So I’d say you need to see yourself as nice (regardless of whether or not you actually are) before you can love yourself.

“hate the sin but not the sinner.” People, please stop saying this. This is neither an inclusive nor is it a loving statement. What you are telling people when you say this is that a part of them is worthy of your hate. If I said “don’t worry: I don’t hate you, I just hate that you’re a Christian,” would that be okay to you? If you’re upset that, then don’t turn the same logic around on other people who you view to be sinners.

“In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.” No. Just no. Hate is not an acceptable response. You don’t have to like everything that a person does, but if you love them, and if they aren’t hurting themselves or others, then you accept them fully. If you think they are hurting themselves or others, you confront them and share your concern. But you don’t apply hate to the situation.

“We ought to hate them.” Really Lewis? Really? Okay, I am really not a fan of the idea of hate. I don’t hate anybody for any particular belief system. I dislike people for the beliefs they hold. I dislike the MRA mentality of blaming everything bad on feminism. I dislike people who say racist and sexist things. I dislike people who tell me I can’t be moral because I don’t believe in a God. Those beliefs get on my nerves, and it puts the people who express those beliefs in a bad light to my mind. But I don’t hate them. Hate is a useless emotion. It’s pointless. It never accomplishes anything other than to cause problems.

“You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see whit itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything-God and our friends and ourselves included-as bad, and not be able to stop doing it.” This is a slippery slope argument. There is no reason to believe that if you can’t forgive one person you’ll end up hating everybody. It’s pure fear-mongering.

“If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy.” Murder implies intent. If you killed someone in a fit of rage, we call it manslaughter. If you kill someone who is attacking you, we call it self-defense. If you murder someone, it was premeditated. If it was premeditated, then why do the right thing after the fact? If you already planned and pulled off a murder, then why do the right thing and turn yourself in? I also can’t agree with the idea that killing someone is ever right. It may be necessary, but necessity does not indicate rightness.

“What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Service of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accomplishment of courage-a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.” So…a soldier should be proud of killing people?

“For really there is nothing else in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco.” Well isn’t that a depressing sentiment: we aren’t worthy of love so we should be lucky to find it wherever we can. Again, nobody should feel this way. Then again, people shouldn’t find hatred easy either. Though, if it’s like giving up tobacco or beer, it’s no wonder I don’t find myself hating people: tobacco and beer are nasty!

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6 responses to “Mere Christianity Part 18

  • jrob8157293

    There is no room for hatred in Christianity, period. And as for parents who believe that homosexuality is wrong, the Bible says that we should not judge others. I don’t know whether homosexuality is a sin or not. All I know is that as Christians it is not our job to condemn people and tell people how to live their lives and judge them on it. So parents who believe homosexuality is wrong and throw their kids out on the street are actually theoretically breaking to big Christian principles. I believe that God will be the Judge of what’s right and what’s wrong and only He truly knows only He can decide whether someone is worthy of glory or condemnation. As for what Lewis is saying about thinking good things about himself being his worst moments, I don’t think he’s saying that he thinks little of himself, I think he’s just saying that sometimes like we all do he gets full of himself and it gets him into trouble. We all have moments where we have to catch ourselves from getting too caught up in smelling our own crap. And when he says that thinking himself nice is not why he loves himself, I think he’s really saying that he accepts himself for who he is including his flaws and that his self-love isn’t dependent on his opinion of himself. This is a sign of faith in himself that he is capable of not being defined by his flaws while still being able to acknowledge that he has them. Anyway, sorry for getting long winded lol.

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  • jvisi1001

    I guess there are several things that I wish to say, as far as the objections that you have to Mr. Lewis’ statements. But I guess I’ll just pick one, and let it go at that.
    I would say that the biggest issue that you’ve encountered is that you really don’t understand where Mr. Lewis is coming from; especially when it comes to LOVE.
    Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not being critical of your objection, I’m simply trying to help you to understand it better from his point of view. And I would also say that Mr. Lewis does an incredible job at explaining the “Love of God” in his book “The Problem with Pain.”
    He first explains how mankind has reduced the meaning of all “Love” into mere “kindness.” He then goes on to explain that kindness differs from love in that it does not care whether the beloved becomes good or bad, but simply that it obtains happiness. Whereas, the love that God has for all of mankind, not only wants us to be filled with Joy, but also wants us to change for the better. In essence, as Mr. Lewis would say, the Love of God demands perfection. “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but love cannot cease to will their removal,” Lewis says. “Of all powers he (God) forgives most, but he condones least: he (God) is pleased with little, but demands all.”
    It’s the same as how Christ describes what adultery truly is, when he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Therefore, a woman may wish that her husband would stop cheating on her with other women, but God, not only wants him to stop cheating physically, but HE also has the desire for the man to stop cheating in his heart. A wife does not simply dislike adultery, she absolutely HATES it! I don’t dislike murder, I absolutely despise it. Jesus Christ, along with C. S. Lewis, ACCEPTS all people. But for the sinner’s sake, Christ loves him too much to allow him to suffer the consequences of destroying his marriage and his home.
    There is no doubt that the Christian world has made many mistakes in how we have presented the Gospel to the world. And I’m sorry for that. I truly am. For the truth is that: All of mankind are sinners; not just those who are outside of the Church walls. God bless.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Your explanation has the same problems that Lewis’s has: you must first start with the premises that God exist and that humans are capable of interpreting God’s intentions. There are two major flaws with that. The first is that Lewis wrote Mere Christianity to explain Christianity to non-Christians in the hope of converting them. Non-Christians will not automatically accept the premise that your God exists. That means he needed to offer an argument for God before he should have moved on. The second premise, that humans can interpret what God wants is problematic because many Christians disagree with that even being possible. Therefore Lewis should have argued why it is possible to interpret God’s intention before moving on to interpret how God wanted us to love and what God believed love to mean.

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  • frasersherman

    My trouble with “hate the sin, love the sinner” is that it’s more lip service than actual viewpoint. But you make a valid point too.
    However, I’m with Lewis on the desire to “make black a little blacker.” It can be very tempting to believe the worst of the enemy, even without facts to back it up.

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  • Nikolas Larum

    It has been years (maybe a decade at least?) since I’ve read Mere Christianity. From the title, I can only assume that it has provided some good inspiration for you. I am curious how you would morally characterize killing. You state that you can never see it as being right. But you also state that you don’t view sin as real. What then, in your view, is the nature of wrong? Or, better yet, what is the definition of “sin” that you find unreal?

    As to hate, I understand your aversion to it. But you admit you find beer and tobacco nasty. It’s a great closing line and I appreciate the craft with which it was delivered. That being said, when and how do you find these products nasty? In the case of either, are they unpleasant to you sitting in their bottles or boxes on the shelf ready for purchase or do you find them particularly nasty when they are being consumed? (I not sure if you are aware that Lewis was a heavy drinker and smoker, which might be why he referred to those particular habits.)

    I’ve had two brothers die from overdose while using heroin. I waste no energy hating a drug. And I most certainly loved them. But I most assuredly hate what their addiction did to them and our family. Whether one believes in sin or not, behavior that is demonstrably destructive to the individual should be lovingly confronted in the hopes that the one you love isn’t lost to thing you hate.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Sin to me is merely the idea that a certain action causes a person to deserve to be sent to hell unless a supernatural third party forgives the person. I don’t think any action could be deserving of spending eternity in hell. I use a mix of act utilitarianism and some other moral theories to determine what is right. In my mind, morality is subjective, but there are ways to determine what is right or wrong given the fact that we live in groups.
      I’m allergic to cigarette smoke, so that has a lot to do with my calling it nasty. I don’t care if people smoke, but I don’t like to be around it. I simply don’t like the taste of alcohol. There’s really nothing deeper than that for me.
      My one step-brother overcame a meth addiction. My other brother gets himself into a lot of problems because of drinking. I see no reason to hate either meth or alcohol. My brothers very clearly have addictive personalities and simply need to be aware of that fact. That’s not to say the task is easy, but there is really nothing else for them to do.I wish they would quite certain behaviours, and I don’t like the fact that they get addicted so easily. But what good would hate do me? It’s not really the drugs fault being as a drug isn’t conscious, and it’s not really my brothers’ faults being as neither one made the conscious decision to get addicted. That’s not to say they aren’t blameworthy to a certain degree, but they certainly aren’t worthy of hate.

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