Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just because it is old, doesn’t make it good.

Over the past couple of weeks I have sent out several tweets ( Lewis ) about my disliking of C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and in doing so have been scolded about the fact that I should bite my tongue when ripping into a book deemed a “classic” and “staple” of the Christian faith. Well below is my response to that. No low blows, no animosity, just my humble opinion.

C.S. Lewis is known as one of the most honored and well respected authors and Christian writers of all time, and to a degree I agree with that. Books like “The Screwtape Letters” and the Chronicles of Narnia books series are both well known and widely regarded (I personally love the former)

That being said I STRUGGLED to finish “Mere Christianity.” Mere Christianity is one of if not his most well known books on the Christian faith. The book begins from the perspective of someone who is not of the faith or who I’ll be referring to as normal people, and states that all people or born with a sense of right and wrong and that this inherent law of nature is given to everyone by God. He then supposes that once we become aware of this fact then we are then given the choice to join or turn away from God, and that it is our choice but that God will influence this decision as he wants to draw us into his family.

There are several things that I did like in this book, such as what he believes is Man interpretation of God, he mentions how men will try to find happiness in anything outside of God until they have nothing left but God. He also explains at length the basics of the Christian faith and what most Christians believe. He also makes a lot of valid points so that if one was new to the faith or was interested in learning about it, they would have a lot to take away from it.

That being said this book is LONG! And I don’t mean long in the sense of word count (my copy was a only 225 pages) no the book is long in the sense that Lewis takes four pages to write what someone else could say in two paragraphs. He takes long drawn out examples to explain analogies that are so daunting that by the time you get done reading them, you want to take a nap.

The second big gripe I had with the book was the fact that he spends the better part of 30 pages speaking on something he has no basis for offering his input. Let me paraphrase, “I’ve never been married, but for the next two chapters I’m going to tell you what’s best for your marriage.” he even states something to this effect in the begin of the chapter. If you’ve never been married, don’t tell me how I should be married.

My biggest concern with this book is the lack of biblical context and example. As I mentioned above in the chapter about christian marriage he states thing that go directly against the bible, which is THE source of christian doctrine. Below is one such example that goes against everything I have learned about what Christ taught.

“If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep. It is true that by living together without marriage they will be guilty (in christian eyes) of fornication. But one fault is not mended by adding another: unchasitiy is not improved by adding perjury.”

WOW WOW WOW, why the heck did I even get married in the first place then ole C.S.!!! I could have just shacked up with Megan and ruled the roost without ever having to worry about the consequences. What bible is this guy reading!?!?!

He also states things like “it’s ok to like some people and not others, that’s human nature” FALSE! as followers of Christ we are to show love and compassion to everyone, especially those may require a little extra grace. Also at the end of the book he basically endorses evolution and states that all humans will eventually evolve to follow after God.

Oh, and I wont even get into the part about aliens.

The final complaint I have is this: lack of scripture. When you presenting an argument for a faith based upon Gods love and what he has done for us, as he shows us through scripture, point that out. After all he did leave us instructions. Hardly at all through the book is the Bible quoted and when it is there is no reference or citation given. If you want to point people to Christ, there are a few examples you can give them. One of the most important ones being the Bible. Without the Bible the Christian faith lacks authenticity and validation, use it Lewis, use it.

All this being said I still think the book is important and that it could bring about a lot of discussion amongst people. I understand that this book has helped a lot of people with their faith, I just think that there are better books out there that can accomplish the same thing a lot more thoroughly and more accurately. If you’ve read the book or would like to share your opinion, please do so, I would love to see a dialogue opened due to this post.

1 comment:

Joel said...

Hey Ryan,

I don't read your blog, but Rady tagged this post. I'm a huge CS Lewis fan, mainly from the standpoint that I'm a reason/logic guy and most of his writings use that approach.

Your points are solid. I've been reading his work for a long time and thought I might offer a perspective on some of this that comes from reading his other works as well.

1. He can be very long winded. Just because he's held in high regard doesn't mean he says things simply. I do often read his books when I intended to fall asleep. I still learn a great deal from him.

2. The Apostle Paul wasn't married either, and in fact uses much the same disclaimer in 1 Cor 7 when speaking about such things. We would still consider his teachings very thoroughly (God's Word afterall, right?).

3. I've long disagreed with CSL on his stance of evolution. The Problem Of Pain is another great work of his. But he says some really outlandish things that really end up sounding more like a man searching for truth while confidently stating things he isn't really sure of. After considering this for a while I realized that he was born in an era when science really was starting to take off. Creationism was being challenged, and there really wasn't an antidote or clear response from the Christian community. He was a man of logic and to that point his scholarly friends and influences were bringing seemingly logical arguments for which there was no better, more "logical" Christian response. He was bound by the limits of the knowledge he had to work with. I wonder if he'd have a much different view of things if he were alive today.

4. Lastly, to your point about scripture. He rarely ever uses scripture to back up his arguments, especially in Mere Christianity. I liken this to someone using the color green to describe the color green to someone who has never seen green. If you are an atheist or a "normal person" and you don't believe the validity of the Bible, using scripture to describe truth is going to seem really inadequate, and maybe even comical. He uses other approaches to reveal that the Bible, more importantly God, is who He really is. If you want solid Biblical teaching to back up what you believe, there are many many other authors who approach things from a scriptural context. He doesn't often intend to reach the reached. His writing, as I've viewed it, is intended to reach those who view scripture very skeptically.

So overall, I don't disagree with your observations. He was after all just a man. He was flawed. I see a lot of his approach in myself. I often times must make a "confident" argument known to then begin disassembling it in my own mind to make sure it can be stated as confidently as I originally presented it.