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Why C.s. Lewis, Anyhow?


MerryG
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Within the last month, two random christian acquaintances have tried to proselytize me, leaning heavily on quotes from C.S. Lewis.

The one backed off when I said Lewis was just a guy who didn't know anything more about god than I did. The second person was mightily offended when I snarked that Lewis is the fourth and most recent member of the christian trinity.

And he damn near is, damnit. I swear, christians quote Lewis more often than they quote Jesus -- and they seem to expect that anyone hearing the "wisdom" of Lewis will just fall on their knees and start worshipping the almighty. But WHY? That's what I can't figure. When, how, and above all why did Lewis become the go-to guy for conversion pitches? And why do so many christians rely so heavily on this man who was, at best, a second-rate philosopher and a third-rate novelist?

 

I read most of Lewis's religious tracts when I was younger. Seemed to me he envisioned god as an English gentleman -- full of fairplay and reasonableness. I found myself wishing god were like that, but there sure as hell is no biblical basis for Lewis's gentleman god. I tried to read Lewis's Narnia books and barely managed to stay awake through the ponderous christian allegory of the first one. Dismal stuff!

 

I simply do not see how Lewis came to sit (metaphorically) at the right hand of Jehovah.

 

Anybody have any insights?

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Lewis is the best they have.

 

 

 

Yep, it's that bad.

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Because his stuff is just confusing enough to sound smart, and just dumb enough to be understood by the layperson.

 

eek.gif GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif eek.gif

 

I never thought of it quite that way. But yeah, he does manage to appear profound while spouting comforting drivel.

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Lewis is the best they have.

 

 

 

Yep, it's that bad.

 

That would definitely be bad. Not surprising, I guess. But bad.

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As a kid, I loved The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I had no clue it had anything to do with xianity until I was much older and someone told me.  I always loved the idea of going through the back of a dusty old wardrobe into another world.  And Edmund is fed Turkish Delight, which sounded awesome, and as an adult I absolutely LOVE it!  Especially rose-flavored Turkish Delight.  Mmmm.  Rose and pistachio.

 

I never read the rest of the series as a kid.  I never knew they existed, sadly enough (I love libraries and books, so I don't know how that happened).  In high school, I found out there was a whole series and I had friends that had liked them, so I tried reading them and found them horrible and tedious.  I still liked The Lion, The Witch, etc.  After I found out it was some xian allegory, it smacked me on the head with its obviousness and I didn't enjoy it as much.

 

I tried reading some of his "adult" stuff, but never enjoyed it.  Tedious, obvious, etc.  And too much blahblahblah.

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 Sad, isn't it, how some beloved childhood stories fall so flat when we read them as adults? I never encountered Lewis until I was in my 20s. I'd read a ton of Tolkein and was hungry for more. Somebody recommended the The Chronicles of Narnia as being in the same league. I tried the one and was like WTF???? Booooooring! (But yeah on the idea of traveling between worlds via a dusty old wardrobe. Too bad he didn't have the talent to do something better with the concept.)

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Because C.S. Lewis was an "intellectual" and smart. Therefore, he wasn't mistaken in his conversion. WRONG!

 

There are amazingly smart people who are Christians -but in this one area, because it plays on their emotions (probably) they are dumb as dirt.  Many of them were raised in it as children and cannot extract themselves - they may discard it but later as professors, philosophers, etc., but something difficult happens and they come back to it.  There is no mystery here.  It takes one hell of a lot of insight and personal work on themselves to deconvert and they just don't have what it takes.

 

Didn't Lewis have some childhood experience in the Church of England? I doubt he was a total atheist and suddenly converted to Christianity.

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Non-Lewis Books:

 

I loved A Wrinkle in Time as a kid.  Re-read it as an adult and thought it was silly.  But my kids liked it!

 

I loved The Phantom Tollbooth as a kid.  Re-read it in high school, college, and as an adult.  I still LOVE that book!  I actually borrowed that book from a high school friend in 1980 and NEVER RETURNED IT, that's how much I loved it.  My kids loved it too.  I still have it and my husband just finished re-reading it.

 

Ok, back to Lewis.

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Guest afireinside

Best of a bad bunch I guess.

 

Not being alive anymore helps his cause as he can't be quoted saying dumb shit on twitter or on websites making a mockery of his literature.

 

I think the fact he converted from atheism and was a gifted writer somehow makes him more "respectable" but really he just dressed up something ugly to make it look attractive with clever writing.

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Lewis was honest enough to admit that God acts like a twisted, pain causing bastard(A Grief Observed) but was too gutless to call God a bastard, instead he attempted to reason that Gods ways of making him suffer were good. I lost a lot of respect for him for that.

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When I read Lewis as a Xtian I thought it strange that he rarely quoted or referred to scripture. He was

endorsing Xtianity with very little discussion of its source. His writing, in my opinion was clever, but it certainly was not biblical. That's why books like "The Screwtape Letters" could be so creative. He was not limited to the thinking and cruel antics of the authors of the bible. I never read a book by Lewis

in which he attempted to explain the absurdity of the genocides ordered or committed by god. In other

words, he was not really an apologist because he did not defend the bible.

 

It seems to me that his works were fantasy literature which entertained, but did not

enlighten. bill

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It's also because he invented the most convenient excuse for hell ever. He invented "non-Christians choose to go to hell" in his batshit insane novel "The Great Divorce". His portrayal of members of every other religion as depraved masochists who loved living in pain was quite horrific. His portrayal of heaven as being physically agonizing to unbelievers as an excuse to hell was pretty interesting. I never heard of heaven being a place of suffering. This makes it supposedly impossible for nonbelievers to not suffer.

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Within the last month, two random christian acquaintances have tried to proselytize me, leaning heavily on quotes from C.S. Lewis.

 

The one backed off when I said Lewis was just a guy who didn't know anything more about god than I did. The second person was mightily offended when I snarked that Lewis is the fourth and most recent member of the christian trinity.

 

And he damn near is, damnit. I swear, christians quote Lewis more often than they quote Jesus -- and they seem to expect that anyone hearing the "wisdom" of Lewis will just fall on their knees and start worshipping the almighty. But WHY? 

Anybody have any insights?

 

Yes. Lewis sounds intelligent, and knows how to write, so those two things put him way beyond most other christian proselytizers, which is usually just some retarded variation on TH' BUYBULL SAYS ITS TRUE IT'S ALL WRITTEN IN PRAWPHESSY! 

 

Lewis sounds like a genius compared to that stuff. He taught at the top universities in the world (literature, not Bible) rather than Dallas Baptist Seminary, so he has "credentials" that most proselytizers don't have. 

 

Of course, Lewis was only brilliant in his chosen field -- English literature. He was actually astoundingly ignorant about Biblical criticism, religions of the ancient world, Jewish exegesis, or anything else that would qualify him as an authority on Christianity. 

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^^Wow.  I need to read that one.  It sounds quite imaginative.  Can't believe I never heard of it.

 

Edited to add that I was talking about "The Great Divorce."

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I remember the first time I read "The Great Divorce" and I immediately knew that C.S. Lewis was not a believer in the doctrines that were unique to Christianity.  In that book there was no atonement, no justification, no faith, no punishment.  I don't think he was ever an atheist, and neither was he ever a Christian.  He was a Platonist and a pagan -- he was the kind of person who would have found himself an apologist of any religion of the community in which he found himself.  He wanted to make Christianity more useful but he had no commitment to the Bible, the Trinity or any of the material bits that are genuinely at issue.  This is why he rarely if ever quoted Scripture, and this is why his words are normally pretty palatable to all.

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I also find it interesting if he says that non-believers want to go hell, if he really was an atheist at any point in his life, wouldn't he remember consciously wanting to go to hell? I find it odd that interviewing atheists on the street asking if they want to be stir fried after they die, I doubt you'd get an anonymous "yes" like he claims. Shouldn't this debunk his "they choose to go to hell"tm doctrine?

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I have a soft spot for Lewis, especially Narnia, the Screwtape Letters and the Great Divorce.

 

An important thing about the Great Divorce is that George McDonald, a universalist, makes a cameo. Lewis was great at distilling theological concepts into everyday language, and that's why he is quoted to death. He was an original thinker and certainly does not fit into the pigeonhole of any one particular Christian sect, although the closest seems to be Anglican/catholic, and flirting with some of his own ideas.

 

His famous Liar/Lord/lunatic for the divinity of Christ falls flat on its face, and it's incredibly frustrating to see believers (including Bono!) echoing it as if it's some Iran clad argument for Christianity. The obvious fourth and most likely possibility is that others told stories about him.

 

I agree with everyone that Lewis's God is much more like an Oxford gentleman than what we have from the Bible. I thorough ally enjoyed the Great Divorce, as an engaging and imaginitave piece of writing, even though I no longer subscribe to the ultimate premise of it,

 

He also wrote some pretty weird poetry back when he was an atheist. I am not quite sure what to make of it all.

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I was a fan of Lewis, McDonald, and the Inklings in college.  I had Mere Christianity pretty much memorized.  Lewis certainly had a more engaging style than most apologists as well as a more merciful dogma.

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I always liked the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but the other Narnia books bored me.

 

As a side note, the more I read here, the more I realize how stupid I (as a Christian) must have sounded to all the non-believers I encountered before I deconverted. I cringe because I've used most of these lines myself to defend the faith.

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Re the famous lunatic-liar-Lord "trilemma," here's the passage from Mere Christianity:

 

Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is "humble and meek" and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

 

from link:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ENwsg4McrcI-l9w_KH_JrzfWkxfC2S3fZjY5lxiuZKw/edit?hl=es&pli=1

 

Lewis doesn't make clear at the outset that his trilemma presupposes the historical accuracy of the Gospels, but the first sentence quoted above does show that he is working from such a presupposition.  I don't know whether Lewis stopped to think of the sleight of hand involved in leaving that presupposition merely implicit.

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Lewis might as well be talking about Santa Claus.  It's not enough to think that Santa is a nice person.  You have to believe he has magic.  Just read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. 
 

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I always thought George MacDonald was a better apologist than Lewis, and, given the clear influence MacDonald had on Lewis' fantasy writings, often wondered if Lewis wasn't just trying to emulate MacDonald in his apologetics as well.

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Re the famous lunatic-liar-Lord "trilemma," here's the passage from Mere Christianity:

 

Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is "humble and meek" and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

 

from link:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ENwsg4McrcI-l9w_KH_JrzfWkxfC2S3fZjY5lxiuZKw/edit?hl=es&pli=1

 

Lewis doesn't make clear out the outset that his trilemma presupposes the historical accuracy of the Gospels, but the first sentence quoted above does show that he is working from such a presupposition.  I don't know whether Lewis stopped to think of the sleight of hand involved in leaving that presupposition merely implicit.

As you aptly pointed out, his trilemma simply assumes historical accuracy.

He completely ignores another possibility, that of legend.

As an aside:

Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit

 

I found this to be utterly untrue.

Jesus is dripping with conceit by declaring that nobody can access God except through him and that he will smite all his enemies in his bloody second coming.

Lewis simply buys into the whole "Jesus is God" mantra and the deems him "Lord" by default.

He even admits that without a veil of holiness planted on his head, Jesus was just like other religious nuts.

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Although I'd agree that the assumption that the gospels are accurate is the biggest problem, the tri-lemma also assumes that people can't be profound or very clever in some areas of thinking but delusional in others.  Human history shows with remarkable frequency how this is a common (if not universal) human problem ...

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