Answers for the Skeptic

October 26, 2017

While reading a biography, I came across the following views of a young skeptic.

You ask me my religious views: you know, I think, that I beleive [sic] in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name are merely man’s own invention—Christ as much as Loki. Primitive man found himself surrounded by all sorts of terrible things he didn’t understand—thunder, pestilence, snakes etc.: what more natural than to suppose that these were animated by evil spirits trying to torture him. These he kept off by cringing to them, singing songs and making sacrifices etc. Gradually from being mere nature-spirits these supposed being[ s] were elevated into more elaborate ideas, such as the old gods: and when man became more refined he pretended that these spirits were good as well as powerful.*

What do you think? Is this a likely candidate to come to belief in God? Will this skeptic ever be convinced of the death, burial, and resurrection? If you are thinking to yourself that this is a hopeless case, let me reveal the young skeptic’s identity — C.S. Lewis.

Lewis loved intellectual argument, not the belligerent kind of harsh words, but the logical type. He eventually saw the weaknesses of the case for skepticism and came to see the case for Christianity. It was not a quick process in his life. From self-proclaimed atheist at age 15, he did not come to believe in Jesus Christ until age 32. First, he had moved from naturalism to idealism, and then from idealism to theism, and from theism to confessing Jesus Christ.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the skeptic’s questions. Good answers exist, and we don’t have to have all the answers when confronted. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for time to think about something. We also can’t expect a skeptic to move from naturalism to belief in Jesus Christ in one bounding leap. (It may be possible but not always likely.) It will be more like moving the football down the field one play at a time. We can also overload people with information. It is better to answer things in their time and simply make progress.

Lewis in the above quote assumes the evolution of religions. This makes religions simply a human phenomenon. Anthropologists had proposed an evolutionary progression. The first stage was mana, a word found in Melanesia in the South Pacific, which means a general awareness of a spiritual force. Next came animism, then polytheism, followed by henotheism (worship of one god, although there may be more), and finally monotheism. The evolutionary model, however, cannot be shown to have actually happened. Further ethnographic studies have led some to propose an original monotheism that led to de-evolution. This would fit with the picture in the early chapters of Genesis.

Let’s share the good news with everyone. You never know who will be a truth seeker. Let’s remember that there are answers for the skeptic.

*The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, p. 56

Advertisements

Not a Tame Lion

May 30, 2014

Aslan is the lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the central figure of the Narnia Chronicles. The name comes from the Turkish word meaning “lion.” C.S. Lewis was straightforward in claiming that this character is “a divine figure.” Aslan is a symbol of Jesus Christ.

Why choose a lion? In the great heavenly throne vision of Revelation 5, Jesus is identified as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9). Strength and conquest are in the imagery of the lion.

One instructive scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the conversation of Susan, Lucy, and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan. When Susan finds out that Aslan is the great Lion, she asks, “Is he – quite safe?” She’s afraid of being nervous when meeting him. Mrs. Beaver is not reassuring:

That you will, dearie, and no mistake … if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.

Lucy then asks a follow-up question: “Then he isn’t safe?” Mrs. Beaver has a great reply:

’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.1

Lewis is illustrating the awe we should feel towards God and Christ. It’s a healthy reminder that they are in charge not us. God is the One who wields omnipotence and carries out His purposes. It’s a reminder that those who have had visions of the unseen were awestruck. Isaiah was keenly aware of his sinfulness and cried out “Woe is me.” The Apostle John “fell at his feet as though dead” when he saw the vision of Christ (Revelation 1:17).

Yet, the goodness is also present with the awesomeness. Isaiah received forgiveness, but he also received a new mission in life. John received the reassurance that Christ had conquered death. Great is God’s mercy. But the goodness is not necessarily safe, if we are thinking in terms of our own comfort. God is demanding. There is a cost to discipleship. An encounter with God should change us.

Underlying both passages is the great battle between good and evil. Isaiah’s message was repent or judgment would come. John must reassure Christians to “be faithful unto death” as they lived in a hostile environment. God is merciful, but to be outside that mercy is anything but safe.

Lewis was right. Trust in His goodness but approach with awe. He’s not a tame lion.

____________________

1C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p 86.


The Law of Diminishing Return

March 5, 2009

C.S. Lewis states the principle this way, “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure….”* The law of diminishing return is observable in sinful behavior. 

We’ve all felt the euphoria of physical exercise or work. It is a wonderful feeling – a God given pleasure. When we chase, however, an artificial euphoria through drugs and alcohol, painful consequences occur. Intoxication or a drug induced high can cause people to engage in risky behavior that harms the user or some innocent bystander.

When these behaviors become addictive, relationships are harmed. Work is harmed. Even the basics of taking care of ourselves are harmed. The euphoria may actually become harder to get, and the pursuit of the false euphoria does physical damage. Ever taken a look at the before and after pictures of a meth user?

The same thing can be said for sexual desire. Sexual desire, after all, is God’s idea. He made us male and female. Within marriage it is part of a wonderful bond that allows two people to grow in a lasting relationship. But pervert this desire into lust, and it works against relationship and a lasting bond. The complaint that it objectifies women (or men, for that matter) is a legitimate complaint.

Allow lust to lead to pornography, and it can degenerate even further. I rely on those who have written about this world. It is too dangerous a world to allow idle curiosity to visit, because it can enslave the visitor. Like most men in our culture, I have been on the edges of this world enough to realize it has an allure. The sirens’ song must be ignored, because the possibility of shipwreck is real. I’ve talked with enough men and women who have struggled with it in their relationship to know pornography has harmful effects.

The softer porn is closer to the natural sexual desire. But like a drug that can only satisfy with ever increasing doses, it can lead people to even more twisted views of sexuality: sexuality with violence, bestiality, and worst of all – child pornography. Even when people don’t make the descent into ever increasing levels of perversity; it still robs people of God’s intention for sexuality. In some cases, it may rob its victim of the possibility of real sexuality. Pornography promises what it cannot deliver – the human longing for intimacy. It is relationship destroying, not relationship building.

Isn’t it interesting that the law of diminishing return is observable? It seems to suggest that we live in a moral universe after all.

*C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 42.


Is God a Killjoy? Part 2

March 4, 2009

C.S. Lewis was right (see the previous post); God has created our senses and the wondrous world in which we live. God has created pleasure, and he is no slacker in doing so. Our world is filled with wonderful experiences.

Sin simply takes a God given pleasure and distorts it “at times, or in ways, or in degrees He has forbidden.” Proverbs even notes this allure of temptation.

“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. Proverbs 9:17-18, ESV

The problem is sinful pleasure has harmful consequences. Sin separates us from God that’s one consequence, but sin often brings other consequences into life, and these consequences can be painful. Unrestrained license can cause your life to read like a soap opera or even an obituary.

The temptation to sinful pleasure is a bit of a con. It promises the pleasure, but hides the painful consequence. Lewis even notes a law of diminishing return, when he has Screwtape say, “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure….”* We see this con at work in many addictive and harmful behaviors.

Yes, pleasure has proper place in our lives. Ecclesiastes notes this.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God’s gift to man. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, ESV

Paul gives a similar assessment:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5, ESV\

Pleasure is a good thing unless we make it the chief thing. Even morally good things could harm us spiritually if we make that pleasure the most important thing in life. We are not to be lovers of pleasure (Isaiah 47:8, 2 Timothy 3:4). Pleasure is to be enjoyed, but our love should be directed toward our Creator. To mistake this would be akin to my saying to my wife, “I love your apple pie more than I do you.” It would not endear me to my wife, nor would it be a particularly good strategy for getting more apple pies. It would be harmful to the more important relationship. How much worse is this to say to our Creator who made everything which we enjoy!

It is as if this world is God’s house. He has said, “You may enjoy all that I’ve created, but there are certain restrictions that are for your own good” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25). If we can live in a relationship with him and respect his boundaries, he has something even more wondrous to share with us.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 ESV

God is not a killjoy. Pleasures are a part of Christian living, but they are a part of the things added to you when we first seek the kingdom (Matthew 6:33). If we listen to God, we are on a path to even greater joy – pleasures for evermore.

 *C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 42.


Is God a Killjoy? Part 1

March 3, 2009

C.S. Lewis makes some profound observations on pleasure through his character, Screwtape, in The Screwtape Letters. This piece of fiction imagines a correspondence from a senior tempter, Screwtape, to his nephew and junior devil, Wormwood. Don’t misunderstand. Lewis isn’t saying that the spiritual realm is exactly like this. The book’s value is in observations about human nature and temptation.

Screwtape was upset with Wormwood in a previous letter for allowing his “patient” to enjoy some simple pleasures like a walk by an old mill. The problem with those kinds of pleasures is they may actually turn our thoughts toward God. Later, Screwtape gives more instruction to Wormwood on pleasure. Lewis has Screwtape write:

I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. *

Is Lewis correct? Next we will look at what the Bible says about pleasure.

 *C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, pp. 41-42