Monday, February 23, 2009

Book: "Case For Christianity" (CS Lewis)

Before Lee Strobel's very successful "Case for Christ" and "Case for Faith" in the 80-90s, we have CS Lewis, who argues competently for the "Case for Christianity" back in 1943. This is a drastically abridged version to Lewis's more successful "Mere Christianity." This 56-page booklet comprises a series of short radio addresses given to the British public in the midst of WWII. It is delivered in 2 parts. The first part talks about "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe." The second revolves around "What Christians Believe."

1) What is the book about?
It is a book targeted at making a case for a believable Christianity, using a mixture of philosophy, reasoning and theologizing for the lay people. It tries to convince listeners that Christianity is a reasonable faith.

2) What are the key points of the book?
Lewis touches upon the nature of human behaviour. He condenses the nature of mankind into 2 points.
  1. Human beings have a universal belief in terms of what they OUGHT to behave.
  2. Yet, though they know they should, they don't.

3) What is Lewis's understanding of Moral Law?
  1. "Moral law is, so to speak, the tune we've got to play: our instincts are merely the keys." (CS Lewis, Case For Christianity, NY:Touchstone, 1996, p8)
  2. If two instincts conflict, even though the stronger one will win, humans tend to side with the weaker party. For example, when someone on safe grounds (strong) sees a drowning man (weak), his instinct is to help.
  3. Even then, man's instincts does not mean he will behave accordingly.

4) Lewis's Understanding of Natural Law? Three views:
First, there is a MATERIALIST view where nature just happens to exist. Some of us may see this as the Big-Bang view. Second, there is the religious view where there is a Higher Divinity behind all of nature. Third, there is the IN-BETWEEN view where small evolution happens after the initial act of creation.

5) Part II - What Christians Believe
Lewis skillfully highlights several deficient worldviews before offering up Christianity as the most realistic.
  1. ATHEISTIC: Here, the world is divided into those who believe there is a God and those who don't. Here Lewis, didn't quite elaborate on the agnostic view. He argues that the atheistic view is inadequate because it does not explain good and evil.
  2. PANTHEISM: The thinking here lies in terms of a God animating all things, and all things is God. This philosophy stems from Hegel who teaches that God is beyond all good and evil, but is everything is God. Again, this view is inadequate because it does not explain evil and suffering.
  3. "Christianity + Water" View: This is the simplistic view that there is a good God, and 'everything eventually will be alright.' This fails to take seriously a faith that is reasonable.
  4. DUALISM: This view advocates 2 equal and opposite independent powers. There is a good and there is evil force. Both counter each other. The problem is that whether something is good or bad, is measured against a certain standard. Who sets the standard? Is it the force of good or evil?

6) Lewis's Case for Christianity
Lewis makes a case that people does not need convincing theories before they can believe in Christianity. Theories explain how something work, not the thing itself. In the same way, we can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works. Sometimes, we would not know how something works until we accept it. Using the example of food and nourishment, one does not need to know HOW the body is nourished by the food before eating it. One can simply eat it without knowing all the theories about how the food is digested, absorbed and converted into the necessary nutrients. By making a distinction between theory and actual believing, Lewis tries to show us that while one can reason about Christianity, faith is not entered into via theory. It is believing in a person who lived and existed.

"Theories about Christ's death aren't Christianity: they're explanations about how it works." (46)

Let me end with my favourite passage from the book.
Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it doesn't begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I've been describing, and it's just no good trying to fo on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in the war and in everything else, comfort is the one thing you can't get by looking for it. If you're looking for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you're looking for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same for religion. (27-8)
7) Why I like this book?
Simple. It is short and sweet.


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