Religion

Has Science Buried God? with John Lennox

220px-John_LennoxUnfortunately, many people today see science and faith as enemies rather than friends. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of scientists and intellectuals who are speaking out about their faith. John Lennox is one of them.

John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, is an internationally renowned speaker on the interface of science, philosophy and religion. He regularly teaches at many academic institutions including the Said Business School, Wycliffe Hall and the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, as well as also being a Senior Fellow with the Trinity Forum. He has written a series of books exploring the relationship between science and Christianity and he has also participated in a number of televised debates with some of the world’s leading atheist thinkers. Check out his excellent web site.

There are also many very good videos available of him speaking or debating atheists. For exampe, he gave this presentation at the 2013 Xenos Summer Institute (www.xenos.org/xsi) - "Has Science Buried God?". It's well worth watching - You Tube video.


Science and Faith - Sir Isaac Newton

NewtonSir Isaac Newton was one of the fathers of modern scientific revolution. Interesting, he said that his greatest passion was the Bible over and above science.

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

His curiosity about the world was entwined with his reverence for the Creator, whom he credited with the existence of the universe. He was able to hold his scientific discoveries in tension with his faith, rather than replacing God with natural laws.

In fact, almost all of the scientific greats of the modern period were also deeply religious people who learned to balance the need for both faith & reason.


Christmas Resources

XmasBelieve it or not, Christmas is only four weeks away! For followers of Christ, and especially for those of us who pastor a church or speak from time to time, Christmas presents another excellent opportunity to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. But how do we share this timeless message in new and fresh ways that capture people’s attention and interest?

J John from the UK has put together a variety of resources specially related to the Christmas season. Check out his web site for further details. Of note, is the recent release of the book Proclaiming Christmas, a compilation of Christmas sermons from communicators all around the world. I was privileged to contribute my message from a few years ago called “What would Jesus say to Santa Claus?”

Enjoy your Christmas preparations!


Communion on the Moon

ComA few months ago I was privileged to meet Charlie Duke, the tenth person to have walked on the moon. At the event I attended, he shared some amazing stories about his experiences in space. What was most moving for me, was hearing him speak about his conversion story and his current relationship with Jesus Christ. He actually became a bit teary-eyed during this part of his talk, something that didn't happen when he was recounting his first walk on the moon. I told him afterward that it was moving to hear someone become more emotional about their relationship with Jesus than their experience of walking on the moon. He responded by saying, "Yes, I did walk on the moon ... but more importantly, I get to walk with Jesus every day!"

Just this last week, I heard another inspiring story about two well-known astronauts ... Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (who passed away a few weeks ago) ...

"On July 20, 1969, two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it. Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine. And a few years ago I had the privilege of meeting him myself. I asked him about it and he confirmed the story to me, and I wrote about in my book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask).

The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his minister to help him. And so the minister consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth's orbit and on to the surface of the moon.

He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement: "This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way." He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion. Here is his own account of what happened: "In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit ... Apart from me you can do nothing.'" 

"I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly. I ate the tiny host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements." And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and Who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the "Love that moves the Sun and other stars.'" 

(Article by Eric Metaxas)


"Who is this Man?" by John Ortberg

ManWith over 1,500 new books about Jesus being published every year, why read another book about Jesus? John Ortberg's latest book Who is this Man? The Unpredictable Impact of this Inescapable Man is well worth reading as it gives us a fresh and inspiring look at Jesus and his impact on history. 

New Testament scholar and historian N.T. Wright says this about it: “One of the big lies of our time is that Christianity has been part of the problem rather than the source of the solution. Most people today don’t realise that things we now take for granted, like education and health care, were reserved for the rich elite in the ancient world until the Christians insisted on providing them for everyone within reach. Many imagine that Christianity was bad for women, whereas early Christianity provided the biggest transformation of attitudes to women the world had ever seen … The impact of Jesus on the whole world, even when his followers have been muddled or misguided, towers breathtakingly over all human achievement. This book provides enormous encouragement both to celebrate what Jesus’ followers have done in the past, and to stimulate a fresh vision of our mission in the future. And, above all, to be amazed and awed once more at Jesus himself, who lived, died, and rose to launch such a transformative vision.” 

A few excerpts:

On the day after Jesus’ death, it looked as if whatever small mark he left on the world would rapidly disappear. Instead, his impact on human history has been unparalleled. Consider the impact of Jesus on history. Most people – including most Christians – simply have no idea of the extent to which we live in a Jesus-impacted world. From the existence of hospitals to the notion of universal human dignity and rights to the prizing of virtues like humility and forgiveness, our lives are simply unimaginable apart from his life.

In the ancient world, children were commonly left to die of exposure if they were the wrong sex (guess which one), or sold into slavery and often used sexually. O.M. Bakke, a Norwegian church historian, has written that Jesus’ blessing of children – and his using them as an example to be spiritually emulated – was essentially unprecedented, and led to the eventual end of practices like expose and infanticide, as well as to such innovations as orphanages and godparents.

Through Jesus, the truth prized in Israel that every human being is made in the image of the one true God became accessible to the entire world. It’s not simply Jesus’ teaching that fuelled people’s moral imagination. It was his ceaselessly courageous embrace of lepers and prostitutes, of Samaritans and soldiers and sinners, of tax collectors and zealots that fuelled the world first’s movement that sought to include every individual regardless of ethnicity and status. The philosopher Nickolas Wolterstorff argues that the modern embrace of human dignity, rights, and justice, is built upon this Judeo-Christian foundation.

Jesus’ impact extends into such diverse areas as architecture and the calendar system … From a purely human perspective, the biggest surprise is that Jesus had any influence at all. Normally, if someone’s legacy will outlast their life, its apparent when they die. On the day when Alexander the Great, or Caesar Augustus, or Napoleon, or Socrates, or Muhammad died, their reputations were immense. When Jesus died, his tiny, failed movement appeared clearly at an end. No one would have pronounced Jesus “Most Likely to Posthumously Succeed” on the day of his death.

I highly recommend this book! It unpacks the truth of One Solitary Life for a new generation.

See also How Christianity Changed the World.


A Fresh Look at Religion

With the recent Global Atheists Convention in Melbourne, it's worthwhile thinking about religion, including science and faith. Some people think that religion is dangerous and has done a lot of damage in the world. Obviously, there is an element of truth in that. However, Jesus never came to start a religion and his intention was never to produce the kind of violence and hatred that characterises so much of a number of religious movements today. 

On my BLOG I have some articles about science and faith, as well as an interesting series of faith looking at C.S. Lewis' journey to faith, which involved working through a number of significant objections. These are relevant to our generation today.

Click here to begin reading.

 

 


C.S. Lewis - Objection #11: Christ

Images-26 Finally, C.S. Lewis had to come to grips with answering the common question: "Isn't Jesus just another good, moral teacher?" 

Since there is little likelihood that Jesus' claim to deity is legend or myth, we should expect to find something in his words and actions that suggest he thought of himself as divine. Jesus' self-perception as God is clearly seen in the various Gospel accounts.

Jesus claimed to be God:

  • He believed he had the power to perform miracles and cast out demons (Matt. 11:2-5. Luke 11:20).
  • Jesus claimed to determine people's eternal destiny (Luke 12:8-9).
  • Jesus placed his personal authority over the Law of God (Matt. 5). 
  • In Mark 2:5-7, Jesus shows he believed he had the power to forgive sins. The scribes reacted by saying, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
  • The most explicit claims to deity are found in John's gospel where Jesus claims, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), and "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). There is no reason to hold that these passages are merely the result of the over-developed imagination of John, since Jesus' self-conception as God is already evident in the earlier three gospels.

Was this True or False?

Liar or Lunatic?

Since Jesus claimed to be God, his claims are either true or false.

If false, he either knew it was false or he didn’t.

If false, he must have been a liar, deliberately misleading the multitudes.

Or, he was a lunatic, sincerely believing himself to be God, when in reality He was just a man. This is kind of like me thinking I’m Bill Gates or someone!

Jesus' brilliant moral character and his willingness to die for his claim to be God have convinced most people that he was not lying. Jesus' humility, warmth and unselfish love, his quick and skillful thinking in dealing with his opponents, his intelligent communication with the multitudes, and his amazing self-control and composure in the midst of the tremendous physical and emotional stress of his betrayal and crucifixion, all point to his contact with reality. Jesus was no lunatic.

Lord

If Jesus was not a legend and he claimed to be God, then, as we've said, his claim is either true or false. If it is false, he must have been a liar or a lunatic. Since the evidence shows he is neither a liar nor a lunatic, then the only other alternative left is that his claim is true. Jesus is Lord and God. That affects everything!

[Summarised from Chapter 14 of Art Lindsley's book C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]


C.S. Lewis - Objection #10: Other Religions

Images-27 C.S. Lewis also grappled with the validity of other religions - There are so many religions, how can you say which one is right? Are all religions really the same, or is there a difference? How can we say which one, if any, is the right one?

Lewis felt it was atheism that wrote off all religious claims as false, while he was free to affirm truth wherever it was found. He accepted truths in other religions. He recognised the similarities - as well as the significant differences between religions. A commitment to Christ does not necessitate the denial of truth in other religions. 

When it came to other religions, Lewis was an inclusivist - he believed that the only way to be saved is through Christ, but a person does not necessarily need a conscious knowledge of Christ in order to be saved. In one letter, Lewis wrote, “I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god [...] is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know Him” (Letters 247). See also the use of the character Tash in Lewis' book The Last Battle.

In contrast, an exclusivist believes that Christ is the only way to be saved and that a person needs a conscious knowledge of Christ. Although Lewis was an inclusivist, he was not a universalist who believes that everybody is ultimately saved. [I will comment more on this topic when I review Rob Bell's new book Love Wins in the next few weeks]

What makes Christianity unique is the incarnation - God entered a specific historical place and time in Jesus Christ. This utterly unique - and is either true or false. 

In his book God in the Dock, Lewis is quoted as saying, "If you had gone to Buddha and asked him 'Are you the son of Brahma?' he would have said, 'My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.' If you had gone to Socrates and asked, 'Are you Zeus?' he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammad and asked, 'Are you Allah?' he would first have rent his clothes then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, 'Are you Heaven?' I think he would have probably replied, 'Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.' The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man."

Lewis cleverly showed that Jesus Christ's claims to be God make him either a liar, a lunatic or Lord of all. There is no other viable option. 

[Summarised from Chapter 12 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Next: C.S. Lewis and the person of Christ.


C.S. Lewis - Objection #9: Relativism

Unknown-11Another objection to faith that C.S. Lewis struggled with was the question: Aren't morals relative? More than two-thirds of Americans deny any belief in absolutes and the statistics would be very similar in other countries.  

An an atheist, Lewis denied that there were any moral absolutes. When he became a Christian, he insisted that Christian morality had to go beyond mere personal opinion. It had to fit with life as a whole, or it was meaningless. 

Lewis queried where he got this idea of things being just and unjust. A person does not call a line crooked unless they have some idea of a straight line. An absolute standard of good suggests a God who is the infinite reference point. Lewis went to great lengths to document the universality and timelessness of moral standards. In the appendix to The Abolition of Man he cites the similar moral standards of ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks, Romans and others. Though the specifics may differ, the general outline is the same throughout all cultures. 

If there is no absolute standard for good and evil (God), there there is no evil. One or the other has to go, either atheism or a major argument for atheism.

The relativistic viewpoint is hopelessly inconsistent. The attempt create an ethic without God is doomed to failure. No relativist who has been given absolute power has used that power benevolently. 

[Summarised from Chapter 11 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Next: Lewis and Other Religions.


C.S. Lewis - Objection #8: Postmodernism

Images-27 A good question at this stage in our overview of C.S. Lewis' objections to faith and how he overcame them is, "Is what was true for C.S. Lewis necessarily true for me?"

Post-modernism denies meta-narratives: any narrnaitve, story or account of the world that claims to be absolute or all encompassing. It sees no facts, only interretations. There is no such thing as an objective view of reality. Ethical claims are sentiment and de-construction is justice. Lewis lived before the full flowing of post-modern thought but some of its roots were already present in his day. 

When it comes to post-modernism, Lewis would have agreed that:

1. There are limits to knowledge.

2. Our perpsective does affect what we see.

3. Our perspective affects the way we view history. 

4. Our ideas of reality (and therefore of God) are too small. What we need most of all is not our pet theories about God, but God himself. Lewis said, "My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters himself. He is the great iconoclast."

5. Culture can blind us to some aspects of who we are. 

However, Lewis would have disagreed with the claim that we can have no objective knowledge of truth or morality. The most basic postmodern contentions are self-refuting. Lewis would ask: "Is it objectively true to say that there are no objective truths? Can you deny the validity of reason without using reason?" If all perspectives of reality are culturally determined, then that statement itself is culturally determined. If all meta-narratives are suspect because they are oppressive, then is no post-moderism also a meta-narrative and equally suspect. Suspician can work both ways. If Christianity can be a crutch, so can atheism.

[Summarised from Chapter 11 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Next: Lewis and Rationalism.


C.S. Lewis - Objection #7: Wish Fulfillment

Images-26 C.S. Lewis also struggled with the question of Wish Fulfilment: Isn't belief in God just a crutch for needy people?

Some people believe that humanity invented God out of need - to cope with the uncertainties of a confusing and often dangerous world. The psychological explanation for God is one of the most common arguments against Christian faith (and against any theistic religion). Belief in a god is common to all cultures in all time periods. Atheists prefer to explain this as "wish fulfilment" - that humanity invented God because we wished God existed. 

Lewis responded to the influential atheists of his time - Ludwig Feuerbach (1804 - 1872), Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) and Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939). Lewis showed that wishing for something does not make it true or real. On the other hand, the wish itself does not prove that what we desire does not exist. If we are hungry, we wish for food. Fortunately, food exists to satisfy your wish. The same thing could be said about thirst and sleep. 

Lewis experienced sharp longings for something beyond his ordinary life and came to conclude that "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Our pleasures on earth act as cosmic pointers to those realities that will ultimately satisfy us. 

Yes, religion can be a projection of some human experience onto God. We can wish God to be as we wish him to be. However, an argument against abuse is not argument against appropriate use. Just because we wish for something doesn't make it untrue.

Lewis also indicated that the tables can be turned on the atheist. Is atheism a project, a desire to kill God, to be free from accountability to a higher power, an opiate for the conscience to escape moral guilt, a wish fulfilment? When we repress something, at a deeper level we know it is really true. Lewis believed that denial of God was a result of systematic dishonesty and was fundamentally self-refuting.

[Summarised from Chapter 9 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Continue reading "C.S. Lewis - Objection #7: Wish Fulfillment" »


C.S. Lewis - Objection #6: Miracles

Images-20 C.S. Lewis also struggled with miracles: do you believe in the miracles of the Bible?

A miracle is something that comes to us from beyond the world. It is an event that can't happen, but it does. It can't be explained scientifically. 

Lewis gained attention beyond his academic circles through his unflinching affirmation of the supernatural - God, demons, miracles and all. How could a sophisticated Oxford professor believe in such fables in the 20th century? He took on the task to consider whether it was intellectually honest and realistic to automatically reject miracles.

He critiqued naturalism, which claims that miracles were impossible or at least so improbable that they can never be accepted. In his book Miracles, Lewis confronted naturalism - the belief that nature is all there is: a closed box of cause and effect. Super-naturalism sees nature as an open system, operated by natural law most of the time but open to intervention by God.

There are three negative ways to respond to miracles:

1. They are impossible. Unless we absolutely certain that there is no supernatural power (God) in the universe, we cannot dogmatically say that every claim of a miracle is false. Granted, miracles rare are but that does not mean that they are impossible. We can never assume that what we have experienced is all there is to reality. There is no argument to prove that miracles cannot happen. 

2. They are improbable. Scottish philosopher, David Hume, allowed for no instance of a miracle because another explanation is always preferable. However, we cannot say that all reports of miracles are false, even if one of them did happen. You need to weigh the historical evidence for each unusual event before you exclude or accept it. 

3. They are inappropriate. In Christianity, miracles have deceives significant, converging on Christ and demonstrating that he is the one sent by God. The miracles of Christ are not merely powerful acts for the sake of power - they show his compassion and demonstrate his identity. 

We still serve a miracle-working God. Nothing is impossible with Him!

[Summarised from Chapter 8 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Next: Objection #7 - Wish Fulfilment


C.S. Lewis - Objection #5: Imagination

Images-20 C.S. Lewis struggled with Imagination: Isn't faith merely imaginary?

Reason and imagination were important to Lewis because they had once been separated in his own life but were later brought together. For him, meaning often came through imagination. For some, imagination can seem like an escape from reality. In contrast, Lewis believed that stories can be an escape into reality. Imagination is a means to truth. 

As part of Lewis' conversion, he received what he later called the "baptism of his imagination." He came to see that his earlier aspirations pointed to something real, unlike his atheism which led him to a grim and meaningless universe. He noted that the authors with the most depth in them were written by people of faith while the rest were 'tinny' - entertaining, but hardly more. Imagination opened his mind to the beauty of the holiness around him and ultimately to the beauty of the holiness in God. 

Lewis believed that adults should keep a childlike outlook on the world. This included a tireless curiosity, an intensity of imagination, the faculty of suspending belief, an unspoiled appetite, and a readiness to wonder, pity and admire. Through good stories, he believed that we could escape to reality - to see how the human life might be lived, perhaps ought to be lived.

God is the great creator, but he delegates creativity to us as well. Tolkein and Lewis talk about our role as 'sub-creators.' Only God creates something out of nothing, but we can use our creativity to create something out of something. 

We often learn by seeing - catching a vision. Read good stories - feel and experience the world through the author's eyes. Travel to places you have never been, experience things you have never guessed, struggle with dilemmas you have not faced, and learn how people of other cultures deal with life. 

[Summarised from Chapter 7 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Next: Objection #6 - Miracles.


C.S. Lewis - Objection #4: Rationalism

Images-20 C.S. Lewis struggled with Rationalism: Who needs faith?

In Lewis' time, the dominant view of life was what we call Modernism, which placed great confidence in reason, the scientific method and rational arguments. We can also call this view Rationalism.

There are four basic intellectual positions about the relationship between faith and reason( R stands for reason and F stands for faith):

1. R - F = M (modernism or rationalism).

2. F - R = F (fideism or faith-ism)

3. - F - R = P (postmodernism)

4. F + R = C (classical approach)

Lewis took the classical approach: faith plus reason. He definitely saw a place for reason in the Christian faith. He believed there was enough evidence for Christ to lead to the psychological exclusion of doubt, but not the logical exclusion of dispute. While he maintained a place for reason, he was not a modernist. He came to reject rationalism. 

The dogmatic rationalist/modernist tries to assert absolutely that "there is no God," which is a universal negative statement. How could anyone go about proving that something does not exist? To know this, you would need to know everything (just like saying that there is no gold in Tasmania would require you to go through every square metre of earth before you could prove your assertion). If there was one thing you did not know, that one thing might be God. The dogmatic assertion that "there is no God" is not only not provable, it is also arrogant. Sometimes a deficiency of argument is covered by dogmatic assertions. 

Reason can help to eliminate some of the obstacles to faith, although it can't deal with all of them. Doubt is often more emotional and spiritual than it is intellectual. Our moods can change whatever view our reason has taken. Life is a cosmic balancing act between faith and reason. 

For some excellent additional resources, see my post on Apologetics

[Summarised from Chapter 6 of Art Lindsley's C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ


C.S. Lewis - Objection #3: Myth

Images-20 C.S. Lewis also struggled with Myth: Isn't Christianity just one myth above many?

Some people believe that Christianity is just a myth, a legend, a nice story made up by some well-meaning religious folks. This was one of the major objections that C.S. Lewis had when he was an atheist. He saw Christianity as “one myth amongst many.”

In his biography Surprised by Joy, Lewis wrote that one factor that contributed to his atheism was the similarity between Christianity and pagan mythology. In his secondary education it was assumed that pagan myths were false and Christianity true. He wondered on what basis Christianity could be exempt from the same critical judgment that was passed on myths.

In 1916 (at age 18), Lewis wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves and said, “You ask me my religious views: you know, I think I believe 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 invention.” He continued, “Often too, great men we regarded as gods after their death - such as Hercules or Odin: thus after the death of a Hebrew philosopher Yeshua (whose name we have corrupted into Jesus) he became regarded as a god, a cult sprang up, which was afterward connected with the ancient Hebrew Yahweh worship, and so Christianity came into being - one mythology among many, but one that we happened to be brought up in.”

It was in such a state of mind - regarding Christianity as one myth among many - that Lewis went to teach at Oxford University ... where he met .R.R. Tolkein (1892 – 1973) at a faculty meeting on May 11, 1926. Through their friendship, Tolkein was able to influence Lewis in showing him that there is at least some truth in all myths - like splintered fragments of the true light of God's reality. Tolkein believed that one of the common elements to a good story is a ‘good catastrophe.’ This is a tragedy in the midst of the story that ends up being a good thing, leading to the 'happily ever after' at the end.

For example, in Snow White, the heroine's eating from the poisoned apple and seeming to die only provides the opportunity for the kiss from her Prince Charming. They then live happily ever after in their castle in the clouds. Without the catastrophe there is no happy ending. Many stories contain this element. In fact, Tolkein argued that the mark of a good story is this 'eu-catastrophe' leading to a happy ending.

Tolkein went on to argue that people sense that such stories point to some underlying Reality. As we read or watch them, we are being told that the world IS certainly filled with danger, sorrow and tragedy but that nonetheless there IS a meaning to things, there IS a difference between good and evil, and above all, there WILL be a final defeat of evil and even an ‘escape from death’ – which Tolkein said was the quintessential happy ending. Tolkein argued that the gospel story of Jesus is NOT simply one more great story, pointing to the underlying Reality. Rather, the gospel story of Jesus IS the underlying Reality to which ALL stories point. It gives us more than a passing inspiration because it is THE true story it happened.

This happy ending, far from being naive and unrealistic, denies that the universe will end in final defeat. The happy ending is 'good news,' giving a fleeting glimpse of joy. Tolkein went on to argue that the gospel of Christ is the greatest 'eu-catastophe' of history. The worst has already happened - the Son of God died on a cross. But of course, that is not the end of the story. The crucifixion led to the resurrection: great joy and victory over death. Tolkein also argued that the gospel is not just a nice story; it is FACT. The gospel of Christ was 'myth become fact.' The difference between Christ and pagan mythology was that the Gospels were historically true and not just fiction.

When Lewis examined the Gospel narratives, having already become an expert in mythology, he was surprised that his literary judgment told him that they were more than myths. He said, “I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter they set down in their artless, historical fashion ... was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. ... Here and here only in all time the myth must have come fact: the Word, flesh; God, man.”

Not long after this, Lewis came to believe that Christ was the Son of God. He later wrote, “... the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.” In even pagan myths, sometimes the 'gods' die and rise again ... yet Christ is the only one of these who is historical.

Continue reading "C.S. Lewis - Objection #3: Myth" »


C.S. Lewis - Objection #2: The Problem of Evil

Images-20 C.S. Lewis' second obstacle to faith was: The Problem of Evil: How can I believe in God when there is so much evil, pain and suffering in the world? Isn't that inconsistent with an all-good, all-powerful God?

The problem of evil is perhaps the greatest of all obstacles for people considering faith in Christ. It was for Lewis. For Lewis, evil was both an intellectual and an emotional problem. He dealt with the intellectual problem in The Problem of Pain and with his own emotional struggle in A Grief Observed

Of course, the problem of evil is not unique to Christianity. Every worldview or philosophy has to deal with why suffering exists. Lewis did not dodge the issue, nor can we.

Lewis saw us living in a good world gone wrong. If evil was real (which it is), then there must be an absolute standard by which it is known as evil. There must be an absolute good by which evil can be distinguished from good. Doesn't this demand a God as an adequate basis for absolute good? We feel that there are many things in this world that ought not to be the way they are. Our experience tells us that this is a good world gone wrong. 

Eventually, Lewis saw the existence of evil as an argument for God's existence. An all-powerful, all good God created the universe. God has permitted evil and has a good reason for doing so. Therefore, there is no contradiction in theism.

God did not create evil, but he did create within humans beings the capacity to choose evil. While the capacity to choose evil is not evil itself, it provides the possibility for evil to be chosen. 

As a young boy, Lewis lost his mother to cancer and later in life he lost his wife, Joy, to the same disease. Yet Lewis once said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Pain topples the house of cards of our own sufficiency, forcing us to stop and examine ourselves. 

Intellectual answers can never give specific reasons for why God permits the particular evils we encounter. Job never received an explanation for his sufferings. Instead, after a long silence, God asked a series of questions to show Job the limitations of his own understanding. Lewis came to the place where he not only believed in God, but chose to trust him even when he didn't understand God completely and despite his anger at times of suffering and pain. We can too. 

For more on this important topic, I recommend N.T. Wright's book Evil and the Justice of God. Click Download Tsunami to read a few thoughts on suffering which I wrote after the Asian tsunami. 

[Summarised from chapter 4 of C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ]

Next: Objection #3 - Myth.


C.S. Lewis - Objection #1: Chronological Snobbery

Images-20 C.S. Lewis' first objection to the Christian faith was what we could call Chronological Snobbery: What does a two-thousand-year-old religion have to do with me?

Lewis wondered how an ancient religion could have anything to do with now. Wasn't Christianity old-fashioned, outmoded and a relic of the past? Hadn't it outlived its usefulness? From Owen Berfield, Lewis learned that for any supposedly outmoded idea, inquiry must be made as to why the idea went out of date, whether the idea was ever refuted, and if so, by whom, and how conclusively? 

We must not assume that because an idea is old it is therefore false. Lewis later labelled this attitude "chronological snobbery." He defined this as "the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited." In other words, we take for granted that the prevailing ideas of our time and culture are unquestionably true. 

The truth is that we need the help of the past to more accurately understand our own times. Lewis urges us to deliberately read old books in order to let the "clean breeze of the centuries" blow through our minds. He made it a general rule that one should read as many old books as new ones. Sometimes we need to go back in order to go forward. Jesus said that "every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old (Matt.13:52)."

No matter what period of history we live in, those things that are most relevant will always be the things that are unchanging and eternal. Lewis called them "first things." We must not buy into the lie that the newest is the best or be misled by the temptation to give in to a constant drive for novelty. After all, all that is not eternal is eternally out of date. 

If the clock is telling the wrong time, then maybe it is time to turn it back. Listen to the wisdom of the past. Learn from history. That which is true is not always new and that which is new is not necessarily true. Think about it ...  

[Summarised from chapter 3 of Art Lindsley's book C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ

Click here for Objection #2 - The Problem of Evil.


C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ

Images-20 In his excellent new book, C.S.Lewis' Case for Christ, Art Lindsley (senior fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute in Springfield, Virginia) gleans insights from reason, imagination and faith from the life and teachings of C.S. Lewis. Clive Staples Lewis was a writer, teacher, thinker and a Christian. He was an Oxford professor who was born November 29th, 1898 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. he died on November 22nd, 1963, the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. 

Lewis became well known in Britain during World War II due to his regular BBC broadcasts. Besides his many books defending and explaining his faith in Christ, Lewis wrote fiction, science fiction, poetry and well-respected works in English literature. His influence only increase with time. 

Lewis was an ardent atheist until the age of thirty-one. His first book, Pilgrim's Regress, describe some of the dilemmas he faced on his spiritual journey. Lewis was a thorough scholar, a debater, and an intellectual genius. He cultivated life-long friendships with people such as J.R.R. Tolkein. He was a powerful communicator in the both written and spoken word.

To Lewis, Jesus Christ was the key to unlock the mysteries of life. He said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

On his journey to faith, Lewis encountered many obstacles. These included problems with prayer, the problem of evil, parallel mythologies, immersion in rationalism, imagination vs. reason, and disbelief in miracles. One by one, these arguments against God were countered and his obstacles to faith were knocked down. 

Tomorrow we begin a series of posts considering these obstacles and how Lewis overcame them, showing the relevance of his experience to ours today. Click here for part 1.

[Summarised from Part 1 of Art Lindsley's book C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ


Science and Religion

Images-22 A recent article in Christianity Today by Andy Crouch highlights the ongoing somewhat awkward relationship between science and faith. Elaine Howard Euklund expands our understanding of this relationship in her new book Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think. Her research reveals that "... a whopping 64 percent of elite scientists are atheists or agnostics (compared with 6 percent of all Americans), while a vanishing 2 percent (roughly three dozen of her 1,700 subjects) are evangelical Christians. But in the middle are many, even among the atheists, who describe themselves as 'spiritual,'and many more are respectful of religious faith even if they do not share it themselves." 

Significantly, Ecklund found that the younger scientists are, the more likely they are "to believe in God and to attend religious services" — just the opposite of younger Americans as a whole." As time goes on, hopefully the conversation will continue and many more will find that science and faith don't have to be enemies. They exist for different purposes and can only benefit from a better relationship. 


Christian History

Tolkien The Christian History magazine has been an excellent source of information and inspiration about church history and influential people for many decades now. Magazine issues have included articles on people such as John Calvin, St. Augustine, John Wesley, Charles Finney, C.S. Lewis, and William Wilberforce, as well as topics such as Women in the Early Church, the Great Awakening, the Crusades, and Pentecostalism.

Recently, the magazine has been taken out of circulation and has gone completely online. All ninety-nine issues are available free on the Christian History web site and you can also sign up for a free newsletter. Well worth checking out - a wealth of helpful historical information.