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Preview: Comments on: C.S. Lewis is morally incoherent

Comments on: C.S. Lewis is morally incoherent

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By: D. E. Evans

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 21:22:58 +0000

Perhaps a late comer to this thread, referred by a recent posting, I must admit that the 10 year old who tried reading Lewis never made it past the first Narnia book. I *did* finish The Screwtape Letters, and loved it. I had read through the Silmarillion twice by the time I was 12 (not to mention the many readings through LOTR, and beginning into the History of Middle Earth series). Somehow, I saw instinctively as a child the shallowness of Narnia. Now that you've described the Deus ex-machina obviousness of the Lion, I remember this is where I lost interest. I wish I had been able to articulate that instinct then in understanding why I never liked Narnia and loved Tolkien, (even his translations fascinated me as a child). Thank you for putting the pieces together here. I'm not sure why I didn't put it together years ago.

By: Oswald

Sun, 12 Apr 2009 21:27:19 +0000

Of course the narnia series is a little heavy handed and lacks casual depth, they're children's books! Tolkein's works were written for himself, an academic I believe, and so of course they are much more developed. The Aslan sacrifice does break down a bit, but for Christ the real sacrifice was not the pain of torture and death, it was the separation from God. The real pain lay in the rending apart of God. He chose to tear Himself apart on the deepest levels. That was the sacrifice, not transient physical pain.

By: Rob G

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 20:08:08 +0000

The difference pointed out by several commenters above between CSL's purposes in writing the Chronicles and JRRT's in writing the LOTR is vital, esp. when you take into account that Lewis was writing primarily for children. In this regard comparing the two is not particularly useful; it's rather like comparing 'The Wind in the Willows' with 'Watership Down.' Both feature anthropomorphised animals living in an author-created world that has some semblance to reality, but to argue that TWITW is "inconsistent" or "lacking in coherence," especially compared to 'Watership Down,' is somewhat beside the point. In fact, if Lewis and Tolkien weren't Christians, friends, and literary associates I doubt we'd even be having this discussion, because it wouldn't occur to anyone to compare the two. "Christ’s sacrifice was not in his death alone. For, yes, the fact that he died and returned would render his sacrifice a fraud if the sacrifice was merely his death. Instead, the sacrifice was that he bear the punishment for all mankind. God, in that moment, chose to divert all his anger and wrath at the sinful condition of man on a single person: Jesus. For this, God made the ultimate sacrifice so that he himself could be at peace with man. Mankind was spared his wrath." This is one version of the atonement (the so-called "penal model") but it is not the only one, and is, in fact, a rather late development in the history of Christian theology. I doubt it's the one Lewis, who was very familiar with the Church Fathers, actually held. It's been a while since I've read either the Chronicles or Lewis's theology, but it seems to me that his take on the atonement is probably more in line with the classic Patristic idea, what Lutheran theologian Gustave Aulen has called the "Christus Victor" model. "If anyone is interested there is a book by Micheal Ward, “Planet Narnia” which gives an interesting insight into C.S. Lewis’s works and answers the objections raised in this article rather nicely." I have not read Ward's book in its entirety, but I've dipped into it here and there. This article by Ward: is a sort of precis of the book. He does answer some of the very objections raised in this article.

By: Jaanon

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 11:01:22 +0000

Hmm, Quite an interesting piece you have here. I know this article is old but it is certainly new to me. If anyone is interested there is a book by Micheal Ward, "Planet Narnia" which gives an interesting insight into C.S. Lewis's works and answers the objections raised in this article rather nicely. Oh and Bob? 1. The term "faith" used in the Christian tradition is actually "Pistis", a Greek word meaning "steadfast loyalty based on prior acts". Try to understand the word before using it. 2. Paine's "Age of Reason" is an example of poor scholarship at its worst. He obviously had no grasp of the history of his subject, no grasp of the languages the Bible was written in (hand waving away the Greek wording, much as you did) and fills the rest of the book with nothing more then rhetoric and venom, all of it empty and without direction. He finds no contradictions, so he creates a series of straw men out of "What If?" situations. In short, no evidence and pitiful argumentation. If you want to read Atheistic thinking with some actual meat, I recommend virtually anything written by Quentin Smith. You claim to have arrived at your conclusion by thought. Apparently, you have neither thought long enough or hard enough.

By: Ryan

Thu, 02 Mar 2006 15:50:18 +0000

If you believe the myth that Jesus didn't truly die and rise from the dead, you've got no hope as a Christian. If Jesus didn't truly rise from the dead, then death still has power over us as Christians. C. S. Lewis had Aslan truly rise from the dead because that's what Christ did.

By: Bob

Thu, 26 Jan 2006 07:25:50 +0000

If you think that Narnia is incoherent and doesn't make logical or mythical sense, you should read the Bible. Better yet, to get a better understanding, read Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason," which tears so many holes in the Bible that I can't believe (oops, did I say that!) people can put their faith (oops, i did it again) in this stuff. But then again, faith means never having to ask why? Don't think, just believe. But...I am, therefore, I will think!

By: Daryl Sawyer

Sat, 17 Dec 2005 20:09:50 +0000

On the subject of the Sacrifice: Imagine for a moment that you are in the following position. You have committed no crime, yet the authorities wish to kill you. You have at your fingertips the power to thwart them completely and utterly. You also posess the *authority*, being the rightful heir to the throne they pay lip service to. Yet, for reasons you know, yet lack the capacity to understand at the moment, you cannot use that power; you must submit to them. Imagine for a moment that, to accomplish your mission, you must go to a place where you are going to be whipped, beaten, mocked, tortured, taken as close to death by physical punishment as a man can get. You are aware that you will be rescued at the last moment, and that your rescuer has the medical facilities necessary to restore you to perfect health. Now imagine that you are actually there, enduring pain and suffering, false accusations, punishment for nothing more than claiming to be who you actually are. You're being whipped, beaten, spat on, mocked, possibly sexually violated (imagine Christ at Abu Ghraib)... and the entire time, you have it in your power to turn on them and obliterate them completely and totally, heal your own wounds... and then go on to rule the world. You're even mocked at numerous points that if you really *were* who you said you were, you could put a stop to it, and because you don't, that's how they know you're guilty! Not only this, but your closest friends have abandoned you. Not that you didn't see it coming.... you knew the entire time you were with them what sort of people they were. And they are the *greatest* of the people for whom you are enduring this punishment. You know full well why you are doing what you are doing. But knowing and experiencing are two very different things. If I promised to pay your medical bills, and pay for treatment sufficient to restore you to perfect health, would you consent to being tortured to prove your point? Heck, would you even consent to a life-saving surgery without the aid of any kind of anesthesia, whatosever (not even copious amounts of alcohol, or a sharp blow to the head)? Would you give your left kidney to your own mother while fully awake and feeling the entire experience? (Not a serious offer, btw...)

By: Tom Lord

Thu, 15 Dec 2005 18:36:24 +0000

Nice review. I haven't read the books -- this is about your review. There are class views of Christianity that I have found make greater sense of many texts than the divine views. For example, in some views, Christ was simply a human revolutionary expressing himself in the same iconographic terms used by religious leaders of his time to administer populations -- he was a social hacker who lacked a better vocabulary (at least that could be widely understood). By democratizing divine standing he was destroying it (taking it away from the exclusive possession of rulers) and empowering people to be more concerned with their standing in the here and now than with their score on some Tally Sheet In the Sky. Thus creating free thinkers (relative to their time), he became a political problem both for the dominant Romans and the subordinate Rabbinical government of the oppressed. Hence execution. Hence the limits of the narrative he was constructing. Hence his lack of forsight. Hence his self-sacrifice. Hence the essentially allegorical nature of The Resurection (it is the revolution, not the literal body of Christ, that lives on). (Of course, this view implies that Andrew Lloyd-Weber, at least as treated by some directors and actors, is one of the best theologens of our time :-) Now by almost two millenia later the technology of population administration has advanced a bit. In Lewis' time, you have a political leadership to which he is subject and with which, it seems from your description, he identifies as willing subject. Said leadership operates with more detailed understanding of the limitations of their understanding and control, of the naivete of their subjects, and of the danger of outside forces who presumably do not share a vision of the Peacable Kingdom. To "sing into existence" -- to decree -- to rule primarily by The Word, implying The Idea -- yet to have finite and contingent power. Don't know about Lewis but that is how your description of Aslan comes across to these ears. This is not to say that Lewis saw it in quite these terms or that he denied, in any way, the relevance of The Divine to the concerns he was allegorizing (as he evidently would not, given other writings). It is only to say that this is the arrangement of power he was struggling to understand, perhaps hampered by his particular superstitions. That he bails so often and reaches for deus ex machina reveals, perhaps, exactly where one may find the contradictions between his received theology and the facts on the ground. Generally good people inherit both the revolutionary ethic *and* administrative control over populations. It sounds as if, from your description, Lewis was an apologist for their failures at reconciling these traditions and/or an educator, trying to at least expose hoi poloi (such as yourself) to the issues of the day. -t

By: John Cowan

Wed, 14 Dec 2005 13:50:01 +0000

It is a Catholic dogma (derived from Aquinas) that reason is sufficient to arrive at correct theology — apprehension of paradox is not required. Umm, well, no. What the First Vatican Council declared was that the knowledge of God (his existence and some of his essences) could be known by the "natural light of human reason" -- or as Lytton Strachey memorably put it, it became a matter of Faith that Faith was not necessary for the knowledge of God. That does not at all mean that the more difficult or paradoxical doctrines, like the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Homoousia, are accessible to reason alone! The last one, which is relevant here, is a clear-cut case of the Church explicitly rejecting the simpler and easier-to-understand formulations like "Jesus is something between human and divine" (Arianism), "Jesus is mixed human and divine" (Monophysitism), "Jesus has two personalities in one body (Nestorianism), "Jesus is a human being" (Unitarianism), "Jesus is God masquerading as a human" (Docetism), "Jesus was born human but became God at his baptism" (Adoptionism), and so on (and my apologies to any theologians reading this, to whom all this will look like a drastic oversimplification), in favor of the straightforward and completely paradoxical "Jesus is wholly human and wholly divine, both at the same time". Thanks for the correction on neopaganism, though I still wonder whether the theological situation is as black and white as you paint it.

By: Dustin Dvorak

Wed, 14 Dec 2005 01:39:40 +0000

I was very well pleased with this article. I am a Christian and a Bible-student at Dallas Baptist University. I will openly admit that I wanted to read this article because I thought it was going to be a low-class christian slash. It is interesting to see the viewpoints of other people in this world. While I do not necessarily agree with the thesis, the arguments made in the paper were thoroughly stated and done so in a surprisingly non-offensive manner. I personally believe in God, absolute morality, and the fallable nature of man and while it may dishearten me to read through to the end where it is concluded that Jesus' death and resurrection was a myth, I must state that I respect the way this blog was well-written. I definitely intend to tune in and see what interesting things will be discussed in the future. Kudos, D. Dvorak