Monday, January 11, 2010

C.S. Lewis on Truth and the Christian Freedom for Liberality of Thought

Prepping for tonight's first gathering of a group that will spend several Monday evenings discussing and reflecting on the popular novel, The Shack, at our church, I remembered the cited paragraph below from C.S. Lewis' classic, Mere Christianity.

Christians don't believe that they have a corner on the truth market. But they do believe--I believe--that God has revealed Himself to the world, first, in general terms through the universe and its amazing order; then, more specifically through His people, Israel; and finally and definitively, in Jesus. Jesus is truth and His word is truth, both claims Jesus made for Himself.

One can hardly be accused of arrogance for learning the truth that 2 X 2=4 and being willing to share it with others.

On the other hand, Christians who go around acting as though the truth about Jesus is their truth, their discovery, or the result of their goodness, rather than something that God has graciously revealed to them, do a disservice both to God and to the world around them.

Read what Lewis, who, like myself, was once an atheist, says:
I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic--there is only one right answer to the sum, and all other answers are wrong; but some of the wrong answers are much nearer bring right than others.
This bears relevance, it seems to me, to the brouhaha that arose after Brit Hume's comments regarding Tiger Woods.

Of course, just as math teachers can share the multiplication tables or alegbraic equations arrogantly, lording their knowledge of certain information over their students in such a way that they're no longer teaching, but feeding their desire for superiority, Christians can share their faith arrogantly. Scripture specifically condemns this. Peter writes in the New Testament:
Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
In fairness, can anybody say that when Brit Hume suggested that Christianity had the forgiveness and restoration that Tiger Woods might need and that Buddhism did not, the commentator was being arrogant?

Or was he simply sharing the truth as he saw it, as he felt it had been revealed?

How is this different from what one would expect of any commentator?

If the commentator offers his or her take with compassion, as Hume clearly feels for Woods, to what are people really objecting?


Jeff Branch said...

Concerning The Shack, I have read some disturbing comments about this book being heretical. We had a class about how good The Shack is at our church which I did not attend (for time reasons), but I am interested in your thoughts on this, please. Are some people just too critical?

Mark Daniels said...

While there are some areas of disagreement I have with 'The Shack,' I don't find anything heretical in it. (I haven't had time to read the article you linked yet, Jeff, but will hope to do so later in the week.)

I do think that some people are too critical. Young clearly desires to fill a niche that is largely missing in the publishing world. He's unabashedly Christian, but he's willing to deal with some of the tough questions that dog Christians and non-Christians alike.

My primary criticism of 'The Shack' is that, for the most part, its prose is sort of bland. (My son says that it's "turgid.") The bulk of it is a series of dialogs, making it in some ways, the Christian version of 'The Fountainhead.' (And, no, I don't see how anyone can be a Christian and like Ayn Rand, but that's a line of discussion for another day.)

But I believe that this is the book is a compelling presentation of Biblical, orthodox Christianity and worth reading.

God bless!

The Old Geezer said...

I enjoyed looking over your blog
God bless you