Monthly Archives: February 2016
Among the many remarks made famous by C. S. Lewis, one of the most famous is what became known as his “Lord-Liar-Lunatic” argument. It goes like this,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”1
His reasoning has been evaluated, scrutinized, praised, and criticized.2
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Lewis made another three-point argument earlier in life.
In his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis harkens back to his days as an atheist. He testifies that one of the reasons behind his atheism was the condition of the world. There was so much evil in the world he wondered how anyone could believe in a good and benevolent God. He writes,
“If you ask me to believe that this is the work of the benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.”3
But Lewis follows this observation with another point. It was this point that undermined the other three. He writes,
“There was one question which I never dreamed of raising. I never noticed that the very strength and facility of the pessimists’ case at once poses us a problem. If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground of religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.”4
Though Lewis is well known for his “Lord-Liar-Lunatic” argument, he should also get some credit for coming up with the “None-Numb-Nasty-Never Thought of That” argument as well.
“How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!” – Psalm 92:5.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 55-56.
- For a summary, see http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2016/02/01/is-c-s-lewiss-liar-lord-or-lunatic-argument-unsound/
- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HaperCollinsPublishers, 1996), 3.
- Ibid., 3-4.
It’s a phrase we’ve all either used or heard. We talk of having “skin in the game.” The term can be used in almost any context. The meaning is simple enough. This time the problem is personal. This one is hurting me.
It’s remarkable how different people are when they have skin in the game. They can be sympathetic when you lose your job, but they’re depressed when they lose theirs. They can put a hand on your shoulder when your kid is in jail, but their hands tremble when it’s their own. They know just the right thing to say when expressing their condolences, but they are numb when you express yours.
In his book A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis bares his soul on the sorrow and torment experienced at the loss of his wife. It is not an easy book to read. It was not an easy book to write. Continue reading
The argument goes something like this. Humans are inherently good. Therefore it is unjust for bad things to happen to them. Why doesn’t God do something?
But the bad things being done—the bullying, ridiculing, greed, and child abuse—are being done by humans. What is God supposed to do?
We don’t have two kinds of humans. The Hellish and the Heavenly. God can either wipe out all of us or He can remove our ability to choose. Either one will work. As one author observes, “They might as well say that since we are so good, God shouldn’t allow us to be so bad.”1 Continue reading
People come to faith through seemingly numberless avenues. Many come as children. They grew up in a home where matters of faith made sense. They still had to make the belief their own, but it was a natural development.
Others believe as children in spite of their home. What they saw going on between their parents was enough to make them look for something else. Something better.
Others come as a result of their own suffering while still others come as a result of the suffering of others. They are impressed by the calm and confidence and want to know more. Continue reading
It’s not as well known a hymn as “Amazing Grace.” I did not grow up singing it. But somewhere along the way someone suggested we sing “I Am His, And He Is Mine.” The words and music were both written in 1876. The second stanza caught my attention:
Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.1
As I thought about what we were singing, it dawned on me that everything — everything — was evidence of God. Suddenly all the arguments for the “evidence of God” became little more than a matter of simple faith. One person believes it. One doesn’t. One person sees Him. One person doesn’t. Continue reading
Motive can make all the difference, can’t it?
The story is told of a man who knocks on someone’s door saying, “Sir you have got to help! There is a family I know very well that is in desperate need of money. The father has been out of a job for over a year, they have five kids at home with barely a bit of food to eat. The worst part is, they are about to be kicked out of the house and they will be left on the streets without a roof over their heads!”
“Well,” said the man at the door, “that is terrible! Please, come in.” Continue reading
It is probably the most universally famous thing Jesus ever said. It has been called the Golden Rule and the Mt. Everest of all ethical teaching. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
The passage is usually applied in the context of doing good to others. A friend once suggested that if you are ever in a quandary about what to do, just think about what you would like someone to do for you – drop a note, give you a call, stop in and say hi —and your problem is solved. Now go do it for someone.
But I think the passage can also be applied in a far more difficult context, that of forgiving. Continue reading
“Think before you speak” is sound counsel. One of the reasons this is such good advice is that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). That principle alone is enough to make you want to go mute.
I imagine we are most conscious of our words when speaking to other people. Our family, friends, people at work, and the ones we hang out with outside of work. These are the folks who are the most likely to be victims of our complaints, cutting remarks, and insincere compliments.
But let me add one more listener. God. Continue reading
I can’t say we knew each other well. We worked in the same mill for about eight years and though we were in the same department, our paths seldom crossed.
But when I did happen to venture in his direction, I would make it a point to stop and visit with him and would occasionally share my faith. Sometimes it was from something I was reading, other times the conversations would revolve around some ethical issue.
But I was always careful not to say too much. The reason for my reservation is that the man was hostile of Christianity and critical of Christians. My guiding principle was something Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Continue reading
One of the more difficult stipulations made by Jesus is when he said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This is difficult to reconcile with the more popular “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12).
While this isn’t the place to unpack everything here, suffice it to say Jesus is showing the challenge of following him. Christ’s use of the word “hate” can be understood as a Semitic expression for loving something else less. Read a little further in this chapter, and you find he not only speaks about family, he also speaks of dying to self (14:27), and of relinquishing everything (14:33). These are different ways of saying the same thing. To follow Christ at all is to follow him in everything.
Instead of thinking about the individual who takes this passage to the extreme by giving away everything they own and abandoning all friends and family, it might be more helpful (though more painful) to see how the principle looks when it’s not followed by one of the nicest people you know.
In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis describes a woman that many of us know by a different name. He humorously calls her Mrs. Fidget. He writes, Continue reading