Archive for the ‘C.S. Lewis’ Category

The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false

December 7, 2010

“Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. That they stood thus in the mouth of Jesus himself, and were not merely placed thus by the reporter, we surely need not doubt. Unless the reporter were perfectly honest he would never have recorded the confession of ignorance at all; he could have had no motive for doing so except a desire to tell the whole truth. And unless later copyists were equally honest they would never have preserved the (apparently) mistaken prediction about “this generation” after the passage of time had shown the (apparent) mistake. This passage (Mark 13:30-32) and the cry “Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) together make up the strongest proof that the New Testament is historically reliable. The evangelists have the first great characteristic of honest witnesses: they mention facts which are, at first sight, damaging to their main contention.

The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined. Nor indeed can the unconsciousness of Christ in sleep be imagined, nor the twilight of reason in his infancy; still less his merely organic life in his mother’s womb… It would be difficult, and, to me, repellent, to suppose that Jesus never asked a genuine question, that is, a question to which he did not know the answer. That would make of his humanity something so unlike ours as scarcely to deserve the name. I find it easier to believe that when be said “Who touched me?” (Luke 7:45) he really wanted to know.

C.S.Lewis, The World’s Last Night

But if, as Preterists argue, Christ ‘came’ in judgement in AD 70, the embarrassment is removed.

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Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read

November 21, 2010

…the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing

December 28, 2009

I was at that time living like many atheists; in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing.

C.S.Lewis

No thought is valid if it can be explained fully as the result of irrational causes

November 24, 2009

No thought is valid if it can be explained fully as the result of irrational causes…
A train of thought loses all rational credentials, as soon as it can be shown to be wholly the result of irrational causes.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles, p.27

Unless Nature always goes on in the same way, the fact that things had happened ten million times would not make it a whit more probable that it would happen again

November 11, 2009

Unless Nature always goes on in the same way, the fact that things had happened ten million times would not make it a whit more probable that it would happen again. And how could we know the Uniformity of Nature? A moment’s thought shows that we do not know it by experience. We observe many regularities in Nature. But of course all the observations that men have made or will make while the race lasts cover only a minute fraction of the events that actually go on. Our observations would therefore be of no use unless we felt sure that Nature when we are not watching her behaves in the same way as when we are: in other words, unless we believe in the Uniformity of Nature. Experience therefore cannot prove uniformity, because uniformity has to assume before experience proves anything. And mere length of experience does not help matters. It is no good saying, ‘Each fresh experience confirms our belief in the uniformity and therefore we reasonably expect that it will always be conformed;’ for that argument works only on the assumption that the future will resemble the past – which is simply the assumption of Uniformity under a new name.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, 1959, p. 123

If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees

October 22, 2009

If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, page 139

What the Naturalist believes is that the ultimate Fact, the thing you can’t go behind, is a vast process in space and time which is going on of its own accord

October 21, 2009

What the Naturalist believes is that the ultimate Fact, the thing you can’t go behind, is a vast process in space and time which is going on of its own accord.  Inside that total system every particular event (such as your sitting reading this book) happens because some other event has happened; in the long run, because the Total Event is happening.  Each particular thing (such as this page) is what it is because other things are what they are; and so, eventually, because the whole system is what it is.  All the things and events are so completely interlocked that no one of them can claim the slightest independence from the ‘the whole show’.  None of them exists ‘on its own’ or ‘goes on its own’ or ‘behavior of its own accord’ which belongs ‘Nature’ (the great total interlocked event) as a whole.  Thus no thoroughgoing Naturalist believes in free will: for free will would mean that human beings have the power of independent action, the power of doing something more or other than what was involved by the total series of events.  And any such separate power of originating events is what the Naturalist denies. Spontaneity, originality, action ‘on its own’, is a privilege reserved for the ‘whole show’, which he calls Nature.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles, Geoffrey Bles, 1959, pp.16-17

the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience

October 21, 2009

…the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted…If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.

If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence ‘according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry’. But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are. For if they are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred. …The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. This philosophical question must therefore come first.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles, Geoffrey Bles, 1959, pp.11-12

A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist

October 7, 2009

…we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy. A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist.

In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called “falling in love” occurred in a sexless world.

Here, then is the desire, still wandering and uncertain of its object and still largely unable to see that object in the direction where it really lies.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Like an ignorant child who wants to make mud pies in a slum

September 17, 2009

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

C.S.Lewis

cf. Jeremiah 2