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Essay/Term paper: The case for christianity, the world's last night

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Position Papers

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I. Introduction

II. Brief Biographical Information

III. The Case for Christianity

- Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe

IV. The Problem with Pain

- Divine Omnipotence

V. The World's Last Night

- The Efficacy of Prayer

VI. Conclusion

A Critique of C. S. Lewis

"A Relativist said, 'The world does not exist, England does

not exist, Oxford does not exist and I am confident that

I do not Exist!' When Lewis was asked to reply, he stood

up and said, 'How am I to talk to a man who's not there?'"

- C. S. Lewis: A Biography

Clive Staples Lewis was born, in 1898, in Belfast. C. S. Lewis

was educated at various schools in England. In 1914, Lewis began

studying Latin, Greek, French, German and Italian under the private

tuition of W. T. Kirkpatrick. He then moved to Oxford where his studies

were interrupted by World War I (1917). Two years later he was back in

Oxford resuming his studies. In 1924, Lewis was "elected" to teach

Literature and Language at Magdalen College, Oxford and remained there

till 1954. During this time period in his life, Lewis wrote the

majority of his work. Lewis moved to Cambridge for the remainder of his

life teaching Medieval and Renaissance Literature.1

C. S. Lewis was a man dedicated to the pursuit of truth who"

believed in argument, in disputation, and in the dialectic of Reason. .

."2 He began his pursuit of truth as an atheist and ended up as a

Christian. His works the Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity dealt

with issues he struggled with. Mere Christianity consists of three

separate radio broadcasts. One of the broadcasts was titled The Case For


In The Case For Christianity, Lewis discussed two crucial topics

in his apologetic defense of Christianity. They were the "Right and

Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe" and "What Christians

Believe". This critique will address the first chapter. "Right and

Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe", can be broken into

three parts. The first deals with moral law and its existence. The

second addresses the idea of a power or mind behind the universe, who,

is intensely interested in right conduct. Also that this power or God

is good. Good as in the area of truth, not soft and sympathetic. The

third point moves to Christianity, its attributes and why it was

necessary for the long" round-about" approach .

The law of nature binds humans as would the laws of gravity

apply to a falling stone. It is called the law of nature because it

does not need to be taught. Lewis points out that an odd individual

may exist "here and there who didn't know it, just as you find s few

people who are colour-blind or have no ear for tune. But taking the race

as a whole, they thought that the human idea of Decent Behavior was

obvious to every one."3

Lewis brilliantly defended his statement of natural law's

existence. Two arguments, which argue for relativity, posted against

him are the "herd" instincts or genetic inborn in us ( i.e. motherly

love, survival or sexual impulses) and that which is taught socially or

learned. Historically, these to interpretations of human behavior have

clashed, however, he suggest that "reason" is above both. He clarifies

his position by classifying impulses as separate from the decision to

follow the impulse itself. The "learned" argument is refuted by his

analogy of a boy on the island who is unaware of the existence of the

process of multiplication. He never attended school and learned them.

The education would be classified as "human convention". This human

convention, consequently, did not invent multiplication just as it did

not invent the law of nature.

However, this comparison is based on a false assumption. The

law of nature, as Lewis argued, is not taught but some how exists as an

inherent part of the human psyche. This law also presents itself in the

form of decisions and actions in line with what ought to be done. There

is no school-room which imparts this law and the practice of it.

Consequently, mathematics needs to be taught and learned. The attempts

to equate the law of nature with mathematics in an analogy is

misleading. The only connection between mathematics and the law is the

nature of its existence and the commonality of not being a human


Lewis classified a natural law or the existence of a system of

absolutes as crucial in religion and especially in Christianity. Lewis

developed an argument through the comparison of moral systems and what

is judged as right or rather what ought to be. Using extremes, such as

Christianity and the Nazi systems of morality, he concludes his

analysis. In this comparison one might say that the Christian morality

is preferable to the Nazi. Why? and by what standard has the Nazi

system been rejected? Lewis explains this as an underlying right or

absolute. This absolute system is based on those things which ought to

take place. In conclusion of this point, Lewis states that the law of

nature exists, dictating what humans ought to do or right and wrong.

The second part of his argument dealt with questions of the

existence of the universe and the power or mind behind it. He

addressed the possibility of evolution and its feasibility. The idea

that matter just exists and by a fluke came together in perfection

producing what we see around us today, was one of the two possibilities

that Lewis purposed. The second possibility is that behind the universe

is a calculating "mind". He brilliantly refutes science's ability to

find out what is behind the formation of the universe. For even if

science completely answered the mysteries surrounding how the universe

is here, it cannot discern the reason "why" it is here. Thus he

concluded that a mind is behind the universe's existence and this mind

cannot be seen. The reasons for the invisibility or intangibility of

the mind is, again brilliantly, explained in an analogy. Lewis

states,"If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could

not show itself to us as one of those facts inside the universe- no more

than an architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or

fireplace in that house."4

The concept of a good power or mind is misleading. When God is

referred to as good, the immediate thought is a warm loving personality.

Lewis referred to this good as representative of truth. The law of

nature is defined by what man ought to do or as absolute truth. When

one acts according to what they ought to do, the law of nature has no

consideration of how painful or dangerous it might be. This good which

Lewis argued for is cold and hard, without personable traits. He

attributed good as "either the great safety or the great

danger-according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the

wrong way."5

The third aspect argued and justified the need for people to

repent and the promise of forgiveness. In this stage, two realizations

must be made: First, that there is after all a "real moral law, and a

power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself

wrong with that Power."6 Secondly, the stage of dismay which precedes

comfort. This first realization is built on the logic of the previous

arguments. To perceive the situation as desperate sheds light on and

assists one to understand what the Christians are "talking about". The

conclusion of this argument demands that individual recognize that

coming to terms with what ought to be or truth is indeed a sobering


When discussing the concepts of absolutes and that God is good

one would ask about His power. If indeed God is the creator of this

universe, then his power would be immense. The word "omnipotent" is

used to describe the power of God in this context. The question then

arises concerning a good God and the existence of pain and evil in his

creation. If pain exists in this universe then God is either not truly

good or lacks power to stop it.

Lewis dedicates a chapter in his work, The Problem of Pain, to

explaining this apparent contradiction. He also tackles the concept of

impossibility in relation to omnipotence. The dialectic analysis

consists of things "intrinsically possible" and the things

"intrinsically impossible".7 A God of omnipotent power can do all

things intrinsically possible. The reference to God performing the

intrinsically impossible is nonsensical and foolishness to Lewis. The

attribution of miracles and supernatural occurrences to God can be

explained as possible, though humans perceive it as impossible.

Clyde S. Kilby argues the point of free will and God's power in

context to Lewis' work on the existence of pain. Kilby states that:

"Suppose that in my eagerness to be perfectly happy I persuade God

day after day to change all prevailing conditions to my wishes.

But if all conditions follow my wishes, it is obvious that they

cannot possibly follow your wishes also and you will therefore

be deprived of your freedom. Freedom is impossible in a

world subject to whim."8

Therefore, pains existence in a universe created by a "good and

omnipotent God is logically feasible.

The next work by C. S. Lewis is The World's Last Night. This

work contains an essay on prayer. Lewis examined prayer and its purpose

by asking certain questions. Questions like, "What evidence would prove

the efficacy of prayer?" 9 If a prayer is "answered", "how can you ever

know it was not going to happen anyway?"10 The answer to a prayer does

no provide irrefutable evidence of the efficacy of prayer.

"Does prayer work?" Lewis states that prayer is not a machine

by which one could plug in the right phrases and get the results. He

defines prayer as either a "sheer illusion or a personal contact between

embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves)and the utterly concrete

Person."11 If in fact prayer is a sheer illusion its purpose would be

for the vocalization of wishful thinking. Whether the desired result

comes to pass is completely based on fate or the simple fact that it

was going to happen anyway.

If is indeed a contact to an "utterly concrete Person" to what

avail? What advice can a finite and intellectually limited person give

to an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent being? Lewis states, "Our

act, when we pray, must not, any more than all our other acts, be

separate from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all

finite causes operate."12 Prayer, according to Lewis, is a

statement according to the "will" or actions of God.

The will of God is knowable according to Lewis. However, he

does not mention what God's will was/is. In the following paragraphs

Lewis conveniently changes his direction addressing an other aspect of

prayer. He also does not explain how one goes about finding God's will

or why would God want to hear billions of little voices telling Him

what His will is. Lewis does a poor job justifying the efficacy of


It can be seen that C. S. Lewis' analysis was always in terms of

black and white or extremes. Any other alternative is either

foolishness or unthinkable. He wielded the dialectic process of

analysis as though it were second nature to him. His well trained mind

synthesized theological dilemmas for the layman. Constantly referring

to himself as a layman himself, Lewis left the details of theological

doctrine and philosophy to those who were "experts". He was only

interested in his own personal questions concerning Christianity and

sharing his well thought out answers to others.

This critique of C. S. Lewis contains various selections from

three of his books. The first work address the topic of "Right and

Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe." In this section Lewis

argues for the existence of absolutes, God and the validity of

Christianity. The second work which was examined was The Problem of

Pain. A selection on the omnipotent power of a "good" God was discussed

in terms of the "intrinsically impossible" and the existence of pain.

Thirdly, the "efficacy of prayer" was addressed in critical questioning

of the purpose its existence.


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