Sunday, 6 May 2012

More Simple C.S.Lewis.

Keep Quiet and Do What I SayAnother quote from C.S.Lewis' 1952 book, Mere Christianity.

The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like…. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.

One wonders why it took Lewis so many words to say, "This is what you should believe because I say so. Don't expect me to explain it because I've no more idea than fly how it works, or even what it does. Just believe what I say, or my imaginary friend will get you. Okay!"

His arrogance would be astounding if we didn't know that in deferential Britain of 1952, people from his class were expected to be arrogant. They believed they held a monopoly on wisdom and their burden was to dispense it to the rest of us lesser beings. Expecting them to explain their reasoning to us would have been getting above ourselves. It was enough that they believed it themselves. Why would they need to bother with reasons when this knowledge just popped itself into their heads, ready to be dispensed? Simple oiks like us needed to be told what to believe otherwise there would be anarchy. Lewis was merely shouldering his burden - and getting lots of money for it.


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23 comments :

  1. When reading Mere Christianity, I found myself wondering several times if it was actually satire. The arguments are about as flimsy as apologetics can be from an author who is capable of dressing himself in the morning.

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  2. So, let me get this straight... your complaint is that Lewis writes arrogantly? Very deep stuff... I expected more from the first post I selected on this tab. Still I give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your childish whining is an adult reaction to being told your notions of spirituality are wrong. In the meantime, I'll jump to another post and see if the arguments get more persuasive if given a title that is more leading and biased.

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    1. I see you were unable to refute anything I said and so had to resort to infantile abuse to tell yourself you had coped. You need to read my blog on cognitive dissonance, 'How Fundamentalists Cope With Unwanted Facts', and how religious people need to develop strategies for coping with it.

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  3. My my... I knew literary analysis was declining, but this... And you accuse C.S. Lewis of being simple? Ha. You build up a straw-man argument in every post. You take one passage, completely out of context and with no knowledge of the subject, you attack the author himself. Your argument stands thus: Christianity cannot be valid because C.S. Lewis was arrogant.

    I don't even know why I'm leaving this comment really... I don't suppose I could convince you to read one of his works with an actual open mind. The worst way to analyze any work is to read it with preconceived notions, yet that's exactly what you've done here. Lewis wasn't writing Mere Christianity for the audience you are writing for, so stop trying to read it from that point of view.

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    1. Such a shame you had to open with an ad hominem. As you say >you attack the author himself<. Normally, doing exactly what you complain others do is called 'hypocrisy'.

      I love the way you fall back on the traditional 'out of context' excuse too. I was, of course, dealing with that specific argument.

      It should be plain to readers why you didn't even try to rebut anything specific or deal with the glaringly obvious fallacies in Lewis's argument, such as it was.

      But thank you for a nice example of a Christian coping with cognitive dissonance and Christian double standards. Is that what you cling to it for?

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    2. Touche. You're right; I actually attacked you for using an ad hominem argument, when I said I was attacking you for using a straw man argument. And yes, I was being hypocritical by using an ad hominem argument against you as well. Sorry about that. (By the way, the other anons below this comment are different people. That's probably gonna get confusing.)

      Me calling you out for taking something out of context is not my excuse for Christianity, however. I'm just saying you took something out of context, which is what you're not supposed to do in literary analysis. I wasn't defending Christianity at all in my reply, just criticizing your analysis of this passage. And it is actually a fairly simple-minded analysis. All you did was paste a quote from an author and call him arrogant and classist.

      If you really read the quote and all you got from it was this: "This is what you should believe because I say so. Don't expect me to explain it because I've no more idea than fly how it works, or even what it does. Just believe what I say, or my imaginary friend will get you. Okay!" then I'm afraid you missed what he was really saying. Here's a summary of the excerpt you provided:

      "'The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theorizing on how this occurred are secondary to the actual event itself." It's like saying understanding breathing is not so important as actually breathing.

      I'm sorry for attacking you in my first post, but this does seem to me to be one of your lesser posts. Some of your posts are actually impressive in the knowledge you convey and the logic you put forth. I just don't think this was one of them.

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    3. Do you think perhaps that Lewis's words 'A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him' might have been indicating that he had no more idea than fly how a blood sacrifice works, and thus that my characterisation of his argument might have been justified? Or do those words indicate something else to you?

      How about the words '...put us right with God'? Could they be indicating that Lewis though something would get him, and that we should believe the same, just as I said, or do they indicate something else to you?

      I normally work on the basis that a writer writes words to convey a meaning and not just to pad out a book or to fill the time available for the broadcast. In C.S.Lewis case I could be wrong of course.

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  4. It's funny to compare Lewis work with Rosa. Seems as if Rosa is trying so hard to fault Lewis's logic. The harder she tries the more it shows her arrogance and unwillingness to even consider her opponents point of view. But I guess when one knows everything, there's no need to listen. Only my opinion and first impression. Anxiously awaiting Rosa's swift response on how wrong I am.

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    1. Such a shame you could only use ad hominem.

      Was this because you couldn't fault my argument and couldn't handle the cognitive dissonance any other way?

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  5. It is intriguing that one who rejects all of Christianity would call a man arrogant for asserting the unimportance of systematic theology to other Christians.

    It is also worth noting that Lewis is not making an argument FOR Christianity here, but rather arguing TO Christians that theological systems are a moot point within our own community. Whether Calvinism or Methodism or Catholicism or Lutheranism or Armenianism are "correct" in their soteriology is beside the point - Lewis says here that all that matters is the veracity of Christ's claims and the end result of what He accomplished.

    Frankly, you do not have a dog in this fight. Systematic theology is of zero concern to you because you believe we are ALL being fools.

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    1. In other words, his arguments weren't actually the logical arguments for the Christian god that Christians like to believe, but simply reassurance for Christians.

      Isn't that what I said?

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    2. Your opening paragraph: "One wonders why it took Lewis so many words to say, "This is what you should believe because I say so. Don't expect me to explain it because I've no more idea than fly how it works, or even what it does. Just believe what I say, or my imaginary friend will get you. Okay!""

      The underlying assumption here is that he is attempting to argue FOR Christianity, which he isn't (here). He's telling other Christians that systematic theology is of little importance. Also noteworthy is that there is absolutely no mention in Lewis' quote of any punitive stance (meaning your "...or my imaginary friend will get you", designed to criticize the doctrine of Hell, is out of place here -- it simply isn't contextual).

      You continue: "His arrogance would be astounding if we didn't know that in deferential, class-ridden Britain of 1952, people from his class were expected to be arrogant."

      I don't follow how you read arrogance into this passage. In fact, it would seem the opposite of arrogance -- he is arguing TO Christians that they need to make their tent bigger, to accept that differences within theological systems are immaterial. It is not reassurance, but rather a part of his overarching point in Mere Christianity. That point (made to Christians)?...oddly enough, it is to abandon denominational arrogance for that which all denominations accept. Thus, the name -- Mere Christianity.

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    3. >The underlying assumption here is that he is attempting to argue FOR Christianity,

      Yes, I did rather assumes his arguments for Christianity were arguments FOR Christianity.

      >I don't follow how you read arrogance into this passage.

      His arrogance was in assuming, and expecting, that his audience would simply take his word for it. A valid, and no less arrogant, assumption for those times.

      Was that point not made clearly enough?

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  6. Let's propose a thought here. Let's propose that what you are stating is that: A person should understand all there is to know about everything they use in daily life. That is what it looks like you are trying to state.

    So let's examine that.

    When you get water from the faucet, do you understand all the facets about how it was cleaned, processed, stored, and sent to your home? Most likely, no. But you enjoy the benefits of the water.

    When you drive your car, do you understand all the interplay of hundreds of thousands of components to make the car work? Do you comprehend the tolerances of the engine components? Do you know how the engine is oiled? How is fuel delivered? How is fuel and air combined in the combustion chamber? How does the rotating assembly keep from flying apart? Maybe you don't. Yet, you enjoy the benefits of driving the car without full comprehension of the interaction of the components.

    When you turn on your computer, do you comprehend how the millions upon millions of transistors, capacitors, and other components in the CPU work together to process your data? How is information stored and retrieved in memory? How is data stored and retrieved from the hard drive? How does an LCD operate to display information on the screen? How does the data get from memory or storage to the screen? How does your input on the keyboard get processed to the screen? Yet you enjoy the benefits of writing a blog with your computer without fully understanding these things.

    This same argument can be said for how your body processes oxygen. Yet you knew how to breathe just a few seconds after you were born... and you haven't stopped since.

    You enjoy these things because they work without your knowledge of every detail how they work. Yet the designers of those products and systems know how they work - and make them available for your use.

    Now let's apply that thought to your blog about Christianity. It would not be risky in the least to say that no Christian understands the details of how the new birth works, but we enjoy the benefits. The designer of the system (God) has seen to those details so that we can enjoy the benefits of the new birth.

    Now, I understand that you may see this as cognitive dissonance, but I say that cognitive dissonance exists everywhere, in everything you do, in everything you use. For example, no scientist can explain how gluons hold atoms together. None. Not even the best quantum physicists. Yet nothing physical exists without atoms. But atoms cannot exist with the gluons that hold them together. Therefore, we don't understand how anything physical is held together. So one must conclude logically that cognitive dissonance is everywhere and in everything.

    What I do understand is this: The new birth works. How can I say that? Because my life is a life that was changed. I have experienced it. Just like taking a shower with the water, using the car to drive somewhere, and using my computer to write this response. Yet all these things are made of atoms clustered together in molecules. We understand nothing about how they are held together. Yet they are... and we reap the benefits of that.

    You may not like this explanation, but God is infinitely deep, infinitely large, infinitely small, and infinitely wide. Just when you think you found a limit to Him or how He works, He reveals that you were not even close. The joy is in the discovery of new information. If the best quantum physicists and particle scientists on Earth cannot explain how atoms are held together, why do you demand that Christians know how the new birth works? The designer took care of that part. We reap the benefits of His design.

    That same designer gave you the power of reasoning to ask these questions. He believes your questions are valid. Simply take your reasoning one step farther. See that your are not far from comprehending that you do not have to understand how it works to receive the benefits of the new birth. The gift is offered to everyone.

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    1. One addendum: "But atoms cannot exist with the gluons that hold them together." should have been written "But atoms cannot exist without the gluons that hold them together."

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    2. > Because my life is a life that was changed.

      And your evidence that that can only be accounted for by the intervention of a specific notional supernatural entity is to be found where, exactly, please?

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    3. By the way, the fallacy you are trying to get away with is the God of the Gaps fallacy. I'm expected to fall for your decision to arbitrarily assign causality to whatever notion your are trying to fool me into accepting.

      Must try harder.

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    4. I did not discuss that I knew where to find God. Stick to the original discussion please. I discussed that cognitive dissonance exists everywhere - which no one can disprove.

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    5. Jack Davis.

      Indeed. Stick to the original discussion please and explain how trying to prise open a gap in science established that there is a god sitting in it, please.

      Either that or explain why you tried to get away with the God of the Gaps and the false Dichotomy fallacies.

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    6. wow if i could say yes to All your questions then your reason for a designer is futile

      1st q is cleaning rough stuff then skimming for finer material and filter it and mayby bio chemical reaction.

      2nd q the engine is basicly ajusted with the ration of air and fuel to make it combust either by carborater or injection system and This makes the pistons moved wich then make the diffrent gears and wheels go into motion that make the Oil Through the parts that needs lubricant.

      3rd q This is soooo basic its 0 and 1 or on and off and thats how the electrical parts works. the code is make by basic 0 and 1 but translated into assembly codes wich tell the software howto react and the other way around with parts/peripherals.

      and the reason for a creator is now that I have explained it is ?? oh wait you probably want to give you scientific proof of it and then you get them and then you put your fingers in your ears and start yelling "God did it god did it" no it's no assumption it's a fact

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  7. "The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like…. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.

    We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at."

    Before the start of this paragraph, C.S. Lewis assumes that his readers 1. believe in God and 2. believe that we are not right with God. He states that, for Christians, Christ's death makes us right with God. He states in more words that all Christians are agreed on these three points, while many (including himself) cannot explain why Christ's death fixes our relationship with God.

    You're right, he can't explain why Christ's death fixes our relationship with God. You'd be right to state that he does not definitively prove either of his first two assumptions before writing the paragraph referenced. You are not right to state that C.S. Lewis' point can be distilled into, "This is what you should believe because I say so. Don't expect me to explain it because I've no more idea than fly how it works, or even what it does. Just believe what I say, or my imaginary friend will get you. Okay!" Nowhere does he state that one should "Just believe what I say, or my imaginary friend will get you."

    What C.S. Lewis does say regarding the consequences on non-belief: 1. If you agree with the argument I made at the start of the book, believe what I say (Which I would expect from literally anyone who cares enough about anything to write an entire book) 2. God will grant non-believers eternal separation from God (He doesn't prove it well, but that is what he states.)

    I don't know that I agree with the tone of your criticism because I have a hard time believing that C.S. Lewis was a simpleton, but that's the only real criticism I have of your piece. Otherwise, good job.

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    1. The argument that Mere Christianity was written only for existing Christians only makes sense if you haven't actually read the book. If you go back further you find that C.S. Lewis has the assumption that you are already a believing Christian because he has already convinced you of the existence of God in the first section of the book, using the (easily dismissed) argument from morality.

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  8. "what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work". They agreed. How the fuck did they know?

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