confusion central
if you’re here, you are SO lost.

C.S. Lewis on Jesus Christ: Lord, Liar or Lunatic

C.S. Lewis was an amazing author and a brilliant man.  Generally considered one of the brightest apologists of the 20th Century, Lewis has a uniquely practical approach to God and His ways.  His supreme applicability and warm, casual tone of writing make reading most of his works a pleasure, while his fascinatingly simple approach to big issues and fiercely-debated topics makes his works worthy of both reading and re-reading.

 


C.S. Lewis’ Take on God, Jesus, and the Universe

The way it is

“The present state of things is this…the natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe.  And especially it wants to be left to itself:  to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small.  It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath.  And in a sense, it is quite right.  It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.” –Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

Who Jesus is & why He matters

“…Among the…Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

     One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned; the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.

     Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

      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 a 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.” –Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

The difference Jesus makes

    “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?  This question…has, in a sense, a frantically comic side.  For the real reason is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us?  The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is to make of an elephant has comic elements about it.  But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Him in the sense of “How are we to solve the historical problem set us by the recorded sayings and acts of this Man?”  This problem is to reconcile two things.  On the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth and sanity of His moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity….

     The other phenomenon is the quite appalling nature of this Man’s theological remarks.  You all know what I mean, and I want rather to stress the point that the appaling claim which this Man seems to be making is not merely made at one moment of His career.  There is, of course, the one moment which led to His execution.  The moment at which the High Priest said to Him, “Who are you?” “I am the Anointed, the Son of the uncreated God, and you shall see Me appearing at the end of all history as the judge of the Universe.”….

     On the one side clear, definite moral teaching.  On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men.  There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions.  If you had gone to Buddha and asked him “Are you the son of Brahman?” he would have said, “My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.”  If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you Zeus?” he would have laughed at you.  If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, “Are you Allah?”  he would first have rent his clothes and the cut your head off.  If you had asked Confucius, “Are you heaven?” I think he would have probably replied, “Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.”  The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question.  In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man.  If you think you are a poached egg, when you are looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you….

     The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said.  Other say, “This is the truth about the Universe.  This is the way you ought to go,” but He says, “I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.” He says, “No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me.  Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined.  Give yourself away and you will be saved.”  He says, “If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise.  If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away.  If it is your eye, pull it out.  If it is your hand, cut it off.  If you put yourself first you will be last.  Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right.  Your sins, are wiped out, I can do that.  I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your food.  And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.”  That is the issue.” –God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis

Why this matters to YOU: The individuality of God’s love via Christ

God…has infinite attention to spare for each one of us.  He does not have to deal with us in the mass.  You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.  When Christ died, he died for you individually just a much as if you had been the only man in the world. –Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

The change in the way things are

   “When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner, and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.  Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.

     Now, the moment you realize, “Here I am, dressing up as Christ,” it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which as that very moment the pretense could be made less of a pretense and more of a reality.  You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God.  Well, stop them.  Or you may not realize that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash-up.  Well, go do it.

     You see what is happening.  That Christ Himself, the Son of God, who is man (just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your pretence into a reality.  This is not merely a fancy way of saying that your conscience is telling you what to do.  If you simply ask your conscience, you get one result: if you remember that you are dressing up as Christ, you get a different one.  There are lots of things which your conscience might not call definitely wrong (especially things in your mind) but which you will see at once you cannot go on doing if you are seriously trying to be like Christ.  For you are not longer thinking simply about right and wrong: you are trying to catch the good infection from a Person.  It is more like painting a portrait than like obeying a set of rules.  And the odd thing is that while in one way it is harder than keeping rules, in another way it is far easier.

   The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself.  He is beginning, so to speak, to inject His kind of life and thought…into you: beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man.  The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”–Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis

When you first begin…

     “In reality…it is God who does everything.  We, at most, allow it to be done to us.  In a sense you might even say it is God who does the pretending.  The Three-Personal God [God as the Trinity], so to speak, sees before Him in fact a self-centered, greedy, grumbling, rebellious human animal.  But He says, “Let us pretend that this is not a mere creature, but our Son.  It is like Christ in so far as it is a Man, for He became Man.  Let us pretend that it is also like Him in Spirit.  Let us treat it as if it were what in fact it is not.  Let us pretend in order to make the pretense into a reality.” God looks at you as if you were a little Christ. : Christ stands beside you to turn you into one.  I daresay this idea of divine make-believe sounds rather strange at first.  But, is it so strange really?  Is not that how the high thing always raises the lower?  A mother teaches her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does….” –Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis

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5 Responses to “C.S. Lewis on Jesus Christ: Lord, Liar or Lunatic”

  1. God is totally awesome!

  2. Wow,
    Did you take the time to type that all out?

  3. Of course! How could He not be? 😉

    Yes, I did. It really isn’t that much…and I just like Lewis that much. 🙂 I find that writing things for other people helps me get it.

  4. Amen on that Bumblebee! How could God, not be awesome!

  5. Lewis is by far my favorite writer and modern theologian. Thanks for compiling all those quotes of his. Honestly, after reading all that, the only thing that could keep someone from Christ is sheer arrogance.


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