Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What are we to make of Jesus Christ? (Part 2)

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 Brahma?” 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 then 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.”poached egg-muffin-toaster 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 not 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. We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.
    What are we to do about reconciling the two contradictory phenomena?

C.S. Lewis, “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?” (originally published 1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) 331.


  1. I am wondering if you can help me with something. Did C.S. Lewis ever write something to the effect of, "Don't judge a religion by its followers"? I have a vague memory of some quote along those lines, but I can't seem to find the exact one. Any help is appreciated.

  2. Check out "Nice People or New Men" in "Mere Christianity."

    In part:

    Suppose we have come down to brass tacks and are now talking not
    about an imaginary Christian and an imaginary non-Christian, but about two
    real people in our own neighbourhood. Even then we must be careful to ask
    the right question. If Christianity is true then it ought to follow (a) That
    any Christian will be nicer than the same person would be if he were not a
    Christian. (b) That any man who becomes a Christian will be nicer than he
    was before. Just in the same way, if the advertisements of White-smile's
    toothpaste are true it ought to follow (a) That anyone who uses it will have
    better teeth than the same person would have if he did not use it. (b) That
    if anyone begins to use it his teeth will improve. But to point out that I,
    who use Whitesmile's (and also have inherited bad teeth from both my
    parents), have not got as fine a set as some healthy young Negro who never
    used toothpaste at all, does not, by itself, prove that the advertisements
    are untrue. Christian Miss Bates may have an unkinder tongue than
    unbelieving Dick Firkin. That, by itself, does not tell us whether
    Christianity works. The question is what Miss Bates's tongue would be like
    if she were not a Christian and what Dick's would be like if he became one.
    Miss Bates and Dick, as a result of natural causes and early upbringing,
    have certain temperaments: Christianity professes to put both temperaments
    under new management if they will allow it to do so. What you have a right
    to ask is whether that management, if allowed to take over, improves the
    concern. Everyone knows that what is being managed in Dick Firkin's case is
    much "nicer" than what is being managed in Miss Bates's. That is not the
    point. To judge the management of a factory, you must consider not only the
    output but the plant. Considering the plant at Factory A it may be a wonder
    that it turns out anything at all; considering the first-class outfit at
    Factory B its output, though high, may be a great deal lower than it ought
    to be. No doubt the good manager at Factory A is going to put in new
    machinery as soon as he can, but that takes time. In the meantime low output
    does not prove that he is a failure.