Lewis Christianity Lewis and Christian Guesswork Essay

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Lewis Christianity

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Christianity has assumed an absolutely encompassing place in world history and culture. Its influence has spread across kingdoms, influenced forms of government and even functioned as the ideological basis for emergent state constitutions. Thus, it is not unreasonable to perceive Christianity as a force of considerable singularity. However, to perceive it thusly without properly contextualizing it within the scope of human history and behavior is to do a disservice to our proper understanding of Christianity. It is with this consideration in mind that we proceed to assess the statement offered on the subject by author and Christian adherent C.S. Lewis. Lewis proclaims the certainty of his faith and even implies that Christianity must be the world's one true religion based on the supposition that if its details had been fabricated, they would have corresponded more closely to our concrete experiences with the universe. This notion, that Christianity 'is a religion that you could not have guessed,' is dubious in and of itself, let alone as an explanation for why the specific faith in question justifies one's allegiance over all others. First and foremost, it bears noting that the world's host of faiths is in and of itself too varied, enormous and nuanced to make the case that Christianity is unique among them in the ingenuity and originality of its precepts. At the very base of it, it would seem that this is the extremely ethnocentric position taken by C.S. Lewis. In taking up this perception of Christianity as inherently true because it 'could not have been guessed,' one must perceive Christianity as a religion which develops instantaneously, miraculous and from an ideological vacuum. Of course, history reveals this to be a poor understanding of a religion that actually owes its roots to evolving traditions of ethical monotheism, the presence of cultural profits and the implications of world culture and power dynamics. Therefore, as the discussion here will demonstrate, this argument in favor of Christianity as inherently true because it could not have been guessed, falls short of satisfying an intellectual perception of Christianity. An evaluation hereafter of the role played by creation mythologies in the development of faiths; a consideration of the way that science and theology have actually interwoven; and an objective assessment of claims made by Lewis will attempt to prove that while Christianity may not have been 'guessed,' it also most certainly did not emerge without many traceable roots related directly to human experience.

A great hint in our discussion is provided in the text by McGrath (2004), which dissects the Christian creation myth and, in doing so, demonstrates that this element of the faith in and of itself lends significant clues to the way that Christian beliefs are highly rooted in evolving traditions of faith in the ancient world. That is to say that in a discussion on the historical evolution of its creation myth, one can see the way that even without guessing, Christian scholars were able to piece together the strands of other ideologies to produce scriptures and explanations for universal phenomena. At the outset, the text by McGrath demonstrates that the Christian creation myth is borrowed from the Jewish faith, a fact owed to the fact that Jesus Christ was himself a practicing Jew during his lifetime. As a result, Christianity's use of the Jewish Torah as the "Old Testament" already reveals a substantial debt in its divine explanation for the order of the world and universe to a pre-existent tradition. To this end, McGrath denotes that two of the most central imperatives of the Christian faith -- among those which have driven Lewis to the fantastical admiration of the religion as being beyond guessing -- the belief in one God as the creator of man, the earth and the universe and the belief in original sin as delineated in the Garden of Eden parable in the Book of Genesis were actually delivered to Christianity through Jesus' religious faith.

Accordingly, McGrath observes that "the theme of 'God as creator' is of major importance within the Old Testament. Attention has often focused on the creation narratives found in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, with which the Old Testament canon opens. However, it must be appreciated that the theme is deeply embedded throughout the Old Testament. It is found in all three of the major types of Old Testament writings -- the historical, wisdom, and prophetic literature." (McGrath, p. 39) From this perspective, it is understood that already Christianity came into existence through the benefit of a certain gradual transformation in prevailing cultural ideology. That is, prior to the time of Jesus, the practices and ideologies of the Jewish people represented part of a strand of cultural evolution and consequently, the emergence of Christianity represented a popular cultural splintering therefrom. Therefore, to suggest that the faith of Christianity could not have been guessed simply fails to recognize that guessing was never necessary in order to 'create a religion' as it were. If Jesus may be perceived as a prophet of reform in the Jewish faith, then his followers -- also practitioners of the Jewish faith -- and the scholars who attempted to interpret his deeds during his time on earth -- those who ultimately helped to proliferate a faith called Christianity -- must surely have been in a position to form educated guesses on how best to articulate the perceived certainties of the Christian world-view.

McGrath describes a number of distinctly logical ways of rationalizing the point of distinction between the mortal and the theological, and especially reveals who discussions on creation have also been used to conceptualize that which God is or is not. In other words, just as a conception of God drives the creation myth, so too does the creation myth drive conceptions of God. According to McGrath, "a distinction must be drawn between God and the creation. A major theme of Christian theology from the earliest times has been to resist the temptation to merge the creation and the creation. The theme is clearly stated in Paul's letter to the Romans, the opening chapter of which criticizes the tendency to reduce God to the level of the world. According to Paul, there is a natural human tendency, as a result of sin, to serve 'created things rather than the creator' (Romans 1:25). A central task of a Christian theology of creation is to distinguish God from the creation, while at the same time to affirm that it is God's creation." (McGrath, p. 44)

By using creation to define God and using God to define creation, McGrath describes a reciprocal relationship that underscores the basic claim of the present research. Namely, this shows the inherently circular logic that promotes such great certainty from the adherents to the Christian faith. It is this same circularity that drives more scientifically rooted discussions the subject. Though perhaps where the literature provided in the following part of this discussion is concerned, it would be more accurate to refer to the essay as rhetorically interested in rather than rooted in science. To this end, an interesting postulate on the question of religion and science is offered in the text by Polkinghorne (2003), who argues that the connection between human self-awareness and the notion that man is creating in the image of god bear inherency to the discussion. In Polkinghorne's assessment, the compatibility of religion and science rests in their shared state of inquiry and, more than that, this state of inquiry from the perspective of human experience. Accordingly, Polkinghorne remarks, one of the fundamental 'stamps' of God's work is "the 'thinking reed' of humanity, so insignificant in its physical scale but, as Pascal said, superior to all the stars because it alone knows them and itself. The universe and the means by which the universe has become marvelously self-aware -- these are the centres of our enquiry." (Polkinghorne, p. 2)

Not only are these the 'centres of our enquiry,' but according to Polkinghorne, our instinct to ask such questions and our ability to arrive at suitable answers both stand as proof of the presence of the divine in our greatest achievements. It is compelling to note that Polkinghorne adapts a belief system which is almost exactly parallel to that presumed by Lewis. To the point, Polkinghorne appears to make the case here that as with the presumptions underlying adherence to the Christian faith accorded by Lewis, the presumptions underlying new breakthroughs in science are so dramatic, unlikely, and revelatory -- to put it another way, beyond guessing -- that their only possible source must be beyond mere human comprehension. Polkinhorne points out that "there is no a priori reason why beautiful equations should prove to be the clue to understanding nature; why fundamental physics should be possible; why our minds should have such ready access to the deep structure of the universe. It is a contingent fact that this is true of us and of our world,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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