Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mere Christianity: Book 2; Chapter 3 (The Shocking Alternative)

What is the shocking alternative that Lewis presents in this chapter?

We have three choices about the person of Jesus: Based on what he claimed of himself, we can say that he was either 1) A Lunatic, 2) The Devil Himself, 3) the Son of God, as he so claimed.  Lewis states that saying "I accept him as a great moral teacher, but not as God" is relatively absurd.  In my opinion, that would be much like saying, I believe mother Theresa is a great moral example, but not a Catholic Nun.  She did what she did, because she was who she was.  However, that's merely the end of the chapter, and Lewis does not yet give us an answer.

The majority of the chapter is focused on the problem of free will.  Alas, the crux of our theodicy!  First, DOES free-will exist?  OF COURSE! The fact that evil actually occurs is proof of free-will.  We make hundreds of choices a day.  Still, for some reason determinism is alive and well, and if the greatest minds of the world cannot definitively prove it wrong, I will not presume to try.

Secondly, if free will exists, then WHY?  The underlying question here is, how can a God who is, not only all good, but all powerful allow something to happen contrary to his will?  Well basically, the act itself is against His will, but the act of choosing is not.  Lewis uses the following example:  A mother wants her child's room to be clean, but wants him to learn to do it himself.  Therefore she decides not do it for him, but rather encourage him.  Now, the child can choose not to clean his room, and that very act of untidiness is contrary to the will of the mother, but the act of him CHOOSING not to clean is completely in accord with her will.  So it is with God, he wants us to choose, often we just do not choose well.

O.K.  But why does he allow us to choose?  Wouldn't the world just be a better place if we were all just made to do the right thing?  Well.... yes and no.  Yes, this world, here and now, this very moment, would be a better place.  But then we wouldn't get to choose heaven.  We would be stuck here on this rock for our complete existence.  Humans were created for complete, unifying, ecstatic, love with God.  We cannot get that on earth, so we must receive it in heaven.  But the road to heaven is not a free ride, we must choose it.  Much like I must choose to love a spouse and she must choose to love me.  Sure, we could be forced into it, without emotion--she might be good at housekeeping and raising kids and doing what women do in marriage, and I may be good at working, and paying bills, and disciplining the children--but that's all we would be, a group of people coexisting.  Without choice there can be no love, and without love there can be no joy.  That is why God allows us to choose, so that we may feel love and joy.  Merely existing would be pointless.  Unfortunately with this ability to choose love is also the ability to choose evil... and the greater a person you are the greater capacity you have to do either (for that is what happened with Satan).  But, that is the price to pay for choice.  Obviously God thought it worth the risk.

The world is a tough place.  We are fighting for happiness, for love, and for joy... and we should be thankful we are able to experience such things, despite also suffering.  So, let us do try and make God's decision worth while... let us choose Christ!

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