This second section is really the heart of his writing, although there is so much more to go. He gets right to the point of what sets a Christian apart from other religions. In many ways it is the closest a Mormon could agree with his theological musings. This is only natural since Mormons are Christians in many of the ways that C.S. Lewis perceives of what makes the religion important. There is, of course, points where he both goes against or merely anticipates Mormon doctrine or fails logical conclusions.
His idea of Christian theology hinges on the familiar Mormon concept of free will. The whole point of Salvation for a Christian is that humanity is free to choose faith in God and Christ. Although the subject of the end times when Christ will return is at the end of the section, it represents most of what he is saying. With all the evil in the world there is an objection of why God simply doesn’t “invade” earth to make things better. If God were to do that, there wouldn’t be a point to living. All the hard choices that lead to freely accepting or rejecting God would be over. It might end the horror in the world, but it would also end personal and human progress:
When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? (pg. 65).
Of course, this begs the question of what the free will is choosing. The answer is simple; good and evil. C.S. Lewis had already touched on what good and evil is in the first section. He will go into more detail in the third section when he talks about Christian morality.
I’ve been getting ready to study the Book of Mormon for Sunday school in 2012. I wanted to create a way to more easily place the first three prophets of the Book of Mormon (Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob) into context related to the prophetic books, and some historical writings like Ezra, of the Old Testament. After some research and experimentation with layout, I put together this timeline of Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets between 800 B.C. and 400 B.C.
Picture this scenario: You’re in Sunday School, and the teacher has just given a passionate lesson, full of scriptures and quotes from the prophet and personal testimony, about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. Throughout the lesson, she repeatedly invites members of the class to think of ways they could do better at making the Sabbath a holy day for them and their family. At some point, towards the end of the lesson, someone raises their hand, and says something like this (probably in different words, but to the same effect): “This is all true, but we need to remember that we can’t run faster than we have strength. Also, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we aren’t perfect. God will accept us as we are, and we should remember that. Let’s remember that most of us are probably doing alright.”
Have any of you had this experience? I have, and I suspect many others have too. In fact, I suspect most of us have been in a position where we’ve wanted to make a comment like this. This is because all of us can probably think of ways we could do better at keeping the Sabbath, fasting, missionary work, home teaching, scripture study, loving, praying, or whatever the specific topic of the day is. And since we all know that there are things we can do better (since there always are and always will be), teachers, leaders, and bloggers who remind us of the disparity between our ideals and our practice often incite a hidden guilt within us, a guilt that calls out for reassurance. We realize how truly inadequate we really are, and we want so badly to hear instead that we are doing ok. We sometimes experience these invitations as accusations that we aren’t doing enough. Continue reading →
This is a continuation of my attempt to summarize the believing scholars interviewed in Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. In my last post I summarized the internal Biblical evidences considered. In this post I’m going to look at the outside evidences.
A few points to consider. First, I have my own concerns with this book’s approach. I’m trying to not be critical of it yet, but to save that for later posts when I have presented enough alternative points of view to be able to look at the real strengths and weakness of the believing Christian arguments.
However, my criticism are more of the nature that these ‘proofs’ aren’t really proofs at all. I do, however, think they represent a fairly good ‘narrative fallacies’ that takes many data points and makes a good plausible story out of it and I suspect that is the most that could have been realistically asked of them. In short, I like these arguments even if I am fully aware they aren’t rationally coercive. So I think believing Mormons will be interested in much of what is presented in the book. Second, I admit that Lee Strobel is not a scholar. This seems to really bother some of the commenters on my last post. However, I would like for us to keep in mind that Lee Strobel is collecting interviews from some fairly good scholars. Does anyone really doubt that, for example, Craig Blomberg isn’t a good scholar? Third, I feel less certain about this part of the argument than I did on the internal evidences, so don’t expect me to defend any of it in the comments just because I summarized it in the post.
The Book of Mormon records that Giddianhi, the leader of the antagonist Gadianton Robbers, wrote a letter to Lachoneus, the leader of the protagonist Nephites, demanding that they relinquish all their property and join their cause. In his letter he gives an ultimatum:
“And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed; but if ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct.”
It was a few years ago that the peculiarity of Giddianhi’s ultimatum really stood out to me for the first time.
As an English major with a particular interest in literature written before the 20th century, I had read a variety of texts from the Old English, Middle English, Renaissance, Early Modern,18th and 19th Century periods. At the time I had been reading a great deal of early American writing, often in the original spelling and grammar, which had been written between 1500 and 1860. I had just finished a handful of books published around the time when Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon and the phrase “…on the morrow month…” in Giddianhi’s letter really stuck out as an unusual construction.
I wondered if “on the morrow month” was in common usage in the 19th century, when Joseph was translating the Nephite record, but had since fallen out of use. Or maybe it was a construction adapted from the Jacobean language of the King James Bible. I had never run into it in any of my other reading, so I started to investigate.