Lewis: Jesus Not Just a Great Moral Teacher

Mere ChristianityPerhaps the most often quoted passage from C. S. Lewis comes from Mere Christianity. It has to do with the nature of Christ. It requires no further commentary, so I print it in full here for your consideration:

Jesus . . . told people that their sins were forgiven. . . . This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin.

. . . 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 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Lewis: Great Moral Teacher?

C. S. Lewis 3I love how C. S. Lewis compares Jesus to other religious leaders in history. In an essay called “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” Lewis lays out the claim Jesus made that He was indeed God, as opposed to simply a great moral teacher:

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 Bramah?” 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.”

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. . . .

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.

 

Lewis: Reflection on the Incarnation

In one of his letters, C. S. Lewis reflects on when God became man in the person of Jesus. Why did He not come as a type of superhero, impervious to physical harm and devoid of emotion? It’s because He sought to be like us and to reveal the heart of the Father:

JesusGod could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape him. Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane.

Otherwise we should have missed the great lesson that it is by his will alone that a man is good or bad, and that feelings are not, in themselves, of any importance. We should also have missed the all-important help of knowing that He has faced all that the weakest of us face, has shared not only the strength of our nature but every weakness of it except sin.

As the apostle Paul put it, Jesus emptied Himself of all the privileges of Godhood and chose to live as a man. The writer of the Hebrews tells us that He suffered everything we suffer, even all the temptations that the world has to offer, yet did so without succumbing to sin. That’s why He became the perfect sacrifice, to set us free from sin and death. That truth should serve to humble us before Him and spur us to love Him without condition or measure.

Eternity Begins Now

I’m so glad that, as a Christian, I don’t perceive this world as all there is to life. Frankly, if I thought there were nothing more, and this is the best it would ever get, I would be in constant depression. I certainly wouldn’t get up early enough each morning to write a blog in the hope that it would make a difference, however slight, in shaping people’s beliefs and worldviews. Instead, I would see my “activity” as rather worthless and a waste of time.

There’s also the chance that I would decide I don’t really care what happens and, quite selfishly, abandon all concern for others, focusing solely on personal pleasure. I would argue that since nothing really changes for the better anyway, why not live it up?

But when Christ enters a life, one can’t give in to that type of thinking.

First, we are told by Him that the world needs His life, and we are the hands, feet, and voices entrusted with the sacred task of letting everyone know He sees and He cares. He seeks to draw each broken, sinful person to Himself and provide a new life.

Salt & LightSecond, He wants us to take that new life into the world and affect the way it operates. Salvation is not just personal, it’s societal. There should be a ripple effect as His new life in individuals begins to infect—I use that word in a positive sense—everything it touches. We are salt; we are light—through Him.

And finally, He shows us that the current state of this world—fallen, bitter, vicious—is not the ultimate reality. There is an existence awaiting us that is free from the ravages of corruption. We will be in His presence forever.

That’s what it all comes down to—His presence. He is what life is all about; there is no life without Him. Eternity begins now.

Lord, help us today to see beyond the daily grind; give us Your eyes to view every person with whom we come into contact as someone made in Your image; show us how to be Your hands, feet, and voice in every situation we encounter.

Go with His blessing today—and make a difference.

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

The words of this song by Twila Paris, combined with the haunting beauty of the melody, have always affected me greatly. While some may think this is more appropriate for Good Friday, I think it is a proper Easter offering as well, as we consider the new life Jesus promises through His sacrifice. Easter celebrates what He did two days before. Please read these words carefully, meditatively, then play the short video of this song that follows. It should lead you from deep grief over sin to an even deeper appreciation of what God has done for you. May this be your most blessed Easter ever.

Your only Son, no sin to hide
But You have sent Him from Your side
To walk upon this guilty sod
And to become the Lamb of God

Your gift of love, they crucified
They laughed and scorned Him as He died
The humble King, they named a fraud
And sacrificed the Lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

I was so lost, I should have died
But You have brought me to Your side
To be led by Your staff and rod
And to be called a lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Evaluating Faith-Themed Films

Biblical themes are emanating from Hollywood in near-record proportions lately. It’s almost reminiscent of all those Biblical epics of the 1950s. This can be a good trend, or it can be simply trendy, depending on the motivation. It also can be damaging to a true depiction of the Scriptures if the image presented is off-base.

Noah MovieThat concern has raged to the surface with the opening of Noah, with Russell Crowe in the title role. I haven’t seen the film. I was planning to see it, and I read a pretty large number of reviews, both positive and negative. Lately, though, those reviews have turned rather sour, and the departures from Scripture appear to be so drastic that I’ve decided not to waste my time or money.

I realize the critique: how can you be honest with your assessment if you don’t see it? Well, I’ll be glad to watch it when it comes on television later, but I’m really not into giving director Darren Aronofsky any more profit. Snake skin transmitting evil? Fallen angels in the form of rock creatures who were punished by God for helping Adam and Eve? These rock creatures building the ark? Methuselah giving Noah an hallucinogenic drink to get the message to build the ark in the first place? The ongoing theme of plants and animals as more important than humans? Noah wanting to murder a newborn child because he believes all humankind should be destroyed? An evil man sneaking onto the ark without Noah’s knowledge? God portrayed more as a vindictive Gaia/Earth Mother than the actual God of the Old Testament?

Have I forgotten anything?

One reviewer commented that the movie is presenting the illusion that this is the actual story of Noah. It may use the Biblical Noah as a prop, but it bears little resemblance to what is found in the Book. Theatrical license and filling in the gaps in a story is one thing; changing the story completely is something else. Apparently, that is what Aronofsky has done.

So I’ll give this one a pass for now.

Son of GodThere are others, though, that are more faithful to Biblical themes. I did see Son of God, the spinoff from the television miniseries that garnered hefty ratings. The movie did well also, at least for a time, although it seems to have faded now. If I recall, it came in second the first week it screened. The actors were very fine; the story was true to the original script (the Bible itself), and any additions or alterations to what can be found in the text were not the kind that damaged the essential message.

The actor who portrayed Jesus did so with just the right spirit, in my view. Both righteousness and mercy could be seen in action and countenance. The crucifixion scene, while not as gritty as The Passion of the Christ, was nevertheless realistic—agonizingly so. Anyone seeing this film would have to think seriously about man’s sinful condition and God’s offer of forgiveness.

God's Not DeadAnother Christian-focused movie currently in theaters is God’s Not Dead. I’ve not yet seen it, but have viewed the trailer a couple of times. I freely admit I had some skepticism upon seeing the trailer the first time. I wondered if it was just preaching to the choir, so to speak. I also wondered if it might be a little too simplistic, especially with a title like that.

Yet the reviews I’ve read have been more positive than I expected. One even talked about how the film deftly handles complex philosophical reasoning about God’s existence. Friends who have seen it came away enthusiastic. Based on all this input, I hope to fit it into my schedule soon and be able to judge for myself.

Heaven Is For RealAnother one, due out this Easter, entitled Heaven Is for Real, is based on the real-life testimony of a small boy who, when he underwent surgery, says he experienced heaven. He came back from this experience with information about a miscarriage his mother had of which he had no knowledge previously. He also identified a picture of a grandfather he had never met in this life, but whom he says he spoke with in heaven.

I don’t know if the message will be close to the Biblical perspective or merely “spiritual” in some vague way, but I’m willing to give it a chance to prove itself. Casting Emmy-award winning actor Greg Kinnear as the father shows it’s not some low-budget feature, but a quality production.

My approach to these films is expressed well by one reviewer, John Hayward, at the Red State site:

Despite the constant media caricature of Christians as prune-faced scolds who can’t wait to protest any movie that gets a single word of Scripture wrong, they’re actually very good sports about creative interpretations of their faith, especially compared with certain religions that… aren’t.  Christian groups respond to movies they mildly disapprove of by expressing mild disapproval.  If they’re really bent out of shape, they might even tell other people not to go see the movie.  And they’ll embrace all sorts of creative embellishments if the serious themes and tenets of their faith are given a respectful hearing.

I give respectful hearings where respectful hearings are earned. I express disapproval when deviations from basic facts warrant such disapproval. Above all, I want to be as fair as possible in my analyses. Check out any of these movies that have sparked an interest and come to your own conclusions as to their relative value.

Lewis: The Good Infection

Mere Christianity 2C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity is full of pithy statements that catch the essence of truth so well. He has a way of expressing eternal maxims that help us remember them. For instance, when writing of our destiny in relationship with God, he uses this memorable approach:

Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to be wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to or even into, the thing that has them.

They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?

Life is found only in Him. There is no substitute. As Jesus instructed His disciples, we must be branches of the true Vine. There is no fruit without that connection.