The famous passage from MERE CHRISTIANITY:
“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 the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either he was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. 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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The sentence that gets me is the following: “EITHER he was and is the Son of God, or else a madman”.. or a liar. No. What we have here is a false dilemma from the esteemed Lewis. It is the way the life (teachings and acts) of Jesus as interpreted by Lewis that sets up the false dilemma. Certainly interpreted through Paul Jesus must be treated as the ONLY son of God. But the Stoics before Jesus talked about being sons of God. The phrase was in the air prior to Jesus using it, and there are different things it can mean.
Lewis’ hoped for meaning: Jesus is the super-duper, special, only, unique access to God.
Stoic meaning: any being that manifests pure morality through rational capacity is a son of God, and the more manifested the more the role of son of God is embodied. Why? Because, the Stoics argued, God is rational. Since humans are rational in their better moments, and did not create themselves, they are akin to the divine. The divine sperm is present in them. This makes them sons.
I get that if Jesus is saying what Lewis reads him as saying, then he is either crazy, a liar, or what he says. But, it is we, starting with Paul, who have read him that way. So, we are responsible for the false-dilemma.
Try reading Socrates, Buddha, Epictetus or other sages who sometimes exhibit strange and other-worldly activity, teachings and acts similarly. Is it really true that Buddha is either crazy, lying or who he said he was–an enlightened one? C’mon, you can’t think of any other options?
I love CS Lewis and am currently reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my little ones. But this argument of his all hinges on a framework for accepting who Jesus is that can hardly be justified by the words of Jesus himself.
Jesus undoubtedly speaks in words that are not easy to understand. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the father but by me.” The Christian loves to bask in exclusivity here. “We have it. OH, we feel so bad for those who have not found it. We must give it to them.”
But look around dear Christian. Make sure that your claim to have the only access to the father is matched by a difference which can evidence this claim. In fact, don’t even worry about the claim. Just worry about the difference. If the difference is present the claim will make itself. If the difference is not present the claim is futile.
Remember that your history is full of bloodshed, division. It is fraught with the human. If you have the only access to the father please make it visible to us through a difference. The words are the cheapest reality.
I am not saying there are no Christians. I am not saying there is no difference. I am saying Lewis’ claim to the exclusivist interpretation of Jesus words is one among several options. And in the moments when Jesus says strange and other-worldly things, the jump to a theoretically explanatorily satisfying comfort producing interpretation is in words only. It certainly satisfies the Christian and corners the non-Christian. But the proper move for the non-Christian is to deny the exclusivist interpretation. And that is not hard to do. That is not hard to do because whatever it means to be the only access to the Father will hardly be evident and clear. If it is, show me the difference that such an interpretation makes.