Hearty Heresy

Mere Heresy
August 5, 2007, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, God, Heresy, Jesus, Theology

Once upon a time, I used to think that C. S. Lewis was a pretty cool guy. As a reasonably intelligent, fairly literary sort of Christian, I enjoyed reading both his fiction (I loved the “Space Trilogy“) and his apologetics. I figured if an Oxford don bought this whole Christianity thing, it must be okay. But as Saint Paul once said, “When I was a child, I thought as a child….” Now that I’m a free-thinking heretic, I can see that what I appreciated about my beloved Lewis wasn’t the depth of his theological thinking, but the simplicity of his explanations. Take this quote from Mere Christianity, for example:

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 must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

What?!? Jesus a poached egg? Absurd! It is absolutely true, though, isn’t it? If Jesus did say all of the things the Bible says he did, he was either on a mission from God, or he was utterly nuts. And since the majority of the influences on my thinking at that time were traceable to some form of Brand Xianity (parents, friends, church…even good old fashioned post-prayer public school), Lewis’ argument made perfect sense. But of course, in order to believe that Jesus said everything the Bible said he did, you first have to accept that everything in the Bible is true.

Ultimately, that’s what Brand Xianity boils down to–accepting the Bible as the Word of God, without hesitation or reservation. There’s no argument for any of the basic tenets of Christianity without appealing to the authority of scripture. And as I think I’ve said before, there’s really nothing so absolutely extraordinary in the Bible itself that makes me believe that it is anything other than what it appears to be: a collection of writings by a bunch of different people from a relatively wide swath of recorded history (which is a minuscule amount of cosmic history). And the same argument Lewis makes about Jesus can be made about the Bible as a whole. As a book cobbled together from an assortment of various writings by a lot of different people over a long period of time, it makes total sense that it would be full of contradictions (even the contradictions that make the teachings of Jesus sound the ramblings of a religious crackpot). As the inerrant Word of God, it is, frankly, a mess. (I mean both Mormons and Muslims have scripture that was given solely to their founders. If I were God, that’s definitely the way I’d go–it dramatically lowers the chance of something getting garbled).

So as C. S. Lewis says, you must make a choice: read the Bible critically, using your God-given reason, or accept it without question. Choose one, and you may be able to discern the teachings of a religious genius (the diamonds in the dunghill as Thomas Jefferson called them); choose another, and you’re saddled with a tangle of contradictions that make sense only if you believe that the infinite complexity of creation can be reduced to God’s simple plan of salvation, something like this version seen on a homemade roadside sign: “Life is short, death is sure, sin is the cause, and Christ is the cure.” D’oh! How could I be so stupid as to assume that the universe had any other possible purpose!


4 Comments so far
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This is something I have been wrestling with over the past few months: the fact that christianity is derived from the Bible. Take away the Bible, and the Christians are left speechless. Accepting the Bible lock, stock and barrel seems to provide an easy “religion in a can”, but only if you read certain bits of it. It seems that some people are just wired in such a way that a system of rules and doctrines is what they need. For them, go for Islam or Christianity, either or, you’ll be as happy as a pig in mud. But if not … well, if you like spending more time out of the square than in it, then you get branded a heretic pretty quickly! As for me, I think the Bible contains truth, but no more so than many other sources.

Comment by jonfeatherstone

I agree, Jon. There’s good stuff in the Bible, but it’s not the only source of good spiritual stuff. To think of it as the only source for understanding God is ridiculous!

Comment by heartyheretic

[…] Comments heartyheretic on Mere Heresyjonfeatherstone on Mere Heresyheartyheretic on And I Thought “In God […]

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[…] Christianity, God, Jesus, Religion Here’s another version of C. S. Lewis’s “poached egg” argument for the divinity of Christ. I found it at j4jesus, and I don’t even know […]

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