Page 26. " There has been a great deal of soft soap talked about God for the last hundred years. "

To "soft soap" someone is to flatter him. Here Lewis uses the term to refer to loose, sentimental talk about God that has no basis in Scripture.

In C. S. Lewis: A Biography, A. N. Wilson chides the author for using such terms: "The language and idiom of the broadcasts has dated: ‘There has been a great deal of soft soap talked about God for the last hundred years. That is not what I am offering. You can cut all that out’ . . . or ‘I personally think that next to Christianity Dualism is the manliest and most sensible creed on the market’ [p. 42]. It is hard to read these sentences without a smile." (180-81)

Page 26. " I ought to mention the In-between view called Life-Force philosophy, or Creative Evolution, or Emergent Evolution. The wittiest expositions of it come in the works of Bernard Shaw, but the most profound ones in those of Bergson. "
George Bernard Shaw, early 1900s
Public DomainGeorge Bernard Shaw, early 1900s

George Bernard Shaw and the Life Force

"Bernard Shaw" is a reference to playwright and social critic George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). According to Ben Brantley in the New York Times, Sept. 16, 2005,

Man and Superman title page
Public DomainMan and Superman title page

"Creative evolution, put forth in jovial but dead serious dramatic terms in Shaw's play 'Man and Superman' (published in 1903; first performed in 1905), is based on an ever upwardly striving phenomenon called the life force, which propels us away from our inconvenient bodily impulses and toward a state of pure cerebration. The life force, by the way, is transmitted by rare, world-shaking men of genius, 'selected by Nature to carry on the work of building up an intellectual consciousness of her instinctive purpose.' In other words, men like Jesus, Julius Caesar, John Bunyan, Napoleon, Goethe, Wagner and—but, of course—George Bernard Shaw. . . . Improvement of the species . . . was always the first purpose of Shaw's plays."

From wikipedia:

"In 1921, Shaw completed Back to Methuselah, his 'Metabiological Pentateuch'. The massive, five-play work starts in the Garden of Eden and ends thousands of years in the future; it showcases Shaw's postulate that a 'Life Force' directs evolution toward ultimate perfection by trial and error. Shaw proclaimed the play a masterpiece, but many critics disagreed. The theme of a benign force directing evolution reappears in Geneva (1938), wherein Shaw maintains humans must develop longer lifespans in order to acquire the wisdom needed for self-government."

And from adherents.com, quoting Gary Sloan, "The religion of George Bernard Shaw: when is an Atheist?", published in American Atheist Magazine, Autumn 2004:

"In Shawianity, god was a work in progress, not a fait accompli. In a 1909 letter to Leo Tolstoy, Shaw explained: 'To me God does not yet exist; but there is a creative force struggling to evolve an executive organ of godlike knowledge and power; that is, to achieve omnipotence and omniscience; and every man and woman born is a fresh attempt to achieve this object. We are here to help God, to do his work, to remedy his whole errors, to strive towards Godhead ourselves.' In its odyssey to achieve fruition, the life force would create ever-higher forms of humanity--supermen, super-supermen, supermen to the third power: 'When one instrument is worn out, I will make another, and another, and another, always more and more intelligent and effective.'

"Shaw fused . . . the life force with the instrument. In 'The New Theology,' he prepped his audience: 'When you are asked, "Where is God? Who is God?" stand up and say, "I am God and here is God, not as yet completed, but still advancing towards completion, just in so much as I am working for the purpose of the universe, working for the good of the whole society and the whole world, instead of merely looking after my personal ends."' God 'would provide himself with a perfectly fashioned and trustworthy instrument. And such an instrument would be nothing less than God himself.'"

Henri-Lous Bergson, 1927
Public DomainHenri-Lous Bergson, 1927

Henri Bergson and Creative Evolution

Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was a French philosopher who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927. He "convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition are more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality." He also authored L'Evolution créatrice (Creative Evolution) in 1907.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Bergson's project in Creative Evolution is to offer a philosophy capable of accounting both for the continuity of all living beings—as creatures—and for the discontinuity implied in the evolutionary quality of this creation. Bergson starts out by showing that the only way in which the two senses of life may be reconciled (without being collapsed) is to examine real life, the real evolution of the species, that is, the phenomenon of change and its profound causes."

From wikipedia:"The book provides an alternate explanation for Darwin's mechanism of evolution, suggesting that evolution is motivated by an élan vital, a 'vital impetus' that can also be understood as humanity's natural creative impulse."

Page 28. " what turns out to be one more 'religious jaw'. "

"Jaw" here means lecture or annoying jabber. This is another example of dated language.

Page 30. " the account given by Christianity and some other religions, that God is 'good'. "
Bible
Creative Commons AttributionBible - Credit: Ian Britton

Many Bible verses reference the goodness of God. A few examples:

Psalm 145:9: The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Psalm 86:5: For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

Exodus 34:5-7 (Yahweh’s self-description to Moses): The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."

Note in the last passage the two-edged sword of the goodness of God; as Lewis says later on this page, "If God is like the Moral Law, then He is not soft."

Page 31. " Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing. "

This, Lewis's "third point" in the chapter, refers back to his first two points, namely

(1) "Humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road" (page 29).

(2) "The Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right conduct. . . . If there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do" (pages 30, 31).

He's attempting to get at the truths taught in the Psalms and Romans regarding the depravity of man.

Psalm 14:2-3 (cf. Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:10): The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Romans 3:23: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

If the reader rejects these truths, he is rejecting the foundational elements of Christianity. "It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power--it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk" (p. 31).

You can hear a sermon on the doctrine of depravity from American evangelical Pastor (and self-professed C. S. Lewis fan) John Piper here.

Page 35. " Christianity lines up with the majority--lines up with ancient Greeks and Romans, modern savages, Stoics, Platonists, Hindus, Mohammedans, etc. "

Lewis lists these groups as having in common with Christianity the belief in gods or God. What is each group's view of Deity?

Ancient Greece

The Areopagus with Paul's sermon from Acts 17 on the engraving.
Public DomainThe Areopagus with Paul's sermon from Acts 17 on the engraving.

Ancient Greece existed from roughly 750 BC to AD 529. Greek gods included Zeus and Hera, Ares, Aphrodite, Hades, and so on. The Apostle Paul addressed Greek beliefs regarding their gods when he spoke to the Athenians on the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill, in Acts 17:16-23.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

St. Paul Preaching in Athens, Raphael
Public DomainSt. Paul Preaching in Athens, Raphael

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. . . .”

Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome started in 753 BC and began to decline around AD 190. Roman gods borrowed their attributes from Greek gods; they included Jupiter, Neptune, Apollo, and Mars.

"Modern Savages"

In general the term "savage" refers to someone from a "primitive," nonliterate society. In Christian terminology it is often a synonym for "pagan." The term "savage" has fallen out of favor today (see "Anthropology" here); such people groups are more likely to be defined as "indigenous peoples," "hunter-gatherer societies," or "tribes." Their religious beliefs tend to be characterized by animism, nature worship, and pantheism.

Stoics

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Stoic God is immanent throughout the whole of creation and directs its development down to the smallest detail" and is akin to the idea of "fate."

Platonists

Plato's view of the gods was at odds with that of the Greeks. Based on statements made in The Republic, we can assume Plato thought of the gods as being "perfect beings, with perfect bodies, far more beautiful than our own; they cannot be killed--in fact, they cannot be harmed in any way. Their bodies are incorruptible. What is more, since they do not die, they need not replenish their population; thus they do not beget child gods" ("Did Socrates Teach New Deities?" Dr. Jan Edward Garrett). Dr. Garrett, of Western Kentucky University, has put together a helpful chart regarding the attributes of Plato's gods, which can be found here.

Hindus

For information on Hindu beliefs, see the first Bookmark for page 6.

"Mohammedans"

This is Lewis's term for Muslims, followers of Islam. It is now considered an offensive term, although in Lewis's time and in his circles no offense was intended.

Qur'an from the 11th century, British Museum
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeQur'an from the 11th century, British Museum - Credit: LordHarris

According to allah.org, "Allah is the personal name of the One true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word god which can be made plural, gods, or feminine, goddess. It is interesting to notice that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic.

"The One true God is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing and nothing is comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad was asked by his contemporaries about Allah; the answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Quran, which is considered the essence of the unity or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112 which reads:

"'In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Say (O Muhammad) He is God the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone.'"

Page 36. " is called Pantheism. It was held by the great Prussian philosopher Hegel and, as far as I can understand them, by the Hindus. "

Was Hegel a Pantheist?

G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831); steel engraving by Lazarus Sichling after a lithograph by Julius L. Sebbers
Public DomainG.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831); steel engraving by Lazarus Sichling after a lithograph by Julius L. Sebbers

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "There is dispute as to just how pantheism is to be understood and who is and is not a pantheist. Aside from Spinoza, other possible pantheists include some of the Presocratics; Plato; Lao Tzu; Plotinus; Schelling; Hegel; Bruno, Eriugena and Tillich. Possible pantheists among literary figures include Emerson, Walt Whitman, D.H. Lawrence, and Robinson Jeffers. Beethoven (Crabbe 1982) and Martha Graham (Kisselgoff 1987) have also been thought to be pantheistic in some of their work — if not pantheists. . . . Although Hegel conceived of Reality as unified and rational in terms of the Absolute (Geist), and in a manner that I take it would qualify Geist as divine, he denies he was a pantheist."

Hegel himself wrote, in "The Philosophy of Religion," "As the universal, God could not find Himself faced by a contrary whereof the reality should pretend to rise above the phantasmal level. For this pure unity and this perfect transparency matter is nothing impenetrable, and spirit, the ego, is not so independent as to possess a true, individual substantiality.

"There has been a tendency to label this idea pantheism. It would be more exact to call it the conception of substantiality. God is first determined as substance only. The absolute subject, spirit, is also substance; but it is determined rather as subject. This is the difference generally ignored by those who assert that speculative philosophy is pantheism. As usual, they miss the essential point and disparage philosophy by falsifying it.

"Pantheism is commonly taken to mean that God is all things--the whole, the universe, the collection of all existences, of things finite and infinitely diverse. From which notion the charge is brought against philosophy that it teaches that all things are God; that is to say, that God is, not the universal which is in and for itself, but the infinite multiplicity of individual things in their empirical and immediate existence.

"If you say God is all that is here, this paper, etc., you have indeed committed yourself to the pantheism with which philosophy is reproached; that is, the whole is understood as equivalent to all individual things. But there is also the genus, which is equally the universal, yet is wholly different from this totality in which the universal is but the collection of individual things, and the basis, the content, is constituted by these things themselves. To say that there has ever been a religion which has taught this pantheism is to say what is absolutely untrue. It has never entered any man's mind that everything is God; that is to say, that God is things in their individual and contingent existence. Far less has philosophy ever taught this doctrine."

Hinduism and Pantheism

Krishna
Public DomainKrishna

Is Hinduism pantheistic? polytheistic? monotheistic? The answer is not a simple one, but ReligionFacts.com tackles the question in layman's terms here.

 

Page 39. " If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning "

This statement may at first sound like doubletalk but is indeed logical. If nothing has meaning, then we could never discover its meaninglessness. To recognize something as having no meaning necessitates the understanding of "meaning" itself.

Lewis may have existentialist philosophy in mind here. Existentialism was a reaction against belief in natural law and Hegelian philosophy. Considered an outdated movement now, it is defined as "a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts."

Page 41. " Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. "

The type of logical fallacy Lewis is criticizing here is called a straw man argument: "The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position."

In the UK, such an argument is known as an "Aunt Sally".

Page 42. " Dualism means the belief that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad "

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "In theology, . . . a ‘dualist’ is someone who believes that Good and Evil—or God and the Devil—are independent and more or less equal forces in the world."

You can read more about dualism here.

 

Page 44. " I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. "

Lewis is alluding to Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (King James Version).

Page 45. " Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel "
Public Domain"I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." Gustave Doré illustration for Paradise Lost, 1866.

Both the Old and New Testaments make references to Satan as a fallen angel. (Quotations below are from the King James Version.)

Isaiah 14:12-15: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." ("In the midst of a world of light and love, of song and feast and dance, [Lucifer] could find nothing to think of more interesting than his own prestige." C. S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost)

Luke 10:18: "And he [Jesus] said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."

Cf. Ezekiel 28:11-19; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12.

Page 47. " an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of this World "

Verses in which Christ refers to Satan as "the prince of this world":

John 12:31: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out."

John 14:30: "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."

John 16:11: "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."

Paul refers to him similarly in Ephesians 2:1-3: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

Page 47. " how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power? "

Lewis here addresses the age-old seemingly insoluble dilemma regarding man's free will and the sovereignty of God.

Is God truly sovereign--that is, is He fully directing all events to achieve His ends and His will? If the answer is yes, then that leads to the conclusion that no one truly has a free will. Whatever you "decide" to do was in actuality determined ahead of time by God. How, then, can God hold people responsible for their sins if He knew and/or determined ahead of time what sins they would commit--thus leaving individuals with no choice in the matter?

On the other hand, if you answer no, then how can God ultimately be in charge? His will would consistently be being violated by people making decisions--even minor, "unsinful" ones--that would frustrate that will. If it's God's will for me to do a certain thing but I exercise my free will and do something else, what then? Haven't I frustrated His plans?

Most Christians come to the conclusion that both God's sovereignty and man's free will exist side-by-side. The fact that they seem to us to be mutually contradictory is only because we are incapable of having God's level of comprehension of reality. (In Book 4, Chapter 3, "Time and Beyond Time," Lewis returns to the idea that God doesn't see things--even something as elementary and seemingly self-evident as the passage of time--as we do.)

Here are two examples from well-known Bible teachers from the past who have commented on this issue.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-92
Public DomainCharles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-92

Nineteenth-century pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon: "God . . . saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. 'How,' says some one, 'do you reconcile these two doctrines?' My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God's Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them. If you show me that they are enemies, then I will reconcile them. . . . There are many things in God's Word that are difficult, and that I cannot see, but they are there, and I believe them. I cannot see how God can be omnipotent and man be free; but it is so, and I believe it. 'Well,' says one, 'I cannot understand it.' My answer is, I am bound to make it as plain as I can, but if you have not any understanding, I cannot give you any; there I must leave it. But then, again, it is not a matter of understanding; it is a matter of faith. . . . If they appear to contradict one another, they do not really do so, because God never contradicts himself" (Sermon #241, delivered on Sunday, January 16th, 1859, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark).

Charles Simeon, 1739-1836
Public DomainCharles Simeon, 1739-1836

Bible expositor Charles Simeon: “The author is disposed to think that the Scripture system is of a broader more comprehensive character than some very dogmatical theologians are inclined to allow; and that, as wheels in a complicated machine may move in opposite directions and yet subserve one common end, so may truths apparently opposite be perfectly reconcilable with each other and equally subserve the purposes of God in the accomplishment of man’s salvation” (quoted in H. C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon, 79).

God's Sovereignty

No matter where one comes down on the issue, the Bible clearly teaches both concepts. Look here for an extensive list of verses dealing with God's sovereignty (i.e., predestination and election). And verses below (emphasis added) are among those that point to man's having free will.

Man's Responsibility

John 7:16-17 (ESV): So Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”

Romans 1:19-21 (ESV): For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

James 4:1-2: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.

Both  Concepts Combined

2 Samuel 10:12: Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him."

Romans 9:17-20: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he [God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"

See also 2 Chronicles 7:12-14Isaiah 38:1-5, and Acts 27.

Page 50. " those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men "
The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses by C. S. Lewis
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumThe Weight of Glory and Other Addresses by C. S. Lewis - Credit: Photo by Steven N. Skaggs

Lewis was fascinated by myths all his life, both before and after his conversion. He was not troubled by the fact that the teachings of Christianity and pagan myths overlap on a number of points.

For an essay that gives Lewis's further thoughts on this topic, read "Is Theology Poetry?" an address in The Weight of Glory.