C. S. Lewis said something about religion that is both obvious and profound, meaning in practice that it's almost universally ignored. To paraphrase, The most important thing about any religion is simply whether


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Religion According C.S. Lewis:

What is Religion?

C.S. Lewis said something about religion that is both obvious and profound, meaning in practice that it's almost universally ignored. To paraphrase, "The most important thing about any religion is simply whether it's TRUE or not." (Emphasis mine.) He was pointing out that most people simply practice, whether poorly or well, whichever religion their family or most of their neighbors practice. He was pointing out that most people of every religion don't take it as seriously in their everyday practice as they do theoretically; and in fact most people don't even bother to delve more deeply than they have to into whatever religion they profess.

It's a sad fact that Christianity has degraded from a living faith that let 120 disciples begin turning the world upside down, to a faded, compromised, bastardized pastiche of Biblical ideas and pagan philosophy/practices. And those few souls who do want to go deeper into their faith are still inevitably painted with the same brush as the half-hearted majority, who only want enough "religion" to keep them from going to a hell they only half believe in.
Religion is not about ethnicity. Religion is not about whatever faith your family professed. Religion is not about external clothing and hairstyles and bumper stickers and diets and specialized vocabularies. Religion is not about "fitting in." Religion is about truth, or else it's worthless. And of course, that means that for ANY religion to have any meaning, some genuine truth must actually exist. And if some genuine truth actually exists, then some religions will be "closer" to it and others will be "farther" from it. By definition, two religions that say opposite things about the nature of the universe and life as we know it, can't both be right.

By Pete http://www.geocities.com/maranathapmoore

ound Bites – Definitions of “Religion”

“…a system of symbols, myths, doctrines, ethics, and rituals for the expression of ultimate relevance” Denise L. Carmody and T.L. Brink Ways to the Center

"Recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, and worship." (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

"The essence of religion consists in a feeling of absolute dependence. . ." (Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) The Doctrine of Faith)

"Religion is a human response to mystery. . . . not as a deadly emptiness, but somehow as a reality in which lies the meaning of human existence. . . . The response to the mystery as fullness is religion. In general, religion is a way of relating to mystery as a sacred or divine reality rather than as useless or meaningless." Michael H. Barnes, In the Presence of Mystery, 1f.

“Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature… It is the opium of the people… Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.” Karl Marx

“Religion is what an individual does with his solitariness.” Alfred North Whitehead

“Religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine commands.” Immanuel Kant

"A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden - beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a church, all who adhere to them." (Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life)

Religion is "an hypothesis which is supposed to render the Universe comprehensible. . . . Now every theory tacitly asserts two things: first that there is something to be explained; secondly that such and such is the explanation . . . that the existence of the world with all it contains is a mystery ever pressing for interpretation . . . [and] that it is not a mystery passing human comprehension." (Herbert Spencer, (1820-1903) First Principles)

Religion is "a pathological manifestation of the protective function, a sort of deviation of the normal function . . . caused by ignorance of natural causes and of their effects." (G. Sergi, Les Emotions, 404)

"Religious life consists of the belief that there is an unseen order and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto." (William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 53, 1902)

Philosophy of Religion Course Notes


Evil and the Power of God

C.S. Lewis

The Problem:

If God is Omnipotent, then why does Human suffering occur?

Asking the Question: “Why couldn’t God have made the world without it?”

Presupposition of the view is that humans have free will.

Lewis’s approach:

Argues that it is possible to affirm both :

Divine Omnipotence

That it is impossible for God to create a world containing free beings that would also not allow for the possibility of evil.

Such a world is intrinsically impossible.
Conditional and Intrinsic Impossibility:

Conditionally impossible:

The claim that a thing or act is impossible unless certain other conditions obtain.

Intrinsically impossible:

The claim that a thing or act is impossible under all conditions and in all worlds for all agents.
Intrinsic impossiblities:

Square Circles

Uncaused acts

Free Will and an absence of evil?

The meaning of Omnipotence:

“With God all things are possible”

Does this mean:

God can do anything? (Even the Intrinsically Impossible?)

or - God can do that which is not Intrinsically Impossible

Is it a limit of Omnipotence to not be able to do that which is not a thing?


Possible vs. Impossible Worlds:

If we can speak of the possible worlds God could have created,

we can also talk of the impossible worlds which God could not create.

Because they involve a contradiction - something which is intrinsically impossible

A World without the possibility of Evil could not contain free beings.

Evil is necessary if we are to be free:

1. Beings with free choice need things to choose from -

some of these choices will be better than others, some worse.
Evil is necessary if we are to be free:

2. The environment required for free choice must be one in which actions have predictable consequences.

God cannot suspend the natural order for some, or the freedom of all is compromised.

If God acted to prevent evil, then our brains would be incapable of thinking of it.

Evil is necessary if we are to be free:

3. In order for humans to relate, we must be physical. If we are physical, we must be capable of being hurt.

In order to feel a caress, we must also be capable of being injured.

In order to develop morally (a choice), we must have the possibility of Evil.


God can still be thought of as omnipotent, but as incapable of doing that which is intrinsically impossible.

As to why God would create a world of free beings (or any world at all), we have no way of knowing.
Capturing C. S. Lewis’s “Mere” Christianity:

Another Look at Shadowlands

By Mary Dodson

[1] In his The Achievement of C. S. Lewis (1980), Thomas Howard reflects that Lewis’s life was “not terribly exciting,” and adds, “[i]t would be hard to make a big box-office film of it.”1 Hard--yes. Impossible--no. Thirteen years after Howard’s statement and thirty years after Lewis’s death, Richard Attenborough brought Lewis’s life to the big screen. Philip Yancey notes that “[s]ome evangelicals complain that the movie distorts Lewis’s life and waters down his Christian message.”2 I contend that even the most fundamental evangelical should have no complaints and that the highly religious film deserves another look.

[2] In Shadowlands (1993), director Richard Attenborough exquisitely uses film techniques to present an ever-so-accurate presentation of Lewis, the man of books, and of his philosophy, his "mere" Christianity.
[3] First, how does Attenborough's film biography portray C. S. Lewis? Linda Seger, author of The Art of Adaptation, advises anyone attempting a biographical film to remember that "it is impossible to tell a 'Womb to tomb' story in two hours."3 Thus, Attenborough's decision to stick with screenwriter Nicholson's portrayal of only a few short years in Lewis's life was a wise one. Basically, the time under consideration is a two-to-three year telescoped period in the early 1950s focusing on Lewis's falling-in-love-with-Joy experience. The telescoped "facts" revealed in the film are on track: Attenborough's C. S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) is a late middle-aged professor, a writer of children's stories, and an author of Christian apologetic works. He is a bachelor living with an alcoholic elder brother in an old country home (The Kilns). Three of the most important aspects of C. S. Lewis are foregrounded: the film portrays Lewis as a brilliant debater, as a beloved public figure, and as an emotionally isolated man. Attenborough does, indeed, capture the essence of the man. However, of greater significance to the film's worth is Attenborough's ability to adapt Lewis's philosophy, his Christian theism. Lewis himself defined his "mere" Christianity as "the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times."4 He was not interested in divisive doctrines, describing his The Case for Christianity as "more what might be called philosophy" and defining philosophy as did Plato--not as a subject but as a way.5 However, Attenborough's film illustrates that Lewis's way was less easily traveled than the scholar had--for twenty-five years--proclaimed.

[4] To Attenborough's credit he covers all of the ever-so-big issues Lewis addresses in his writings: death, heaven, hell, pain, faith. The film's question is: Do C. S. Lewis's ready answers suffice? The answer is the film's story of life being driven to a deeper level of experience.

[5] The obvious subject of concern in the film is death--not the Merle Oberon Wuthering Heights mystical, romantic, beautiful death--but the morphined, agonizing, suffering real death of a real person: Joy Gresham Lewis. Joy credits her acceptance of Christianity with sustaining her through years of marriage to a philandering alcoholic husband. Attenborough's Joy's admission to Lewis that her showing up on his doorstep was a "running away" from problems at home was true-to-life. She later said: "I was so much under Bill's influence that I had to run away from him physically and consult one of the clearest thinkers of our time."6 She did consult Lewis, inviting him to the now-famous luncheon portrayed in the film, and the rest, as they say, is history. In the film, shortly after a "technical" marriage, Attenborough shows Joy suddenly falling down in her apartment. Doctors diagnose cancer. Jack faces the truth; he is in love with this sick woman. Joy's cancer goes into remission. A happy period follows, but the shadow of her illness grows ever longer. The cancer, again active, consumes her body. She suffers. She dies.

[6] Jack's grief was intense. His "faith--so ardently championed in his books--was shaken to its very foundation."7 Attenborough's film visually captures this dark period of doubt and bitterness. The suspense builds as the viewer wonders if Lewis can continue to regard death as a simple river-crossing on a bridge built by the great Bridge Builder. Shortly after Joy's death, Jack attends a social gathering. Everyone turns as Jack enters the room, quietly whispering, one by one, "so sorry, Jack," "so very sorry." Harry Harrington (Michael Denison) reminds him that "we see so little here." Faith, he points out, is all that sustains one. "Only God," he says, "knows why these things happen." Jack turns on him with a vengeance, angrily shouting: "We're the creatures in the cosmic laboratory. I have no doubt the experience is for our own good, but it still makes God the villainous vivisectionist!" The film lays out the harsh reality of death.

[7] The reality of heaven, too, is certainly explored and affirmed. Indeed, Attenborough pays great attention to Lewis's belief in the reality of heaven. When Jack voices his anger at Riley's suggestion that the Narnia wardrobe is a Freudian sexual image, insisting instead that it is a symbol of magic, he implies much. The Lewis scholar, Thomas Howard, argues that Lewis's greatest achievement was his attempt to return the modern child to the possibilities of imaginative truth--to embrace fantasy, imagination, and the supernatural and the possibilities of glories and the glorious.8 Lewis was convinced that the myths of all cultures shed some light on the "one myth that really happened."9 Thus, the Narnia wardrobe that the children in the stories must open, enter, and push through in order to magically enter another world is but a metaphor for the courage to leave the land of the material and open the door to the possibilities of the metaphysical.

[8] However, the greatest illustration in the film of Lewis's thoughts regarding heaven is given via the Golden Valley picture. As Joy enters Lewis's masculine study surrounded by books, she stops and stares at a picture on the wall. Jack tells her that when he was a very little boy it hung in his nursery and that he thought it was a picture of heaven. Later, after the "marriage before God and the world" on Joy's hospital sickbed and during her period of remission, Joy suggests taking a holiday and locating the actual valley portrayed in the picture. When they arrive at the inn and ask the keeper for directions, she informs them that the valley's name was mistranslated. The actual translation from the French should have been "door," not "golden." They drive to the place, get out of the car, and behold--before them lies the door to Narnia! The English countryside has never looked more radiant; golden shafts of sunshine bathe a green, green meadow. A perfect sky smiles down on Joy and Jack as they walk through the pasture, holding hands and laughing over little intimate jokes. It very much is the Golden Valley of the picture; it appears to be as mystical a place as the imagination can conjure. However, rain soon begins to fall, reminding all that "the old Narnia" does sometimes provide a glimpse of heaven but clouds soon appear, shadows soon fall. The "real country"--the new Narnia-- heaven--can only be reached by opening death's door. The film's most blatant address of the issue of heaven occurs after Joy's death. Its poignancy relies on effective understatement. Douglas asks his stepfather: "Do you believe in heaven?" and Lewis firmly responds: "Yes, I do."

[9] Not only heaven but hell, too, is addressed in the film. Joy is in the hospital daily taking cobalt treatments, suffering from her fight with cancer. Jack, too, suffers--intensely. It is this intense suffering that wakens him to the realization of how very much Joy matters to him. He puzzles over his feelings for Joy and says to himself: "How could Joy be my wife? I'd have to love her, wouldn't I? I'd have to care more for her than for anyone else in this world. I'd have to suffering the torments of the damned," and, through sobs and tears, realizes that he is. His state of grief over the possibility of separation from Joy is so intense that he parallels it to his vision of hell--eternal separation from the God of Love. Thus, Attenborough's film makes it increasingly clear that the love that exists between Jack and Joy mirrors the love that Lewis advocates between God and humankind and that Jack's separation from Joy mirrors his hell that is separation from the source of all love.
[10] "Something must drive us out of our nursery into the world--we must grow up!" becomes the film's C. S. Lewis dictum. This statement very much summarizes the plot of Attenborough's story. The "something" that drives Lewis out of his cloistered and safe world--his nursery--into the real world of open spaces full of bright joys and dark shadows is love; the something that forces the man to grow up is intense suffering and tragic loss--pain. Attenborough illustrates this humanizing journey through careful attention to Jack's progressive relationship with Joy, his detached professor to human being relationship with a student, his increasingly intimate relationship with Douglas, and his maturing relationship with God.

[11] Attenborough's attention to Lewis's "faith journey" deserves further comment. For decades Jack Lewis had been voicing and writing words of faith; the film does not neglect this issue. Lewis had habitually addressed even great losses with ready answers. In one of the lectures portrayed in the movie, he waves a newspaper at the audience. And begins:

[12] Yesterday I read a letter that referred to an event that took place almost a year ago. That was the night a number 1 bus drove into a column of young Royal Marine cadets in Chatham, and killed twenty-four of them. You remember? The letter asks some simple but fundamental questions. Where was God on that December night? Why didn't He stop it? Isn't God supposed to be good? Isn't he supposed to love us? Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is yes. You see, I'm not sure that God particularly wants us to be happy. He wants us to love and be loved. He wants us to grow up. I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that he makes us the gift of suffering. Or to put it another way, pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
[13] Lewis continues his discussion, reasoning that "we're like blocks of stone, out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of His chisel, which hurt so much, are what makes us perfect." Attenborough's film suggests that Lewis's God put the man and his philosophical claims to the test. What does a writer do when overcome by any emotion? He writes. Lewis's " Grief Observed," claims Ralph C. Wood, is "darker than anything in Kafka or Sartre."10 Lewis accuses God of being a Cosmic Sadist, an evil tyrant. Lewis later described the book as one "which ends in faith but raises all the blackest doubts en route."11 In the film, a drained Lewis, sitting behind his desk, voices his Grief Observed thesis. He turns to his brother and admits: "I'm so terribly afraid. Of never seeing her again. Of thinking that suffering is just suffering after all. No cause. No purpose. No pattern. No sense. Just pain, in a world of pain."

[14] Some Christian critics negatively assess Attenborough's film's ending, suggesting that it belittles the reality of Lewis's re-established, re-strengthened, "metal toughened by fire," faith. I disagree. The final scene is, once again, Narnia-like in its imagery. A long shot reveals Lewis and Douglas walking through another Golden Valley meadow. Richard Dyer explains: "The romance literally embodies the theology and, as suggested by the last surging (music, camerawork, rolling green valley) shot, [Lewis's] love for God is enriched by his experience of love in the here and now."12 Attenborough leads into this final shot via bleedover. Lewis has previously been "interviewing" a new tutoree. He has been asking the boy probing questions, not delivering his previous pat answers. He asks the new student what he thinks of the notion that we read to know we are not alone. The lad thinks this through and begins voicing his opinion. Lewis goes to the classroom window and looks outside. Attenborough uses voice-over: Lewis queries, "Why love if loving hurts so much? I have no answers; only the life I've lived. Twice I've been given a choice: the boy chose safety; the man chooses suffering." The film in its entirety answers the "Why love" question. It proclaims that it 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all; indeed, pain and suffering is part of the living experience. As Joy puts it, "it's part of the deal." To further clarify, safety provides only that - safety. Accepting the risk of suffering, however, provides the possibility of experiencing great joy. Furthermore, the film, and specifically Lewis's "I have no answers" concluding statement reiterates the thinking of a previous great intellect: "There lives more faith in honest doubt...than in half the creeds."13 Indeed, faith can only be faith in the absence of certainties.

[15] As he concludes A Grief Observed, Lewis muses: "The best is perhaps what we understand least." 14 Attenborough provides a perfect example of such. In the film, Lewis, who was troubled by the issue of prayer since childhood, continually prays. When Joy's cancer goes into remission, Reverend Harrington tells Jack, "God is answering your prayers." Jack replies with fervor: "That's not why I pray--I pray because I can't help myself--the need flows out of me. It doesn't change God; it changes me." Thus, the film suggests that prayer, never understood by Jack, was still one of the "best" things. Life, the intellectual Lewis finally learns, is not to be fully understood. Shortly before his death, Lewis concluded an interview with these thoughts:
[16] The world might stop in ten minutes; meanwhile, we are to go on doing our duty. The great thing is to be found at one's post a child of God, living each day as if it were out last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.15
[17] Attenborough's final portrayal of Lewis shows him practicing this advice. He is "at his post," taking care of Douglas, enjoying the Narnia that sometimes resembles heaven, contemplating the mysteries of this experience called life. The camera dollies farther and farther back; a long shot reveals Douglas and Lewis, arm-in-arm, walking toward a horizon of blue cloudless skies.

[18] There is yet one aspect of the film that must be addressed. The title. Never, I dare say, has one author used one word quite so consistently throughout his canon. Never, I dare say, has one director managed to use shadows more philosophically. Attenborough opens his film with a long shot of a glorious sunrise; however, the sky is not cloudless--"heaven" is obstructed from clear view. The clouds make shadows on the land below. The clouds become heavier, hanging somewhat ominously over an impressive Oxford skyline. Attenborough then cuts to a shot of shadowy, flickering candles as solemn, Latinate choir music is heard as the Oxford chapel comes into focus. An astute viewer perceives that this is a land clouded by shadows and that the light of knowledge is, at times, dim and uncertain. When Douglas visits the Lewises for the first time, he asks if he might see their wardrobe. Douglas enters the attic; a low-angle shot pans the piece of furniture, and the wardrobe--the gateway to the magical other world described the Narnia stories --casts a long shadow over the child. Thus, Attenborough communicates Lewis's contention that each person must choose whether or not to journey through the shadows of the mind and embrace the possibilities of the imagination--the possibilities that lie beyond scientific reason. After Joy's initial visit with Jack and Warnie, she boards the train leaving Oxford. She looks at the brothers through the window; they appear shadowy. In this scene, Attenborough ever so cleverly manages to use shadows as a foreshadowing: Jack and Warnie are later left behind in the land of shadows as Joy departs on yet another journey--a journey to the shadowless land of heaven.

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