A redated post.
C. S. Lewis, "Man or Rabbit?" an Essay from God in the Dock
Christian philosopher Victor Reppert, admires Lewis's essay, "Man or Rabbit," and it was recently cited at his blog here and here. I read that essay ages ago along with all the rest in God in the Dock. But I wonder what Vic really thinks about the following paragraph from Lewis's essay:
"Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healedâ€”'Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.' But to evade the Son of Man, to look the other way, to pretend you havenâ€™t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Himâ€”this is a different matter. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand."
Exactly how am I to take the above paragraph except as an altar call?
I say this because in my own journey I sought what I could know about Jesus, I did not ignore the question, because I was at the time a true believer, baptized Catholic, converted and born again Protestant, experienced the charismatic baptism of the holy spirit, read Lewis and Calvin, and hence I could not simply ignore everything I'd been taught about Jesus from birth and my initial reaction to the Gospels as moving literature, nor ignore the arguments I'd imbibed from Christian apologetic books. So I sought to learn about the "Son of Man," and found out to my great chagrin that my beliefs concerning a great number of Christian dogmas and beliefs grew less certain after long study.
So I do not fit Lewis's description of someone "ignoring" the "Son of Man" question. Far from it. But I understand of course from Lewis's perspective of being a convert, that he would write rhetorically in the manner that he does, rather than as I do, about Christianity.
As for those whom Lewis calls "ostriches" for refusing to get involved in the whole deal, and skirting the issue on the other side of the street, I think there's some wisdom in those who choose to skirt the issue, especially when Lewis is cry out at you from the other side of his essay, calling you an ostrich, even implying that you are a damned ostrich and God is sending you letters you are refusing to read.
Maybe Lewis was just peeved at rising rates of biblical illiteracy?
And what exactly is wrong with believing that God wouldn't eternally condemn someone honestly in error? Lewis presupposes the opposite, that God WILL condemn people for not taking HIS [Lewis's and God's] religion seriously enough.
Well then, I'd say to Lewis, prove it, prove the Bible is true when it speaks about God, his nature, his commands, his actions, and heaven and hell, salvation, damnation, soteriology, prophecy, et al. I doubt that Lewis has ever proven such a thing or that any Christian apologist has. That's my non-ostrich-like stance. Of course Lewis appreciates people like me moreso than biblical illiterates trying to avoid his favorite holy book entirely, and who believe if there's a God, they find it tough to imagine him not being able to forgive people if their beliefs are wrong. Such ostriches actually imagine that God if He exists might react as any sane normal person wishing to get along with his neighbor would today.
I say, again contra Lewis, that there is something to be said for the much maligned ostrich, keeping its head down when hot headed people shout in essays that there holy book and their "Son of Man" shall damn anyone with enough sense to try and stay out of some of the world's perpetual quarrels, namely over God and holy books, that continue even among the most highly educated religionists, historians, apostates and converts. Heavens!
posted by Edward T. Babinski @ 11/21/2006
At 10:37 AM, November 21, 2006, Victor Reppert said...
I think you have misunderstood Lewis. The point is a fairly simple one. Lewis's passage is not addressed to someone like yourself who has considered the claims of Christianity and considers them not to be true. It is addressed to people who show refuse to pose the question of whether Christianity is true or not, but instead are trying to figure out if they can live a good life without being a Christian. My posting a link to this essay was a follow-up to the previous post, in which I argued that a Christian apologist like Lewis or myself and an atheist like Parsons or Loftus has a great deal in common with one another, in that they both believe that Christianity can be true or false, both believe that the subject matter is important, and both believe that it's a subject about which arguments are relevant and can help us discover the truth. This strikes me as very interesting common ground between the believer and the unbeliever which often gets overlooked with the two sides go at it hammer and tongs about that what they disagree about. Parsons and I would agree that a postmodernist who thinks we can just avoid the question of what is true and only ask what "works for me" is refusing to face reality. The ostrich is the one who never takes the question of Christianity seriously, not the one who takes it seriously and decides the whole thing is false. That's what, he thinks, will be "forgiven and healed." It's one of the places where Lewis is accused of being too liberal. I'm sure that won't be accepted by the folks over at Triablogue, for example.