Saturday, January 23, 2010

A favorite C. S. Lewis quote of mine

""The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first - wanting to be the centre - wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake...what Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they 'could be like Gods' - could set up on their own as if they had created themselves - be their own masters - invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come...the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.""

— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)


Mark said...

That's a pretty aggressive marketing campaign, there. "It's impossible to be happy unless you buy my product!"

Victor Reppert said...

Lewis also said: "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity." -- C.S. Lewis

I think there are two distinct senses of happiness that are being employed in the two quotes.

Mark said...

Right, he's talking about genuine fulfillment rather than said "comfort" in the first quote; and he's characterizing the attempt to find fulfillment outside of religion as a futile, ultimately hubristic act. That seems like a rather bold claim to advance, and (if you ask me) a terribly parochial one, too. Regardless, I think one extremely effective way of converting people to your views is to paint the alternative in broad brush-strokes as a farce of spiritual pride. This is a tool of psychological persuasion - marketing - and Lewis was a great master of it.

kmisho said...

There are many problems with lewis's idea.

Lewis goes wrong in the very first line. The concept of self assumes the existence of the other, that which is not self. This is unavoidable.

However, Lewis engages in rather cheap armchair psychology here. It's at least fair to ask this question: Does the mere fact of a self entail a danger of installing the self as God?

The problem with the idea the original sin was Adam and Eve learning from Satan to think that they could be like God is that this is contrary to the actual content of Genesis. Adam and Eve were not cast out for thinking that they could become like God. They were cast out for becoming IN FACT like God in obtaining the knowledge of good and evil by eating from the tree. That they ate the fruit and gained this knowledge can be blamed on Satan...but, interestingly, not on Adam and Eve, since prior to eating the fruit they did not have the Godlike faculty to judge whether Satan's enticements were good or evil in the first place!

The only rational conclusion about Genesis is that the original sin was God's own.

Admitting this is impossible, we must derive a completely different, un-Orthodox, interpretation of Genesis. I have one, but that's not my job here. My intent was to show how traditional and, really, childish, Lewis's version of Genesis is.

interested party who stumbled in from the cold

terri said...

kmisho...interesting comment

I think that Christianity has a little bit of an identity crisis when it comes to understanding the "self" and its relation to God.

While quotes like this one from Lewis abound within Christianity, with the outright dismissal of the human self as inherently flawed and sinful, we are also told that we are being transformed...that God lives within the believer...that we are being made to be like Jesus.

It's very confusing. ;-)

I don't think the connection between the self and God can be so easily dismissed. The idea that we are made in the image of God, that we are somehow like God, that, through Incarnation, God became a man and is interested in men becoming like that gives the lie to the idea that we are supposed to completely abrogate the "self" in Christianity.

I think there needs to be more work done in this area of Christian thought.

SE said...

All Christians have something other than "God" which makes really them happy, they just don't admit it.

So here Lewis again attacks people for being human and for seeking happiness in the only place it can be found, the real world, instead of groveling like a slave before an imaginary cosmic dictator.

Christianity is a truly sick (and at its heart, ant-human) belief system!

Anonymous said...


1. Adam/Eve were banished from the garden for disobeying the command, not for "becoming like God".

2. You critiqued Lewis for not carefully following the content of the Genisis story, and yet you assume that Adam/Eve lacked the capacity to discern (you used the word "judge") whether or not obeying God was good or evil. Really? Because it is written that God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. This regular communication between God and His son Adam suggests intimate relationship. Based on that relationship alone, Adam knew that eating of the forbidden fruit was evil, and yet did it anyway.


Unknown said...

The blame could only be attributed to God if he had not explicitly warned and forbidden them to eat the fruit. One could ask, why give them the option in the first place. I think it's quite clear, free will. Free will is simply the option to disobey God.