Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Central Christian belief, according to C. S. Lewis

The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like…. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it. 
    We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 54-56. 


planks length said...

Wow, that's a tough one. What's the "central Christian belief"? I'd say that C.S. Lewis was dead on in saying that the Redemption was the most important one for us humans, in that without it we are utterly doomed.

But from a non-anthropocentric point of view? I'd have to say it was either the Trinity, or else the Incarnation (which is arguably a subset of the doctrine of the Trinity).

I'll go with the Doctrine of the Trinity as the central Christian belief.

John B. Moore said...

Yes, I agree - but what's this about giving us a fresh start? Does that mean all my subsequent sins will still be held against me? Or that I'll somehow stop sinning? Probably it's better to say Christ's sacrifice wipes out all our sin both past and future. No fresh start or anything like that.

planks length said...


Read THIS for an excellent discussion of the question you raised.

John B. Moore said...

Thanks. That was pretty interesting. I love the part where it says "Calvin had to make up an entirely new doctrine."

Steven Jake said...

If the Trinity is the central Christian belief, then if one lacks a positive belief in such a doctrine are they no longer considered a Christian? Or, by central Christian belief, do you simply mean a belief that has been held by a majority of Christians throughout the ages, but doesn't necessitate whether one is in fact a Christian?

planks length said...


Libraries have been written on the Doctrine of the Trinity, so I can't hope to accomplish much in a short blog posting. But yes, after consideration, I do consider the Trinity to be the fundamental, rock-bottom essential Christian doctrine, and anyone who denies it is not a Christian. (No matter what he calls himself. He might be a Gnostic, an Arian or a Monophysite, or something similar, but he's not a Christian.)

The essentials of the doctrine:

1. God is Love (1 John 4:8)

2. If God is unitary, than He is either not self-sufficient (because He would need something other than Himself to love) or a monster (loving Himself in isolation).

3. It follows from the above that all of Reality is in its most essential nature a community (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This, by the way, is how we get objective morality from God.

4. The eternal submission of the Son to the Father is the root of the Incarnation (and therefore of our Redemption).

ALL Christian doctrine flows from the fountainhead of this one great doctrine. Without it, the entire edifice is forced and unsustainable. With it, the entire grand whole stands unassailable to all contradiction. What I briefly touched upon here is infinitely less than the tip of the iceberg. (I was serious about those libraries.)