Book Review: Mere Christianity (Book 2, Chapter 1: The Rival Conceptions of God)

Book 2: What Christians Believe
Chapter 1: The Rival Conceptions of God

Lewis explains that there are generally two different conceptions or views about God: materialism and theism. Materialism implies atheism, the view that there is no God or any deity. Theism includes Pantheism (Hinduism) and Monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Pantheists view “God” as “beyond” good and evil; he/she/it is identical with the universe (“The universe is God,” or “God is the universe,” or “God and the Universe are one.”). Monotheists view “God” as the absolute Good; He is not identical with the universe. He is the Creator, separate from His Creation. For the monotheist, all is not well in the universe because evil exists. But that is contrary to God’s will.

Lewis recalls his views when he was still an atheist. His whole argument against God’s existence rested on the observation that the universe seemed cruel and unjust: How can God exist in a world filled with suffering and injustice? But he soon realized that his argument was self-refuting, because it assumed that there are such things as goodness and justice. If atheism were true, there shouldn’t really be any meaning in the universe, and hence no “cruelty” and “injustice”. So he began to doubt his unbelief.

I agree, his argument against God was self-refuting. Yes, there’s cruelty and injustice in the world, but that doesn’t disprove the existence of God. It simply shows that there’s meaning in the universe. If atheism were true that God doesn’t exist, there should just be “brute facts” in the world. There wouldn’t be such things as evil. For example, “murder” or “rape” would be morally neutral acts that just happen to people, and are not objectively bad. But we do experience evil and injustice. Murder and rape are objectively bad. Therefore, there’s meaning in the universe. Hence, atheism is not true.

I like this quote:

“But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong; but some wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.”

I agree. It may seem politically incorrect or impolite to say that Christianity is true and all the other religions or worldviews are wrong. But that is just the nature of truth – it is mutually exclusive. Either God exists or He doesn’t. Either there are many gods or only one. Either Christianity is correct about the nature of God, or Islam, for example, which holds to a Unitarian view of God instead of a Trinitarian one, gets it right. Either the Messiah has not come yet, as the Jews believe, or He has already in the person of Jesus Christ.

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