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Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby mwanafalsafa » 29 Apr 2010, 22:31

Did Lewis ever write anything discussing other major world religions at length, particularly mentioning why some of their teachings are unbelievable compared to Christian beliefs about Jesus, the Resurrection and the Afterlife?

I'm particularly curious about Lewis' take on the Buddha. So far as I have read the Buddha seems to have prescribed almost exactly the same sort of behavior as Jesus, namely charity, humility, self-awareness, and a general effort to overcome our personal ego-issues. Where they differ seems to be only regarding ideas about the nature of God (or Gods) and the Afterlife. Why does Lewis accept Jesus' claim to be God over what the Buddha (or Muhammad for that matter) said about 'otherworldy' entities?

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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 30 Apr 2010, 00:20

You bring up a very interesting and relevant subject.

Have you read the Abolition of Man? That is question number one from me for anyone who says they've read Lewis. I don't think anyone can really get the meaning of any of the other books without that one which I think is essential.

Lewis wrote in Miracles:
C. S. Lewis wrote:Sometimes the credibility of the miracles is in inverse ratio to the credibility of the religion. Thus, miracles are (in late documents I believe) recorded of the Buddha. But what could be more absurd than that he who came to teach us nature is an illusion from which we must escape should occupy himself in producing effects on the Natural level—which he who comes to wake us from a nightmare should add to the nightmare. The more we respect his teachings the less we could accept his miracles.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Theophilus » 30 Apr 2010, 16:34

mwanafalsafa wrote:Why does Lewis accept Jesus' claim to be God over what the Buddha (or Muhammad for that matter) said about 'otherworldy' entities?

Perhaps it is because Jesus backed up his claim by his resurrection.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby mwanafalsafa » 06 May 2010, 04:06

Theophilus wrote:
mwanafalsafa wrote:Why does Lewis accept Jesus' claim to be God over what the Buddha (or Muhammad for that matter) said about 'otherworldy' entities?

Perhaps it is because Jesus backed up his claim by his resurrection.


I guess what I'm really asking is what reason's does Lewis give to believe the story of the resurrection as opposed to stories about Buddha or Muhammad doing miraculous things?

I find a lot of Christian ideas appealing but I can't get over is my trouble with believing the fact of the resurrection. I know this is getting into a discussion beyond C. S. Lewis' writings in particular. My interest here is specifically what Lewis says about why believes that particular story to be true among many other ancient stories about super-natural figures.

And I intend to pick up a copy of The Abolition of Man shortly.

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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 06 May 2010, 08:36

I would actually recommend not Lewis per se here, but the book that brought Lewis to begin to accept it: "The Everlasting Man" by G.K. Chesterton. (Free online and in the public domain)
http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/boo ... g_man.html

Lewis described it as one of the books he found the most helpful. It presents the Christian view from a standpoint that makes sense of world history, and both man and Christ's place in it.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 06 May 2010, 21:07

rusmeister wrote:I would actually recommend not Lewis per se here, but the book that brought Lewis to begin to accept it: "The Everlasting Man" by G.K. Chesterton. (Free online and in the public domain)
http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/boo ... g_man.html

Lewis described it as one of the books he found the most helpful. It presents the Christian view from a standpoint that makes sense of world history, and both man and Christ's place in it.
I didn't know the Everlasting Man was scanned and in the public domain!! Must get it NOW ! Thank you for sharing this! :)

I'm gonna start listening to the free audiobook

G. K. Chesterton - The Everlasting Man wrote:They crawled through cracks that seemed almost impassable, they crept through tunnels that might have been made for moles, they dropped into holes as hopeless as wells, they seemed to be burying themselves alive seven times over beyond the hope of resurrection.
Is he calling H. G. Wells hopeless? LOL

(later edit) Oh, man. I've been so fascinated by this book now that I can't get to sleep! :)

Also wow, what amazing access we have to all of Chesterton's stuff when at the same time the Lewis stuff is still locked up under the tyranny of Sunny Bono. That seems completely arbitrary to me
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 10 May 2010, 22:12

OK finished reading The Everlasting Man. I of course disagree with Chesterton's extreme devotion to Catholicism as opposed to all other forms of Christianity but his defense of Christianity in general and his reductio ad absurdum argument against many of today's secular historians is basically sound I believe.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 11 May 2010, 00:45

Nerd42 wrote:OK finished reading The Everlasting Man. I of course disagree with Chesterton's extreme devotion to Catholicism as opposed to all other forms of Christianity but his defense of Christianity in general and his reductio ad absurdum argument against many of today's secular historians is basically sound I believe.

Fair enough!
But I don't think it fair to characterize Chesterton's view that the Catholic Church is the actual Church of Christ as "extreme", even though I also do not believe that to be the case. If one sees something to be true, and acts as if it were true, then it is merely logical behavior. Whether it is "extreme" or "moderate" depends on whether the attitude logically follows. Lewis said that Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. Thus, Christians are called to be extreme in a very real sense, and the modern use of the word "extreme"/"extremism" as a rhetorical weapon is one that allows falsehood due to imprecise/unclear speech and undefined terms, which results in unclear and fuzzy thinking. In that respect, Chesterton, together with Lewis and Belloc, are among the clearest thinkers I have ever encountered.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 11 May 2010, 20:49

rusmeister wrote:
Nerd42 wrote:OK finished reading The Everlasting Man. I of course disagree with Chesterton's extreme devotion to Catholicism as opposed to all other forms of Christianity but his defense of Christianity in general and his reductio ad absurdum argument against many of today's secular historians is basically sound I believe.
Fair enough!
But I don't think it fair to characterize Chesterton's view that the Catholic Church is the actual Church of Christ as "extreme", even though I also do not believe that to be the case. If one sees something to be true, and acts as if it were true, then it is merely logical behavior. Whether it is "extreme" or "moderate" depends on whether the attitude logically follows. Lewis said that Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. Thus, Christians are called to be extreme in a very real sense, and the modern use of the word "extreme"/"extremism" as a rhetorical weapon is one that allows falsehood due to imprecise/unclear speech and undefined terms, which results in unclear and fuzzy thinking. In that respect, Chesterton, together with Lewis and Belloc, are among the clearest thinkers I have ever encountered.
You're right. I don't view "extreme devotion" as a bad thing but was merely commenting on what I think a weakness in his work that he tries to introduce the politics within Christian thought at an inappropriate time and worse still, he fails to adequately cover them in the book even on his own view. Surely being Christian is much more important than being Catholic or Protestant when the issues he discusses in the Everlasting Man are at stake.

but seriously, was he clandestinely calling H. G. Wells hopeless in that passage? :)
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 12 May 2010, 17:21

Nerd42 wrote:
rusmeister wrote:
Nerd42 wrote:OK finished reading The Everlasting Man. I of course disagree with Chesterton's extreme devotion to Catholicism as opposed to all other forms of Christianity but his defense of Christianity in general and his reductio ad absurdum argument against many of today's secular historians is basically sound I believe.
Fair enough!
But I don't think it fair to characterize Chesterton's view that the Catholic Church is the actual Church of Christ as "extreme", even though I also do not believe that to be the case. If one sees something to be true, and acts as if it were true, then it is merely logical behavior. Whether it is "extreme" or "moderate" depends on whether the attitude logically follows. Lewis said that Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. Thus, Christians are called to be extreme in a very real sense, and the modern use of the word "extreme"/"extremism" as a rhetorical weapon is one that allows falsehood due to imprecise/unclear speech and undefined terms, which results in unclear and fuzzy thinking. In that respect, Chesterton, together with Lewis and Belloc, are among the clearest thinkers I have ever encountered.
You're right. I don't view "extreme devotion" as a bad thing but was merely commenting on what I think a weakness in his work that he tries to introduce the politics within Christian thought at an inappropriate time and worse still, he fails to adequately cover them in the book even on his own view. Surely being Christian is much more important than being Catholic or Protestant when the issues he discusses in the Everlasting Man are at stake.

but seriously, was he clandestinely calling H. G. Wells hopeless in that passage? :)


Surely being Christian is much more important than being Catholic or Protestant

You seem to be speaking from your assumptions, rather than trying to understand Chesterton's. I'm not Catholic, either - I'm Orthodox - but I understand clearly that is one is certain (right or wrong) that one has actually found the Church established by Christ, and not merely a reasonable facsimile, then it would be nonsense to say that the differences don't matter. He was expounding on truth, not offering compromises to please people.
You disagree with his understanding of truth. So do I. But his layout DOES make sense of Christianity in historical terms, something that Lewis recognized.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 14 May 2010, 17:50

rusmeister wrote:You seem to be speaking from your assumptions, rather than trying to understand Chesterton's. I'm not Catholic, either - I'm Orthodox - but I understand clearly that is one is certain (right or wrong) that one has actually found the Church established by Christ, and not merely a reasonable facsimile, then it would be nonsense to say that the differences don't matter. He was expounding on truth, not offering compromises to please people.
You disagree with his understanding of truth. So do I. But his layout DOES make sense of Christianity in historical terms, something that Lewis recognized.
If you mean by "his understanding of truth," his position that the Roman Catholic church is the true church of Jesus Christ, then yes I would say I disagree with his understanding of truth. But if you mean by "his understanding of truth" his understanding of the nature of truth, that the Catholics and Protestants can't both be right, then I don't disagree with that. I don't think they can both be right. Clearly, either one or the other or neither are right. (I'd say neither) But the differences between Catholics and Protestants isn't the point of the book - the point of the book is the uniqueness of Christianity compared to all other religions - yet he groundlessly asserts that the Catholics are right and the Protestants are wrong in passing. I think that damages the effectiveness of this book. If he wants to make that argument, fine make it, but if not, he should have kept his trap shut. Instead there are assertions without justification. That's what I'm saying is weak about this book. I could read a defense of the Catholic position and say, "OK that's a fine defense" without necessarily agreeing with it, but reading these assertions without the associated defense leads to a conclusion that the work is weakened by them.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 15 May 2010, 13:52

Nerd42 wrote:
rusmeister wrote:You seem to be speaking from your assumptions, rather than trying to understand Chesterton's. I'm not Catholic, either - I'm Orthodox - but I understand clearly that is one is certain (right or wrong) that one has actually found the Church established by Christ, and not merely a reasonable facsimile, then it would be nonsense to say that the differences don't matter. He was expounding on truth, not offering compromises to please people.
You disagree with his understanding of truth. So do I. But his layout DOES make sense of Christianity in historical terms, something that Lewis recognized.
If you mean by "his understanding of truth," his position that the Roman Catholic church is the true church of Jesus Christ, then yes I would say I disagree with his understanding of truth. But if you mean by "his understanding of truth" his understanding of the nature of truth, that the Catholics and Protestants can't both be right, then I don't disagree with that. I don't think they can both be right. Clearly, either one or the other or neither are right. (I'd say neither) But the differences between Catholics and Protestants isn't the point of the book - the point of the book is the uniqueness of Christianity compared to all other religions - yet he groundlessly asserts that the Catholics are right and the Protestants are wrong in passing. I think that damages the effectiveness of this book. If he wants to make that argument, fine make it, but if not, he should have kept his trap shut. Instead there are assertions without justification. That's what I'm saying is weak about this book. I could read a defense of the Catholic position and say, "OK that's a fine defense" without necessarily agreeing with it, but reading these assertions without the associated defense leads to a conclusion that the work is weakened by them.

He made the arguments in a great many places. In his defense, i would say that he wasn't making that issue the prime point of the book. I agree with you, that neither are right; I agree with him that there are fatal problems with protestantism, that it can not possibly represent the Church that Christ established.

You can't really make Chesterton Protestant - although a certain James Sauer tried. He came to his conclusions gradually, over a long period of time, and continued to remain faithful to the Anglican tradition for at least a decade after he seriously began to doubt it. But no Protestant could ever be completely satisfied with GKC. The Orthodox issues with him are different, and he is mostly easier to swallow. But the fact that he was one of the most complete thinkers of our age makes him worth reading anyway.

One important thing Chesterton does that I actually find reprehensible in Lewis - Chesterton insists that the Church matters, and that it is important to find it. Lewis, with his image of a hall with rooms and refusal to tackle the issue, did not. Either the Church is important or it is not. To me it is obvious that it is, and therefore I sympathize with GKC even though I disagree with him.

I wouldn't stoop to calling his mouth a trap, though.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Theophilus » 16 May 2010, 18:23

rusmeister wrote:I agree with him that there are fatal problems with protestantism, that it can not possibly represent the Church that Christ established.
You are speaking of Protastantism as if it were a unifed movement representing a single theological postition is the same way that Catholocism or Orthodoxy do. In fact there are a lot of different Protestant theologies and the only thing they have in common is that they reject the claims of the Catholic and Orthodox churches to be the true church. Some protestant churches are Biblical in their theology and are in fact true churches of Christ and others aren't.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 17 May 2010, 14:34

I'm not trying to make Chesterton Protestant, but Lewis, I think, was much more effective precisely because he tried his best to indulge in controversies within Christian thought as little as possible. In a book that focused on why the Catholics are right and the Protestants are wrong, making the kind of statements Chesterton makes about Catholicism would be quite appropriate, but I think they were inappropriate here.

I think Lewis's image of a hall with many rooms was quite right, especially since he asks people not to find the one that suits them best, but the one with the doctrines that are true. If the Anglican position was correct, he trusted that the holy spirit would lead people to the Anglican position in their own studies Chesterton, on the other hand, uses his Catholicism as a club to beat Protestants over the head in a book that's supposed to be about what's unique to Christianity, not what makes the Catholic version of Christianity correct and the Protestant version incorrect.

The Bible says that for every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. My point is that his venturing into these controversial waters was inappropriately timed, that's all.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 17 May 2010, 16:10

Theophilus wrote:
rusmeister wrote:I agree with him that there are fatal problems with protestantism, that it can not possibly represent the Church that Christ established.
You are speaking of Protastantism as if it were a unifed movement representing a single theological postition is the same way that Catholocism or Orthodoxy do. In fact there are a lot of different Protestant theologies and the only thing they have in common is that they reject the claims of the Catholic and Orthodox churches to be the true church. Some protestant churches are Biblical in their theology and are in fact true churches of Christ and others aren't.

Of course I don't mean that Protestantism is unified in that sense.
It IS unified in rejecting traditional faith - that which was passed down from the beginning - aka "apostolic succession" - and does not have any history to show before the so-called "Reformation" which was in fact a complete break, and not a reformation at all., even though it was intended to be.
Your last statement is a subjective one, and one that we would not agree on - so I won't waste time debating it - all the more because debate is forbidden here and we are supposed to have only cheerful and positive conversations.
So how is the weather where you are? :smile:
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