Friday, January 28, 2011

Mere Christianity

(Thoughts here provoked by Kevin DeYoung)

Read these two quotes:

Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor an other is Christianity. The central 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.

The [theory] most people have heard is the one I mentioned before–the one about our being let off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not.

This writer seems to be scoffing at the idea of penal substitutionary atonement, the idea that on the cross Jesus bore in His flesh the punishment for the sins of His people. If someone wrote this today (and, sadly, there are plenty of people writing it today), conservative evangelicals would label this heresy.

Yet the man who wrote these quotes is none other than C.S. Lewis, in his famous book Mere Christianity. Why do you think evangelicals are so fond of C.S Lewis, while regarding many contemporary writers saying the same thing as enemies of Jesus and the gospel?

1 comment:

  1. Two positions of CSL have been especially uncomfortable to me, raising questions on his doctrinal health. This one and the redemption of the righteous pagan ... like Emeth in The Last Battle. I feel a little embarassed expressing disagreement with CSL.
    Strange that no one else has commented?
    --S.M. in Portugal