The Eagle and Child: S1E9 – “The Invasion”
In today’s episode, we continue working our way through Book II of “Mere Christianity”. In the previous chapter, C.S. Lewis had examined “Rival Conceptions of God”, especially pantheism. In today’s episode he looks at another possible contender, dualism, the idea that there are two independent and opposing powers locked together in an eternal battle…
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Episode 9: “The Invasion” (Download)
— Show Notes —
• My outline for this chapter is available here. Unfortunately, there’s no C.S. Lewis Doodle this week 🙁
• In the previous chapter, Jack said that atheism was “too simple”. When he was an atheist, his case against God was that the universe was unjust…but without God it wasn’t possible to make such an argument!
• In this chapter, Jack says that another worldview is also “too simple”. He refers to it as “Christianity and Water”, which I think today we’d just call “watered-down Christianity”. Matt and I suggested that this worldview is attractive for the same reason as “Creative Evolution” which was mentioned in an earlier episode – it offers some sense of meaning and comfort, without the demands of the Christian life.
• Religion isn’t a hobby. Religion is reality.
• Matt refers to another C.S. Lewis book, The Weight of Glory.
• Simple things are not always simple when you really dig into them. Lewis gives the examples of “looking at a table” or the configuration of the planets. He says, therefore, that the very fact that Christianity is not what we might have expected is actually a motive of credibility! Real things are complicated!
• In response to those who claim that, if God existed, religion would have to be simple betrays a misconception of religion.
• Christianity is the religion which brings faith and reason together. This is seen most clearly in St. John’s assertion that Jesus is the Logos (John 1:1).
• Having rejected atheism and “Christianity” and water, Lewis now tackles the problem which the universe presents to us – evil. One option is the Christian worldview which says this is a good world which has gone bad. The second option is Dualism.
• Dualism believes that there are two equal and independent powers behind the universe, one good, one evil. An example of a dualistic religion is Zoroastrianism. Manichaeism, a belief system held by St. Augustine prior to his conversion, is also dualistic. You can also see elements of this idea in New Age beliefs as well.
• Jack’s discussion of dualism is important for two reasons:
1. We get to test the truth claims of the system
2. It allows our author to explain the fundamental nature of evil
• If we assume dualism is true, we have to explain how we identify one “power” as “good” and the other “evil”. However, how do we make this distinction?
1. Personal preference (much like a preference for Red Vines over Twizzlers). The problem here is that this makes it purely subjective.
2. An objective standard, which necessitates a third “power” over and above the other two. This relates to the central argument of Book I.
• The second problem with dualism is that it must mean that the “bad” power like badness for its own sake, but we have no experience of this. Evil is always dependent upon goodness. It is not so much an entity in its own right, in the same way darkness is really an absence of light. Sin is seeking something good in the wrong way, at the wrong time or to the wrong degree. Lewis makes the point that we explain sexual perversion in relation to true sexual expression, but we cannot do it the other way around.
• It is with this understanding of evil, we can understand that the devil is a fallen angel.
• I mentioned another C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters.
• Christianity does have some elements of dualism in it, without the problems of full-blown dualism. There is a war, but it is a civil war in which we are invited to take a part. This is a message I think Christian men (in particular) need to hear.