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Dunderman
06-02-2007, 03:27 PM
I just read C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters for the first time, having heard much of it for years (I believe DocCathode was the first to introduce me to the book with his concept of "Screwtape poisoning"). I have an entirely new respect and admiration for Lewis. The religious content doesn't do much for me as an atheist, but did this guy have human nature down, or what? I've seldom read something so perceptive. My neck hurts from excessive nodding.

My two favourite passages:

...you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. (...) [A]s one of my patients said on his arrival down here, "I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked".Echoes of hours used up doing pretty much nothing, watching sitcom episodes or refreshing the SDMB waiting for someone to post something interesting. We've all been there.

Something quite trivial, like having tea in the garden, is proposed. One member takes care to make it quite clear (though not in so many words) that he would rather not but is, of course, prepared to do so out of "Unselfishness". The others instantly withdraw their proposal, ostensibly through their "Unselfishness", but really because they don't want to be used as a sort of lay figure on which the first speaker practises petty altruisms. But he is not going to be done out of his debauch of Unselfishness either. He insists on doing "what the others want". They insist on doing what he wants. Passions are roused. Soon someone is saying "Very well then, I won't have any tea at all!", and a real quarrel ensues with bitter resentment on both sides.The poison of relationships. God, I've done this and had it done to me a zillion times. When I read that paragraph I swore it would never happen again.

Wendell Wagner
06-02-2007, 04:31 PM
There have been half a dozen or so "continuations" written by other people of _The Screwtape Letters_. (They mostly don't use the names from _The Screwtape Letters_, but they are all some sort of reverse advice from a devil.) In general, they stink. They tend to be people spouting off about their favorite political issue which they're convinced is a necessary matter for any Christian. Lewis did very little of that in _The Screwtape Letters_. Most of his book is ordinary advice and comments about human relationships.

DocCathode
06-02-2007, 06:56 PM
I find the book amazing. It's anti-glurge. You're aware you're being preached to and taught a lesson, but the feel of the letters is so entertaining you don't care.

I confess to having started a Screwtape lecture for a class of devils. I also started The Screwtape Letters To Penthouse years ago.

My favorite bits from memory
'The Enemy freely confesses that if we could understand this love, the war would end and we could re-enter Heaven.'

'My dear, my very dear, nephew, my poppet, my pigsnie'

Lewis vision of Hell as a bureaucracy grows more frightening and convincing every time I have to deal with government paperwork.

There was an episode of Milennium composed of four devils telling how they gained souls. With the large exception that they seemed to have genuine comradery and care for each other, they could be Screwtape's co-workers.

BrainGlutton
06-02-2007, 07:08 PM
I like the faculty address at the end where Screwtape complains about how the quality of sinners they get nowadays is so bland compared to the old days when sinners sinned boldly. Quite a zinger at mid-20th-Century Christendom.

Thudlow Boink
06-02-2007, 07:41 PM
There's a really good audio recording of Screwtape narrated by John Cleese.
It is, alas, out of print in the US, but it's available from audible.com.

pokey
06-02-2007, 07:43 PM
Wow I should re-read that book. Thanks for bringing it up! I used to have tapes of John Cleese reading it and it was just as good as you'd imagine it would be.

ETA: Too slow!

Wendell Wagner
06-02-2007, 08:10 PM
BrainGlutton writes:

> I like the faculty address at the end where Screwtape complains about how the
> quality of sinners they get nowadays is so bland compared to the old days
> when sinners sinned boldly. Quite a zinger at mid-20th-Century Christendom.

This is the essay "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," which was written quite a while after the book _The Screwtape Letters_. The essay is, I guess, added as a postscript to some editions of the book. I just wanted to note that in case some of you don't understand why it wasn't in your copy of the book.

Lumpy
06-02-2007, 08:40 PM
Apparently Lewis (or rather, the British educational system) presaged Deconstructionism by decades:"The Historical Point of View, put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer's development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates, and how it affected later writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man's own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the last ten years, and what is the "present state of the question". To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge- to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behavior- this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded".

Frylock
06-02-2007, 09:55 PM
Apparently Lewis (or rather, the British educational system) presaged Deconstructionism by decades:
Hmm... Arguably Deconstructionism is an approach toward criticism which does allow its subjects to be treated as sources of wisdom. (Debatable of course. But Deconstructionist readings very often have a philosophical tint to them.)

The approach described in the quote from Screwtape describes historical criticism generally, not particularly Deconstructionism.

Full Metal Lotus
06-03-2007, 03:58 AM
The whole of "Screwtape' is about how we (humans) get caught up in trivialities, and "miss" the big picture.

The "art" of Screwtape is showing it in such a way that we might glimpse that a big picture exists.

(I am not, btw religious in any way, but like to at least feel that there is a bigger picture than the mere human experience)

FML

Khadaji
06-03-2007, 05:48 AM
It has been years and years since I have read it. I enjoyed it at the time. I tried to pass it on to a Christian woman I knew and she wrinkled her nose and said: It doesn't sound like the type of book a Christian should read! :)

Malacandra
06-03-2007, 08:14 AM
Screwtape is superb. If you've not already seen it, you may also enjoy The Great Divorce, in which various "ghosts" basically argue themselves out of going to Heaven when the opportunity lies plain before them. (But not all. There's also a lovely scene showing a young man with, almost literally, a monkey on his back... some kind of unstated sexual peccadillo which it seems he will do anything rather than give up. That incident ends very happily with a rather cheering lesson.)

FriarTed
06-03-2007, 08:15 AM
There is actually talk of a movie version (I think from Warner Media), and perhaps even with John Cleese involved.

If so, I'm there!

asterion
06-03-2007, 08:17 AM
It has been years and years since I have read it. I enjoyed it at the time. I tried to pass it on to a Christian woman I knew and she wrinkled her nose and said: It doesn't sound like the type of book a Christian should read! :)In my experience, those who would benefit the most from reading Lewis (mostly fundamentalists and non-denominational mega-church "evangelicals") are also the ones that really hate Lewis.

FriarTed
06-03-2007, 08:27 AM
In my experience, those who would benefit the most from reading Lewis (mostly fundamentalists and non-denominational mega-church "evangelicals") are also the ones that really hate Lewis.


Fundies I can understand, but I've seldom met an evangelical who didn't consider Lewis as one of our own.

Khadaji
06-03-2007, 08:36 AM
In my experience, those who would benefit the most from reading Lewis (mostly fundamentalists and non-denominational mega-church "evangelicals") are also the ones that really hate Lewis.
I think her bigger problem is that she wasn't too complex and didn't think too deeply. I'm sure never read Christian literature and only read the parts of the bible that were taught in her church. She was a very sweet woman though and had a good heart.

Sattua
06-03-2007, 09:37 AM
Apparently Lewis (or rather, the British educational system) presaged Deconstructionism by decades:

And that passage, my dear friends, is why I don't have any postgraduate degrees in literature. We disagree about many things, C.S., but at least we both despise Theory!

smiling bandit
06-03-2007, 09:40 AM
C. S. Lewis is a really great author. Screwtape is fantastic. 'nuff said.

Thudlow Boink
06-03-2007, 10:46 AM
And that passage, my dear friends, is why I don't have any postgraduate degrees in literature. We disagree about many things, C.S., but at least we both despise Theory!You might enjoy his An Experiment in Criticism (http://www.amazon.com/Experiment-Criticism-Canto-C-Lewis/dp/0521422817/ref=sr_1_1/002-4977424-6220818?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1180885340&sr=1-1), one of his more unjustly neglected books.

Wendell Wagner
06-03-2007, 10:52 AM
As I understand it, what Lewis meant in the quotation in Lumpy's post was not that he completely distrusted any historical analysis or any theory of literature. What he disliked was taking it as the end-all and be-all of the consideration of any statement of fact. I think that he was willing to place things in their historical and theoretical context, but beyond that he wanted to know if those things were true. He may not have liked Theory (although most of what's meant by that in literary studies today arose after his death), but I don't think he would have objected to all theories.

smiling bandit
06-03-2007, 11:55 AM
He definitely objected to the modern practice of thinking very deeply about all the details but never about what a thing was and did or should do. I mean, seriously; how many philosophers today actually think about the great Greeks? Or even the early American leaders? Or how their ideas might actually help us figure things out? But everyones too busy trying to publish "new" ideas that they forget that there are no new ideas, only variations.

Wendell Wagner
06-03-2007, 12:27 PM
Lewis did say at times things that might strike us as implying that he was a relativist. For instance, at the beginning of the last chapter of _The Discarded Image_, he says:

> I have made no serious effort to hide the fact that the old Model delights me as
> I believe it delighted our ancestors. Few constructions of the imagination seem
> to me to have combined splendor, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree.
> It is possible that some readers have long been itching to remind me that it had
> a serious defect; it was not true.
>
> I agree. It was not true. But I would like to end by saying that the charge can
> no longer have exactly the same sort of weight for us that it would have had in
> the nineteenth century. We then claimed, as we still claim, to know much more
> about the real universe than the medievals did; and hoped, as we still hope, to
> discover yet more truths about it in the future. But the meaning of the words
> "know" and "truth" in this context has begun to undergo a certain change.

For those of you without access to this book, there's a little about it at this webpage (the only one I could find quickly):

http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/lewis-postmodernists.html

Lewis was willing to say that we no longer expect to completely understand the world, as scientists in the nineteenth century were willing to claim. He was willing to say that we can't be certain that our present models of the world are absolute fact. I'm bothered by certain Lewis fans today who claim that Lewis was completely against reading ideas in historical and theoretical context. I have met such fans who've decided that they can use Lewis as a rock to bash the literary theorist types that they have to put up with in their departments. Lewis was not opposed to the idea of reading things in historical and theoretical context, just against the idea that this was the ultimate purpose of any such understanding of ideas.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-03-2007, 12:46 PM
Screwtape would have been more palatable to me if it wasn't so bound up in silly, dogmatic religious moralism. Yes, it's keen on human nature and observes how people tend to be evil in subtle ways rather than dramatic ones, but to me the whole thing is poisoned by his asinine and ethically contradictory beliefs in damnation and his smug assumptions about Christian salvation. Like most all of Lewis' religious writings, I ultimately find Screwtape to be insufferably self-satisfied and shot through with fallacious assumptions even though it has some insight into human nature (I also think it betrays some self-loathing on Lewis' part and a propensity to massively overblown self-flagellation for the most petty of perceived "sins").

Wallenstein
06-03-2007, 01:30 PM
Fundies I can understand, but I've seldom met an evangelical who didn't consider Lewis as one of our own.
His acceptance in evangelical circles has always been a little shaky... factors which spring immediately to mind are

- his apparent acceptance that evangelical faith is not the only route to salvation (cf. The Last Battle where the Calormen soldier is accepted by Aslan despite worshipping Tash(

- his frank discussions of doubt in faith

The first is doctrinal, and may be reading too much into a kids' book!

The second strikes deeper - there's often no room for genuine doubt in evangelical circles, and one wobbly tenet of faith is (the feeling goes) enough to bring the whole edifice down.

I'm currently reading a collection called Faith, Christianity and the Church which contains lectures, papers and interviews all focussed on his religious thought... and there's much in there to make a modern "mainstream" evangelical slightly uncomfortable.

Wendell Wagner
06-03-2007, 03:43 PM
Diogenes the Cynic writes:

> Like most all of Lewis' religious writings, I ultimately find Screwtape to be
> insufferably self-satisfied and shot through with fallacious assumptions even
> though it has some insight into human nature (I also think it betrays some self-
> loathing on Lewis' part and a propensity to massively overblown self-
> flagellation for the most petty of perceived "sins").

Could you give us some examples of his self-satisfaction, fallacious assumptions, self-loathing, and propensity to overblown self-flagellation for petty sins (at least one example for each of those, I mean)?

e-logic writes:

> I'm currently reading a collection called Faith, Christianity and the Church which
> contains lectures, papers and interviews all focussed on his religious thought...
> and there's much in there to make a modern "mainstream" evangelical slightly
> uncomfortable.

In case people have problems finding this volume, it's half of something published as _Essay Collection_. The two halves are published separately as _Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity, and the Church_ and Essay Collection: Literature, Philosopy, and Short Stories_. For those of you who, like me, have been reading Lewis for decades, this collections include all the essays published in shorter collections in the past.

rowrrbazzle
06-03-2007, 04:02 PM
Screwtape attributes this great line to a "popular writer": "She's the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression."

One problem for some evangelicals is that Lewis drank and smoked!

Diogenes the Cynic
06-03-2007, 06:26 PM
Diogenes the Cynic writes:

> Like most all of Lewis' religious writings, I ultimately find Screwtape to be
> insufferably self-satisfied and shot through with fallacious assumptions even
> though it has some insight into human nature (I also think it betrays some self-
> loathing on Lewis' part and a propensity to massively overblown self-
> flagellation for the most petty of perceived "sins").

Could you give us some examples of his self-satisfaction, fallacious assumptions, self-loathing, and propensity to overblown self-flagellation for petty sins (at least one example for each of those, I mean)?
An example of both self-satisfaction and a fallacious assumption is the way that Screwtape reacts to the "patient" becoming a Christian. Lerwis smugly (and fallaciously) takes it for granted that Christian faith is somehow virtuous and anathema to devils. He expects the reader to share this feeling but does not earn it. He also ininuates that atheists are damned and at one point makes the idiotic statement that atheists should be prevented from thinking things through lest they really how absurd and how perilous their position is. He disparages "mere logic." All of his attitudes towards rationalism and "materialism" are insulting, childish, wishful, sanctimonous and fallacious.

As for petty sins, the entire book is a rumination on how easily people are led into evil by being cross with their mothers or not praying correctly or becoming distracted by petty self-interest. It all comes as across as projection to me and smacks of the kind of self-abasement and "we're not worthy" self-loathing that I've seen a lot among Evangelical Christians. I've never understood that attitude at all. In my opinion, It's God that has to prove himself worthy to humans, not the other way around.

Screwtape is more tolerable than usual for Lewis. Some of his insights are accurate, it's just the religious significance he attaches to everything which is silly. Screwtape is not as smug as Mere Christianity, nor is it as inept as a defense of Christianity but it's still tainted by nonsensical and contradictory theological assumptions (like how the demons' inability to understand "love" is undermined by a theology which calls for God (who presumably DOES understand love) to be as merciless and cruel as they are.

Liberal
06-03-2007, 08:08 PM
Due respect, Dio, but that's a whole lot of words that don't say much — other than you don't like Christianity (nonsensical, contradictory, even poisonous). I mean, you're just giving your interpretations about sanctimonious this and virtuous that. If you think that God should have to prove Himself to me, doesn't it stand to reason that you should too? Why would I give even passing credence to a position that holds me in roughly the same esteem as a dung beetle?

Paul in Qatar
06-03-2007, 10:17 PM
Why the heck is the John Cleese audiobook of The Screwtape Letters not available on iTunes?

straight man
06-03-2007, 11:55 PM
Diogenes the Cynic is, to some extent at least, completely right – The Screwtape Letters is about Christianity from start to finish, and it certainly does propose that "Christian faith is somehow virtuous and anathema to devils" (DtC, above), and Screwtape is certainly cynical about why people belief what they believe and, indeed, how people work in general. Truth be told, I was surprised to read so much admiration from athiests in this thread. I guess it speaks to CS Lewis's observational skills and abilities as a writer.

That said, Diogenes, the only "sanctimonious" about The Screwtape Letters is that they're Christian. I'm not sure how you can qualitatively assess Christian writings without taking their premises into consideration.

ETA: I've only read a few of CS Lewis's writings, but of those, The Screwtape Letters most targets Christian readers. Hence my surprise at all the love.

DocCathode
06-04-2007, 12:24 AM
In one of the letters, Screwtape says "I note with great displeasure that the Enemy has, for the time being, put a forcible end to your direct attacks on the patient's chastity. You ought to have known that He always does in the end . . ."

I can't figure out what the hell he's talking about. The temptations of lust are always ended after a brief period? Say what?

Diogenes Those letters which are explicitly Christian stand out to me. There's talk of the Incarnation, Redemption, and The Sacrifice. Lewis doesn't attempt to prove Christianity is the true religion here. He just proceeds from the assumption that it is. One letter also gives authority to the Apostles. Screwtape mentions that "The man they called Paul did not confine it to married couples." Obviously, for Christians, Jesus words are the word of G-d. But, how is it that Paul speaking on his own has the same authority?

I also disagree with Lewis on the issue of love. He says it can't be expected to last and only intelectual commitment to preserving a marriage can keep one going. I believe that while romantic love may dim slightly it can last a lifetime.

Being Jewish, I also disagree on the idea that a marriage is forever. So the letter focusing on how marriage, or even just sex make a man and woman one flesh forever get's a sarcastic "Yeah, right" from me.

Dunderman
06-04-2007, 02:25 AM
Diogenes the Cynic is, to some extent at least, completely right – The Screwtape Letters is about Christianity from start to finish, and it certainly does propose that "Christian faith is somehow virtuous and anathema to devils" (DtC, above), and Screwtape is certainly cynical about why people belief what they believe and, indeed, how people work in general.Yes, but I was able to view that as, well, background colour, really. That Christian faith is anathema to devils kind of comes with the territory, doesn't it? When Peter Cushing repels a vampire with a cross I don't get pissed because the movie assumes Christianity is anathema to vampires, that's just part of the conventions. Same here - of course Christianity is anathema to devils in Lewis's world. That Lewis believed it and Cushing didn't doesn't really make a difference to me.

straight man
06-04-2007, 03:40 AM
Yes, but I was able to view that as, well, background colour, really. That Christian faith is anathema to devils kind of comes with the territory, doesn't it? When Peter Cushing repels a vampire with a cross I don't get pissed because the movie assumes Christianity is anathema to vampires, that's just part of the conventions. Same here - of course Christianity is anathema to devils in Lewis's world. That Lewis believed it and Cushing didn't doesn't really make a difference to me.
Priceguy, that's essentially my point (except that I'm a Christian, so I see the background colour but it fits me anyway.) I guess I was trying too hard to be polite. :smack:

Dunderman
06-04-2007, 03:48 AM
Priceguy, that's essentially my point (except that I'm a Christian, so I see the background colour but it fits me anyway.) I guess I was trying too hard to be polite. :smack:Actually, I was responding more to Diogenes than to you. I thought we were in agreement all along. Since I am one of the admiring atheists, I wanted to add my view.

FriarTed
06-04-2007, 06:56 AM
Screwtape attributes this great line to a "popular writer": "She's the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression."

One problem for some evangelicals is that Lewis drank and smoked!

None other than Bob Jones Sr. reportedly said of Lewis "The man drinks beers and smokes a pipe, and yet I believe he is a Christian."

FriarTed
06-04-2007, 06:58 AM
That Lewis believed it and Cushing didn't doesn't really make a difference to me.

Just as an aside, I've read enough quotes from Cushing indicating that he did have some level of Christian faith.

Liberal
06-04-2007, 07:20 AM
I'm not sure how you can qualitatively assess Christian writings without taking their premises into consideration.That's what I've been trying to express for quite some time. Thanks for putting the words together.

Dunderman
06-04-2007, 07:21 AM
Just as an aside, I've read enough quotes from Cushing indicating that he did have some level of Christian faith.I doubt he believed in vampires and forcing them back with the power of the crucifix, though.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-04-2007, 07:52 AM
Due respect, Dio, but that's a whole lot of words that don't say much — other than you don't like Christianity (nonsensical, contradictory, even poisonous). I mean, you're just giving your interpretations about sanctimonious this and virtuous that. If you think that God should have to prove Himself to me, doesn't it stand to reason that you should too? Why would I give even passing credence to a position that holds me in roughly the same esteem as a dung beetle?
I've never hidden the fact that I think Christian theology (especially salvation theology) is logical and ethical nonsense. That makes it difficult for me to accept those premises as given in a work of fiction, but don't mistake my view of the theology as a view of Christians themselves (at least not all of them. I do think C.S. Lewis was a bigot but I don't think you are).

Diogenes the Cynic
06-04-2007, 08:14 AM
That said, Diogenes, the only "sanctimonious" about The Screwtape Letters is that they're Christian. I'm not sure how you can qualitatively assess Christian writings without taking their premises into consideration.
I disagree with that. What's sanctimonious about the book is Lewis' smug assumption that Christians are better than everybody else, that Christianity is the only way to be saved, his literal belief that anyone who wasn't a Christian would be tortured forever in a literal Hell, his hatred of atheists (and his false, self-comforting assertions that atheists don't really think things through). etc. This is not just Christianity, it's a particular bigoted (and morally contradictory) brand of Christianity.

These assumptions are not the main thrust of The Screwtape Letters, but they are assumptions which pervade the book and which intrude on his own insights.

Liberal
06-04-2007, 09:00 AM
What's sanctimonious about the book is Lewis' smug assumption that Christians are better than everybody else, that Christianity is the only way to be saved, his literal belief that anyone who wasn't a Christian would be tortured forever in a literal Hell, his hatred of atheists (and his false, self-comforting assertions that atheists don't really think things through). etc. This is not just Christianity, it's a particular bigoted (and morally contradictory) brand Let's just skip the part about atheists since that's embarrassingly false, what with Lewis having been an atheist and all. What I really don't get is why you give a shit about salvation. If you sincerely believe that there is only one way to be saved, and being saved is important to you, then you know how to go about getting what you want. If, on the other hand, you think it's just nonsense, there is no logical reason why it should concern you one way or the other, especially to the degree that you react with such charged emotions. I mean, I think rap music is nonsense, but I don't go into threads about rap music and summon up every charged adjective I can think of to hurl at rap musicians. I just shrug my shoulders and let them be.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-04-2007, 09:53 AM
Let's just skip the part about atheists since that's embarrassingly false, what with Lewis having been an atheist and all.
Some of the worst anti-smoking nazis are ex-smokers. Sometimes the most insufferable religionists are converts from atheism (and yes, some of the most obnoxious atheists are former believers).

There is a letter in Screwtape where the title charater describes his attempt to keep an atheist from examining his beliefs on a train. The "enemy" is whispering in the atheists ear and starting to sway him. Screwtape manges to distract the atheist away from these thoughts merely by suggesting that he get something to eat. This letter exemplifies for me both what is good and bad about the book. The observation that people can be so easily distracted from self-examination and deep thinking by such trivial cognitive digressions as wanting lunch is genuinely insightful. But for me, the inisght is ruined by the smug assumption that atheists are automatically hellbound (Screwtape mentions that the atheist in his story is now "with our father below") and I think it's insulting and false (and self-comforting) for him to imply that atheists would all be christians if they only thought things through.

What I really don't get is why you give a shit about salvation. If you sincerely believe that there is only one way to be saved, and being saved is important to you, then you know how to go about getting what you want. If, on the other hand, you think it's just nonsense, there is no logical reason why it should concern you one way or the other, especially to the degree that you react with such charged emotions. I mean, I think rap music is nonsense, but I don't go into threads about rap music and summon up every charged adjective I can think of to hurl at rap musicians. I just shrug my shoulders and let them be.
I don't think I reacted with charged emotions. I gave my opinion of a book. essentially, my opinion of Screwtape is that Lewis sabotages his own insights by constantly inserting (what are to me) bigoted moral assumptions. That's just my opinion of a particular author and a book. It's not an opinion of Christians.

Liberal
06-04-2007, 10:04 AM
I appreciate that, but I do think that things like "dogmatic religious moralism", "insulting, childish, wishful, sanctimonous and fallacious", "insufferably self-satisfied", and the like are emotionally charged. If to you they are not, then I dread the day that I find you upset. :)

Thudlow Boink
06-04-2007, 10:23 AM
But for me, the inisght is ruined by the smug assumption that atheists are automatically hellbound (Screwtape mentions that the atheist in his story is now "with our father below")Does the book say, or even imply, that all atheists are automatically hellbound? The book is about the fate of one particular character, and whether he ends up saved or damned; that is its premise, the device that drives what little plot it has.
and I think it's insulting and false (and self-comforting) for him to imply that atheists would all be christians if they only thought things through.This sounds like you're faulting Lewis for being a Christian rather than an atheist. Lewis reasoned his own way from atheism to Christianity. His sincerely-held belief was that Christianity was more reasonable than atheism. And again, I'm not sure how appropriate your use of the word "all" is.
What's sanctimonious about the book is Lewis' smug assumption that Christians are better than everybody else, that Christianity is the only way to be saved, his literal belief that anyone who wasn't a Christian would be tortured forever in a literal Hell, his hatred of atheists (and his false, self-comforting assertions that atheists don't really think things through). etc. It is debatable (a) what makes a sincerely-held belief (and/or a premise assumed for the sake of a work of fiction) a "smug assumption" (aside from the fact that you don't share said belief), and (b) how many of these things Lewis actually did believe (I believe more evidence could be found against than for many of them in the body of Lewis's work).

Elendil's Heir
06-04-2007, 01:40 PM
It's a great book. I first read it in college, and then again last year with my book club. It was selected for us by an evangelical member who knew about Lewis's life story and personal habits, but was not troubled by them in the last. I always remember Screwtape's last letter to his nephew, strongly implying that he's going to gobble up the hapless junior tempter the next time he sees him. Chilling.

A little factoid: Lewis died on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day JFK was assassinated. Definitely pushed Lewis off the front pages.

neorxnawange
06-04-2007, 02:04 PM
I disagree with that. What's sanctimonious about the book is Lewis' smug assumption that Christians are better than everybody else, that Christianity is the only way to be saved, his literal belief that anyone who wasn't a Christian would be tortured forever in a literal Hell, his hatred of atheists (and his false, self-comforting assertions that atheists don't really think things through). etc. This is not just Christianity, it's a particular bigoted (and morally contradictory) brand of Christianity.

But did Lewis really believe in a literal hell where unbelievers are literally tortured for all time? Having read The Great Divorce I came to believe he held different views on the nature of the afterlife, specifically hell, than such a simplistic view. That book would also lead me to believe that Lewis neither thought that Christians were "better than everyone else", nor did he believe that only Christians could be "saved". Though it is a work of fiction, and I've never studied his strictly apologetic writings such as Mere Christianity. You might be projecting a fundie stereotype onto a thinker with considerably different ideas about some of these matters.

rowrrbazzle
06-04-2007, 02:19 PM
The late writer and blogger Cathy Seipp (who was Jewish) related her reasons for liking Lewis' writings.

"To call the [Narnia] stories allegory also gives no hint of why readers return to them many times (as I have over the years, even past childhood), long after the page-turning adventures hold no more surprises. Lewis was a master stylist, and his children’s series are marked by the same dryly witty prose, comic characters, and shrewd insight into the human condition that distinguish The Screwtape Letters and his other books for adults."

straight man
06-04-2007, 02:35 PM
But did Lewis really believe in a literal hell where unbelievers are literally tortured for all time? Having read The Great Divorce I came to believe he held different views on the nature of the afterlife, specifically hell, than such a simplistic view. That book would also lead me to believe that Lewis neither thought that Christians were "better than everyone else", nor did he believe that only Christians could be "saved". Though it is a work of fiction, and I've never studied his strictly apologetic writings such as Mere Christianity. You might be projecting a fundie stereotype onto a thinker with considerably different ideas about some of these matters.
The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce are both, as far as I could tell, allegories. You should not by any means assume that Lewis is trying to describe what he thinks Hell is in TGD – he's just trying to talk about why we (especially believers) fall. DtC, you don't seem to understand that The Screwtape Letters are not about salvation in the sense of going to Heaven or Hell (though Screwtape and Wormwood are certainly preoccupied with that concern.) On the contrary, they are about how Christians can be induced so easily to be far from God; they're about how we fall.

Knorf
06-04-2007, 02:58 PM
Also, one should make a distinction--which Lewis himself did--between what he (Lewis) believed versus what a character in one of his novels (Screwtape) believes. Screwtape is a devil: inconsistent, manipulative, and a liar. He has considerable and in my opinion extremely cogent insights into human nature, but he is also drawn deliberately by Lewis as self-contradictory and confused about some things. It's one of the big reasons I enjoy this book so much. I, for one, would not be comfortable drawing any of Diogenes's conclusions about Lewis's theology from this book alone. The protagonist is simply far too (again, deliberately) untrustworthy.

I have no trouble accepting the book's premise (devils are real, the path to salvation is through Jesus Christ, etc.), anymore than I do in accepting the premise to, let's say, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (orcs are evil, Sauron imbued his essence into a ring which will corrupt anyone who tries to use it, etc.) I don't believe in the premise, though I confess I once did profess to be a Christian, but I certainly don't feel defensive about it and it doesn't hinder my enjoyment of the novel.

As for accusations that Lewis was a bigot, well that's just unworthy. The man's actual beliefs (as opposed to Screwtape's) were far more nuanced than Diogenes is managing to acknowledge. Frankly, Diogenes's astonishing defensiveness comes across as rather peculiar.

Anyway, count me in as an non-believer Lewis fan.

Dunderman
06-04-2007, 03:14 PM
I have no trouble accepting the book's premise (devils are real, the path to salvation is through Jesus Christ, etc.), anymore than I do in accepting the premise to, let's say, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (orcs are evil, Sauron imbued his essence into a ring which will corrupt anyone who tries to use it, etc.)That's pretty much exactly my feeling on the matter. I read fiction based on premises I don't believe in all the time.

Unauthorized Cinnamon
06-04-2007, 03:18 PM
I appreciate the info about a Cleese-read version available on Audible (and it's only $7) - I feel like I ought to read this to be culturally literate, and I'm genuinely curious. Plus I love Cleese, so cool.

On the one hand, I have to say that I find the observation that people are passive-aggressive about where to go to eat to be utterly banal. Hopefully there will be greater insights than that.

On the other hand, as Priceguy put it so well, I don't anticipate having a problem with accepting the premises of the story. That Lewis may have truly believed them while I treat them as I do any suspension of disbelief for fiction doesn't matter much.

neorxnawange
06-04-2007, 03:23 PM
The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce are both, as far as I could tell, allegories. You should not by any means assume that Lewis is trying to describe what he thinks Hell is in TGD – he's just trying to talk about why we (especially believers) fall. DtC, you don't seem to understand that The Screwtape Letters are not about salvation in the sense of going to Heaven or Hell (though Screwtape and Wormwood are certainly preoccupied with that concern.) On the contrary, they are about how Christians can be induced so easily to be far from God; they're about how we fall.

I'm not sure that they are allegories; they certainly wouldn't be allegories according to Lewis's definition of the term, which would require a one-to-one relationship of each of the story's elements to some other physical or intellectual element. I'd classify them as fantasy, or as Christian fantasy. And again, I've not read much of Lewis's strictly religious writings, but to me someone who is capable and willing to craft stories, though they be fantasy, that show heaven, hell, and salvation as quite different than the traditional Calvinist view shows that there is some measure of depth in his views of these matters that differs from what Diogenes's stereotype might suggest. I can't imagine for instance a Jerry Falwell type crafting a work, even of fiction, that describes hell in the manner that it appears in The Great Divorce.

Knorf
06-04-2007, 03:27 PM
Possibly Lewis's only true allegory is The Pilgrim's Regress, which I still enjoy but Diogenes should probably stay very far away from. :P

I'd like to put in a plug for my favorite Lewis novel, Till We Have Faces. Not at all allegorical, not obviously religious in any way--although supernatural powers are real in the novel, they're simply not allegorically Christian. It's a very interesting retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.

I love it.

Skammer
06-04-2007, 03:56 PM
Thank you for this thread. I haven't read Screwtape in at least a decade, and it's sitting right there on my bookshelf, so I'm going to promote it to my bedside table right now.

neorxnawange
06-04-2007, 04:14 PM
Possibly Lewis's only true allegory is The Pilgrim's Regress, which I still enjoy but Diogenes should probably stay very far away from. :P

I'd like to put in a plug for my favorite Lewis novel, Till We Have Faces. Not at all allegorical, not obviously religious in any way--although supernatural powers are real in the novel, they're simply not allegorically Christian. It's a very interesting retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.

I love it.
Till We Have Faces is Lewis's greatest fiction work in my opinion - great insight into the human "psyche".

And I'd like to add that I agree with Diogenes in some measure. I don't think it is wrong to criticize a book because you disagree with its premise. I don't like Hemingway, in part, because I find the idea of macho being the ultimate expression of manliness to be insulting and dangerous. I don't have to accept such a premise in order to give a valid reading and justifiable criticism to any of Hemingway's works.

This has always been acceptable in general literary criticism. Speaking of accepting the premises of LOTR, for instance, many critics did not accept its premises when it was released, not because they didn't literally believe in goblins, but because they thought that hero and monster stories lacked subtlety and relevance compared to realism and naturalism. Lewis defended LOTR against these charge in his essays about the books that can be found in the collection On Stories. One could even see Tolkien's masterpiece on Beowulf criticism The Monsters and the Critics as a sort of prescient roundabout defence of criticisms of Tolkien's own work which he knew were bound to come forward.

furt
06-05-2007, 12:03 AM
None other than Bob Jones Sr. reportedly said of Lewis "The man drinks beers and smokes a pipe, and yet I believe he is a Christian."Bob Jones was not an evangelical. He was a fundamentalist, and there's a difference.

I also never met an evangelical who had a serious problem with Lewis.



Lewis himself said Till We Have Faces was his best fiction; he was right.

FriarTed
06-05-2007, 12:34 AM
Bob Jones was not an evangelical. He was a fundamentalist, and there's a difference.

I also never met an evangelical who had a serious problem with Lewis.



Lewis himself said Till We Have Faces was his best fiction; he was right.

Oh, I know Jones was a fund'ist. And one who recognized Lewis as a brother in the Faith, as painful as it must have been for Jones. *G*

"I also never met an evangelical who had a serious problem with Lewis."

Transposing a word, I also never met a serious evangelical who had a problem with Lewis.

FriarTed
06-05-2007, 12:37 AM
A little factoid: Lewis died on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day JFK was assassinated. Definitely pushed Lewis off the front pages.

Aldoux Huxley also. Evangelical-turned-Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft wrote a very uneven "novel" Between Heaven & Hell about their meeting in the Great In-Between before going off to their respective destinations. Lewis may have approved of the idea, but not the execution.

Autolycus
06-05-2007, 12:54 AM
Peter Kreeft teaches at Boston College, where I'm currently a senior. He has played off a lot of Lewis' works, the one applicable for this discussion being "The Snakebite Letters." I remember liking it but must confess that the content escapes me.

As for Lewis, I think he's great, one of if not the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century. Diogenes has a valid point, but does it not all boil down to the problem of evil? Lewis tried to address this if I'm not mistaken in The Problem of Pain. It's been a while.

Oh, and dont forget about Lewis' science fiction trilogy! They drag a bit at times, but are overall fantastic!

FriarTed
06-05-2007, 01:16 AM
Peter Kreeft teaches at Boston College, where I'm currently a senior. He has played off a lot of Lewis' works, the one applicable for this discussion being "The Snakebite Letters." I remember liking it but must confess that the content escapes me.

As for Lewis, I think he's great, one of if not the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century. Diogenes has a valid point, but does it not all boil down to the problem of evil? Lewis tried to address this if I'm not mistaken in The Problem of Pain. It's been a while.

Oh, and dont forget about Lewis' science fiction trilogy! They drag a bit at times, but are overall fantastic!

So have you had a class with Peter Kreeft? I've read other books by him which I've enjoyed- especially Making Sense Out of Suffering. BH&H wasn't altogether bad, but I have a low opinion of it as it could have been so much better.

Re Lewis- I've never made it through OOTSP, but I've read Perelandra & especially That Hideous Strength several times. A few years ago, OOTSP was optioned for a movie & I even exchanged e-mails with Douglas Gresham about it, but I think it's fallen by the wayside.

As good as The Problem of Pain is, it has to be followed by A Grief Observed. In fact, they really should be bound together IMO.

Autolycus
06-05-2007, 01:27 AM
So have you had a class with Peter Kreeft?.

Never had a class but have attended many open event/lectures of his, and IMO he really is brilliant. I'm going to try to fit in one of his classes in my final year.

Malacandra
06-05-2007, 03:09 AM
Oh, and dont forget about Lewis' science fiction trilogy! They drag a bit at times, but are overall fantastic!

I'm inclined to agree ;) although the science in them is like a knock-off of Wells a few decades too late. Mind you, if the "body of different movements" thing is read as a pidgin explanation of n-dimensional physics, then he was pretty up to date on that.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 08:19 AM
As for Lewis, I think he's great, one of if not the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century. Diogenes has a valid point, but does it not all boil down to the problem of evil? Lewis tried to address this if I'm not mistaken in The Problem of Pain.
Lewis' skills as an apologist tend to be greatly exaggerated. He is popular with lay-Christians who (frankly) lack either the accuity or the desire to appreciate just how amateurish, derivative (mostly of Chesterton) and fallacious his apologies tend to be. He is convincing mainly to those who are already Christians but even the Christians who are really well educated in apologia know better than to try to cite Lewis.

His most well-known apologies (the Trilemma, the Moral Argument, the Argument from Desire, his attempted refutation of Naturalism) are all fraught with fallacies (Lewis was especially good at strawmen, false dilemmas and excluded middles).

He once watched his book, Miracles, get publicly eviscerated in front of the Oxford Socratic Club by G.E.M. Anscombe (herself a devout Catholic but one who was actually trained in philosophical debate). Lewis' friends said that he found the exerience humiliating, that he believed his arguments for God had been "demolished," and that he would no longer attempt to write any apologetic works (and he didn't, sticking to devotional works instead). according to George Sayer (a friend of Lewis and one of his biographers) said that Lewis said he had been "too proud of his logical ability," and thought that being humbled as he had been "might be ultimately good for him."

He eventually rewrote the chapter which Anscombe had torn apart, addressing her responses and changing the title to make it less haughtily categorical (from "The Self-Contradiction of the Naturalist" to “The Cardinal Difficulty of the Naturalist"), but he gave up on apologetics after that.

Liberal
06-05-2007, 09:00 AM
He once watched his book, Miracles, get publicly eviscerated in front of the Oxford Socratic Club by G.E.M. Anscombe (herself a devout Catholic but one who was actually trained in philosophical debate). Lewis' friends said that he found the exerience humiliating, that he believed his arguments for God had been "demolished," and that he would no longer attempt to write any apologetic works (and he didn't, sticking to devotional works instead). according to George Sayer (a friend of Lewis and one of his biographers) said that Lewis said he had been "too proud of his logical ability," and thought that being humbled as he had been "might be ultimately good for him."A little humility might benefit us all. Anscombe herself had a different take on that event:

The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter, and rewrote it so that it now has those qualities, shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr Harvard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennet remembered any such feelings on Lewis's part... My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis's rethinking and rewriting showed he thought was accurate. I am inclined to construe the odd accounts of the matter by some of his friends—who seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments of the subject-matter—as an interesting example of the phenomenon called projection. — G. E. M. Anscombe, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind

Why you have spent so much emotion excoriating a man who is humble, honest, and admired by those who opposed him is a confounding mystery.

Malacandra
06-05-2007, 09:04 AM
pwned!

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 09:30 AM
A little humility might benefit us all. Anscombe herself had a different take on that event:

The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter, and rewrote it so that it now has those qualities, shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr Harvard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennet remembered any such feelings on Lewis's part... My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis's rethinking and rewriting showed he thought was accurate. I am inclined to construe the odd accounts of the matter by some of his friends—who seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments of the subject-matter—as an interesting example of the phenomenon called projection. — G. E. M. Anscombe, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind
So what? She was nice to him. Who cares? How does that refute the fact that Lewis himself felt humiliated and thought that his arguments had been destroyed?

Here's what George Sayer and Derek Brewer (http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/lewis/cs-lewis.htm) said:
"He told me that he had been proved wrong, and that his argument for the existence of God had been demolished. ...The debate had been a humiliating experience, but perhaps it was ultimately good for him. In the past, he had been too proud of his logical ability. Now he was humbled ....'I can never write another book of that sort' he said to me of Miracles. And he never did. He also never wrote another theological book. Reflections on the Psalms is really devotional and literary; Letters to Malcolm is also a devotional book, a series of reflections on prayer, without contentious arguments."

Derek Brewer goes even further, saying that Lewis recalled the meeting "with real horror" was "deeply disturbed by it" and described it in terms of "the retreat of infantry thrown back under heavy attack."
Why do you think it's relevant that Anscombe chose to be diplomatic? The fact remains that Lewis himself knew he had been pwned and was so humiliated by it that he stopped trying to write apologetics.

Why you have spent so much emotion excoriating a man who is humble, honest, and admired by those who opposed him is a confounding mystery.
Lewis was neither humble nor particularly honest (at least not in his apologetics, where he deliberately ignored facts or counterarguments which he knew would damage his assumptions, opting to construct strawmen instead). While he may have been liked by some of his opponents, he was never very respected as an apologist because he wasn't very good at it. His apologetics are mainly enjoyed by people who already share his assumptions and who are either unable or unwilling to read them very critically.

I have not spent any "emotion" in this thread, I'm only trying to bring some objectivity to a discussion about a writer who tends to get unjustifiably lionized by Christians.

Lewis was also very hostile to atheists, by the way. Why should I be kind to a writer who was not kind to me?

Dunderman
06-05-2007, 09:32 AM
Ignore this post.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 09:32 AM
pwned!
How so?

Thudlow Boink
06-05-2007, 09:58 AM
Lewis was neither humble nor particularly honest (at least not in his apologetics, where he deliberately ignored facts or counterarguments which he knew would damage his assumptions, opting to construct strawmen instead). While he may have been liked by some of his opponents, he was never very respected as an apologist because he wasn't very good at it. His apologetics are mainly enjoyed by people who already share his assumptions and who are either unable or unwilling to read them very critically.Lewis was a popular apologist writing for a popular audience, not a philosophical one, to whom it would have been appropriate to consider all possible counterarguments to his positions. His most famous work of apologetics, Mere Christianity, is the book version of a series of radio talks he gave, so he was limited in how much depth, subtlety, and careful, precise reasoning he could do. As a writer of apologetics, I see him as more analogous to the popularizer of science (or whatever subject) than to the scientist. If you don't think he was very good at that, I'd be interested to know who you thought was better—who really was the best Christian apologist of the 20th century?

As for his honesty, I don't know; my own impression of him is that the arguments he used most frequently were those that he personally found compelling.

Malacandra
06-05-2007, 10:14 AM
How so?

It struck me that your story about Anscombe took a huge hit from Liberal inconveniently quoting what Anscombe actually said about it, which sure looked like pwnage from where I was sitting. :)

Wendell Wagner
06-05-2007, 10:21 AM
Diogenes the Cynic writes:

> An example of both self-satisfaction and a fallacious assumption is the way that
> Screwtape reacts to the "patient" becoming a Christian. Lerwis smugly (and
> fallaciously) takes it for granted that Christian faith is somehow virtuous and
> anathema to devils. He expects the reader to share this feeling but does not
> earn it. He also ininuates that atheists are damned and at one point makes the
> idiotic statement that atheists should be prevented from thinking things
> through lest they really how absurd and how perilous their position is. He
> disparages "mere logic." All of his attitudes towards rationalism
> and "materialism" are insulting, childish, wishful, sanctimonous and fallacious.

O.K., first, you're misusing the word "fallacious." I assumed that you meant by "fallacious assumptions" that Lewis was using a logical fallacy in his arguments in _The Screwtape Letters_. I assumed that you meant that he was making an argument of the sort

All A's are B's.
All C's are B's.
Therefore, all A's are C's.

or something like that. What you mean to say is that Lewis was making a factually incorrect assumption. You seem to be assuming that all the basics of the Christian religion, including the existence of God, are obviously factually incorrect. (And you apparently have no intent on proving that they are, since you dismiss them as "insulting, childish, wishful, sanctimonous and fallacious."

Yes, Lewis doesn't prove any of the tenets of Christianity in _The Screwtape Letters_. He didn't claim to be doing so. He was assuming the tenets of Christianity for this book. Indeed, he even said that he was assuming things beyond the necessary tenets for the purpose of this book. He said (in the preface) that he didn't consider the existence of devils to be a necessary belief for Christians. He just used it for the purpose of the book.

The whole idea that it's necessary to buy the complete set of factual assumptions of a book to find it worthwhile is wrong. People can make good deductions from wrong factual assumptions. Much good science and technology was done on the basis of ancient Greek physics (with the Earth at the center of the universe, gravity doing nothing except pulling things to the center of the Earth, epicyles in the movements of planets, and a flawed understanding of mechanics), including reasonably good predictions of planetary movements, a good estimate of the size of the Earth, and a good estimate of the size and distance of the moon. Even better science was done with Newtonian physics, despite its lack of knowledge of relativity and quantum physics. Even better science yet is being done today, despite the fact that we're probably going to be seeing a complete revision of physics to something with different assumptions one day.

And _The Screwtape Letters_ is a work of fiction. You don't have to believe in the existence of the characters and setting of a work of fiction to find it useful. Finally, the OP stated that he doesn't buy all the factual assumptions of _The Screwtape Letters_. In particular, he doesn't believe in the existence of God. I assumed that this thread was about whether _The Screwtape Letters_ is good psychology, regardless of what you think about its assumptions. The truth of Christian beliefs is a different thread, I think.

> As for petty sins, the entire book is a rumination on how easily people are led
> into evil by being cross with their mothers or not praying correctly or becoming
> distracted by petty self-interest. It all comes as across as projection to me and
> smacks of the kind of self-abasement and "we're not worthy" self-loathing that
> I've seen a lot among Evangelical Christians. I've never understood that
> attitude at all. In my opinion, It's God that has to prove himself worthy to
> humans, not the other way around.

_The Screwtape Letters_ is about petty sins. It has little to say about larger ones. Petty sins are what most people are concerned with. If you're going to eliminate _The Screwtape Letters_ on this basis, you're going to eliminate virtually every self-help book out there. Incidentally, you call Lewis both self-satisfied and self-abasing. How could he be both of them?

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 10:28 AM
It struck me that your story about Anscombe took a huge hit from Liberal inconveniently quoting what Anscombe actually said about it, which sure looked like pwnage from where I was sitting. :)
Well now you stand corrected. As you can see, my story took no hit at all. You should try to read with less prejudice.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 10:32 AM
Lewis was a popular apologist writing for a popular audience, not a philosophical one, to whom it would have been appropriate to consider all possible counterarguments to his positions.
I wouldn't expect him to consider all possible counters, but I would expect him to counter the strongest ones, and that's something he habitually chose not to do.
His most famous work of apologetics, Mere Christianity, is the book version of a series of radio talks he gave, so he was limited in how much depth, subtlety, and careful, precise reasoning he could do. As a writer of apologetics, I see him as more analogous to the popularizer of science (or whatever subject) than to the scientist. If you don't think he was very good at that, I'd be interested to know who you thought was better—who really was the best Christian apologist of the 20th century?
How about one of the guys Lewis was most influenced by, G.K. Chesterton.
As for his honesty, I don't know; my own impression of him is that the arguments he used most frequently were those that he personally found compelling.
That's fine if he was only trying to convince himself.

Malacandra
06-05-2007, 10:33 AM
Well now you stand corrected. As you can see, my story took no hit at all. You should try to read with less prejudice.

I stand thoroughly rebuked, and by an unimpeachable rebuker.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 10:46 AM
Diogenes the Cynic writes:

> An example of both self-satisfaction and a fallacious assumption is the way that
> Screwtape reacts to the "patient" becoming a Christian. Lerwis smugly (and
> fallaciously) takes it for granted that Christian faith is somehow virtuous and
> anathema to devils. He expects the reader to share this feeling but does not
> earn it. He also ininuates that atheists are damned and at one point makes the
> idiotic statement that atheists should be prevented from thinking things
> through lest they really how absurd and how perilous their position is. He
> disparages "mere logic." All of his attitudes towards rationalism
> and "materialism" are insulting, childish, wishful, sanctimonous and fallacious.

O.K., first, you're misusing the word "fallacious."
No, I'm not.
I assumed that you meant by "fallacious assumptions" that Lewis was using a logical fallacy in his arguments in _The Screwtape Letters_. I assumed that you meant that he was making an argument of the sort

All A's are B's.
All C's are B's.
Therefore, all A's are C's.

or something like that. What you mean to say is that Lewis was making a factually incorrect assumption.
I'm saying that his arguments were circular. He assumes that which he wants to assert.
You seem to be assuming that all the basics of the Christian religion, including the existence of God, are obviously factually incorrect.
I'm observing that Lewis did not PROVE it. he did not establish his predicates.
(And you apparently have no intent on proving that they are
I don't have to prove they AREN'T true. I'm not the one making the assertion. All I'm doing is observing that Lewis did not prove his own assumptions.
since you dismiss them as "insulting, childish, wishful, sanctimonous and fallacious."
No, that was only how I characterized his attitude towards atheists.
Yes, Lewis doesn't prove any of the tenets of Christianity in _The Screwtape Letters_.
Right, so he was wasting my time as far as I'm concerned.
The whole idea that it's necessary to buy the complete set of factual assumptions of a book to find it worthwhile is wrong.
I would at least like those assumptions not to be bigoted or insulting to me personally.
And _The Screwtape Letters_ is a work of fiction. You don't have to believe in the existence of the characters and setting of a work of fiction to find it useful. Finally, the OP stated that he doesn't buy all the factual assumptions of _The Screwtape Letters_. In particular, he doesn't believe in the existence of God. I assumed that this thread was about whether _The Screwtape Letters_ is good psychology, regardless of what you think about its assumptions. The truth of Christian beliefs is a different thread, I think.
I have said repeatedly that I think it is psycologically insightful. My main criticism of the book is that my enjoyment in reading those insight is ruined by the constant intrusion of insulting religiosity.
_The Screwtape Letters_ is about petty sins. It has little to say about larger ones. Petty sins are what most people are concerned with. If you're going to eliminate _The Screwtape Letters_ on this basis, you're going to eliminate virtually every self-help book out there.
I despise self-help books. I on't think people need to fixate so much on their own petty failings. They should learn to be comfortable with them instead.
Incidentally, you call Lewis both self-satisfied and self-abasing. How could he be both of them?
Why can't he be both? People are frequently contradictory.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 10:50 AM
I stand thoroughly rebuked, and by an unimpeachable rebuker.
[Stephen Colbert] I accept your apology [/Colbert] :cool:

Malacandra
06-05-2007, 12:14 PM
[Stephen Colbert] I accept your apology [/Colbert] :cool:

Why, thank you.

...Um, don't ever let me catch you with your prejudices showing, m'kay? :)

Kythereia
06-05-2007, 12:21 PM
I've just put a hold on it at the library, along with J.R.R. Tolkien's [I]Tree and Leaf[/i}, so I reserve all comment on this thread until *checks watch* next week today...

Liberal
06-05-2007, 12:28 PM
That's fine if he was only trying to convince himself.Don't we all use the arguments we find most compelling? Are you using arguments you find to be inferior?

Liberal
06-05-2007, 12:32 PM
Why do you think it's relevant that Anscombe chose to be diplomatic?I don't know who will buy into your spin on that, but I certainly don't. Diplomatic? Do you think she was lying? She directly contradicted what the other people said, calling it a projection.

The fact remains that Lewis himself knew he had been pwned and was so humiliated by it that he stopped trying to write apologetics.That's what a person should do when he doesn't do it well. If you decide to take a lesson from Lewis, you will stop writing screeds about him. :)

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 12:40 PM
I don't know who will buy into your spin on that, but I certainly don't.
I didn't spin anything, I just don't see anything in what she said that ameliorates the fact that Lewis got his ass handed to him and knew it.
Diplomatic? Do you think she was lying?
Of course she was lying. She didn't need to kick a guy anymore when he was down.
She directly contradicted what the other people said, calling it a projection.
So you think his friends were lying about what he said and that Anscombe was able to divine that they were "projecting" by her own psychic powers. Do you think she didn't really believe that she had demolished his arguments?
That's what a person should do when he doesn't do it well. If you decide to take a lesson from Lewis, you will stop writing screeds about him. :)
I think you're projecting. :p

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 12:43 PM
Don't we all use the arguments we find most compelling? Are you using arguments you find to be inferior?
His selection of arguments is one thing, but his avoidance of counterarguments that he knew would damage his case bespeaks intellectual dishonesty and cowardice.

Liberal
06-05-2007, 01:50 PM
Of course she was lying.Yes, of course. Because otherwise, you'd be wrong.

Do you think she didn't really believe that she had demolished his arguments?Don't ask me. You're the one who knows when she's lying and when she isn't.

His selection of arguments is one thing, but his avoidance of counterarguments that he knew would damage his case bespeaks intellectual dishonesty and cowardice.Actually, he didn't avoid them. In fact, he changed his book to accomodate them. Remember? You expressed how badly making those changes reflected on him.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 01:59 PM
Yes, of course. Because otherwise, you'd be wrong.
No I wouldn't. She was "lying" politely, the way LeBron James was lying politely when he said that game 5 against the Pistons was a "team effort," but even if you accept everything she says as being honest, it still doesn't contradict the fact that Lewis told his friends he had gotten his ass kicked. She expressed an opinion that Lewis' friends were "projecting," but she didn't KNOW that and they quoted him directly. Nobody HAS to be lying in this scenario. Do you think Lewis' friends were inventing the quotes they attributed to him? For what purpose?
Actually, he didn't avoid them. In fact, he changed his book to accomodate them. Remember? You expressed how badly making those changes reflected on him.
This one time he did (because he was publicly called on it), but i was speaking of his rhetorical style in general, like how he avoids addressing the obvious comebacks to his Trilemma or to his Moral Argument.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 02:07 PM
Remember? You expressed how badly making those changes reflected on him.
I never said making those changes reflected badly on him. I just said he made them. If anything it reflected well on him.

Autolycus
06-05-2007, 02:14 PM
This one time he did (because he was publicly called on it), but i was speaking of his rhetorical style in general, like how he avoids addressing the obvious comebacks to his Trilemma or to his Moral Argument.

I'm guessing the Trilemma is his liar, lunatic, lord argument? The major comeback I see to this attacks the credibility of the source. Can you give a little info on this? You're good at what you do.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-05-2007, 03:46 PM
I'm guessing the Trilemma is his liar, lunatic, lord argument?
Yes.
The major comeback I see to this attacks the credibility of the source. Can you give a little info on this? You're good at what you do.
Yes, the major flaw in the trilemma (but not the only one) is that it presumes that Jesus claimed to be God. It does not account for the possibilties that he never said it, that he was misunderstood or that he never existed in the first place. The Biblical claims that he self-identified as God (i.e. the Gospel of John) are ambiguous enough to allow other interpretations ("...Before Abraham was, I am..."), but it isn't even necessary to consider interpretations unless and until somebody can prove that Jesus actually said that. Lewis (and contemporary hacks like McDowell who still cite the Trilemma) expect us to just assume that the Gospels are accurate in how they quote Jesus. There is no reason in the world to make that assumption and every reason not to (especially for attributed claims to Divinity in GJohn which are uncorroborated by the synoptics and were written 70 years after the crucifixion by an author who never met him).

The source isn't the only problem, though. It can also be argued that his argument still fails even if we accept his flawed premises. Why can't a person be simultaneously deluded and wise? Why can't he be honestly mistaken? Why can't he be lying and wise? Lewis wants the "Liar" and "Lunatic" choices to be accepted as incompatible with goodness or wisdom but gives us no real reason to do so.

Orual
06-05-2007, 08:25 PM
Thank you for explicating on the trilemma, Diogenes, I was just going to bring that up.

I adore C.S. Lewis. I find most of his writings (including Screwtape)to be very enlightening regarding human nature, and I think they've influeced my life quite a bit.

But he wasn't perfect. The man had biases, and they're pretty easy to see, I think. Especially if you're on the outside (i.e. not a Christian) looking in.

Also, I've never heard the audiobook, but I hear John Cleese's voice when I'm reading all the same.

Thudlow Boink
06-05-2007, 09:59 PM
Yes, the major flaw in the trilemma (but not the only one) is that it presumes that Jesus claimed to be God. It does not account for the possibilties that he never said it, that he was misunderstood or that he never existed in the first place. The Biblical claims that he self-identified as God (i.e. the Gospel of John) are ambiguous enough to allow other interpretations ("...Before Abraham was, I am..."), but it isn't even necessary to consider interpretations unless and until somebody can prove that Jesus actually said that. Lewis (and contemporary hacks like McDowell who still cite the Trilemma) expect us to just assume that the Gospels are accurate in how they quote Jesus.To be fair to Lewis, if I'm remembering correctly (and I may not be), he used his famous Trilemma specifcally as a rebuttal to the assertion that Jesus as depicted in the Bible was a great moral teacher but was merely a normal human being. Though I have indeed seen "contemporary hacks" who try to use it for more than that and are seemingly blind to the obvious flaw you mention, whether or not Lewis himself was.

furt
06-05-2007, 11:09 PM
Oh, I know Jones was a fund'ist. And one who recognized Lewis as a brother in the Faith, as painful as it must have been for Jones. *G*

"I also never met an evangelical who had a serious problem with Lewis."

Transposing a word, I also never met a serious evangelical who had a problem with Lewis.Ah, sorry; I had misread your post.

Liberal
06-06-2007, 03:49 AM
To be fair to Lewis, if I'm remembering correctly (and I may not be), he used his famous Trilemma specifcally as a rebuttal to the assertion that Jesus as depicted in the Bible was a great moral teacher but was merely a normal human being.That's correct. And interpretations like Dio outlined are simply ridiculous — why can't He be both a liar and wise, etc. There is nothing wrong with a trilemma, just as there is nothing wrong with a dilemma. The problem arises when when the trilemma or dilemma does not model the proposition. (And incidentally, this particular trilemma isn't even original to Lewis. John Duncan proposed it in Colloquia Peripatetica.) Given that Jesus claimed to be God (denial of the premise does nothing with respect to the validity of the argument), then either He is or He isn't. That's a dilemma. If He isn't, then either His claim was deliberately false or it wasn't. Now we have the trilemma. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

I never said making those changes reflected badly on him. I just said he made them. If anything it reflected well on him.With all due respect, I'm not sure how to connect most of what you've said in this thread to reality. Beginning with your first post, you have summoned the whole thesaurus to condemn Lewis as dishonest, stupid, and worthless. The notion that you suddenly find something (conditionally) reflecting well on him is like a mental whiplash.

Wendell Wagner
06-06-2007, 06:40 AM
O.K., Diogenes the Cynic, it's clear to me now that you're not even trying to make sense of what Lewis is saying. You're using whatever interpretation of his works makes him sound stupidest. Of course Lewis wasn't *asserting* that God exists in _The Screwtape Letters_. He was, at most, only assuming that God exists. Furthermore, he was assuming that God exists only in the sense that a fictional work makes assumptions (i.e., within the book, we need to assume that God exists to make sense of it). That doesn't mean that the author necessarily even believes himself the assumptions of his works of fiction. Indeed, Lewis even states in his preface to the book that although he believes in devils, he doesn't consider them a necessary belief for Christians. Within the context of this book, the existence of devils is an assumption for the fictional purpose of the book.

Given that Lewis was *not* asserting the existence of God, the argument is not circular. Indeed, there's no argument there at all. _The Screwtape Letters_ is a fictional work. Fictional works do not make assertions in the way that nonfictional ones do. At most they make assumptions for the purpose of their fiction. So Lewis did not make a circular argument in _The Screwtape Letters_ or any argument at all. He did not make a fallacious assumption either. His assumptions may or may not have been factually correct, but that's not the same thing.

So you may understand the word "fallacious," but you don't understand that it can't be applied to a fictional work, and most of what Lewis wrote is fiction. If we set aside his scholarly works like _The Allegory of Love_, _A Preface to Paradise Lost_, and _English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama_, nearly all of Lewis's well-known works are fiction. _The Chronicles of Narnia_, the Ransom novels, _Till We Have Faces_, _The Screwtape Letters_, _The Great Divorce_, and _The Pilgrim's Regress_ are all fictional works. Lewis believed some of the fictional assumptions that he used in those books, but he certainly didn't believe all of them. He didn't claim that there must be other parallel worlds like Narnia, he didn't claim to know anything about the inhabitants of Mars and Venus, and he didn't claim to know what devils did (or even if they definitely existed).

Lewis was making assertions only in his scholarly works and in his few apologetic works, like _Mere Christianity_. Even the extent of his assertions in his apologetic works are exaggerated. _Mere Christianity_ is a much sketchier and less thought-out work than is claimed by both fans and detractors of Lewis. There's a book called _C. S. Lewis in a Time of War_ (or _C. S. Lewis at the BBC_, depending on which edition you pick up) by Justin Phillips that details the evolution of the lectures that lead the creation of _Mere Christianity_, which was very much ad hoc. Lewis never meant to have people consider it his complete, definite defense of Christianity.

Indeed, much of this confusion has been created by many fans of Lewis who seem to believe that Lewis was writing a _Summa Theologica_ in his apologetics, fiction, etc. in which he was making a major defense of Christianity. Lewis never intended to do any such thing. His nonfiction (other than his major scholarly works) was much more off the cuff and limited in scope than that. Many detractors of Lewis have picked up this claim and also think that Lewis was making more definite claims than he actually did. One example of the is the misguided picking out of the Trilemma from _Mere Christianity_. First of all, Lewis never used the name "Trilemma" himself. He didn't even think of it as being a single piece of argumentation. As Thudlow Boink has already partially indicated, the point of the Trilemma is generally misunderstood. Indeed, it's my contention that it's completely misunderstood by most people who quote it and it makes a different argument than they claim it does. I think that analyzing the Trilemma is a new thread though, so I'm not going to discuss it any further in this thread. Start a new thread for that.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-06-2007, 07:55 AM
To be fair to Lewis, if I'm remembering correctly (and I may not be), he used his famous Trilemma specifcally as a rebuttal to the assertion that Jesus as depicted in the Bible was a great moral teacher but was merely a normal human being. Though I have indeed seen "contemporary hacks" who try to use it for more than that and are seemingly blind to the obvious flaw you mention, whether or not Lewis himself was.
Yes and no. Lewis did not intend for the Trilemma to be a proof of Jesus' divinity (as McDowell and other now try to use it), but he did not qualify his premise as you suggest ("Jesus of the Bible"). As you say, he intended it as an objection to people saying that Jesus could have been a moral teacher without being God, but he did not qualify "Jesus" as a literary character of the Bible. Here's what he said:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."
Essentially Lewis is saying "you don't have the right to like Jesus unless you think he was God." He's not saying his Trilemma proves that Jesus was God, he's arguing (quite fallaciously, as every philosophy or theology student knows) that Jesus can't have been a great moral teacher UNLESS he was God.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-06-2007, 08:10 AM
That's correct.
No, Lib, it isn't correct. See my post above.
And interpretations like Dio outlined are simply ridiculous — why can't He be both a liar and wise, etc.
Well, why can't he? Even the Bible says he lied to his disciples at least once.
There is nothing wrong with a trilemma, just as there is nothing wrong with a dilemma.
I didn't say there was anything wrong with "a trilemma" (or a dilemma). I said there was a problem with LEWIS' trilemma (which is popularly referred to as "the Trilemma). The problem is that it's a FALSE trilemma (and Lewis was prone to false dilemmas in all his apologetics).
The problem arises when when the trilemma or dilemma does not model the proposition.
In other words, when the dilemma (or trilemma) falsely limits the choices, as Lewis does with this one.
Given that Jesus claimed to be God
Cite?
(denial of the premise does nothing with respect to the validity of the argument),
Maybe that's how you would like things to be but that it is not, in fact, how it works. If the premise can't be established (or at least provisionally agreed to), then the argument is over. Accusing me of "denying" the premise is backwards. The burden to establish the premises rests with the person making the argument.
then either He is or He isn't. That's a dilemma.
That's not the dilemma. The dilemma is that (according to Lewis) his (unproven) claim to Godhood means that he can't be a moral teacher unless he is God.
If He isn't, then either His claim was deliberately false or it wasn't. Now we have the trilemma. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
There's everything wrong with it because even if we accept the premises, Lewis still gives us no reason to accept his assertion that a guy can't be crazy or a liar and still be a great moral teacher. That's baloney.
With all due respect, I'm not sure how to connect most of what you've said in this thread to reality. Beginning with your first post, you have summoned the whole thesaurus to condemn Lewis as dishonest, stupid, and worthless. The notion that you suddenly find something (conditionally) reflecting well on him is like a mental whiplash.
I also said I found him psychologically insightful. People are capable of having both good and bad qualities. Lewis was both insightful and egoistic.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-06-2007, 08:33 AM
So you may understand the word "fallacious," but you don't understand that it can't be applied to a fictional work, and most of what Lewis wrote is fiction. If we set aside his scholarly works like _The Allegory of Love_, _A Preface to Paradise Lost_, and _English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama_, nearly all of Lewis's well-known works are fiction. _The Chronicles of Narnia_, the Ransom novels, _Till We Have Faces_, _The Screwtape Letters_, _The Great Divorce_, and _The Pilgrim's Regress_ are all fictional works. Lewis believed some of the fictional assumptions that he used in those books, but he certainly didn't believe all of them. He didn't claim that there must be other parallel worlds like Narnia, he didn't claim to know anything about the inhabitants of Mars and Venus, and he didn't claim to know what devils did (or even if they definitely existed).
You're right. "Fallacious" was probably not the best word for me to use with regard to his fiction. I think it would probably more accurately reflect my subjective opinion of Screwtape just to say that I found his assumptions intrusive, gratuitous and at times insulting (to me as a nontheist).
Lewis was making assertions only in his scholarly works and in his few apologetic works, like _Mere Christianity_. Even the extent of his assertions in his apologetic works are exaggerated. _Mere Christianity_ is a much sketchier and less thought-out work than is claimed by both fans and detractors of Lewis. There's a book called _C. S. Lewis in a Time of War_ (or _C. S. Lewis at the BBC_, depending on which edition you pick up) by Justin Phillips that details the evolution of the lectures that lead the creation of _Mere Christianity_, which was very much ad hoc. Lewis never meant to have people consider it his complete, definite defense of Christianity.
I know that, and yet Lewis commonly gets characterized as one of the "greatest Chrsitian apologists ever" amomg lay Christians (Google "best Christian apologist" and see whose name garners the most hits). He is NOT regarded as having been very competent by serious philosophers or theologians and is seldom cited by them (Christian theologians are as tough on the Trilemma as atheists), but there seems to be a popular misconception that he was some brilliant defender of the faith.
Indeed, much of this confusion has been created by many fans of Lewis who seem to believe that Lewis was writing a _Summa Theologica_ in his apologetics, fiction, etc. in which he was making a major defense of Christianity. Lewis never intended to do any such thing.
exactly.
His nonfiction (other than his major scholarly works) was much more off the cuff and limited in scope than that. Many detractors of Lewis have picked up this claim and also think that Lewis was making more definite claims than he actually did. One example of the is the misguided picking out of the Trilemma from _Mere Christianity_. First of all, Lewis never used the name "Trilemma" himself. He didn't even think of it as being a single piece of argumentation. As Thudlow Boink has already partially indicated, the point of the Trilemma is generally misunderstood. Indeed, it's my contention that it's completely misunderstood by most people who quote it and it makes a different argument than they claim it does.
The primary misunderstanding I've seen of the Trilemma is that people think it was intended to be a proof of the Divinity of Jesus. It wasn't supposed to be that, but it still fails even to make the case that he intended it to make.
I think that analyzing the Trilemma is a new thread though, so I'm not going to discuss it any further in this thread. Start a new thread for that.
Well, it's already under discussion in this thread, so...

Liberal
06-06-2007, 01:51 PM
Well, it's already under discussion in this thread, so...But it wasn't supposed to be. It was a CS thread for people to discuss the Screwtape Letters as a work of literature. Now, it has become a sentence-parsing Great Debate regarding Lewis's honor and status, about which you've unloaded an enormous amount of emotional hyperbole. I'm not going to argue with you here about what a dichotomy and trichotomy are (you're wrong), and I'm not going to try to have a rational discussion with you about anything to do with Christianity. You believe our faith is irrational by default, and frankly I've never seen you recognize any Christian apologist as reasonable, and so as far as I'm concerned, Lewis is just somewhere in your pile of disdain like all the rest. I know you'll want the last word, so have at it. If I return to the thread, it will be to engage whoever is still discussing the topic.

Diogenes the Cynic
06-06-2007, 02:06 PM
But it wasn't supposed to be.
I was specifically asked to give an analysis of the Trilemma. I did.
It was a CS thread for people to discuss the Screwtape Letters as a work of literature. Now, it has become a sentence-parsing Great Debate regarding Lewis's honor and status, about which you've unloaded an enormous amount of emotional hyperbole.
I haven't really felt emotional in this thread at all. I've given my dispassionate opinion of Lewis' skills as an apologist (which is not the same as giving an opinion of him as a a person).
I'm not going to argue with you here about what a dichotomy and trichotomy are (you're wrong)
I'm wrong but you're not going to tell me why? That's rather uncharitable, don't you think? if I need correction, please provide it.
and I'm not going to try to have a rational discussion with you about anything to do with Christianity.
We aren't having a discussion about Chrisianity we're having a discussion about C.S. Lewis. Please don't take everything so personally.
You believe our faith is irrational by default
I don't think 'irrational" is the right word. "non-rational," maybe? " "A-rational?" "extra-rational?" I think specific faith cannot be arrived at by reason, but that doesn't mean it's unreasonable. I don't personally understand how people can believe in some things without proof but it doesn't mean I think that they're irrational or stupid individuals.
and frankly I've never seen you recognize any Christian apologist as reasonable
I can recognize plenty of them as reasonable. Convincing? No. Not to me personally, obviously, but some of them are at least capable of being structurally sound in their logic (it's the premises which are flawed) without engaging in strawmen or false dilemmas like Lewis did. I like Spong, by the way. There's a Christian who knows how to talk to unbelievers.

Skammer
06-06-2007, 04:35 PM
Resisting... temptation... to rant about... Spong.....

Whew. Another hijack averted.

I will say that although I love Lewis, including and especially Screwtape, I have to admit that his apologetics are not his strongest writings. I much prefer his fiction and devotional work. But, as has been pointed out, Screwtape is fiction, not apology. And Josh McDowell [shudder]... I read a bunch of his books in the mid-80's and met him in person a few times when we sponsored him to come to our university. He packed the house; but he was very disappointing.

As for Spong... I'll just say that he really can't be considered an apologist at all, really. He has made a career of attacking orthodox Christianity and denying core tenets of the faith, not defending them. Other than his clerical collar and self-identification as a Christian, I'm not really sure how his writings can be considered Christian works at all (at least for any meaningful definition of "Christian.")

Damn, the Spong-bashing snuck in the back door. Sorry about that.

DocCathode
06-06-2007, 05:35 PM
I'm curious, having just reread the Letters I don't get the impression that Lewis thought atheism alone would condemn a soul to hell. He mentions that all the great teachers taught the same message. Although not explicitly stated, I get the strong impression that he didn't think Christianity was the only way to heaven. Am I wrong?

Captain Amazing
06-06-2007, 06:16 PM
I know that, and yet Lewis commonly gets characterized as one of the "greatest Chrsitian apologists ever" amomg lay Christians (Google "best Christian apologist" and see whose name garners the most hits).

Just as a technical point, when I did that, the person with the most hits seemed to be William Lane Craig.

Lemur866
06-06-2007, 06:25 PM
I'm curious, having just reread the Letters I don't get the impression that Lewis thought atheism alone would condemn a soul to hell. He mentions that all the great teachers taught the same message. Although not explicitly stated, I get the strong impression that he didn't think Christianity was the only way to heaven. Am I wrong?
I don't think Lewis believed souls WERE condemned to hell. God didn't send you to hell, you sent yourself there. You weren't tortured by demons in hell, you tortured yourself. Hell and heaven were the same place.

And he certainly believed in the idea of "pagan scriptures", that things like the greek myths were created by people grasping for the divine and getting partway there but falling short.

DocCathode
06-06-2007, 06:38 PM
I thought from the foreword that Lewis genuinely believed in devils as fallen angels who ate souls.

Screwtape mentions that Father Spike 'really believes. This may yet mar all.' so it would seem that for Lewis faith alone does not save. I got the impression he felt works saved, regardless of an individual's religious faith or lack thereof.

Wendell Wagner
06-06-2007, 07:14 PM
DocCathode writes:

> I'm curious, having just reread the Letters I don't get the impression that Lewis
> thought atheism alone would condemn a soul to hell. He mentions that all the
> great teachers taught the same message. Although not explicitly stated, I get
> the strong impression that he didn't think Christianity was the only way to
> heaven. Am I wrong?

At the end of _The Last Battle_, a character who has given honest worship all his life to the false god Tash and who has otherwise lead a good life enters the heaven of Narnia. He is told that he honestly tried to do his best, even though he was in a situation where his good effort was used badly by others. Perhaps then by analogy Lewis thought the same of people in our world.

Diogenes the Cynic, my personal view is that Lewis's arguments are incomplete. I would use the terms that James Hall, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Richmond used in the course on tape about the philosophy of religion from The Teaching Company (which I listened to at one point) about most standard arguments in any direction about religion: "This argument does not achieve closure." I'm not sure if the present state of philosophy is up to proving anything definitive about this subject.

JMcCurry
05-27-2015, 04:21 PM
It's crazy reading this book and seeing just how much Lewis understood about human nature. As you continued to read you began to see more and more how Lewis understood this. You would read and wonder "Do I do this? Do people do this to me? Where have I seen this before?" and that is not something you get from every book you pick up. As to your two quotes, it truly is amazing how much time we waste every day. If you sit down and think about what you have been doing and spending your time on, more frequently than not, you will see that you have been wasting most of your time on things that do not and will not matter. Your second quote is also something that we see in almost every day life. Relationships are interesting and you realize all the bad habits you have in them from reading this book.

- JMcCurry

I just read C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters for the first time, having heard much of it for years (I believe DocCathode was the first to introduce me to the book with his concept of "Screwtape poisoning"). I have an entirely new respect and admiration for Lewis. The religious content doesn't do much for me as an atheist, but did this guy have human nature down, or what? I've seldom read something so perceptive. My neck hurts from excessive nodding.

My two favourite passages:

Echoes of hours used up doing pretty much nothing, watching sitcom episodes or refreshing the SDMB waiting for someone to post something interesting. We've all been there.

The poison of relationships. God, I've done this and had it done to me a zillion times. When I read that paragraph I swore it would never happen again.

JMcCurry
05-27-2015, 04:27 PM
I am wondering what your favorite quotes are from the Screwtape Letters. There are just so many great quotes, which ones stand out the most to YOU?

-JMcCurry

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