The Wrong Way

In his apologetic writings, C. S. Lewis argued that Christianity was by no means the bringing of a new moral law. We all, he said, knew the Way – which he called, in a creditable but infelicitous attempt to escape Eurocentricity – the Tao; all human societies knew the Way; the problem is that we can’t follow it. Nobody can. Religion was therefore about being saved despite the fact that we can’t follow the Way.

What we get with justification by faith, however, is not a state of being able to follow the Way with God’s help; what we get is the illusion of having followed it. If you tell people that they are now saved, the conclusion most of them will draw is that they are now Good; and a person who thinks he is Good will regard whatever he does as being Good too. It must be Good, because he has done it. The net result is to replace the self-indulgence of the man who knows not the Way, or the despair of the man who knows the Way but cannot follow it, with the self-deceit and self-conceit of the man who has been told that his righteousness is independent of the Way.

Posted on January 8, 2010 at 12:53 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, The Soulbusters

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  1. Written by Urban Djin
    on February 17, 2010 at 17:03


    The biggest problem I’ve always had with Lewis’ argument is that it is manifestly not the case that all human societies know the same Way. Anthropologists in the first half of the twentieth century may have exaggerated the diversity of ethical practices in different cultures , and it may well be the case that certain basics such as some form of the Golden Rule do occur across vast expanses of time and in very different cultures, but many hard-to-reconcile practices remain.

    Suicide would be one of those. Anathema to all three of the major Western monotheisms, suicide was considered noble in cultures as different from each other as ancient Rome and Japan.

    In retrospect Lewis’ posit seems like wishful thinking. Like the popular notion from the 60s that all religions are at root saying the same thing, it withers under close scrutiny.

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