401) What Good is Theology? (part two of two)

By C. S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, 1943

     (…continued)  When you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this:  that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took his advice we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another war?  Now, mind you, this is quite true.  But it tells you much less than the whole truth about Christianity and it has no practical importance at all.

     It is quite true that if we took Christ’s advice we should soon be living in a happier world.  You need not even go as far as Christ.  If we did all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great deal better than we do.  And so what?  We never have followed the advice of the great teachers.  Why are we likely to begin now?  Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others?  Because he is the best moral teacher?  But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow him.  If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one?  If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance.  There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years.  A bit more makes no difference.

     But as soon as you look at any real Christian writings, you find that they are talking about something quite different from this popular religion.  They say that Christ is the Son of God (whatever that means).  They say that those who give Him their confidence can also become Sons of God (whatever that means).  They say that His death saved us from our sins (whatever that means).  (NOTE: Lewis addresses the ‘whatever that means’ questions in the rest of his book– that is what theology does and why it is necessary.)

     There is no good complaining that these statements are difficult.  Christianity claims to be telling us about another world, about something behind the world we can touch and hear and see.  You may think the claim false; but if it were true, what it tells us would be bound to be difficult– at least as difficult as modern Physics, and for the same reason.


John 20:30-31  —  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

II Corinthians 5:19a  —  God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…

John 1:1-4…10-12…14  —  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men…  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 3:16-17  —  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

O almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with thy heavenly doctrine; give us grace, that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

 —Book of Common Prayer