The Shocking Alternative

You really must read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. I’m sure the public library has a copy. Or, if you’re in a real hurry, you can borrow mine today.

The chapter entitled “The Shocking Alternative” is his summary account of the history of the world in three acts: Creation, Fall, Redemption. Here’s an extended sample to whet your appetite:

“Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time…

“One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins, any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offenses against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you; you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announces that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the proper party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivaled by any other character in history.

“Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is humble and meek and we believe Him, not noticing that if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.”

What Lewis writes next is truly classic… (next column)