The impact of an author is not necessarily in how many books he or she wrote. For instance, last week I learned of a philosopher that had written 100 books but I’ve never heard of him before (which says more about me than him, granted). William Paul Young wrote four, but one of them was “The Shack” so most of us have heard about him. CS Lewis, a writer that has eclipsed pretty much every other Christian writer, wrote 30. And curiously, one of his most famous books, Mere Christianity, is a compilation of talks he presented for the BBC during WWII, and one of his more famous quotes came from a lecture he gave at Oxford.
In that conference, the Philosophy Department asked if theology was poetry – that is, are people (for most of those there they meant “other” people) attracted to religion because it is beautiful, because like music, it’s an aesthetic that resonates with their hearts. And he answered, no. He thought that as literature goes, there are more beautiful works than the Bible. There’s better written poetry elsewhere. So, it’s not the beauty of the writing that attracted him, and attracts you and me, to the Bible.
Oh, we read the story of David and Goliath with great interest. We read the story of David and Beersheba and the subsequent encounter with Nathan with intrigue. And today’s story of the Ark being in the temple of Dagon entertains as well as educates. But, that’s not why we read the Bible—that’s not what makes us believe.
CS Lewis posits that we believe because the Bible is a historical book. Jesus actually lived and He died. And because of an incredible list of witnesses we conclude that He actually rose again. The historicity of the Bible is confirmed by more sources than any other ancient text. By a mile.
So, here it comes. I promised the quote, it’s coming. At the end of the lecture, after he had presented all kinds of ideas, he said “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Great philosophers spew out continual thoughtful sentences and trying to absorb them is like drinking from a firehose. CS Lewis’ thoughts came out like machine gun fire, one incredible thought after another, but then he finished with a grenade. That last one makes you think, and smile, and resonate. For a while.
Because yes, all evidence points to Jesus being a real historical person. But also, his message resonates as the only way to explain the realities that we experience as human beings. So, not only is belief in Jesus something that we can see, and be warmed by, it also illumines, it helps interpret, everything else that happens in life. That “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” explains a lot of bad stuff in the world. That Jesus died as a propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10, etc.) offers a remedy for it. And from Genesis to Revelation we are offered a lens by which we can interpret all of life.
CS Lewis’ quote is an incredible statement of faith. I hope that it impacts you as much as it has impacted me and many others. It’s why we gather here on Sunday morning…it’s why we function during the week…it’s a grace that has led us safely thus far, and will safely lead us home. To quote some poetry.
Reveling in the thought,
God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ Acts 17:27,28