The Case for Christianity is one of three books which would later be compiled into C.S. Lewis‘ classic exposition of the faith, Mere Christianity. On its own, the book is a discourse on morality, specifically the moral argument for God.
Two snippets from the text serve well to sum up the argument being made by Lewis here:
“First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it. Secondly, that they don’t in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”(p7)
“A man doesn’t call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?… Consequently atheism turns out to be to simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”(p34)
Thus, the argument is essentially that people have within a certain moral code that they feel they should follow, a code which can only be explained through appealing to some higher standard, a standard that only the Christian God can account for. Such a claim is naturally going to be met with varying amounts of skepticism offering alternate explanations, which Lewis does well at addressing ahead of time, explaining how all the popular explanations – such as that morality is simply a form of instinct or that it is a social convention – are self-contradictory.
The first half of the text is a philosophical exposition of the matter, the second half the Christian take on the matter. On the whole, it is an excellent presentation of the moral argument for God, as well as meeting of the objections which might be raised.
-“Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, can’t itself be either of them.”(p8)
-“The most dangerous thing you can do is to take up any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.”(p10)
-“There’s no difference in moral principle here: the difference is simply about a matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there’s no moral advance in not executing them when you don’t think they are there! You wouldn’t call a man humane for ceasing to set mouse-traps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house.”(p13)
-“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you’ve taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”(p24)
-“Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”(p32)
-“For Christianity is a fighting religion.”(p34)
-“Enemy-occupied territory – that’s what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”(p40)
-“Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, isn’t something God demands of you before He’ll take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it’s simply a description of what going back to Him is like.”(p49)
While C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, I won’t pretend that he is without fault. The primary fault in this text comes towards the end where Lewis is discussing the Christian point of view on the matter and addressing objections which might be raised against it. For the most part Lewis does well here, except for the bit where he discusses the Christian attitude towards those who have never heard the gospel, stating “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we don’t know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”(p55)
Romans 10:14 seems a well enough rebuttal: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?”