If you had asked me twenty years ago who my favorite author was, I would have immediately replied, “C. S. Lewis.” I was only nine years old and had already read the entirety of the Chronicles of Narnia. By my fourteenth birthday, I had devoured Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Weight of Glory, and a few others. For me, the genius of Lewis was his ability to make accessible the intelligence of minds greater than my own. He was a distiller of lofty thoughts.
Thoughts About the Extraordinary
Perhaps not the greatest example of Lewis’ distilling skill, but one of my favorites all the same, was his presentation of the now famous Jesus trilemma. It has become one of the most famous arguments for the divinity of Christ.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
We often sum this up by saying that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Then, as Lewis put it,
…it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.
It is a beautifully simple yet powerful argument. However, to be a student of Lewis means more than memorizing what he thought. We should learn from him also how to think.
Extending the Thought
When I started on the road to Rome, I was intrigued by the Church’s claim to an infallible Magisterium. It really is an incredible claim, isn’t it? ‘When it comes to official teachings on faith and morals, we are literally incapable of erring.’ Is that bold or what? And what other religious group makes such a claim?
Well, you can probably guess where this leads. We have in Jesus the Nazarene a man who claimed to be Truth Incarnate. We have in the Catholic Church an entity that purports to be the solitary infallible channel of the Truth. If Jesus’ claims were untrue, then He was either deluded or deliberately lying. Now, if the Catholic Church’s claim is untrue, she too is either deluded or lying.
So, I ask myself, Could this Catholic Church, an entity responsible for inestimable good in the world, from centuries of fostering education, to the building of hospitals, to the patronage of all manner of scientific endeavor…Could this Church really be either of those things — a deliberate deceiver or a body of lunatics? Could it have lasted for so many centuries if its nature was so perverse?
Absolutely not! How could it have? To believe that a fundamentally wicked or insane gathering of mere men could accomplish what has been done by the Catholic Church is no less incredible than the Church’s own claim to infallibility. Such a ludicrous idea becomes even more unbelievable if you are a Christian; since those men advocated discipleship to Christ, deciding that they were wicked would make their collective personal failings even more absurd. And thus I am left concluding one thing, that I would be a fool to not “believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God” (RCIA 491).
The Catholic Church is not led by deluded or nefarious bishops, and even if she were, that would only bolster her claim to infallibility, for in no other institution in the last 2,000 years have men, wicked or insane or otherwise, ever accomplished one iota of what the Church has accomplished. She is the fullness of the Christian faith and led by the vicar of Christ on earth. Therefore, I will serve and obey the Catholic Church because she cannot lead me anywhere but into the arms of my Lord and Savior.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.