McGrath's comments above suggest periods of conceptual adjustment as observers of the Christian faith worked to make explanations for the presence, even the commonality, of sin as it exists in spite of God's innate goodness.
So again, to the idea that Christianity's incredible facets couldn't rationally be reached by outsiders to the faith with some guesswork does not hold up against the process by which we know Christianity came to be. McGrath points out that in this discussion on how best to reconcile sin with God's innate goodness, Christianity was in a place of coming into its own identity. Answering questions such as this quandary on the dualism of good and evil would be very much a part of 'guessing' the structure of Christian faith as it were, but directly within the framework allowed by the basic tenets relating to God, man and the universe.
The text by Lewis demonstrates this way of thinking by supplying a reason for man's sinfulness that is explained through a theological lens. For Lewis, the presence of a certainty with regard to the presence of God means that any discussion geared toward the reconciliation of human sinfullness also quite naturally predispose us toward some understanding of this in contradiction to the goodness of God. So for Lewis, the will toward sinfulness that is demonstrated in the universe is not unlike the will for insubordination demonstrated by human beings with free will to their human superiors. Accordingly, Lewis remarks, "the same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible. It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either right or wrong. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot." (p. 131)
In addition to arguing that the presence of human sinfulness fits within the construct of a universe created by a good god, the text by Lewis concedes once again to a shortcoming where imagination is concerned. Perhaps this should be unsurprising for an author who would create works of enduring fiction which were highly derivative of Christian scriptures. For one whose process of creation occurred thusly, a certain admission to being unable to imagine the very concepts that predicate Christianity does not reveal much about the way that an outsider might guess or imagine. The consequence of Lewis' faith is an inability to imagine a universe in which this exact form of faith did not yet exist. However, because we as scholars studying human history do know this fact, we are hard-pressed to accept Lewis' ignorance to these things as a strong enough reason to blindly accept the certainty of Christianity. Our acceptance to this notion must begin first with a belief in the inherent truth of certain rules and must proceed to knowledge of therefore established facts.
The same is true of Christian's origins, which center largely on the events relating to the birth, death and rebirth of Jesus Christ. Again, as we attempt to consider this narrative from the perspective that this is something which must be true because it could not have been imagined, we evaluate the claims relating to the history of Jesus as being deeply couched in pre-existent religious tradition and, consequently, we evaluate many of the myths...
And certainly, the perceived connection between the martyrdom of Jesus and the occurrence of Original Sin in the Garden of Eden would help to fit Jesus into a narrative framework ordained by a just God. As the text by McGrath points out, "just as Israel knew God first as Redeemer and then as Creator, so did the early church first know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and then begin thinking about what this meant in Christological terms. Thus, in the order of Christian experience, the 'work' of Christ precedes all debates about his 'person.'" (p. 122)
In this regard, we can see that Christian ideology has preemptively removed the possibility of speculation, guessing and even historical inquisition where Jesus is concerned simply by elevating matters of his presumed divinity above biographical facts such as those relating to his practice of the Jewish faith. By considering this orientation, one might ultimately be able to prove and demonstrate that, in fact, Jesus was a person who lived according to the rules of Judaism and, in doing so, delivered to his followers a faith that was inherently formed by the forces which preceded it. In order for one to accept the statement provided above by McGrath, one would have to enter into the discussion with unempirical acceptance of certain ideas.
To this end, we consider the article by Polkinghorne, which demonstrates this very same circular approach to the relationship between Christianity and the scientific community. . For Polkinghorne, science and religion are not exclusive from one another. Quite to the contrary, this article contends that the two forces are actually deeply interdependent. On this point, Polkinghorne states that "here we are concerned, not with metaquestions about the patterns and structure of the physical world, but with metaquestions about how historical process is to be understood. This shift of attention corresponds to a transition from natural theology to a theology of nature. We are not now looking to the physical word for hints of God's existence but to God's existence as an aid for understanding why things have developed in the physical world in the manner that they have." (p. 118) The article by Polkinghorne suggests that it is actually possible to reconcile the relationship between faith and science by recognizing that faith has a role in the scientific process. Much like McGrath's assertion regarding Christianity and Jesus here above, in the author's view stated here above, if one is to begin scientific propositions initiating from the idea that God does exist, one may be able to 'prove' a host of claims regarding the certainty of creation claims or ideas about evolution. In other words, by promoting a process of scientific inquiry that starts with the acceptance of God, one does become capable of 'guessing' the constructs that define Christian beliefs. In other words, here especially, it is possible to see the fundamental flaw in the thinking by Lewis. As a rationally thinking outsider, one could plausibly arrive at many of the conclusions that are fundamental tenets of the Christian faith simply by beginning with the propositions of Godly design and human stewardship as denoted by the story of creation. So for Lewis to suppose that we might be unable to guess the things from which Christianity is derived shows a lack of imagination on the part of the author and a desire to dovetail the whole of his observations on the world, universe and man into a simple framework that begins and ends with an all-powerful and unseen creator.
For the rational outsider such as myself, it is actually quite easy to imagine a point in the history of mankind in which it was seen as necessary to construct as yet unreached conclusions about the relationship between man and the universe such as might have related to the contrast between God's goodness and human sinfulness or to the explanation's for the emergence of Jesus Christ. Moreover, I find it plausible that the evolution of man's understanding of this relationship must have surely involved the demand to fit explanations into certainly culturally or politically accepted molds of power distribution. Therefore, resources such as those examined here and especially that provided by Lewis, contrary to the ambitions of their authors, do far more to reveal the sociological and human vestiges of invention in the Christian faith than they do prove that God exists with a certainty not to be debated, questioned, studied or doubted.
Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity. Harper San Francisco, 2001.
McGrath, A.E., Theology: The Basics, Wiley-Blackewell; 1st edition, 2004.
Polkinghorne, J., Belief in God in an…
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