The Problem of Pain

CSL-2013-05-17 The Problem of Pain CoverThis podcast covers one of the important and helpful theological books that C S Lewis wrote, entitled “The Problem of Pain”.  It was written to answer the intellectual problem raised by suffering and pain in world created by a good, all-powerful God.  As Lewis puts it

If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy.  If He were almighty, He would be able to do what he wished. But, obviously, the creatures are not happy.              Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.

He goes on to say that if the common means of “almighty” and “good” are the best or the only meanings that can be assigned to these words, then the problem is unsolvable.  Therefore, he first addresses the meaning of almighty and how it should be understood and then  the meaning of “good” when applied to God.  Jack (Lewis went by the nickname of Jack) then discusses the nature of a world where persons with free will can make choices and the functions of pain in such a world.  He includes important discussions of the pains of animals and heaven and hell in this book.  As you can tell, it is well worth a read.

The show notes for this podcast can be found here.    Show Notes

On Obstinacy In Belief – Faith and Evidence

This podcast covers one of my favorite essays by Lewis, titled “On Obstinacy In Belief“.  It’s original title was “Faith and Evidence” and actually I like that better, but we’ll use the published title in podcast.  It has been included in several collections of essays by Lewis and is well worth your time to read.  It covers differences between faith, belief and knowledge and it was written to answer the question why Christians hold on to their beliefs in the face of strong contrary evidence.

The essay was originally delivered to the Oxford Socratic Club in 1953 under the title Faith and Evidence and then was republished in 1955 under the current title.  Since the “target audience” was a group of Oxford professors and students, Jack included several allusions and quotations in languages other than English (such as French, Italian, and Latin).  Fortunately we do not have to know these languages to get the main points of this essay.  In addition, a gentleman in the Netherlands has compiled a helpful explanation of these allusions and you can obtain that via the link below.

http://www.lewisiana.nl/essayquotes/index.htm

 

The show notes for this podcast are found here.

 

 

Screwtape Proposes A Toast

This podcast covers the essay “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” which is found as an appendix to the current edition of “The Screwtape Letters”.  It is a thought-provoking essay, written some 18 years after The Screwtape Letters were composed, and I felt that it deserved its own podcast.  Screwtape is a senior devil in Hell, and this essay is his speech delivered at a dinner in honor of the recent graduates of Hell’s Tempter College.  Since the speaker is a devil, we must remember that what is back to us is white to him, and what is bad is good.

In Jack’s vision of Hell, the devils can feed upon the outraged personalities of the souls that are sent there.  Screwtape’s theme is that modern society is now turning out souls that are, for the most part, failed humans.  They are hardly fit to be dammed to Hell.  While this may be disappointing to the devils from a gastronomical view, overall it is a good thing for Hell, and Screwtape goes on to explain why it is good and how this feat was accomplished.

This essay is really an attack on modern education and mass culture.  It is a companion piece to “The Abolition of Man”, and “That Hideous Strength”, both written by Lewis.

Miracles:A Preliminary Study

Miracles by C S LewisThis podcast covers one of C S Lewis’ most import books, “Miracles“. Today many people who have been brought up in our rational culture have trouble believing in anything miraculous, for the claims that Christ walked on water or was born of a virgin or raised the dead seem to go against everything that science teaches us.  If you are one of these people, then you may find Jack’s book quite helpful.

His book is sub-titled “A Preliminary Study” and is intended to help the reader objectively evaluate whether or not miracles, especially those recorded in the Bible, did or did not occur.  It covers some of the same issues and makes some of the same arguments as found in “Mere Christianity” but this book is a more academic and philosophical work both in tone and approach.

Lewis points out that we must settle some basic philosophical questions about miracles in general before we review the evidence for any particular miracle.  If we don’t we will always conclude that the miracle did not happen, for that will be our belief going into the review.

Therefore, most of the book answers the three most common objections to miracles.

  1. They are impossible
  2. They are improbable
  3. They are improper for a divine Being

Having addressed these questions in detail, Lewis then looks at some of the miracles recorded in the New Testament as to what we can learn from them about our world and about God’s nature.

This podcast is intended as an introduction to the book, not as a thorough study and  I hope it leads you to read “Miracles” for yourself.  This book has been an important element in my faith journey and perhaps it will also assist you.


God in the Dock

God in the Dock

This show covers God in the Dock, a collection of essays and letters by C.. S. Lewis.  The title (God in the Dock) is taken from one of the essays and refers to the place where the defendant stands in the English court system.  The essays cover a wide range of topics and show the scope of Jack’s work.

There are essays on theological topics, such as miracles, essays on ethics and essays on what the editor calls “semi-theological topics”.  For example, the essay God in the Dock describes the difficulties that Lewis had (and the we still have) in presenting the Good News of the Christian religion to an audience of unbelievers.  There are also interviews as well as some letters that Lewis wrote in response to questions and criticisms of his writings.  All of them are very good, and you are sure to find several essays that appeal especially to you.

Since there is no theme or development in the book, we cover three of the essays in order to give you a sample of what they are like and what subjects they cover.  We cover “God in the Dock”, as well as “Miracles” and “Work and Prayer”.   You are sure to find others that appeal to you as you read the book.


Mere Christianity-2: Christian Behavior

Mere Christianity

This is  the second podcast in a three-part series on one of C S Lewis’ most important books, Mere Christianity.  In this section we cover Christian morality, how Christians ought to behave.  (Of course this may be different from how they actually behave).  Jack (C S Lewis was known as Jack) argued for the truth of Christianity in the previous sections, and now he assumes that Christianity is true and asks the question what implications that has for us.

Jack has organized this section as follows.  First he defines the scope of morality or Christian behavior, and illustrates its three parts by the use of an image of ships in convoy.  Next he looks at four principles or virtues that almost all people everywhere recognize as valid:  They are


  • Prudence = common sense
  • Temperance = moderation in all our pleasures
  • Justice = honesty and fairness
  • Fortitude = courage

This done, Lewis addresses some controversial topics.

  • Sex and marriage
  • Politics and morality
  • Christianity’s relationship to psychoanalysis
  • Forgiving our enemies

Next, we look at the sin of Pride and the virtue of Humility, and finally Jack reviews the virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Although this is intended for a Christian audience, it can be read with profit by folks from a variety of faith backgrounds, including those who have no faith at all.

This show can only give an overview of these topics, and I strongly recommend that you read the book yourself to get the complete picture.


Mere Christianity-1: Right and Wrong

Mere Christianity Cover This is the first podcast in a series of three on Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  This book is probably Jack’s most popular non-fiction work and it has been an important milestone in many people’s lives, including my own.  It developed from a series of short talks that Jack gave on the BBC during WW II and is orientated towards a popular rather than academic audience.  In it he describes the essence of Christian belief and why Jack thinks that Christianity is true.

The book is divided into four sections as follows

(1) Right and Wrong as a clue to the meaning on the universe

(2) What Christians Believe

(3) Christian Behavior

(4) Beyond Personality

We will cover the first two sections in this podcast.  As always, I recommend reading the book to get the full force of Jack’s arguments.

The Abolition of Man – Part 3: The Future

The Abolition of Man

This is the third and last podcast on The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis.  The first  podcasts covered whether there is anything like real external values or whether our values are based om only our subjective feelings.   The second podcast review Jack’s answer that there is a universal Moral Law recognized by most people at most times in history, and his evidence for that claim.  This part of the book (and this podcast) now looks to the future.  It imagines what might happen if we proceed down the path of making morality and ethics entirely subjective in a world where the power of the state seems to be increasing every day.  In addition, our ability to manipulate people via education and propaganda is also growing, leading to a bleak future.  Jack envisions a day when a select few social planners decide to give their students the conscience or moral guide set by the planners.  In this new day the vast majority of people will be manufactured, in an essential sense, and could be called post-human.  They of course are not free – indeed the question has almost no meaning for them, for they respond as  they have been condition.   Lewis points out that even the planners are not really free, for although they have abandoned the Moral Law and conscience, they are in reality slaves to their emotional impulses.

However, Lewis closes this book with a ray of hope.  He longs for a society where science not only measures the quality of things but also understands  the quality or value of the things they study.


The Abolition of Man – Part 2: The Universal Law

This is the secondThe Abolition of Man of 3 podcasts about The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis.  In the last podcast we covered the trend in education towards basing ethical values on reason and feeling, and the denial that external events have any real value aside from the feelings they cause in the observer.

In this podcast we cover the existence and applicability of an external universal moral law, as discussed in the second chapter in the Abolition of Man.  Lewis names this moral code the Tao, using a concept from Chinese philosophy, partly because he wishes to emphasize that this moral code is recognized by most people in most cultures and ages.  This idea that there is one rule of behavior for everyone is difficult for us to accept, having been educated to almost worship diversity as the highest good.

Jack sets himself two tasks in this chapter.  First, to show that the Tao exists and is universal, and second, to show that you cannot develop any basis for ethics unless you accept the Tao. (He succeeds in accomplishing both tasks rather well).  Jack does not identify the Tao only with Christian beliefs – he emphasizes the universal code that underlies all religions.


The Abolition of Man – Part 1: Men Without Chests

The Abolition of Man This is the first of 3 podcasts about The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. Although it’s more than 60 years old, this book is surprisingly relevant to some of the major problems we see in our culture today. It tells us why we see so many people in all walks of life who seem to lack a sense of right and wrong, that is, they lack a “moral compass”. Lewis points out that this began when we abandoned the classic concept of an external, universal moral code and incorporated relativistic assumptions in our educational practices. Jack maintains that this produces “men without chests”, people who have a head (the ability to reason) and a belly (the ability to feel), but nothing that connects them (the chest). They have no way of determining when to act contrary to their feelings.

This is one of the shortest and most philosophical of Jack’s books. It won’t read quickly like a novel but is well worth putting in the time to consider what he says.

Link to the Show Notes for this podcast

11-21-2009

Here is a link to the performance schedule for the play “The Screwtape Letters” mentioned in the introduction to the podcast on 11-11-2009.  (Link courtesy of Tim Parrish).

Screwtape Letters Performance Schedule