I have been reading CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity along with the men’s group at White Fields Church. I first read the book 18 years ago, and reading it again has been like reading it for the first time.
I came across this quote in the book, which I thought was excellent, in regard to the Christian belief in Heaven:
There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’.
The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.
All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity (p. 137).
I love his line about if you can’t understand a book written for grown-ups, then you shouldn’t be talking about it!
He says in another place in the book:
Very often a silly procedure is adopted by people who [oppose] Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack.
When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated.
It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real thing are not simple.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity (p. 41).
I have found this to be true – not only in regard to discussions about Christianity, but in many debates about many things. People put up a caricature of the other person’s views and then proceed to destroy them. This is sometimes called a “straw man argument”.
It is important that we should not allow people to do that with Christian beliefs, and also that we should not do the same with other people’s beliefs. This is sometimes called “Presuppositional Apologetics” – the idea that you should try to frame the views of your “opponent” in such a way, that they would say, “I couldn’t have put it better myself.”
As Timothy Keller put it recently:
Do not assign a position to an opponent that they will not own. Always put their argument in the best light.
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) May 22, 2016
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