Lewis opens up this chapter restating the 'frightening alternative'. Alliteratively boiled down it goes: liar, lunatic or Lord. Those are your only choices. Either Christ was who he said he was (Lord), he was a con-artist or some sort of demon/spirit (liar), or he was a nutjob who thought he was God (lunatic). We've actually got plenty of the last around nowadays! Lewis leaves off, as sanil pointed out, the fourth possibility which is that Christ never said any of the things that are attributed to him, or maybe just not the ones that claim divinity or hint at it. That those are later insertions/inventions/misunderstandings by his followers that have been passed down to us as faith. Which I'm having a hard time fitting in alliteratively. Liar, lunatic, lord or...innocent of all charges? I don't know. :)
"Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, how-ever strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form." - this is Lewis, of course.
The question Lewis seeks to address here is why. What was the point? The answer that comes to mind for me is to save humanity. Lewis says it's clear he came to teach but that the New Testament and all Christians constantly talk about his death and his coming again. So Lewis believes that it is obvious that to most Christians the point of Christ's coming was his suffering and death.
Lewis was under the impression, before he became a Christian that the first point of belief a Christian had to subscribe to was the theory of what the point of Christ's death was. The theory was that God wanted to punish mankind for leaving him and joining the Dark Side, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead. So God took the bargain and punished Christ in our places. He says that he found this concept silly and immoral, though now that he is a Christian he does not find it as silly and immoral as he used to, but that that is not the point.
"What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor any other is Christianity. The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work...Theories about Christ's death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works. Christians would not all agree as to how important those theories are."
I'm really not sure what to say about the above. Do you guys have any thoughts? How important is it that we understand how Christ's life and death save us? Is it important, or is it enough that it occurred and that he left us instructions on how to take advantage of it? Or are even those suspect? What are we meant to take away from the life of Christ and what has been recorded about it?
"A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it. We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself."
Lewis goes on to discuss the idea that Christ died to pay the price for our sins. He questions what the point of punishing an innocent person for the crimes of others could possibly be? Lewis says that it doesn't make any sense if one is thinking about punishment in the 'police-court' sense. It begins to make sense if you look at it from the perspective of paying a fine. That it is commonly accepted practice for one person to pay off anothers' debt (for whatever reason they may choose to do so).
So what's the 'debt' that man had that Christ was paying for (under this theory)?
"He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our `hole'. This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance."
Repentance, according to Lewis, "means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person—and he would not need it."
So that, according to Lewis' understanding of this theory, is why we needed Christ. We're unable to pay back the debt because we're in debt. He says that "this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death" is not something that God demands before he will take a person back, but that it is a description of what going back to Him is like.
My question/issue is this. Shouldn't going back to God feel good? I get that he's saying we're fallen, we've messed up and separating ourselves from the pride and whatever other sins we're attached to is going to fell bad. We're denying ourselves and telling ourselves that we were wrong for maybe the first time in our lives. But shouldn't it also feel good to do the right thing? You know, I'm just not really behind the whole idea that I have to feel humiliated in order to get back to God. I'm down with feeling humble, with feeling grateful. But humiliated? Or is this just me?
Anyway. So we can only experience repentance if God helps us. If he walks us through it, guides us. However, nothing in God's nature corresponds to what we need to do. Surrender, suffer, submit and die. And wow, that is actually really depressing when you see it like that. It's...very cultish in the bad way. Lewis' point here is not about the creepy factor I'm getting. It's that none of those things are things that have a corresponding nature in God.
So in order to show us what we need to do, to lead us, God had to take those things and make them a part of his nature. Hence, the Incarnation.
"But supposing God became a man—suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person—then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all."
But...but- but- but- this is not a problem with Lewis, but rather with the entire thing. Did Christ die? Yes. And I'm not about to say that it was easier for him than it would be for anyone else because he was God. If it is to be healed and perfected, it must be assumed. So Christ's suffering had to be the same as any other person's suffering. Or that's how I understand it. My 'but' comes in with the fact that while Christ's physical form died, *God* did not die. A God that dies is not eternal. So maybe it is a problem with Lewis' phrasing. Of course, all metaphor ultimately fails when trying to be applied to God because He is too big to be encompassed by human intelligence.