Balance Reading Reza Aslan's 'Zealot' With C.S. Lewis' 'Mere Christianity'

08/22/2013 05:00 EDT | Updated 10/19/2013 05:12 EDT

There are a lot of blog posts and "millions of video hits" on author Reza Aslan's interview with Fox News's Lauren Green on the controversy of Green asking Aslan why a Muslim would write about Jesus. Here is a link to intrepid reporter Lorna Dueck's blog where she quotes Reza on his view of religion in general.

"It's not that I think Islam is correct and Christianity is incorrect," he told the Post. "It's that all religions are nothing more than a language made up of symbols and metaphors to help an individual explain faith."

Like millions of other people, I watched the Fox News interview with Reza, and I found him to be a very likeable guy, writing sincerely his "take" on Jesus.

But if you get a chance this summer, why not balance Reza's "liberal" take on the life of Christ with C.S. Lewis's conservative "take." And to help with this here is my book review of Lewis' famous book, "Mere Christianity."

Chapter one of Lewis' book is titled "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe." As if to say, science and technology are great, but the one thing that the equations of quantum-electrodynamics will not output for us is "justice."

To Lewis, the moral law that men and women ought to be unselfish, exists like mathematics, real, although immaterial (not made of atoms) and existing independent of our discovery of it. To Lewis, our only and best insight to the true nature of the universe, is the study of "Man" "himself." And this evidence reveals, says Lewis, "what is behind the universe is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know. That is to say, it is conscious, and has purposes..."

And so to explain this, as the master logician he is, he begins:

"Do not think I am going faster than I really am. I am not yet within 100 miles of the God of Christian theology. All I have got to is a Something ... which appears to me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong. I think we have to assume, it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know- and after all, the only other thing we know is matter and you can hardly imagine a bit of matter giving instructions."

And "Man", if nothing else, gets lots of instructions. And so Lewis wonders if at least some of these instructions are from "Something" "urging him to do right" "breaking through." Because, as a scholar, who has read the literature, Lewis says he has found, across all cultures and nations and times, that all the people share this "knowledge of a common goodness." Even though we don't always act upon it or follow it. And Lewis finds our excuses for not doing so are just more proof that this universal moral law exists in the first place.

I think science is giving Lewis more credibility all the time; what Lewis discovered by the study of "Man", science has discovered by relating the genome to computer programming; that this is an "intelligent universe." And I would hazard the guess that although the writings of the distinguished philosopher of science Dr. Thomas Nagel, in his new book, "Mind and Cosmos, Why the Materialist Neo Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False" are completely secular, that Nagel and Lewis share a common "intelligent universe."

And as Lewis says, he is still at least "100 miles" from the God of Christian theology, and so let's follow him this "100 miles" as a most fascinating journey.

It starts off with that clue again. Lewis writes:

"(As an atheist) my argument against God, was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. And so isn't it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power?" (This is the moral argument against God used by so many people today and it assumes that this world is all there is. But if this world were all there was, then we would not be here in the first place.)

And then, here is that clue again says Lewis:

"What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? ... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too - for the argument depended on saying the world was REALLY unjust, not simply that it did not please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist - in other words that the whole of reality was senseless - I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality - namely my idea of justice - was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple."

And then CS Lewis gets serious and he takes his premise:

"That our only and best insight to the true nature of the universe, is the study of "Man" "himself" and goes into an intense study of "Man" and world history. And Lewis was one of the most well read scholars in the literature of antiquity of all time. And it is a pleasure really, to consider his findings, as he has precised them for us in his books.

Lewis discovers that humanity's knowledge of good and evil, combined with selfishness and cruelty is a recipe for disaster. People need to be rescued from themselves, and something along those lines takes place, once and for all, in world history.

We all fail in our obligations to each other to love and protect and this is a real problem. Lewis discovers there is only one theme in world history that discusses this problem. And in an unexpected turn of events, the Christ makes a solution to the problem available, once and for all.

This is a longer quote, and finishes with Lewis's most famous quote. But this is where Lewis gets to the end of that "100 miles" and finds the God of Christian theology; the Christ. Lewis writes:

"That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended - civilizations are built up - excellent institutions are devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. ...

And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it. Secondly he sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those (strange) stories scattered all through (various tribal) religions about a god who dies and comes to life again, and by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was - that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.

Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He were God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. ...(He said He was God, ...a being outside the world, who had made it....) And when you have grasped that, you will see what this man said was quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips. ...(And he claimed to forgive sins and)... In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. 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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what he said or else a lunatic or something worse. Now 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."

Some "100 miles" eh?

And so, according to Lewis, the Christ did not intend for people to be able to ignore Him because He claimed to be God. And His disciples will always make Him known because He came not to condemn the world but to save the world. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He is the "Prince of Peace" who said "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God." And He is "a type of a King", a King unlike any other, a King worthy to be praised. And He is God.

P.S. Lewis believed in evolution and long ages where perhaps cosmic rays produced "God directed" mutations. And that evolution was intelligently designed. And then he spends much of the rest of the book talking about the "Next Step" in evolution. Lewis writes, "... It is a change that goes off in a totally different direction - a change from being creatures of God to being sons (and daughters) of God."