Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CS Lewis Passes On Pacifism (Pt. 2)

In his essay Why I am Not a Pacifist, C.S. Lewis discusses the conscience as the means by which humans decide between right and wrong. A person's conscience is formed by their appraisal of the facts, by intuition, by reasoning, and by authority. One should always go where their conscience leads them, but their conscience should go where these factors lead it. In other words, if a man's conscience insists that he never utilize violence, then under no circumstances should that man utilize violence. But, Lewis would add, that man should re-look at the facts, intuitions, reasons, and authorities involved so as to come to a better conclusion (re-forming his conscience).

All of this was in response to the over-arching question "How do we decide what is good or evil?" Lewis accepted the "usual answer" of conscience. I was tempted to respond in protest. Isn't Christ himself to be our deciding factor? But, of course, even our understandings and interpretations of Christ get filtered by the facts that we perceive to be true, our intuitions, our reasoning, and our evaluation of authorities.

The rest of Lewis' essay is essentially a discussion of how pacifism stands or falls in light of these filters, which are not altogether different from what we call in my tradition "The Wesleyan Quadrilateral" (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience). With his word "authority" Lewis includes both Scripture and tradition. His word "facts" and "reasoning" both fit under the reason category. His word "intuition," I think, fits with our experience (which includes the experience of our emotions/sentiments). Lewis is basically putting pacifism up against the quadrilateral.

In part 3, we'll begin walking that path with him.

But before we get to that, I want to express my agreement with something Lewis says just before he begins that journey. He states, "Mathematical certainty is not here to be looked for." In other words, Lewis admits, as we all must, that when dealing with an issue as big as church vs. culture, war vs. peace, etc., and with as many factors as Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience... we are dealing with something too big and too complex to come to dogmatic conclusions about. There is legitimate debate about these issues. Good Christians will disagree.

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