I loved this essay; in fact, it was perhaps my favorite essay of the class so far. The question grabbed my attention right away, "Can't you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?" Sometimes I worry that Christianity can become like glorified advertising. It just seems a little weird that some churches use the same marketing techniques as they do with businesses. I don't know, it just gives me the uneasy feeling that we're trying to "advertise Jesus," or manipulate people into a relationship with the living God. I would give a resounding AMEN to Lewis when he says, "Christianity is not a patent medicine." It's not like, "You need one Jesus pill and you'll get into Heaven for free." It sounds like an infomercial.
The question about living a good life without Christianity has deeper implications, says Lewis, that, "I don't care whether Christianity is in fact true or not... All I'm interested in is leading a good life." As Lewis wrote a few sentences later, "If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all."
I totally agree that "those who know the truth and thosewho don't should be equally well equipped for leading a good life." Both Christians and non-Christians would agree on things, obviously, but when it comes down to it, there are practical differences: their approaches to education would be different and their conceptions of individuals vs. groups and the universe. The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe, and they can't both be right!!
I was kind of skeptical when Lewis wrote that concerning Socrates, Confucius, and J.S. Mill, "I hope and believe that the skill and mercy of God will remedy the evils which their ignorance, left to itself, would naturally produce for them and for those whom they influenced." Later Lewis wrote, "Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed." I don't think the Bible teaches that....
But I'm back on the same page as Lewis when he began talking about the man who asked this question. Lewis believed that this man was really saying, "Need I bother about it? Aren't good intentions enough to keep me safe and blameless without knocking at that dreadful door and making sure whether there is, or isn't, someone inside?" That is problematic, likened to a man who won't go to the doctor with pain because he's afraid of what the doctor might say. That is what Lewis calls a state of DIShonest error.
Lewis admitted that Christianity does do a person good, but in becoming a Christian, people must learn that, "Mere morality is not the end of life." In fact, "a decent life" is nothing compared to the Divine Life to which we are called. Lewis wrote that the "rabbit" in us must disappear.
The essay concludes with, "The idea of reaching 'a good life' without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up 'a good life' as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence."
I just loved this essay because so often I see this "convenience story Christianity" or "ATM God" fallacy coming up in my own life. God used to fit in to my schedule, and that was it. It has taken a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that God never promises it will be easy. He never promises that life will be happy and we'll get whatever we want when we want it. Often I've found my prayers to be like me using an ATM, like, "God I want this, this, and this. Oh, and this! And make sure to do this. Gotta go!" I've also seen this approach in the church, at U of M, and even within my own family. I found Lewis' insight on this topic to be fascinating.