C. S. Lewis, the late professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University, was one of the most popular, thought-provoking Christian apologists of the Twentieth Century. In his book on the problem of pain, he acknowledges in his Introduction that Christianity actually "creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless...we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving." On the other hand, as he also points out, merely discarding Christianity creates the problem of explaining why, if "the universe is so bad...humans ever came to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?" He then follows this statement with a mini case for Christianity, discussing four religious elements.
The first three elements are: (1) experience of numinous awe, (2) consciousness of a moral law which we both approve and yet disobey, and (3) identification of the "Numinous Power of which we feel awe" as also being "the guardian of the morality to which [we] feel ablation." Lewis perhaps rightly contends that these experieces are neither "the result of an inference from the visible universe" nor a logical deduction "from the environment and [our] physical experiences." He then contends that our religious experience must be either "a mere twist in the human mind, corresponding to nothing objective and serving no bioligical function...or else it is a direct experience of the really supernatural." Religious experience and thought may indeed be a "twist in the human mind" that nevertheless has a useful function without necessarily being an actual experience of the supernatural. Anyone interested in finding out more about how religious thought may have developed without invoking the supernatural may consult Pascal Boyer's excellent book, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (New York: Basic Books, 2001).
The fourth religious element Lewis discusses is the Incarnation as follows:
"Either he [Jesus Christ] was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else he was, and is, precisely what He said. There is no middle way. If the records make the first hypothesis unacceptable, you must submit to the second."
Far from being cogent, this argument would make an excellent example of an either/or fallacy for textbooks on logic. It is also called the fallacy of "incomplete enumeration." Christ could have been mistaken about himself without necessarily having to be designated an "abominable lunatic," and he could be misrepresented in the Gospels. These rational alternatives show that the dilemma presented by Lewis for the unbeliever is false. Having introduced how Christianity causes the problem of pain, Lewis then proceeds to deal with it via the free-will defense.
In his chapter on "Divine Omnipotence," Lewis states the following:
"We can...conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will...at every moment...But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void."
However, the contention that free will necessarily includes the option to commit wrong actions is erroneous. Am I less morally free if I am only able to care lovingly for my little dog and incapable of choosing to abuse him? Is my moral freedom diminished in the least by my incapacity to terrorize mentally and abuse physically the woman I love? Are persons capable of choosing to do evil as morally free as those capable of only choosing good? Free will is always limited by the capacities and opportunities of any moral agent. Hence, there is no logical contradiction in conceiving of a limited moral freedom to choose only from among various good actions.
Furthermore, free will limited to choosing only good options need not diminish the total amount of free will. God creating greater capacities and opportunities for choosing good could replace the loss of the capacity to do evil. Consequently, since even Christian apologists acknowledge that free will is never absolutely free and since the option to do evil is unnecessary to possess limited free will, the free-will apologetic attempting to rationally explain evil in a world created by an omnipotent, loving God is fallacious. Another of the problems for Christian theology concerns a doctrine Lewis discusses in his chapter, "The Fall of Man."
Lewis says that, in the developed doctrine of the Fall, "Man, as God made him, was completely good and completely happy, but...he disobeyed God and became what we now see." This doctrine creates another problem, which Lewis states as follows:
"For the difficulty about the first sin is that it must be very heinous, or its consequences would not be so terrible, and yet it must be something which a being free from the temptations of fallen man could conceivably have committed."
The sin that Lewis suggests as being possible to someone completely good is "turning from God to self" or "self-idolatry." However, the notion that enyone completely good would commit "self-idolatry" or any other sin is self-contradictory. If turning to God and not to self is essential to being good, then a morally perfect agent ipso facto could never turn from God.
Near the close of his chapter, "The Fall of Man," Lewis suggests that "it would be futile to attempt to solve the problem of pain by producing another problem." However, this is just what Christian apologetics does with the problem of pain and evil. It introduces "solutions" that both fail as solutions and actually produce more problems--even when authored by C. S. Lewis.