Here is my vote – this C.S. Lewis gem – embedded in a quotation from the well-known Lutheran apologist John Warwick Mongomery:
“[My argumentation that the New Testament books need to be construed as reliable] rests solely and squarely upon historical method, the kind of method all of us, whether Christians, rationalists, agnostics, or Tibetan monks, have to use in analyzing historical data. Perhaps at this point we can understand why C.S. Lewis, the great Renaissance English scholar, in describing his conversion from atheism to Christianity, writes:
“Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “Rum thing,” he went on. “All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.” To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not-as I would still have put it — “safe,” where could I turn? Was there then no escape?” [read quote in full context here on PBS’s website]
Subsequently, says Lewis, “God closed in on me.” How “God closes in” when we face the implications of historically reliable New Testament documents is the subject of this chapter….” (Montgomery, Where is History Going? pp. 53,54)
I think that there is so much to reflect on regarding this quote.
Even if all atheists do not find themselves compelled by the “case for Christ” – this one had seen that there was a strong case. Further, interestingly, as Lewis points out, he did not go any further with this. On the other hand, the other atheist in the quote, Lewis himself, basically felt the walls closing in on him. The Hound of Heaven, relentless, was on the prowl.
For me, it is very significant to think of a quote like this in terms of its epistemological and theological significance. Although the Scriptures say that all are guilty before God (Romans 3), it also assigns a greater degree of guilt to persons who receive more light. Does God assign greater culpability to those who simply hear the eyewitness testimony of those who witnessed the resurrection? Or do they need to at least feel like the claim is perhaps worthy of their attention* – while still not believing it – before they can be accorded additional guilt? Or, in order for this to happen, do they perhaps first need to read C.S. Lewis on why Hume is wrong on miracles, John Warwick Montgomery on how faith is founded on fact, John Wenham on why the resurrection accounts are compatible, or J. Warner Wallace, N.T. Wright, or Michael R. Licona making an inductive case that it is more probable than not that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead?**
What gets your vote for Christian apologetics soundbite of the 20th century? Your reasons are your own – feel free to share them – and any questions the quote provokes in you – or not.
[NOTE: I have posted this at the Just and Sinner and Reformation 500 blogs as well. These sites get more traffic than mine, so if you feel led to comment you might choose to do so at one of those instead of this one.]
*We are capable of determining whether or not things that we may not really be interested in are nevertheless worthy of our attention – i.e. that it is good for them to “interrupt our lives”.
**Some might feel that such questions are not worthy of one who would have a “heart for the lost”, but I think that such questions are important for those who would endeavor to hold forth Christ and His gifts to the world. Or I can imagine some reading this and wondering: is it simply unworthy of a Christian, who desires to share God’s mercy with all, to think about God assigning guilt to persons (and should you just not be thinking about your own guilt?!) or just un-Lutheran to think about how particular attitudes or acts like these might be sinful? (after all, don’t you realize our main problem is sin and not sins?). I don’t think so. What do you think?