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Apologetics and “reluctant conversion”

I'm working on a talk whose title was given to me in advance: Liar, Lunatic or Lord.

It's the famous trilemma popularised by CS Lewis.

"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 patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to...."

It's brilliantly put and it highlights the absurdity of a mild reaction to Jesus.  The Son of  God splits the world.  Amen.

But just read on to the rationale that's informing Lewis's argument:

... 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."  Mere Christianity

Does that strike you as odd?  "Drat and blast, I'm logically impelled to worship Christ as Lord!  I wish it were otherwise but I'm trapped by the logic of it."

Of course, that was Lewis's own testimony - "the most reluctant convert in all of England."

But Lewis was also brilliant at capturing the imagination - narrating Narnia then inviting us through the wardrobe.  Yet how often do we simply follow the approach of this passage in Mere Christianity?  "I know you won't want to admit Jesus as Lord, but here's the water-tight argument that will force your hand!"

If that's the note we strike - are we really communicating the kind of Lord that Jesus is?

7 thoughts on “Apologetics and “reluctant conversion”

  1. Glen

    Not sure that Lewis would want "all" praise. And this post isn't wholly praising him. But I know what you mean and you might reluctantly convert me to your point of view.

  2. Hin-Tai

    Perhaps the reluctance isn't because of the way we describe Jesus Lordship in itself, but because of the flesh's fundamental desire for autonomy? We might think and know that Jesus is a good Lord, but our flesh still rages on in its habitual enmity against Him, and the reluctance stems from the latter. We reluctantly profess Christ as Lord because there is still a large and significant part of us that is hostile against God... just some tentative thoughts...

  3. curiouscatlady

    Yeah I agree with Hin Tai... There's always are part of us that is reluctant because we battle with sin. But! I'd never go back to before my non-Christian self for the whole world!

  4. Will

    It's worth remembering that Lewis' 'reluctant conversion' was, as he put it, a conversion only to theism. His description of his actual conversion to Christianity doesn't seem to have any reluctance in it. I suspect in the bit you've quoted here he is only speaking in the abstract.

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