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View Full Version : Correction! I misquoted C. S. Lewis.



Richard Amiel McGough
03-18-2013, 11:44 AM
Here is a quote from a post where I seriously misquoted C. S. Lewis.



Christ's promise that he would return in the first century is the greatest failed prophecy of all time. It cannot not be denied. This is why C. S. Lewis, commonly known as the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century, said that Jesus Christ and his disciples were DELUDED! :eek: Here's the quote (http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/eschatology/how_to_share.htm):
The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, "This generation shall not pass till all these things be done." And He was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. (Essay "The World's Last Night" (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)
How can Christians think they have the truth if the greatest apologist said Christ and his disciples were deluded and the Bible contains false prophecies? Why should anyone believe the Bible?

I was checking that quote for accuracy and found it in context (http://books.google.com/books?id=7YYhHvuNNzIC&pg=PA385&lpg=PA385&dq=The+apocalyptic+beliefs+of+the+first+Christians +have+been+proved+to+be+false.&source=bl&ots=JRvU5ST91p&sig=4_EA0_iyDjuUMCwPkEbjr402tqQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1j1HUZreGJP8qAG72IDICQ&ved=0CFYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=The%20apocalyptic%20beliefs%20of%20the%20first%2 0Christians%20have%20been%20proved%20to%20be%20fal se.&f=false) on Google books. As it turns out, Lewis never said that Christ or the disciples were deluded. He simple put those words in the mouth of an imaginary skeptic so he could answer them. The page where I found the quote (http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/eschatology/how_to_share.htm) altered it to make it look as if those words were Lewis' own words when in fact they were not.

Here is the quote in context. Lewis was discussing difficult passages of the Bible. He then notified the reader that there was "worse to come" and then presented the skeptics charge that Christ's apocalyptic prediction (Mark 13:30-32) was false. Be careful to note how he uses quotes. I've added italics to the words of the skeptic for clarity. Lewis' own words are not italicized:
But there is worse to come. "Say what you like," we shall be told, "the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, 'This generation shall not pass till all these things be done.' And He was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else."

This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. That they stood thus in the mouth of Jesus himself, and were not merely placed thus by the reporter, we surely need not doubt. Unless the reporter were prefectly honest he would never have recorded the confession of ignorance at all; he could have had no motive for doing so except a desire to tell the whole truth. And unless later copyists were equally honest athey would never have preserved the (apparently) mistaken prediction about "this generation" after the passage of time had shown the (apparent) mistake. This passage (Mark 13:30-32) and the cry "Why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) together make up the strongest proof that the New Testament is historically reliable. The evangelists have the first great characteristic of honest witnesses: they mention facts which are, at first site, damaging to their main contention.

The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of the theologians is that the God-Man was omnniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined. Nor indeed can the unconsciousness in sleep of Christ be imagined, nor the twilight of reason in his infancy ...
So here we see that it was not Lewis who said that Christ and the disciples were deluded. He merely put those words in the mouth of the skeptic for the purpose of answering them. Of course, Lewis did say that Christ's apocalyptic prediction is "certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible." And his attempt to spin this failed prophecy into proof of the honesty of the gospel writers is pretty pathetic in my opinion, but that's for another post.

I'm thrilled that I found this error so I could tell the world that I WAS WRONG and so demonstrate the path to truth for all who seek it.

I just wonder why no Christian thought to check the facts to defend their faith?

I'm posting this here in the Skeptics' Zone because fact checking for truth is the essence of skepticism.

Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.

Don't let your mind be a septic tank!