I have previously concluded that Atheism is too simple, however a equally simple viewpoint is what C.S. Lewis called 'Christianity–and-water', the view that says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right, ignoring and leaving out all of the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin, hell and the devil; as well as redemption. Both of those viewpoints are for children.
The Christian religion may look simple, but it is not. A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple enough, and it is, if you are content to stop there. However if you are not, and most of us are not, if you really want to go forward and ask what is really going on, you must be prepared for something much more difficult. If you ask for something more then a child’s religion then it is crazy to complain when that something more turns out to be not so simple.
There are lots of people out there who are not crazy or simple, but who have adopted the viewpoint that religion should be simple, and if it isn’t then it is too complicated for them to get their head around. They will say things like there really is a God then He would have made ‘religion’ simple, so that everyone can understand it. You will however notice that the argument of God making religion simple is missing the point, religion is not something God invented, rather they should focus on God’s statement to us of certain unalterable facts about his own nature.
Thus reality and religion is complicated, but more then that it is also frequently strange. It is hardly neat, and is never obvious, nor is it what you would expect. Look at the universe and find something that isn’t complicated, different, or something that you would have guessed. Reality is in fact usually something you would never have guessed, similarly that is one of the reasons to believe in Christianity. It is a religion that you would never have guessed, or made up; it has that subtle twist to it, which most real things have. You will either stay stuck in the children’s view of religion and the world or you will grow up. Because the problem is not simple and the answer is not simple either.
What’s the problem? A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, yet it contains creatures like you and me who know that it is bad and meaningless. There are only two views that address all the facts. The first being Christianity, which views the world as a good world gone bad, however we still retains the memory of what it should have been. The other view is one called dualism. Dualism believes that there are two equal powers behind everything. One good, and one bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight a never ending war.
There is just one problem with Dualism. The two powers or Gods – the good one and the bad one – are supposed to be independent. They have both existed from all eternity, neither made the other, and neither of them has the right to call itself God. Each, one would presume thinks it is good, and the other bad. One of them likes love, mercy, and forgiveness, while the other likes hatred and cruelty. If we call one the Good power and the other the Bad power, all that means is that we are agreeing with one of the two at the present moment. If ‘being Good’ means only joining the side you agree with for no reason, then ‘Good’ can not be called good. So what we must mean is that one of the two powers is actually wrong and the other right.
The problem with that is that as soon as you say that, then you have introduced a 3rd thing behind everything in addition to the two powers or gods. Some law or rule of good that one of the powers conforms to and the other does not. Now here’s the rub, since the two powers are judged by this standard, then standard or the Being that made the standard is higher up, then either of them, this being would in fact be the real God. So what we call good and bad is simply a another way of saying that one of these tow powers is in a right relationship to the ultimate God and the other is in a wrong relationship with Him.
Lets be honest, who likes being cruel and bad for its own sake, no one craves badness just because it is bad. There is always a good desire within it, be it money, power, pleasure, safety, love, etc. all as far as they go are good things. It is how one pursues them that changes it to evil. You can be good for the mere sake of being good (and I know some who are), but you cannot be bad for the mere fact of being bad. Ultimately badness is only spoiled goodness, and there must be something good before it can be spoiled.
Put more simply, to be bad the bad power must exist and have intelligence and self will. However existence, intelligence and free will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from a Good Power, A good God; for even to be bad, he must steal or borrow them from his opponent.
Sounds very much like the Christian viewpoint that the devil is a fallen angel. The devil is not a children’s story, he is a parasite, not the original. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given in goodness. All the things that enable a bad person to be evil are in themselves good thing- free will, cleverness, good looks, charming personality, existence itself. Which is why dualism does not work.
However Real Christianity (not that Christianity–and- water thing) goes much closer to dualism than people want to admit. Read the New Testament and there is much talk about a dark power. A mighty evil sprit who is held to be the power behind death, disease and sin. The key difference is that Christianity holds that the dark power was created by God and was good when it was created, but chose to go wrong.
Christianity agrees with dualism that the universe is at war, but not a war between independent powers, Christianity believes it is a rebellion, a civil war, and we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the enemy.
Yes we are in enemy occupied territory, and Christianity is the story of how the rightful king landed in disguise and is calling on all of us to take our part in a great campaign of sabotage. So the next time you are in church, realize that you are receiving a message from our allies: that is why the enemy is so anxious to keep us from going. I know that some of you are thinking right now, oh here he goes reintroducing the devil, with horns, hoofs and all. As far as the horns and hoofs, are concerned, I could care less. But this much I can guarantee you:
IF anybody really wants to know him better, don’t worry, if you really want to, you will; Weather you’ll like it when you do is an entirely separate question.
Try deepening your understanding with a great book by Timothy Keller called The Reason for God