I’m writing a review of C S Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion by John Beversluis. It’s a gripping read, at least if you’re interested in argument and belief and arguments for belief in god and the problem of evil and theistic epistemology and the difference between rhetoric and argument. Beversluis shows carefully and in detail what is wrong with Lewis’s various claims. It’s a gripping read if you’re interested in reasons for believing things, and if you’re not interested in that, you ought to be; everyone ought to be.

The most gripping chapter, in my view, is chapter 10, ‘C S Lewis’s Crisis of Faith.’ Beversluis argues (and shows, I think) that in his despair after his wife’s death Lewis (without admitting it) gave up his Platonist view of morality – that good is prior to god and good because it is good, not because god loves it – and was stuck with the Ockhamist view that the good is whatever god damn well says it is, no matter how horrible we think it is.

Beversluis points out (p. 291) that the Ockhamist view is philosophically untenable but also more compatible with the biblical God than the Platonist view is. There are a few people in the bible, like Job, who question god’s goodness from a moral point of view, but they’re ‘glaring exceptions to the standing rule that God is to be obeyed no matter what – that is, no matter how flagrantly his commands violate moral rules including the Ten Commandments.’ He cites some nasty examples (God stops Abraham from killing Isaac, but he doesn’t stop Jephthah from killing his daughter). Then he points out (p 292) that the Ockhamist god, ‘who is not good “in our sense,” is the god of ‘the vast majority of orthodox Christians, most of whom have never heard of the Platonist alternative and, when told about it, typically reject it out of hand. Orthodox Christians unhesitatingly believe that obedience to God is absolute and unconditional – that he is to be obeyed simply and solely because he is God.’

This is an interesting and deeply depressing thought.

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