Thursday, 31 October 2013

Christian truth and importance

On a visit to Cambridge, I had a flier pressed into my hand by a campaigner for a Christian evangelical organisation. 

It announced a series of lectures on the legacy of the novelist and outstanding Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, whose words it proudly quoted:

‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.’

This is a striking illustration of the notion that a statement needs only to be made sententiously to carry weight. If it is attributed to a man of recognised authority, its significance and profundity seem proved beyond challenge. But it equally demonstrates that however brilliant and authoritative you may be, you’re not proof against fallacy, especially a fallacy that seems to reinforce your preferred position.

C. S. Lewis:
proof that not even brilliance is a guarantee against fallacy
In this case, Lewis is indulging in an excluded middle. There are, after all, other possibilities than the two alternatives he presents. Just for the sake of argument, consider one of them.

What if Christianity happened to be false but was still followed by 3.3 billion people around the world? That’s the number who regard themselves as Christian and they would be, if the religion is false, victims of a major illusion. Now that may not make Christianity infinitely important, but the sheer number of believers in an error would mean we couldn’t regard it as unimportant either.

Perhaps we might toy with the idea that its importance lay somewhere between the two extremes Lewis offers us.

Might we in fact not think that, in these circumstances, Christianity was moderately important?

Whatever Mr Lewis might have to say on the matter. 


Anonymous said...

If Christianity is false, a huge IMPORTANT fraud would have been committed.


Anonymous said...

It went all wrong, the text was meant to be: Or put another way, if it's important to you, were you to find £1m., would it be unimportant were you to lose the same amount?