God on Trial

What C.S. Lewis Said about Our View of God and Sin

Who does God think he is? What right does he have to tell you and me what to do, or to send us to hell if we break his rules? — Such is the thinking, or at least the attitude, of many people in our time. We act as if God is on trial.


One of the things that I enjoy most about the holiday season is that I have more time for reading than I do the rest of the year. In addition, when my family exchanges gifts as part of our Christmas tradition, I am usually given some interesting books as Christmas presents. This year, one of the books I was happy to receive was God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis.

God in the Dock

In the essay which bears the same title as the book, “God in the Dock,” Lewis speaks to the mindset and attitude that I referenced above.  He makes some keen observations about modern people’s view of God and sin and Christian preaching.

I believe what he says is as relevant today as it was when he first said it, which is why I want to share it with you. He write,

“The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes or Pagans, a sense of guilt. . . . Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, The Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.”

This statement resonates as true with me. It seems to me that there needs to be a different starting place for Christian witness now, in this generation, than there did with early Christian preachers.

Bringing an ‘Unwelcome Diagnosis’

What jumps out at me as most relevant is that last sentence: “We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.”

Lewis continues to say,

“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock.”

For many living in our time, including many young adults and university students, this is still the case. Man has put himself in the position of judge and God is on trial.

This is backwards thinking. In reality, God is the judge and we are the ones who will be judged (Hebrews 9:27, Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12). Yet, understanding the thinking of those in the culture, no matter how faulty it is, will serve to orient us as we seek to engage in Gospel conversations.

Question: How do you go about bringing the ‘unwelcome diagnosis’ to this generation, in a way that leads to understanding and hunger for the solution? How can we help others care about cure for sin that we offer in Christ? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.