One thing I enjoy most about the Christmas holiday season is having more time to read than is typically afforded in my schedule during other times in the year.
In addition, when my family exchanges gifts, as part of our Christmas tradition, I am usually given books as Christmas presents. (Insert appropriate praise dance as a book-lover!)
One year I was happy to receive the gift of an unfamiliar book by a familiar author — God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis.
God and Man: An Odd Role Reversal
In the essay which bears the same title as the book, Lewis makes some keen observations about modern people’s view of God and sin and Christian preaching.
What he says is as relevant today as it was when he first wrote it. He writes,
“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 those who shared the “good news” in earlier centuries.
Bringing an ‘Unwelcome Diagnosis’
Consider again 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. [Man] is the judge: God is in the dock [that is, on trial]. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defense 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 truly the case. Man has put himself in the position of judge and (in human minds) God is on trial.
This is backwards thinking.
In reality, God is the judge (albeit a kind and gracious judge) and we are the ones who will be judged (Hebrews 9:27, Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12).