A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something very reasonable and partly something that is not reasonable at all. The reasonable part is this. If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions… then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary… [Unreasonable] They may also demand before they believe in Christianity that they should see the whole world neatly divided into two camps – Christians and non-Christians—and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second (p. 207-208).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Imagine two different team sports – basketball and “Red Rover.” In basketball you have starters and reserves; stars and role players. You can have a great team without everyone on the team being great; some do one thing well, others have potential and are working hard to mature. The team easily transcends any given player.
In “Red Rover” each team stands in a line with hands united and selects one person (the obvious weakest player) from the other team by saying, “Red rover, red rover send Billie right over.” Billie must then try to run through the opponents line, but he was selected because he was the least likely to be able to do so.
This image helps us understand the reasonable and unreasonable aspects of what Lewis is pointing out in Christianity’s critics.
The reasonable part of their critique stems from the basketball imagery. If any player is “on the team” then he/she should be showing some improvement that would help the team succeed. Not every Christian will be a star, but even role players should show advances in the fundamentals of the game – character (humility), worship (awed by better things), and understanding (ability to apply the gospel). If not, then the “coach” (God) is not who He claims to be.
The unreasonable part of their critique is revealed by the “Red Rover” imagery. When a team is judged by its weakest link (based on whatever criteria is most relevant at the moment), there will be a distinct competitive disadvantage.
Even if a team’s best play is judged by every moment of performance it will not tell the whole story. Michael Jordan missed more potential game winning shots than he made. No one would say that those moments of performance define his sports legacy.
This rebuttal does not prove that Christianity is true. Neither is it meant to defend anyone who does repugnant things in the name of Christ. It’s not even meant to defend me when I fail to live up to the standard of Christ, for whom I try to live as an ambassador.
It is merely an attempt to answer an honest question raised by many believers and non-believers. We shouldn’t assume that questions are raised by those who disagree with us or even those who are disagreeable. As you read through this discussion an important question to ask yourself would be, “Was I imagining winning an argument or taking a step towards winning a person to Christ?”