当我看到Chris这个倒霉蛋问询开着法拉利的stockbroker：What did you do? How
did you do
He deserves it.
小的时候就经常疑惑活着的意义是什么, 这本书给了一个完美解答, the greatest
task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.
What Christians Believe
- The Rival Conceptions Of God
- The Invasion
- The Shocking Alternative
- The Perfect Penitent
- The Practical Conclusion
作者是不幸的人, 二战时与家人被抓进集中营, 九死一生,
在集中营中主动应用意义疗法, 帮助自己在险恶的环境中生存下来. 当然,
各种生存技巧, 好心人帮助, 医生身份, 及幸运都必不可少.
Over thousands of years, the cemetery understands the dead better than
people who are still living. In the endless and sleepless night,those
corpses without a soul buried beneath the heavy tombstones, interred
beneath the wet, dark and cheerless soil, giving ear to the sibilant
sound of whispering from the great, dead souls.
In 1961, Ernest Hemingway bore out his own gloomy destiny. He found a
shotgun on the ground and cocked it, put it to his brain and popped it,
leaving the scream “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
It is not a unique instance, but has its counterpart.
In the World War II, the Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig and his wife
both decided to commit suicide by taking excess tranquilizers and died
in Brazil, “out of purely voluntary and reasonable thoughts”. Also, the
Japanese short story writer Yasunari Kawabata is the only person who
witnessed another renowned Japanese author Yukio Mishima’s ritual
suicide. Afterwards Yasunari Kawabata also apparently committed suicide
in 1972 by gassing himself, without leaving any note.
Vincent van Gogh was down and out for his whole life, then he died in
the evening, 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself, “The sadness
will last forever”.
Robert Schumann, one of the greatest German composers of the Romantic
era, once jumped into Rhine River to commit suicide but failed, then he
suffered from severe mental disorder, finally died in a mental
Besides, really the most famous poets in Russia almost finished their
life by suicide, like Vladimir Mayakovsky,Marina Tsvetaeva, Sergei
Yesenin, Alexander Blok.
When it comes to The Myth of Sisyphus, one of Albert Camus’s
philosophical essay, the first sentences is that
Suicide: the one truly serious philosophical problem.
Everyone is cast into being to experience all kind of difficulties. Some
of them find their way to fathom the fragrance and fruitful harvest in
their life, but others only find the everlasting pain. The latter,
thinks the god deprive themselves of their right to live, but no one has
capacity to deprive their own choice of ending up their life. How they
are to live in this world is little more than limitless torment.
Once a charming piano concerto called Gloomy Sunday appealed highly
controversial dispute because the song accompanied many people until the
end of their life. However, in fact, this was just a wonderful and
contagious music, what the dying man listened to was the breath of
death, but people who were obsessed in love can feel the great love of
this music. To be honest, very often, those people who wanted to die
just need a reason, even if the reason is not worth mentioning, but it
can support them to fulfill the attempt that others may can not
In the movie of The Sea Inside, the story centers around the main
character Ramón Sampedro, who fights for his right of death for his
whole life, almost 26 years. Ramón Sampedro, who was an adept mechanic
in ship, suffered from an accident, which severely injured his neck,
causing him paraplegia of the upper limbs. He almost can not move, lying
in the bed all the time, only his head has the ability to move slightly.
He refused to condemn himself to the wheelchair. In his opinion,
accepting the wheelchair like the birds taking crumbs from strangers,
taking charity but lose dignity.
Ramón would always recall that special day, the day that changed his
fate, is always lingering about, at some deep level of his psyche. In
his illusory dream, he was standing on the beach, the sand burrowed deep
into the narrow space of his toes, the sea slept soundly in peace, but
filled with danger. His hair swayed gently in the crisp breeze, the
smooth surface of the rock reflected his shadow. He touched his neck,
turned around, the scene of the beautiful and sexy ladies in the remote
distance jumped into his eyes. Then he felt that his body was floating
in mid air, he realized that the tide was out, the shallow water forced
him to break his neck. It is a passing moment of life and death, the sea
gives him life, but mercilessly take away again.
Death, is just a part of life, everyone will arrive to this part
eventually. When others asked Ramón why he wanted to die, Ramón often
answered in brief that his life was worthless. Although his answer may
offend people who were also quadriplegic, in the same situation like
Ramón, but he did not mean to bring others to trail, he just explained
his own life. He can not understand for long time that death is the
inevitable result of everyone’s destiny, why they became so picnic when
he mentioned the word of “death”, like an infectious disease. As for
death, he never doubted it.
In the morning, if it was windy, the window was open, Ramón was able to
smell the feeling of sea. Sometimes a few birds frolicked at the corner
of the window, but most of the time, the scene was silent and peaceful.
The meaning of family stood out, his family member tried its best to
take care of him, but Ramón really thought that this kind of life had no
He even can not touch the elegant female lawyer called Julia. The
distance which was regarded to be neglected, but to him, it was still a
task he never achieved it. Whoever can notice that he had a crush on the
female lawyer, her appearing made the time slow down in this blue and
dreary house. But the problem was not about love or not, but was that
Ramón rejected to love.
That night, when he felt that Julia fainted behind himself, but he had
nothing to do except cried out the name of his sister-in-law
despairingly, again and again. He never let him be in panic like that,
even facing death. But he was afraid of living hopelessly like that way,
putting his whole life in such a hell, without movement anymore.
Death, maybe is the only highlight of his life. Actually, not only Ramón
Sampedro, someone, even able-bodied people are pursuing death. Because
what destroys their idea of survival is not the deformed part of their
body, but is the desperation in spirit.
1. The Rival Conceptions Of God
I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to
begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe.
If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other
religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do
have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole
world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free
to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at
least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to
persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about
the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was
able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does
mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions,
Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic-there is only
one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of
the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.
The first big division of humanity is into the majority, who believe in
some kind of God or gods, and the minority who do not. On this point,
Christianity lines up with the majority-lines up with ancient Greeks and
Romans, modern savages, Stoics, Platonists, Hindus, Mohammedans, etc.,
against the modern Western European materialist.
Now I go on to the next big division. People who all believe in God can
be divided according to the sort of God they believe in. There are two
very different ideas on this subject One of them is the idea that He is
beyond good and evil. We humans call one thing good and another thing
bad. But according to some people that is merely our human point of
view. These people would say that the wiser you become the less you
would want to call anything good or bad, and the more dearly you would
see that everything is good in one way and bad in another, and that
nothing could have been different. Consequently, these people think that
long before you got anywhere near the divine point of view the
distinction would have disappeared altogether. We call a cancer bad,
they would say, because it kills a man; but you might just as well call
a successful surgeon bad because he kills a cancer. It all depends on
the point of view. The other and opposite idea is that God is quite
definitely “good” or “righteous.” a God who takes sides, who loves love
and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another.
The first of these views-the one that thinks God beyond good and evil-is
called Pantheism. It was held by the great Prussian philosopher Hagel
and, as far as I can understand them, by the Hindus. The other view is
held by Jews, Mohammedans and Christians.
And with this big difference between Pantheism and the Christian idea of
God, there usually goes another. Pantheists usually believe that God, so
to speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the
universe almost is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist
either, and anything you find in the universe is a part of God. The
Christian idea is quite
different. They think God invented and made the universe-like a man
making a picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he
does not die if his picture is destroyed. You may say, “He’s put a lot
of himself into it,” but you only mean that all its beauty and interest
has come out of his head. His skill is not in the picture in the same
way that it is in his head, or even in his hands. expect you see how
this difference between Pantheists and Christians hangs together with
the other one. If you do not take the distinction between good and bad
very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this
world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really
bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must
believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things
we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a
slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine
point of view, you would realise that this also is God.” The Christian
replies, “Don’t talk damned nonsense.” (*)
[*] One listener complained of the word damned as frivolous swearing.
But I mean exactly what I say-nonsense that is damned is under God’s
curse, and will (apart from God’s grace) lead those who believe it to
For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the
world-that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and
tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God “made up
out of His head” as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a
great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that
God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.
And, of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the
world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to
listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on
feeling “whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t
it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any
intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated
attempt to avoid the obvious?” But then that threw me back into another
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and
unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not
call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was
I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole
show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was
supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction
against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not
a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.
Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was
nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my
argument against God collapsed too- for the argument depended on saying
that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to
please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that
God did not exist-in other words,
that the whole of reality was senseless-I found I was forced to assume
that one part of reality- namely my idea of justice-was full of sense.
Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe
has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning:
just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no
creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be
who has a “WHY” to live for can bear almost any “HOW”.
寻找生命的意义in work (doing sth significant), in love (caring for
another person), in courage during difficult times.
人会被外界环境严重影响, forces beyond control can take away everything
except the freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. Have
a why to live for enabled them to bear the HOW. life hold a potential
meaning under any condition.
2. The Invasion
Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view
that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water,
the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything
is all right-leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about
sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys’
It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are
not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting
at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made
of-all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit
my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my
brain-and, of course, you find that what we call “seeing a table” lands
you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end
of. A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple. And if you are content
to stop there, well and good. But if you are not-and the modern world
usually is not-if you want to go on and ask what is really happening-
then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for
something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the
something more is not simple.
Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are
not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy
Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for
a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to
explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed
adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and
that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they
are sure He would have made “religion” simple, because simplicity is so
beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they
will change their ground every minute and only waste your tune. Notice,
too, their idea of God “making religion simple”: as if “religion” were
something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite
unalterable facts about His own nature.
Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It
is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you
have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun,
you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match-all
at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly
increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as
you go farther from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that
we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them
have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a
Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That
is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could
not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had
always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is
not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer
twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these
boys’ philosophies-these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple
and the answer is not going to be simpler either.
What is the problem? A universe that contains much that is obviously bad
and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who
know that it is bad and meaningless. There are only two views that face
all the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that
has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have
been. The other is the view called Dualism. Dualism means the belief
that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of
everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe
is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war. I personally
think that next to Christianity Dualism is the manliest and most
sensible creed on the market. But it has a catch in it.
The two powers, or spirits, or gods-the good one and the bad one-are
supposed to be quite independent. They both existed from all eternity.
Neither of them made the other, neither of them has any more right than
the other to call itself God. Each presumably thinks it is good and
thinks the other bad. One of them likes hatred and cruelty, the other
likes love and mercy, and each backs its own view. Now what do we mean
when we call one of them the Good Power and the other the Bad Power?
Either we are merely saying that we happen to prefer the one to the
other- like preferring beer to cider-or else we are saying that,
whatever the two powers think about it, and whichever we humans, at the
moment,, happen to like, one of them is actually wrong, actually
mistaken, in regarding itself as good. Now it we mean merely that we
happen to prefer the first, then we must give up talking about good and
evil at all. For good means what you ought to prefer quite regardless of
what you happen to like at any given moment. If “being good” meant
simply joining the side you happened to fancy, for no real reason, then
good would not deserve to be called good. So we must mean that one of
the two powers is actually wrong and the other actually right
But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third
thing in addition to the two Powers: some law or standard or rule of
good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform
to. But since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this
standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and
higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God. In fact,
what we meant by calling them good and bad turns out to be that one of
them is in a right relation to the real ultimate God and the other in a
wrong relation to Him.
The same point can be made in a different way. If Dualism is true, then
the bad Power must be a being who likes badness for its own sake. But in
reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it
is bad. The nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life
people are cruel for one of two reasons- either because they are
sadists, that is, because they have a sexual perversion which makes
cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, or else for the sake of
something they are going to get out of it-money, or power, or safety.
But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good
things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in
the wrong way, or too much. I do not mean, of course, that the
people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that
wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some
good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness:
you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action
when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply
because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply
because cruelty is wrong-only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to
him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same
way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness
is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before
it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must
first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its
being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you
can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal
from the perverted. It follows that this Bad Power, who is supposed to
be on an equal footing with the Good Power, and to love badness in the
same way as the Good Power loves goodness, is a mere bogy. In order to
be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue in the wrong
way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be
able to pervert them. But if he is bad he cannot supply himself either
with good things to desire or with good impulses to pervert. He must be
getting both from the Good Power. And if so, then he is not independent.
He is part of the Good Power’s world: he was made either by the Good
Power or by some power above them both.
Put it more simply still. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence
and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good.
Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he
must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why
Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is
not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact
that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable
evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which
enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good
things-resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself. That is why
Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work.
But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from
Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think.
One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament
seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the
universe-a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death
and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this
Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and
went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at
war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It
thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part
of the universe occupied by the rebel.
Enemy-occupied territory-that is what this world is. Christianity is the
story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in
disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of
sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the
secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to
prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness
and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, “Do you really
mean, at this time of day, to reintroduce our old friend the devil-hoofs
and horns and all?” Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do
not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in
other respects my answer is “Yes, I do.” I do not claim to know anything
about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him
better I would say
to that person, “Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will Whether
you’ll like it when you do is another question.”
Search for Meaning. 他认为，人生的终极目标就是寻找活着的意义。他说，
作者讲到人生的无常, 一个排队, 去留, 甚至是否刮胡子的小选择,
都会直接影响人的生死, 用 humor, curiosity, surprise, apathy, hope,
uniqueness, dignity, inner freedom, inner decision, spiritual
freedom对抗死亡, faith in future, will to live,
3. The Shocking Alternative
Christians, then, believe that an evil power has made himself for the
present the Prince of this World. And, of course, that raises problems.
Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is,
He is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything
happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?
But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in
accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite
sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and
make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it
tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear
and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is
against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the
other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be
untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or
school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do
it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.
It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had
free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some
people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no
possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it
is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible.
Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will though it
makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love
or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata-of creatures that
worked like machines-would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which
God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely,
voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and
delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a
woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be
Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the
wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel
inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about
disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning
power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream
can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him
you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at
all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on. If God thinks
this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free
will-that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real
good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a
toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings-then we may take it
it is worth paying.
When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to
ask, as somebody once asked me: “Why did God make a creature of such
rotten stuff that it went wrong?” The better stuff a creature is made
of-the cleverer and stronger and freer it is-then the better it will be
if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow
cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a
child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of
genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best-or worst-of all.
How did the Dark Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to
which human beings cannot give an answer with any certainty. A
reasonable (and traditional) guess, based on our own experiences of
going wrong, can, however, be offered. The moment you have a self at
all, there is a possibility of putting Yourself first-wanting to be the
centre-wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that
was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man
had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. (The story in the
Book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption in our sexual
nature followed the fall and was its result, not its cause.) What Satan
put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could
“be like gods”-could set up on their own as if they had created
themselves-be their own masters- invent some sort of happiness for
themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt
has come nearly all that we call human history-money, poverty, ambition,
war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery-the long terrible story of
man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as
a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would
not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to
run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to
burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no
other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our
own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness
and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such
That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended-civilisations
are built up-excellent institutions devised; but each time something
goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people
to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the
machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a Jew yards, and
then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That
is what Satan has done to us humans.
And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of
right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying
(some of them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever quite succeeded.
Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those
queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god
who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given
new life to men. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent
several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was
-that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct.
Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of
the hammering process.
Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a
man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins.
He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world
at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like
the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with
God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He
was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language,
meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely
different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will
see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing
that has ever been uttered by human lips.
One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have
heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the
claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is
really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man
forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive
you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a
man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave
you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money?
Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his
conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were
forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their
sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the
party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences.
This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and
whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is
not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness
and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.
Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when
they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness
and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is
“humble and meek” and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were
merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we
could attribute to some of His sayings.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral
teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing
we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things
Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a
lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he
would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man
was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You
can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon;
or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not
come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human
teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.