God in the Dock is a collection of previously unpublished essays and speeches from C. S. Lewis, collected from many sources after his death. Its title implies "God on Trial"[a] and the title is based on an analogy made by Lewis suggesting that modern human beings, rather than seeing themselves as standing before God in judgement, prefer to place God on trial while acting as his judge.
This book was originally published in the United Kingdom as Undeceptions: Essays on Theology and Ethics, while a shorter book, published by Fontana in 1979 and entitled God in the Dock: Essays on Theology, does not include many of the essays in this larger collection.
The editor states that the collection is a "very mixed bag". They are divided by the editor into Part I - "clearly theological", Part II - "semi-theological", Part III - "basic theme is 'ethics', and Part IV - letter arranged in the chronological order in which they were published" (quoted from the preface to the book). Thus, the following appears to be a misunderstanding of the book as it is actually presented to the reader.
The collection covers a wide range of topics but focuses primarily on Lewis' view of Christianity. The book is split into three sections, the first of which contains essays such as "Myth Became Fact", "The Grand Miracle", and "Is Theism Important?". These articles lay the groundwork for Lewis' apologetics, essentially establishing a starting point at which the true discrepancies between Christians and non-Christians become clear.
The second section of God in the Dock builds on that starting point and presents a persuasive argument for Christianity. In articles including "Revival or Decay?" and "Modern Translations of the Bible", Lewis defends authentic Christianity and draws a distinct line between Truth and Religion.
Lewis had already noted a distinct split between the religious and secular observance of Christmas. In Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus, Lewis relates as satire the observance of two simultaneous holidays in "Niatirb" (Britain backwards) from the supposed view of the Greek historian and traveller. One, "Exmas", is observed by a flurry of compulsory commercial activity and expensive indulgence in alcoholic beverages. The other, "Crissmas," is observed in Niatirb's temples. Lewis's narrator asks a priest "why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas?" He receives the reply:
- "It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left." And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, "It is, O Stranger, a racket. . . "
In the chapter "Evil and God," Lewis refers to "mellontolatry", or the worship of the future. He considers this to be unproductive IF the future is simply where the world is going, that is, a random walk. He believes that the world can hardly congratulate itself for having "arrived" at a future that is simply a place it has got to, if that is all that it is - Lewis in fact argues that there is more purpose than that, but that some choose to worship that alone.
Lewis also address those skeptical of the Resurrection of Jesus. Even if one interprets the crucifixion of Jesus as a strictly historical event, this doesn't preclude its subsequent mythologization. But neither does it negate its historicity. The claim of the Gospel writers is that Jesus' resurrection is a specific historical event.
- The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.
The final section of the book focuses on specifics. It addresses the logical fallacy Lewis named "Bulverism" as well as issues concerning religious observances such as Christmas. It answers some of the questions non-Christians have about Christianity.
These essays are not actually logically connected; rather, they have been collected together from various sources, by an editor not by the author. Some essays may have fit into other sections, but are organised by the collector of the essays as they are - posthumously.
- ^The English phrase "in the dock": in criminal cases in English courts, the accused is placed in the "dock" — a half height open-topped box.
- ^To be found near the end of the essay "God in the Dock" (pp. 200–1 in Undeceptions)[incomplete short citation]
- ^Lewis, C.S. (Hooper. Walter (ed.), London: Geoffrey Bles (1971); some references are to this edition
- ^see COPAC listing
- ^Undeceptions pp. 250ff
- ^Undeceptions p. 2
- ^Myth became fact, essay published in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, C. S. Lewis, Walter Hooper (Editor), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Reprint edition (October 1994; original copyright 1970 by the Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis) ISBN 0-8028-0868-9
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"Lewis struck me as the most thoroughly converted man I ever met," observes Walter Hooper in the preface to this collection of essays by C. S. Lewis. "His whole vision of life was such that the natural and the supernatural seemed inseparably combined."It is precisely this pervasive Christianity which is demonstrated in the forty-eight essays comprising God in the Dock. Her"Lewis struck me as the most thoroughly converted man I ever met," observes Walter Hooper in the preface to this collection of essays by C. S. Lewis. "His whole vision of life was such that the natural and the supernatural seemed inseparably combined."It is precisely this pervasive Christianity which is demonstrated in the forty-eight essays comprising God in the Dock. Here Lewis addresses himself both to theological questions and to those which Hooper terms "semi-theological," or ethical. But whether he is discussing "Evil and God," "Miracles," "The Decline of Religion," or "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," his insight and observations are thoroughly and profoundly Christian.Drawn from a variety of sources, the essays were designed to meet a variety of needs, and among other accomplishments they serve to illustrate the many different angles from which we are able to view the Christian religion. They range from relatively popular pieces written for newspapers to more learned defenses of the faith which first appeared in The Socratic Digest. Characterized by Lewis's honesty and realism, his insight and conviction, and above all his thoroughgoing commitments to Christianity, these essays make God in the Dock very much a book for our time....more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published March 24th 1972 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (first published July 2nd 1971)