September 15, 2004


‘The Question of God’: The PBS Show (BreakPoint with Charles Colson, September 14, 2004)

It’s hard to imagine two institutions less associated with a classical Christian worldview than Harvard University and the Public Broadcasting System. That’s why it comes as a pleasant surprise that, starting September 15, the two will come together to give Christianity a chance to make its case against the secular alternative.

The two-part series, airing September 15 and 22, is called The Question of God. It’s based on the book by my good friend Dr. Armand Nicholi, a professor at Harvard Medical School and editor of the Harvard Guide to Psychiatry.

The book grew out of one of the most popular courses at Harvard: Dr. Nicholi’s “Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis: Two Contrasting Worldviews.” As we’re told, “arguably, few individuals have influenced the moral fabric of contemporary Western civilization more than Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis.” That’s because Freud and Lewis represent two clear worldview alternatives: secular materialism and theism.

Freud’s worldview led to moral relativism, while Lewis’s led to a belief grounded in absolute truth. Freud saw traditional ideas about God as illusory and even infantile—that is, that we imagine God, it’s wish-fulfillment in our own minds—while Lewis championed faith grounded in reason.

As Nicholi puts it, many of Lewis’s writings can be understood as replies to Freud’s theories, which makes studying them side-by-side especially fruitful.

Just as the book made it possible for non-Harvard students to benefit from Nicholi’s work, the PBS special now spreads the benefits even more widely.

-PROFILE: The Question of God (Ken Gewertz, 9/19/02, Harvard
-Dr. Armand Nicholi Dinner (Baylor U, March 31, 2003)

Dr. Armand Nicholi Jr., one of the world's leading psychiatrists on the question of God in psychotherapy, was the featured speaker at the inaugural Conference on Psychology and Faith.

-REVIEW: of The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C.S. Lewis (Gene Edward Veith, World)
-REVIEW: of The Question of God (Irv Letofsky, 9/15/04, Hollywood Reporter)
-BOOK REVIEW: The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (James Como, National Review)
Lewis’s Abolition: Best Introduction to Philosophy, Defense Against Relativism (Terrence Moore, September 2004,
The book that perhaps most successfully shows the necessity for objective moral truth written at a level young people can understand is C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. Though Lewis is best known as a Christian apologist, in this work he sets out to discover the foundation of morality for both Christians and non-believers. That foundation he calls the Tao, "the doctrine of objective value." According to the Tao some things are true and others false; some things are right and others wrong. These standards transcend time and place. Indeed, Lewis contends that we have inherited rather than invented these standards and that "there has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world." Unlike many philosophers, Lewis contemplates the possibilities of living outside the Tao, in other words, in a world of moral relativism. In such a world, all value judgments are arbitrary: they usually give way to the raw assertion of whim or power. If everything rests on opinion, then why should I not impose my opinions by force?

For young people to act virtuously, they must not only understand the difference between right and wrong; they must love the one and hate the other. Such responses emanate only from a rightly disposed "chest." According to Lewis, the modern problem is not so much a lack of reason as a loss of heart. Interestingly enough, Lewis attributes that loss of heart to modern education and especially to modern textbooks. Replacing one of those textbooks with The Abolition of Man might allow youth to recover their chests and find their voice against relativism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 15, 2004 5:50 PM

I checked my "local" PBS listings this morning for times. Guess what? While you all are savouring and digesting the greatest of the existential questions, I'll be watching "Al Martino in concert". @#$?&!!

Posted by: Peter B at September 15, 2004 12:48 PM

Colson should get out more.

Last night, my wife watched a PBS show about finding the 'real' tomb of Jesus. Can't get much more classically Christian than that.

PBS is also the network that let a bunch of true believers spend a week finding great meaning in Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.

I don't watch it a lot, but I've never, ever seen anything negative to Christianity on PBS.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 15, 2004 2:42 PM


Maybe Al will sing "Let It Be", "My Way", and other existential favorites for you.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 15, 2004 2:45 PM

Bill Moyers ran a PBS series on Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth", which has as morally relativistic and anti-Christian as anything I've ever seen.

According to Moyers, Jesus is just a rehash of the resurrected Eqyptian god myth, or Summarian myth, or Babylonian myth, or something.

MOYERS: Arent you undermining one of the great traditional doctrines of the classic Christian faith that the burial and the resurrection of Jesus prefigures our own?

CAMPBELL: That would be a mistake in the reading of the symbol. That is reading the words in terms of prose instead of in terms of poetry, reading the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation.

Posted by: Gideon at September 15, 2004 4:59 PM

Moyers was the one who spent about a week getting a panel of thumbsuckers to explain the profound meaning of Abraham sacrificing Isaac.

Not Christian, true, but it cannot be taken as anything but a genuflection to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 15, 2004 6:48 PM

In deference to OJs recommendation, TiVo will inhale the program this evening for my edification over the weekend.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 15, 2004 8:40 PM

So C.S. Lewis gets into a motorcycle sidecar and goes to the zoo on a foggy morning and when he gets there, he believes in Jesus Christ. Good enough for me, were do I sign up!

Posted by: Perry at September 15, 2004 11:00 PM

So Campbell is an anti-Christian for posing the possibility that the Resurrection might just be a metaphorical, poetic notion? So be it, but if you believe in it, then aren't you anti-every other religion in the world?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 15, 2004 11:39 PM