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  1. Pingback: Mormon Matters Podcast on C.S. Lewis and Mormonism | A Motley Vision

  2. Can’t wait to listen this!

    There are much written about Lewis and Mormonism. Besides those linked above, these come to my mind:

    The Christian Commitment: C. S. Lewis and the Defense of Doctrine
    by William Clayton Kimball in BYU Studies

    The Last Battle: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism
    by Evan Stephenson in Dialogue

    Book “C.S. Lewis: Latter-day Truths in Narnia”
    by Marianna Richardson and Christine Thackeray
    also mentioned in

    1. Thank you, Niklas! Great to know of these sources. Hope it is okay that I copied these links into the episode description above. Let me know if not, and I will take them down there.

  3. Pingback: 157–158: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism | ChristianBookBarn.com

  4. First, loved this podcast. Like most Mormons, I am a fan of CS Lewis. I loved to hear about his youth. I had always been told that it was Lewis that brought Tolkien into Christianity – not the other way around.

    Regarding the source of objective moral values and duties, I view it differently than the way Lewis’ view was presented in the podcast and the way LDS thought (as articulated by Dan) usually articulates it. Both of these view seem to fall on both horns of the “Euthythro Dilemma” .

    I am not a philosopher, but I am going to do my best to articulate my view.

    In Plato’s dialogue, Plato records a conversation between Socrates and an attorney by the name of Euthyphro. During this conversation, Socrates asks Euthyphro the following question:

    Socrates: “ We shall know better, my good friend, in a little while. The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods?” (Written 380 B.C.E, Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Scene: The Porch of the King Archon)

    What Socrates is presenting is a two-pointed horn. What is being asked is, are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God?

    If the answer is in the affirmative to the former (which is the typical LDS view), God is subservient to the morally good and we should then worship that which is greatest; in this case it would be the morally good. I will acquiesce that Dan’s view is that God “works with the moral” good, but still “the good” resides outside of God and He recognizes “the good”. If the answer is in the affirmative to the latter, God is arbitrary (which is what I have found to be the predominant Islamic view).

    When one appeals to an authority that is higher than God (or outside of God which he recognizes as “good”), you are arguing that good acts are willed by God because they are morally good. When one states, “If God creates moral laws instead of being subject to them, God can also change them.”- the latter part of the Euthyphro Dilemma is being argued. That is, that God is being arbitrary because the morally good is morally good because they are willed by God. So, according to this logic, God could command that the raping of children is good, instead of being evil; which I had a dear Muslim friend actually tell me.

    My view (which some say is a version of the Divine Command Theory) avoids both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. It argues that morally good acts are neither willed by God because they are morally good, nor are they morally good because they are willed by God. It argues that the good is a necessary attribute of God. Just like there are certain attributes that are essential/necessary to make a cat a cat. If a certian animal were without “cat” attributes, it would not be considered a cat. God likewise has certain attributes that are necessary/essential to Him. He could not exist without those attributes.

    As such, God is the locus of good, justice, love, etc. As St. Anselm said, “God is by definition ,the greatest conceivable being and therefore the highest Good.” Since moral goodness is a great-making property, the greatest conceivable being must be morally perfect (as well as have other superlative properties). This view cleaves the two-pointed horn of the Euthyprho Dilemma. It makes the Euthyphro dilemma fall pray to the logical fallacy of a “false dilemma”.

    The Divine Command Theory of ethics makes God’s commands to us non-negotiable in the sense that we have a moral obligation to obey God’s commands. To disobey His commands is to fail to discharge our moral duties.

    With this view, it can be seen that to ask, “Who would be right, the person or God?” is a nonsensical question. It assumes that God can do evil and can do wrong, but He cannot. He is the standard of good. It is like asking, “What if an inch is not an inch?” – if one was looking at a ruler. An inch carries with it a necessary definition. A bachelor, by definition is a non-married man. God by definition is the standard of good.

    God creates moral laws as an expression of His essential nature. He does not “slavishly follow them” anymore than I am slavishly a human and not a cat by nature.

    This view of morality influences my interpretation of Alma 42: 13, 22, 25. What I am arguing (and I believe Alma is too) is that God is necessarily just and merciful. He cannot be God and not posses these two attributes. If so, he would cease to be God; not because he is subservient to some greater law (or recognizes the “good” and thus is willed by God) such as mercy or justice, but because they are necessary attributes of Him. It is only through the atonement that God can actually contain these two apparently opposite and contradictory attributes – mercy and justice (see Alma 42:15). Thus it becomes necessary for “God himself ” (see vs. 15) to atone for our sins so that these two necessary attributes (mercy and justice) can exist within the same being. I believe that is what Alma is teaching. I believe this is one of the great and unique contributions that the Book of Mormon brings to Christian thought. There are no indications that the Euthyphro Dilemma was part of mainstream Protestant thought during Joseph Smith’s time.

    I probably have thought about this a bit tooooo much.

    OK. Pull my arms out of their socket now.

    1. Great post, Michael. Thanks! Lots to chew on here. I especially really like
      the take on Atonement as possibly applicable to God’s containing (or their ability to
      hold in perfect union) both justice and mercy. I haven’t heard that before.
      Fresh. Fun to think about some more.

      Your post has also made me think it’s time for another episode in the Mormon
      Matters philosophy series! This time taking on arguments for the existence of
      God, what it means for God to be God (necessary or sufficient qualities, etc.).
      Will you be on it? Hope so! Whatever I say that follows will only be a start,
      so it would be great to really go for it in a live conversation. (Let’s talk in
      private about you being one of the panelist!)

      Briefly here, let me say that I don’t dismiss as possible where you land
      concerning God and qualities and locus for moral law, etc. I also see it as
      capable of inspiring great trust in God, providing a solid foundation from
      which to travel in spiritual seeking. Alas, however, in my own musings—equally
      I’m sure a result of much “tooooo much” thinking!—I have not ended up very
      close to where you have. And just as you have great touchstones with Mormon
      thought and scripture in your sense of things, I think I do, too. Makes this
      sort of back and forth lots of fun!

      Here’s a basic thought ladder for me:

      Fundamental stuff of the universe is uncreated (Mormonism and physical
      sciences can both feel comfortable with this)

      No dualism. Everything is ontologically “of the same kind.” Whatever
      differences we note are differences in degree—or form, in the case of elements
      that follow conservation of energy laws, etc. (Mormonism and physical sciences
      shouldn’t have problems with this. Obviously room for discussion but shouldn’t
      invite outright rejection.)

      Whatever this fundamental stuff is, it has some ability to act/react (some
      freedom). Whitehead also adds the idea that all of it is “experiencing,” which
      I like as an analog to JS’s language of everything being “intelligent.” Now, of
      course, we’re not talking self-consciousness/self-awareness at the most basic
      levels (that takes quite a bit of organization of these fundamental entities to
      create conditions that allow for consciousness or reflection). I also like to invoke at
      this point, Smith’s language from the King Follett discourse that every piece
      of this eternally existing element is “capable of enlargement.”

      Side note: These claims above place me outside Plato’s camp. No universals.
      No eternal “Forms” or Ideals that imbue or interact with matter. No “Catness”
      Form that all cats participate in/are imbued with that makes them cats and not
      dogs. Everything is particulars. If we notice family resemblances between
      various creatures (including at the DNA level), WE are the ones who give the
      label or make the claim about their “catness.” Same thing with Justice and
      Mercy. Not eternal in any way that “in-Forms” certain acts here and make them either just or merciful. All things we call just or merciful are simply acts that we choose to call those things. No Forms that demand satisfaction if not honored. No Being needed, in my opinion, to have these be essential attributes.

      So if not in any way “essential qualities” (and, hence, I also reject
      morality as a “great making” quality and therefore don’t find much I respond to
      in Anselm’s or any other ontological argument for existence of God), what does
      make something moral or immoral, right or wrong, better or worse? For me, it’s
      all simply a matter of these fundamental, eternal entities either interacting/collaborating and, in doing so, becoming larger, more
      intelligent/having more and richer experience (even at very unconscious
      levels), or remaining isolated and out of relationship with the rest. The
      universe, in my view, is wholly a case of “particulars” all in a dance, with
      some partnering up and, in so doing, gaining complexity and capacity for more
      experience, more freedom, while others remaining wallflowers, not participating
      as much as the others.

      Moving to Mormon language here (though there are analogs in physical
      sciences, I think), everything “acts for itself” (D&C 93:30); everything is
      capable of moving from grace to grace (or backwards from graces).
      Choosing/entering into “more relationship” (with everything else there is) is
      the way of growth and richness, choosing against relationship is the way of
      stagnation and decline. Pretty damn automatic. Basic processes of the universe.
      Movement in either direction brings its own reward and punishment, and they are
      purely expressed in that entities “power.” If you’re in relationship “with”
      more other entities, you’re simply more powerful and capable of more freedom
      than if you’re in relationship with fewer other entities or simply isolated.
      Add your own “light begets light” and other fun metaphysical-playground
      scriptural passages and phrases here.

      “Good” and “morally right”=choosing greater richness and power (and, of course,
      capacity for grief and pain). “Bad” and “morally wrong”=choosing against these
      things/against one’s own best interest. No God deciding these, no God meting out
      rewards and punishments. It’s all manifest at an energy level. Is the entity bigger
      and capable of more or less when it chooses this or that?

      It’s at all this “automatic” level/basic laws of existence given a universe solely
      made up of uncreated particulars that the action plays out that eventually
      allows the growth and richness and freedom that creates the conditions
      for greater self-direction, consciousness, and ultimately self-reflection. When we get
      to this level, we can begin to start imagining the emergence of Gods. And when Gods emerge, we can then talk about their being influential on all the other entities, but only in terms of calling and luring and “being big and attractive” to them, never coercive, ordering, impinging on freedom and the basic laws of empowerment that play out at the level of choosing more or less relationship with other things.

      These kinds of principles and vision of the “stuff” that everything is and
      might be if it acts in certain enlarging and enriching ways (despite all the pain
      of being in relationships that are painful) are why I love Mormonism. It’s why I can
      love a Mormon God.

      The version you present, if I read you correctly, is not a God that has really achieved anything. If goodness and morality and mercy and justice are fundamental attributes, there is no attainment. I can love this God for creating me and for the experiences I have, but not as “Father and Mother” and me as heir and same stuff as them on same path just in a different generation.


      Too long and not sure I’ve conveyed all that is essential to being
      understood. Basic thing, though: all eternal, all particulars—no universals
      (ontologically). Anything we think represents a universal is simply our
      reifying as a class or group things from our own (collective) experiences.
      Universe is churning energies driven by more or fewer, deeper or shallower
      relationality between particulars. Gods cease to be Gods should they to choose
      against bigger relationality. We choose to be Gods through processes of meeting
      every reality with openness to it, even when it hurts. Eventually this opening
      and opening simply becomes grooved/etched into our essence. Without compulsory
      means, all empowerment simply flows…

      I count all the above as Mormon. I think it’s a Mormonism that flows from JS’s
      (and a few others’) more metaphysical musings. There are important other levels
      in scriptures about God that seem to express different types of power: that God
      is a judge, that God rewards/blesses and punishes/withholds, etc. I view those
      as helpful in ways humans need sometimes, but when it all boils down to one’s
      own spiritual development, I think that process is all about handling the powers of the
      universe (powers of heaven) ourselves. Feeling the energy flow (mental,
      physical, soulful) that changes when we’re in and out of alignment with the
      basic laws of growth or diminishment. As we do that and stay in harmony/relationship, the law “becomes dead unto us,” and we simply operate out of our character built and re-built in our experimenting with relationship with others. Mormonism gives a great vision of a “be all that you can be” universe (and, in reverse, keep choosing against relationship and lose complexity such that you will end up as native element,
      refusing all light/interaction with other entities—outer darkness). It is a universe with Gods, but they are guides and encouragers and exemplars only.


      Fight back! (Here or perhaps on a future episode!) Thanks, again, for drawing this crazy mess of ideas out of me. Fun to write it up, even rushed as it is.

      1. Dan,

        Sorry for the delayed response. I think the highest compliment anyone can give me is to interact with my thoughts in a thoughtful and productive way. Boy, I am now treading in deep waters.

        1)Regarding matter being uncreated, I have wrestled with that for about a year. I agree that Mormonism is comfortable with it and that the physical sciences can be comfortable with that, but I don’t believe the latter is necessary. When I look at the different cosmological hypothesis regarding the beginning of the universe (and whether it had a beginning) the evidence for me points to the singular “big bang”. That there was nothing prior to that singular point and then time and space came into existence. Now this is hugely problematic with our Mormon theology. I don’t know if this view necessarily demands that I embrace the ex-nihilo view of traditional Christianity. In the King Follett discourse, Joseph said:

        “The word create came from the word baurau; it does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize, the same as a man would organize materials to build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos–chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles that can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized but not destroyed.”

        I noticed that Joseph is speaking of “the world”, while traditional Christianity is speaking of the universe. Could traditional-Christianity and Mormonism just be speaking past each other?

        2)Another thought I have been wrestling with revolves around Philo and the logos doctrine. Could things have always existed and be uncreated because they always existed in God’s mind (as opposed to jus the Logos)? Could this possibly be what Joseph is speaking of when using the words “intelligence” and “uncreated”?

        3)I don’t know if our becoming as our Heavenly Parents necessarily means that he just figured things out before the rest of us . And honestly, I don’t know what to do with the King Follett discourse. If there is a God above him, why don’t I worship him instead?

        4)I bristle a bit against the idea of things being labeled moral, because we choose to label them moral. But from what I gather, that isn’t entirely what you are saying. We call things moral because we are more in harmony with other entities, and we are immoral when we are out of relationship with those entities. Did I get that right?

        Your view is provocative. I believe God didn’t create us just because he was lonely. I think he created us because he wants us to be in a relationship with him and I think that goes along with what you are saying.

        I have been thinking about the temple and one of your guests spoke about the LDS concept of salvation and I loved it. For Mormons, salvation is not just individual, it is communal. Our salvation does depend on us “being in relation” to God’s other children. It seems that the main “doctrine” of the temple is to bring us in relation with our Heavenly Parents and with each other.

        I want to figure out a way to honor God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and other superlatives, while still maintaining the relational aspect that Mormonism teaches and that you have expressed. I don’t want God to just be someone that figured things out first and I don’t want a God that is only metaphorically my Father.

        Another thought that I discussed with my 16 and 17 yo priests when we were discussing the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the western tradition – are we homoosios, heteroousios, or homoousios with our Heavenly Parents? My boys thought we are homoosios.

        Ok. I am way over my head now. My brain hurts.


        1. Yes, excellent questions and I’ve observed some of the same things myself. Dan, I too think it’s time for another philosophy episode. The issues Michael has brought up are worth a great and fun discussion I think. As a side note I have to say I love the philosophy episodes. You’re my hero Dan. 🙂

          1. Thanks, Steve, for encouraging some more philosophy episodes! Will get some rolling!

        2. Hi Michael,

          Sorry for my few days’ delay. Life is definitely lifing!

          Re #1, great thought about JS perhaps only focusing on the world (this planet) and general Christianity thinking of the universe (all things). In my own musings I’ve also been working out of the assumption of a Big Bang beginning to the universe but even as I do so not really feeling forced to go to “ex nihilo” since whatever energy was contained in that singularity from which all else flared forth, it isn’t “nothing.” Along my theological way, I have grown comfortable with God(s) emerging sometime after that event (emerging “as Gods” as whatever elements that came together for them to be so influential in the universe as they have become were also part of the potentiality in that singularity), so I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking through alternative scenarios unless friends like you convince me I should.

          Re #2, simply doesn’t fascinate me for reasons above. I love talking about the Logos in philosophy and playing with it as informing aspects of how and why the writer of John would shape that Gospel the way he/she did, but since I don’t feel compelled to imagine a God or a God with a mind in which ideas dwelt prior to the beginning of all things, I haven’t spent much time on your question. I DO think your possibility that Joseph’s idea of all things being “uncreated,” and his use of “intelligence” are terrific, though, as part of a reflection that builds out from a starting point like yours.

          Re #3 and #4, the KFD definitely is interesting, and I like it and consider the germs there among the most attractive aspects of Mormonism. But I don’t in any way sense that Smith there is speaking from a position of having already figured it all out, or that the KFD is internally consistent. I love it as hunches shared to comfort and excite by embedding death and humans and Gods in a great story of primal elements and a universe finding a way forward. When it gets to the specific parts, however, such as God having a Father, who had a Father, etc., I just sit with it the way I sit with all other particular claims: there’s a power attached to ideas, and I honor the power of them as saying “something” about the universe, but I don’t feel like I have to attach all that much value to the specific language or metaphors used in conveying the ideas.

          I love swimming in the swirling energies that are evoked by KFD, and because the energies are so powerful, I really give the ideas a lot of weight (clearly there’s a correlation, a vibrational connection). But when push comes to shove, I don’t really invest in the language. “Father” and “Mother” are powerful names that carry much evocative power, but I don’t feel a big loss when I think of them in non-literal ways. I hear you and your wanting more literalness there. I get it. I’m not sure when it happened with me (but definitely gradually and as part of more mystical-type experiences) I have lost the ability (and the desire, even) to really think of eternities and our going on as “gods” as involving sex as part of the process of organizing and nurturing “spirits” from raw “intelligence”—so, in that way, “Father” and “Mother” as literal concepts are shaken a bit loose for me—but how big a part of parenting even here on earth is that aspect, anyway? Isn’t intimacy with another entity (that is simply a generation younger than us) who has its own desires and agency where the delight (as well as the pain) of parenthood comes from? Do we truly love something more because we have “created” it? And same thing in other direction: from children to parent? Once we acknowledge some help but not as an overriding cause that comes from various bonding hormones, isn’t it experience together, mutual sharing, and opening to the other the essence of love? Love, for me anyway, still works fine in a universe where no entity actually “creates” another (though I DO love language of how we co-create each other through our relationships, which are always internal as well as external).

          I don’t really like the term “moral.” I only use it when forced to since it is a category in philosophy that targets questions about what is “Good.” For me, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful are always interconnected. Any act that is “good” resonates expansively in both ourselves and others; any act that is “bad” diminishes resonance, isolates the actor from greater relationality. The resonance or dissonance, though, is a matter of fact (meaning it is playing in the realm of the True—the “that which is”). These changes in energy resonance are automatic, involving the fundamental facts of whatever we are as entities in this lively universe. It is these resonances between entities (entities that each have their own freedom and desires) that inform the realm of aesthetics (the Beautiful), for it is the liveliness of the surprise and flow as independent-yet-interdependent entities dance with each other that creates richness/depth or boredom/shallowness.

          I don’t believe there is a “Way Things Are Supposed to Be.” There is nothing external that can be pointed toward as a standard to measure against and say “Good” or “Bad” based upon our aligning with it (as a static perfection, anyway) or not. For me, the action is all about free actors taking in More, embodying More, delighting in the surprise of communion with other energies. Acting badly toward other entities—people, animals, elements/environments—diminishes us, makes us Less. I will assent because of philosophical convention to call such movement toward or away from greater richness as someone acting “morally” or” immorally,” but I am never imaging this is because they are interacting with a pre-set bunch of rules (a Moral Law) existing in a Mind. For me, everything is all playing out in our (energy) bodies. The involvement of Gods comes as we sense they are having more life and richness than we presently are, and we are attracted to their greater life and richness and seek it out and slowly “learn” their kind of lives, or we are afraid of it and all its uncertainty and risk and therefore hold back. Worlds without end, we can choose richer experience or not, and Gods will always welcome us, always beckon to us, for that is the character of beings like that since it’s greater relationality that is the secret to their enjoyments.

          My head hurts with the Trinity and the Greek terms. Whatever means we’re of the exact same stuff as everything else, including entities we have chosen to call Gods/Heavenly Parents, that’s my term.

          Cheers! Excited to have you on an episode soon!

  5. Pingback: The Mo Hub | 157–158: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism

  6. Pingback: Podcast: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism | Dialogue – A Journal of Mormon Thought

  7. This was awesome Dan and cast! It was fascinating to hear the friendship he had with Tolkein and others. I will look into it but does anyone know if he had friendships with the Lost Generations of writers/artists in France during the same period? Such different writing. Thanks again Dan.

  8. I am a non-LDS Christian. I loved this podcast as it came at such a great time. I listen regularly to Mormon Matters and love the varied material from process theology to centering prayer. On the Chronicles of Narnia, I always feel when reading that there is something I don’t understand yet is familiar. I can’t explain it, but something about Aslan stepping in to fulfill law from where? It seems familiar, yet distant. Thanks for this.

    1. Can you help me understand why you listen to Mormon Matters if you’re non-LDS? I applaud the ecumenism; I’m just curious.

  9. Pingback: 157–158: C.S. Lewis and Mormonism | The Mo Hub

  10. Pingback: This Week in Mormon Literature, March 8, 2013 | Dawning of a Brighter Day

  11. Pingback: Faith to Surrender / Surrender to Faith | Reflections

  12. Lewis was a trintarian. Perhaps Mormons should consider following him down the path of recognizing the deity and equality of the three persons of the trinity.

  13. Hey there, I’m coming into this particular room when everyone else has moved on, but I’ve been listening to MM for nearly three years and as we get MM, MS and lost of other podcasts etc off i-tunes, I actually only found this site recently!

    Just gave this twin episode another spin while gardening (who says lawnmowing has to be intellectually dead space! – a podcast is the best hearing protection, haha!) and I really love this discussion. I’ve read a fair bit of Lewis but clearly need to read all of it… off to the library tomorrow!

    The “true myth” idea is very rich… and reading some of the Bible stories that way is, in my opinion, a far richer experience than being constrained by fundamentalism to see them as “fact” (and worse, “fact” which subordinates scientifically verifiable facts). Metaphor points to things that cannot be adequately expressed by human language and concepts. How much smaller is our idea of God if we think we can bundle him up entirely, or even significantly, in our language and concepts? Metaphor and myth encourage reflection and deep thought, rather than the times-tables rote-learning approach.

    I was thinking about the folk tales of Hans Christian Anderson, and the collected tales of the brothers Grimm – anyone here read those? They too contain theological ideas… in these folk tales, God often travels incognito amongst the population, often in humble form snubbed by the “rich and important” – kind of like the tale of the Lazarus who died of want and went to Abraham’s bosom and the rich person who had ignored him was separated from him by a gulf and in anguish of his own making…

    I also remember one ludicrous Norwegian tale by Asbjoernsen of the smith who could not get into hell, which has Christ coming to a blacksmith’s workshop as a fellow smithy, and taking off the horses’ legs to dress their hooves more easily, and then magicking them back on afterwards. That was a wild tale!

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