The Question of God by Dr.. Armand M. Nicholi, JR. is an amazing read. Dr. Nicholi is a professor at Harvard and teaches a course on the comparative life and teachings of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. While these two men didn’t live at the same time, they wrote about many of the same things extensively and Nicholi lays their writings side by side on different issues. In the process he tells the story of both men’s lives. In Lewis’ earlier life he was just as avowed an atheist as Freud and would have agreed with most of his writings. Both men had people in their life who affected their thinking and who they admired for their work, who were devoted to Christ. Freud wrote admiringly of the Apostle Paul but was never moved by any of his friends or admiration to come to faith himself.
Lewis, had always seen faith in God and the life of Jesus as just another mythological story. In his early life he read many of the stories of mythology and assumed that the Bible and its claims were the same. It was later in his life as a professor that he became friends with other professors who were men of faith (among these were Professor H.V. V. Dyson and Professor J.R.R. Tolkien), whose lives he admired and whose scholarship was unquestioned. At the same time he noted that most of the writers whose works he admired the most were men of faith. G.K Chesterton’s work “The Everlasting Man” had tremendous influence on Lewis and his faith. Interestingly, Lewis came to believe in a creator before he came to believe the Bible or to believe in Jesus.
When Lewis finally read the gospel accounts he was convinced that the gospels were completely different from any of the mythological stories he had read. The gospel writers didn’t tell every detail or go into the background of people mentioned. When he saw Jesus and the claims he made compared to the life he lived he reached the conclusion that there was no way one can simply think of him as a good man. No other prophet or teacher ever made claims like he did. None ever came close to forgiving sins of people who hadn’t sinned against them. No one else would ever have said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Either Jesus is God in human form or he was a lunatic or he was the greatest deceiver of all time.
It is interesting to read the writings of Freud as he talks of his own feelings of hopelessness and loneliness but reaches the conclusion that faith isn’t the answer. He knew that faith in the lives of some he knew had made their life better and more cheerful, but he felt it was a delusion. The reality was that there was no one out there and that we needed to face reality. In some of his letters to friends who were believers there were times he seemed to wish he could believe, but notes that he never had a time of conversion like the apostle Paul.
In the book Nicholi lays out their writing and thinking dealing with pain and suffering, living life and death. If you are an admirer of either Freud or Lewis this is a worthwhile read. Interestingly, I had more admiration for both men after reading it. Both have tremendously affected the thinking of the world. Both were great thinkers and both went through times of desperation. I couldn’t help but wonder what might have happened in Freud’s life if he had met someone like C.S. Lewis’ who could have answered his arguments logically and forcefully.
I highly recommend the Book “The Question of God” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi. If you read it and are impressed by it, let me know.