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theopenlife
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Joined: 2007/1/30
Posts: 926


 The Theology of C. S. Lewis. Questionable?

An 8 minute .mp3 version of this post may be listened to
here, at [url=http://www.theopenlife/audioblog/20081121_C.S.Lewis_questionable_theology.mp3]http://www.theopenlife/audioblog/20081121_C.S.Lewis_questionable_theology.mp3[/url].

Greetings, brothers and sisters.

Regular visitors to SI, I ask for your patience with this delicate subject. I trust you accept I have no affections for needless controversy; with earnestness my desire is for the glory of God and the good of the Church. I believe by God's grace, I have sustained over the years a reputation for cordiality, regardless of differences of view on certain subjects, and entreat you to consider this post in good faith of my intentions and sobriety.

It is not without deliberation that I raise these issues, and, lest someone assume I am fond of 'hunting heretics', it is the sheer ubiquity of Lewis' influence which compels me to raise this flag. My hope is that godly men and women acquainted with the writing of C. S. Lewis, or with others who are, would lend judgment to some concerns presented below.

Was the theology of Lewis questionable? Should his works be recommended to new believers as 'mere' Christianity?

Before beginning, I would ask that others refrain from joining this discussion until they have read the entirety of the first post. This is to prevent redundancy, prejudice, and confusion. Thank you very much for using your freedoms considerately.

* * *

"The Theology of C. S. Lewis. Questionable?"

I rarely meet a professing believer who has not read something by C. S. Lewis, and few others who have not at least heard of him. My first encounter came at age 7, by reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Those books were like childhood companions to me. By late teens I had read many of his other books and considered Lewis the 'foundation of my thinking' and certainly my favorite author. Following my conversion at age 21, I gravitated to 'older paths', mostly to the works of the Puritans, Spurgeon, Pink, etc. However, I still take interest in understanding a man who has left such far reaching influences, especially upon mainstream Western Christianity. Lewis' works are required reading at many schools, including my Alma Mater, where students were encouraged to "begin at Lewis". Recently in a visit to Walden Bookstore I found the Theology section underpopulated with little more than some Roman Catholic books, two volumes of Augustine, and yet an entire shelf of Lewis. This has prompted a fresh consideration of his beliefs and impact.

Having returned to some excerpts from his books I have been deeply troubled at the discoveries made. To state them bluntly might invoke disbelief or charges of cruel misinterpretation. I need not battle, but will let his own voice speak for itself. A small selection of quotes will demonstrate a sample of what I speak of, but the bulk is contained in an article published by John Robbins, pastor and founder of the Trinity Foundation, and Evangelical Theological Society, Atlanta, GA. Whether or not Robbins had "and axe to grind", I care little for his opinions as for the statements of Lewis himself, which are presented in abundance.

Consider the article a part of this post, and necessary reading for entering this discussion in an informed manner:

[url=http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/205a-DidCS.LewisGotoHeaven.pdf]http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/205a-DidCS.LewisGotoHeaven.pdf[/url]

But first, here is a sample taken from the final book in Lewis' childrens series, The Chronicles of Narnia. For those unfamiliar, Aslan the Lion represents Christ, and in this chapter Aslan is pronouncing final and eternal judgment upon all creatures. Some are entering to the right, others sentenced to the left. Before him is brought a Calormene man, something like an Arab or Hindu, who has all his life served Tash, a false deity, such as Christians consider the Islamic Allah.

Quote:

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him [the Lion/Christ]. … But the Glorious One bent down his golden head … and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.

” … I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. ..
But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”

-The Last Battle, Volume VII of The Chronicles of Narnia




So, to review the essence of this passage, Lewis presents Aslan, the Christ figure, as crediting the good works and sincere devotion of this idol worshiper as sufficing for his entry into eternal paradise. Though the man served a false God, yet he served his idol in morally devout ways, and so his service is considered acceptable, even to the extent that he is welcomed into the Kingdom and is promised rewards.

Now I ask regarding Lewis, is he, or is he not presenting universal salvation for "morally good" people, by sincerity of conscience rather than grace through faith in the atoning work of Christ? Does he not contradict a host of passages which proclaim that "by the works of the law, no man shall be justified in God's sight", and that "they are condemned already, because they have not believed on Him whom God sent", and that "the wrath of God abides presently on them." Most of all, that the "salvation which is by grace through faith", "comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God", which requires preaching and receiving of the gospel.

Did Paul write in vain that, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"

And if being found so erroneous at the heart of basic Christian orthodoxy, what may Lewis' writings add to the message of the Gospel "by grace alone through faith alone"? Undeniably his writings contain certain valuable insights, but do not also the works of Aquinas and Aristotle? Should we commend their volumes to new converts? And this seems only the beginning of apparent violent departures that have somehow been ignored by the mass of shepherds who are charged to defend the flock.

Again, the article which has the wealth of excerpts is here:
[url=http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/205a-DidCS.LewisGotoHeaven.pdf]http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/205a-DidCS.LewisGotoHeaven.pdf[/url]

 2008/11/22 2:04Profile
KathleenP
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Joined: 2008/4/3
Posts: 228
Maine

 Re: The Theology of C. S. Lewis. Questionable?

Brother Michael,

Thankyou for your research and this post. I have long been leery of C.S. Lewis and his writings. I know many will disagree, but I adhere to the wholesome and sound words of Spurgeon, Pink, Sparks, etc.

Is C.S. Lewis questionable? Definitely.

The Lord BLess. Kathleen


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Kathleen

 2008/11/22 5:28Profile
HomeFree89
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Joined: 2007/1/21
Posts: 797
Indiana

 Re:

Since I don't have the book, I can't give you the page numbers, but in "Letters to Malcom" Lewis talks about praying to the dead.

Lewis' theology certianly is questionable. Thank you Michael for calling us to be Bereans!


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Jordan

 2008/11/22 11:39Profile
ccchhhrrriiisss
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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4499


 Re:

Hi Brother...

I agree that it is perfectly acceptable to question the doctrinal views or teachings of C. S. Lewis -- or any other man.

I remember telling a friend (who was a big fan of Watchman Nee) that I just didn't get much out of his words. Wow. You would have thought that this brother assumed that I had attacked the Lord! While Watchman Nee does say some interesting things, I just never thought that there was much that attracted me to his writings. I suppose that this is true of all of us...and even the "giants" and "pillars" of the faith.

Don't get me wrong: There are things that C. S. Lewis wrote that I entirely agree with! In fact, he provides some wonderful insight into dealing with certain issues. However, I look at him like I look at anyone else -- that they are thoughts of mere men. As men, we are all flawed and prone to error.

Even though I don't agree with everything said by men like Lewis, or Nee, or even to a lesser extent, Brother Ravenhill, it doesn't mean that I dismiss them as anything less than a man who believed himself as a lover of God. I don't agree with some things that some men say, but that doesn't lead me to spit upon or trample everything that they have to say.

I appreciate your encouragement here. We should TEST EVERYTHING (I Thess. 5:21) and not just the words or deeds of a few.

:-)


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Christopher

 2008/11/22 13:39Profile
White_Stone
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Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 1196
North Central Florida

 Re: ccchhhrrriiisss's post

Well said and worth repeating.

kind regards,
white stone


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Janice

 2008/11/22 15:00Profile
Miccah
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Joined: 2007/9/13
Posts: 1752
Wisconsin

 Re:

"Is there any minimum belief required to get into Heaven, or have we all accepted the [b]Antichristian notion[/b] that God loves all men and desires to save all, regardless of their beliefs? [b]Has the Universalism implicit in Arminianism[/b], which has been the majority report of American churches for almost two centuries, and which lately has erupted in the openness of God controversy, caused American Protestants to accept Lewis as a fellow Christian without question?"



This was taken from the article that you posted. Though I lean more Arminian, I am hesitant to read anything that calls one of the others beliefs as "AntiChristian".

Though I have always been hesitant with C.S. Lewis, the obvious anti-Arminian slant to the written article provided kind of turned me off to the rest of what the article was saying.

Thank you for sharing brother. I truly know that you wish to honor the Lord in all that you do :-)


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Christiaan

 2008/11/22 16:17Profile
sojourner7
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Joined: 2007/6/27
Posts: 1573
Omaha, NE

 Re: The Theology of C. S. Lewis. Questionable?

Lewis was not a theologian; he was an
apologeticist. He used logic and reason
to convince others of the existence of God,
and the need for faith.
He did not say he ever understood such
mysteries as the incarnate Word, the atoning
work of the cross, or the resurrection unto
eternal life !!


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Martin G. Smith

 2008/11/22 20:05Profile
MJones
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Joined: 2008/10/31
Posts: 320
Missouri

 Re:

Quote:

ccchhhrrriiisss wrote:

Even though I don't agree with everything said by men like Lewis, or Nee, or even to a lesser extent, Brother Ravenhill, it doesn't mean that I dismiss them as anything less than a man who believed himself as a lover of God. I don't agree with some things that some men say, but that doesn't lead me to spit upon or trample everything that they have to say.




Well put as one other poster has noted.

I am currently reading 'Yours, Jack' which is a collection of letters that he wrote. Since I enjoy writing letters/email, to me the book is facinating. But, as seems to be the primary concern, I am a mature Christian and know how to run over things I do not agree with. At least in this book, so far, the good far outways the bad.

There is one other thought I would like to add. When I consider where our focus should be, and the many distractions, both good and bad, that are at work to distract even the best of us, my first thought as I began reading the article referenced, was the enormous amount of energy this work took, not to mention that it was just one article of an entire book-in-progress.

We have to ask, did satan prompt one (Robins) to work against one of God's greatest promoters of the gospel (Lewis), or did God prompt one (Robins) to expose one of the greatest subverters of the Gospel (Lewis). One thing is sure, God would not prompt one of His own, to work against one of His own. Satan might, but God would not.

I don't know the man (Robins); he could be as good as gold, but still I long for us to better about laying aside our differences and rather to look for common ground as we try to represent God to a world that desperately needs Him.

I think it would be one thing to say in passing, watch this and watch that, but to devote this amount of energy toward something like this, in my opinion, does more to devide the kingdom than to unite it.

We all have our differences. I don't even agree with myself all the time. I don't believe God is so much after our resolving all our differences so we can agree, but rather, that we be willing to lay them aside so we can agree, but that's just me.


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Mike Jones

 2008/11/22 21:00Profile
crsschk
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Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re:

Quote:
I don't even agree with myself all the time.

Ah, kindered spirit!

Been awhile since I have read the book but thought this might also show another side ...


My dear Wormwood,

I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false," but as "academic" or "practical," "outworn" or "contemporary," "conventional" or "ruthless." Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result! Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it "real life" and don't let him ask what he means by "real."

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (oh, that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line, for when I said, "Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning," the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added "Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind," he was already halfway to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all "that sort of thing" just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about "that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safe guard against the aberrations of mere logic." He is now safe in Our Father's house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable "real life." But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is "the results of modern investigation." Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE


[i]Screwtape Letters[/i] C.S. Lewis


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Mike Balog

 2008/11/22 23:40Profile
Friedrick
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Joined: 2004/8/19
Posts: 110
Nicaragua

 Re: The Theology of C. S. Lewis. Questionable?

Dear theopenlife,

I think this has also become an essential read for this post:

Quote:

Even though I don't agree with everything said by men like Lewis, or Nee, or even to a lesser extent, Brother Ravenhill, it doesn't mean that I dismiss them as anything less than a man who believed himself as a lover of God. I don't agree with some things that some men say, but that doesn't lead me to spit upon or trample everything that they have to say. (chrrrisss)


As I pondered what you and others have posted I thought it would be very amussing to let Clive Lewis read our works and scrutinize what we have wrote. I wonder what he would have found scrolling through your posts if he were alive now. He was very found of critics you know, he might have enjoyed your company ;)

For the readers who have not read much of Lewis, this post is sufficent in showing no man is perfect. But do not hesitate to read his material. This is third, forth, even fifth hand information on Lewis, writers writting about writers, about writers... sick. Lewis wrote an essay in which he exhorted readers to always read the originals and then the comentaries.

"It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous." - Lewis, [i]The Abolition of Man[/i]

Edit: November 22, 2008 11:17pm - I originally wrote Charles Lewis, I corrected this to Clive Lewis.


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Joshua

 2008/11/23 0:15Profile





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