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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

You Don't Know Jack!

Garet, Dave, and I have all brought our own interests to this blog. I hadn't read all of the blogs that Garet and Dave linked to, so I felt it necessary to take a look. I was surprised to read a scathing indictment of C.S. Lewis at A Slice of Laodicea. I was even more disturbed to see Ingrid's commentors eagerly reply with links to fundamentalist sources that mingle slander with irrelevance.

I cannot say that I am impartial in this; Lewis is my favorite author. I endeavored to read all of his works and only have a little mop-up reading to do. I don't consider myself uniquely qualified to critique Lewis's theology, but I am confident that I know him in a way his critics do not. Lewis himself commented that reviewing a work that one detested was incredibly difficult; rage is not conducive to clear thinking. This can be the only excuse for the detestable way that Lewis has been cited on Slice of Laodicea. While the reader sees this:

There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it ... For example a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ's birth may have been in this position (Mere Christianity, pp. 176-177).

The reader does not realize that the context that this has been ripped from is a chapter on sanctification. Lewis is answering the objection that some unbelievers behave more morally than some believers. He is actually making a common grace argument. He also makes it clear that these people are often in the process of becoming Christians. In the sentence immediately before the passage cited, Lewis says, "There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so deeply attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they understand." Does this not sound like regeneration? Lewis's argument is that some moral non-Christians are moral because they are not as non-Christian as we think, but rather are elect.

A more damning quote could be taken from Lewis's final book in the Narnia cycle, The Last Battle. The entire book condemns syncretism, as the blasphemous "Tashlan" is repudiated as being neither the demon Tash or the Christ-figure Aslan. Aslan accounts service to Tash as service to himself in the case of one pagan. The argument is that he was serving Aslan the entire time. Before deconstructing this argument, I must note that Lewis explicitly states that things do not work the same way in Narnia as in our world. Your mileage may vary. But let's say that Lewis said plainly (and he didn't), "Explicit belief in Christ is not necessary for salvation." This would be heresy, but a heresy of a different stripe. This would be a strain of Calvinism-gone-awry, not mealy-mouthed universalism. You may ask yourself, "Can God save a man against his will?" Calvinists, (esp. Presbyterians) will respond with a rousing "Aye!" Realize then, that this belief without any qualifications is the same as the worst-case interpretation of Lewis.

Lewis was not without his faults; he confessed many of them openly. The worst, most grievous errors are in Reflections on the Psalms (read it for yourself). What readers must realize is that he saw the high tide of modernism, and did all that he could to turn it back. He spoke against the social gospel, the lack of doctrinal instruction in the Church, the Pharisaical tendencies of evangelicals, and the cancerous intrusion of liberal thought in theology. And he had a day job teaching Medieval Literature at Oxford and then Cambridge!

The articles that Slice of Laodicea's readership links to is even more disturbing in their wild accusations. The worst, of course, is that Lewis was a Catholic. Though it can be difficult to tell them apart from Anglicans at times(try it yourself with the picture above), this is a rather obvious mistake (or outright slander). Second to that is the scandalous revelation that Lewis smoked and drank. Let's see, call the guy a Catholic, point out the mortal sins of smoke and drink--what creed are we reading from? The Pharisee Fundamentalist "Distinctives." I predict that this whisper campaign will only intensify as the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe draws near. The usual "do not taste, do not touch" arguments are all there. Like Douglas Wilson, I commend the Fundies on their ability to fight, but save a little ammo for the enemy, wouldja? I would take the time to refute the ridiculous charges of paganism, but I trust you're the sort of folks who can see The Iliad as more than an incitement to sodomy and the worship of Zeus.

I challenge each of you to read God in the Dock, not with your X-ray heresy glasses on, but with an eye toward Lewis's style. He is writing for the average man in the pew, but he does not leave him with empty platitudes and forgettable anagrams. Even at his worst, he gives him something to disagree with. So much that is written today is either Orthodox and turgid or heterodox and insipid. Rather than step on Douglas Wilson's toes, read his much better peaen to Lewis's style in this back issue of Credenda. I hope that you will be blessed by finally knowing Jack.

Category: Gnat-Strainers


  • as I read that post about Lewis on "Slice", I thought: "is this about the smae Lewis who wrote the books I read and love"? I failed to realize to what extents legalism can go.

    By Blogger andrĂ©, at 11:16 AM  

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