C. S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
General Teachings/Activities see also Review of Mere Christianity
C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, the younger of two sons; he was named Clive Staples Lewis. He claimed to have been converted to Christianity in 1931 and was, as he put it: "A very ordinary layman of The Church of England." (Lewis was a member of the apostate Church of England, an institution whose history is based largely on theological compromise with Rome.) He had no theological training. He was the author of 40-plus books which included poems, novels, children's books, science fiction, theology, literary criticisms, educational philosophy, and an autobiography.
From 1954 until his death, he was professor of medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University. Today, C.S. Lewis is known as a distinguished literary scholar and Christian apologist. Mere Christianity (a book upon which the beliefs of many professing Christians are based) is considered one of the most profound and logically irrefutable writings on Christian apologetics. Nevertheless, even this book is fraught with theological error. (For example, the concept of "mere Christianity" means agreeing on a small common denominator of Christian truth, while tolerating great areas of disagreement.)
- In 1993, Christianity Today explained why C.S. Lewis is so popular among Evangelicals. Among the reasons given for his popularity was the following "Lewis's … concentration on the main doctrines of the church coincided with evangelicals' concern to avoid ecclesiastical separatism" (Christianity Today, 10/25/93). CT admits that C.S. Lewis is popular to Evangelicals today because, like them, he despised Biblical separation. As an indication of Lewis's continued popularity, annual book sales remain over two million ( half of which comes from The Chronicles Of Narnia series, an occult fantasy series written for children -- see the end of this report for an analysis of Lewis's morbid fascination with occult fantasy). In an article commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lewis's birth, J.I. Packer called him "our patron saint." Christianity Today said Lewis "has come to be the Aquinas, the Augustine, and the Aesop of contemporary Evangelicalism" ("Still Surprised by Lewis," Christianity Today, 9/7/98). Wheaton College sponsored a lecture series on C.S. Lewis, and Eerdmans published "The Pilgrim’s Guide" to C.S. Lewis. In April 1998, Mormon professor Robert Millet spoke at Wheaton College on the topic of C.S. Lewis. In a recent issue of Christianity Today, Millet, dean of Brigham Young University, is quoted as saying that C.S. Lewis "is so well received by Latter-day Saints [Mormons] because of his broad and inclusive vision of Christianity" (John W. Kennedy, "Southern Baptists Take Up the Mormon Challenge," Christianity Today, 6/15/98, p. 30).
- By the time of his death, Lewis had moved from Idealism (no idea of a personal God) to Pantheism (an impersonal God in everything) and then to Theism (the existence of God). In Letters to Malcolm (p. 107), Lewis indicates that shortly before his death he was turning toward the Catholic Church. Lewis termed himself "very Catholic" -- his prayers for the dead, belief in purgatory, and rejection of the literal resurrection of the body are serious deviations from Biblical Christianity (C.S. Lewis: A Biography, p. 234); he even went to a priest for regular confession (p. 198), and received the sacrament of extreme unction on 7/16/63 (p. 301). His contention that some pagans may "belong to Christ without knowing it" is a destructive heresy (Mere Christianity, pp. 176-177), as was his statement that "Christ fulfils both Paganism and Judaism ..." (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 129). Lewis believed that we're to become "gods," an apparent affirmation of theistic evolution. He also believed the Book of Job is "unhistorical" (Reflections on the Psalms, pp. 110), and that the Bible contained "error" (pp. 110, 112) and is not divinely inspired (The Inklings, p. 175). Lewis used profanities, told bawdy stories, and frequently got drunk with his students (5/19/90, World magazine). Christians need to read more critically The Abolition of Man, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, The Great Divorce, and God in the Dock. For example, Lewis never believed in a literal hell, but instead believed hell is a state of mind one chooses to possess and become -- he wrote, "... every shutting-up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind is, in the end, Hell" (The Great Divorce, p. 65).
If it is true to say that 'you are what you eat,' then it is also true to say that 'a Christian is what he hears and reads,' since this is how he gets his spiritual food. Thus if Christians are brought up on a diet of C.S. Lewis, it should not surprise us to find they are seeking 'to continue the legacy of C.S. Lewis.' The apostle Paul said, 'A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump' (Gal. 5:9). Thus, if evangelicals read and applaud such books as Mere Christianity, it should come as no surprise if we find them ‘working towards a common mission’ with the enemies of the gospel. The young Christian should be very careful what he reads, and those in positions of authority (pastors, teachers, parents) should be very careful what they recommend others to read (Dr. Tony Baxter, "The Enigma of C.S. Lewis," CRN Journal, Winter 1998, Christian Research Network, Colchester, United Kingdom, p. 30).
- It is difficult to
attempt to evaluate the theology of a man regarded by many as the greatest
contemporary lay writer for the Christian faith. With his witty English
humor, sharp and simple logic, and seeming loyalty to the tenets of the
Christian faith, C.S. Lewis won the admiration of thousands in England and
here in the United States. Nevertheless, the following is such an attempt.
For the sake of argument, references are made only to points of disagreement
(GD=The Great Divorce; LM=Letters to Malcolm, M=Miracles,
MC=Mere Christianity; PP=The Problem of Pain; RP=Reflections
on the Psalms, SJ=Surprised by Joy, SL=The Screwtape Letters):
On losing salvation: "There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians ..." (MC, p.162). "... a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it" (MC, p.49).
On being "Born Again":
"... ye must be born again. Till then, we have duty, morality, the Law. A
schoolmaster, as St. Paul says.... But the schooldays, please God, are
numbered" (LM, p.115). [Note: In context, to be "born
again," for Lewis, is somewhere down the road yet (MC, pp.59,60).]
On animals in heaven:
"The redemptive function" of man toward animals -- "It seems to me possible
that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the
immortality of their masters" (PP, pp.136,139-140). Lewis also pictures
animals in heaven as partaking of the Christ-life through a saintly woman (GD,
(a) Although the free will of man and the sovereignty of God were both propounded, it is difficult to clearly delineate their inter-play as presented by Lewis. Man seems to be always presented as making choices as a result of his own self-will; yet in his own conversion, Lewis seemed to think that he was almost compelled to believe.
(b) It is most unfortunate that theistic evolution had pervaded Lewis's theological climate, as it led him to a non-literal interpretation of the Scriptures. It was also the beginning of a lower doctrine of anthropology and ensuing doctrinal deviations. This position eventually affected all of Lewis's doctrinal concepts, even his concept of salvation.
(c) To substantiate his view concerning total depravity, Lewis overlooked the clear statement of Scripture that our righteousness is like filthy rags and that there is none that are doing good. He looked at the subject from man's point of view rather than from God's as revealed in the Bible. What he referred to as "animal nature," should instead be termed "sin nature" or the "natural man."
(d) C.S. Lewis's most outrageous misunderstanding was that concerning the purpose of the death of Christ, which of course mars all subsequent propositions about the effects of the cross and salvation. Tragically, he did not hold to the Substitutionary Atonement, but saw Christ's death as something analogous to the Roman Catholic concept of the storing-up of grace. It is distressing to find the large number of references to loss of salvation and ceasing to be Christians. Lewis realized that "mere improvement is not redemption," but that redemption results in transformation was foreign to him. Rather, he thought that transformation is the process of redemption. Lewis conceived of Christians as being born again rather than being born-again once -- he viewed salvation as a process rather than an act.
(e) We find some rather strange ideas concerning those who are Christians. Lewis made the distinction between those who are saved through Christ (everyone) and those who are saved and know Him. Lewis seemed to think that there is sufficient revelation in other religions for God to covertly direct man's attention to this revelation and bring salvation without knowing of the particulars of Christ.
(f) Lewis held to one of the most fallacious errors of our day -- that God accepts those that are sincere even though they are very wrong. The Church of England's influence on his theology was also evidenced by his belief that the Christ-life is spread by baptism and communion as well as belief.
(g) In his speculations on the hereafter, Lewis is to be criticized for being so extra-Biblical. At times, his speculations are so much of a contrast with the plain statements of Scripture as to become absurd to the Bible reader. Perhaps the most striking example of this is his attempt to get animals into heaven through partaking of the Christ-life through their human masters.
[See also "Did C.S. Lewis Go to Heaven?," by John Robbins, November-December 2003 The Trinity Review.]
Note on Lewis's "Christianity": The following excerpt is from "A Conversation with Thomas Howard ..." (a Roman Catholic), considered one of the foremost experts on the life and work of C.S. Lewis (12/6/98). It again raises the question: Why do today's "evangelicals" view C.S. Lewis as a true Christian?
Q: I have not read the whole book [JACK: C.S. Lewis and His Times, by George Sayer, a biography about C.S. Lewis], but someone drew my attention to a certain section describing a holiday where George Sayer, C.S. Lewis and C.S. Lewis' wife, Joy, went off to Greece. C.S. Lewis attended some Greek liturgies and a Greek wedding. I was quite surprised that Sayer quotes C.S. Lewis as telling him that of all the liturgies he'd ever attended, he preferred the Greek Orthodox liturgy to anything that he had seen in the West, Protestant or Roman Catholic. Then he went on to say that of all the priests and monks that he had ever had the opportunity to meet, the Orthodox priests that he ran across in his sojourn in Greece were the holiest, most spiritual men he had ever met. C.S. Lewis referred to a certain look they had, a sense.
I know you are a scholar and an expert on C.S. Lewis, so I'd like your comments. I find it odd to read this pro-Orthodox statement stuck in the middle of a biography being sold by a Calvinistic, Protestant publishing company. This brings up a point: isn't it strange that C.S. Lewis is an "evangelical hero" when he certainly cannot be described as Protestant, let alone "evangelical" in the classical sense?
Howard: You've put your finger on a very, very interesting point. I had an article in a Roman Catholic magazine called CRISIS several months back on this very point: on C.S. Lewis and his evangelical "clientele." Not only is it an irony, it is a contradiction. Lewis would have been appalled by the evangelical adulation of his work. He would have been horrified, even enraged by a lot of what he would see today in American evangelical circles. He was not a free church evangelical. C.S. Lewis was a sacramentalist, an Anglican who really did not want to pursue the ecclesiological question further than he did. He resisted, rather angrily sometimes, the Church questions. But he was not at all attracted to Protestant evangelicalism, or even Anglicanism. Actually I can bring it in closer than just George Sayer's speaking about C.S. Lewis' attraction to the Greek Orthodox liturgy. Lewis himself, and I probably can find the quote for you, in one of his letters, I think it's in LETTERS TO MALCOLM, Lewis speaks of having been at an Orthodox liturgy and he said he loved it. He said some stood, some sat, some knelt and one old man crawled around the floor like a caterpillar! He absolutely loved it! [Bold added.]
Lewis' good, very close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, the man that wrote the hobbit books, was a very devout Roman Catholic and tried hard over the years to budge Lewis across the line. He got nowhere. Lewis would not speak about Church questions. We only know for sure that C.S. Lewis loved the Orthodox Church, though, of course, he never joined it and remained in the Anglican Church.
Q: Speaking just as a layman, it seems to me that the "theology" you get out of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE GREAT DIVORCE, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS is Orthodox. I was recently rereading THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS and Lewis has a section where Screwtape (the lead demon writing to the little demon, Wormwood) says something like, "In misleading your Protestant convert, the best thing to do is get him to pray extemporaneously; make sure that above all he does not pray the liturgical prayers his mother taught him; let him think that everything he says is original." When I read C.S. Lewis I hear an Orthodox voice. I hear a sacramentalist and liturgical traditionalist writing. How do evangelical, let alone fundamentalist, Protestants read C.S. Lewis and think that they are reading someone who is on "their side?" [Emphasis added.]
Howard: Maybe I'm being a little bit naughty, but the answer is, probably the same way they read the Bible! You and I would say the Apostolic Church is there, in its seed, in the Bible, but apparently it's possible to read the Bible as a Protestant for sixty or seventy or eighty years and never see it! By the same token, Lewis' evangelical American "clientele" simply don't get it. When C.S. Lewis speaks of the blessed sacrament, they don't hear it. When Lewis speaks of the prayers of the Church, they don't hear it. When Lewis speaks of auricular confession, which he practiced, they don't hear it. I think when Lewis smokes a cigarette or drinks his whiskey, they don't see it, either; not that that's on the same level as his ecclesiology! (Laughter) C.S. Lewis would have been very, very ill at ease with his eager North American free church clientele. Very, very ill at ease and out of his métier. [Bold added.]
[This section has been excerpted and/or adapted from a 1985 Media Spotlight Special Report: "C.S. Lewis: The Man and His Myths."]
In spite of what many believe to be brilliant exegesis on Christian apologetics (In light of the above, one wonders which of Lewis's books these people have been reading?), there appears to have been in C.S. Lewis a seemingly irresistible attraction to the shadow world of occult fantasy -- a mingling of darkness with light evident in writings apart from his apologetics. As a child, Lewis's fertile imagination was greatly influenced by fantasy and fairy tales told to him by his mother. His brilliant mind was quick to seize upon these experiences, and his favorite pastime became drawing what he later called the "anthropomorphized beasts of nursery literature." He and his brother referred to them as "dressed animals" (C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, p. 6).
Lewis's early favorite literature included E. Nesbit's trilogy: Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Wishing Carpet, and The Amulet -- all occult fantasies. Even after having been a professing Christian for twenty-five years, he maintained, "I can still read with delight" (p. 14). So much was Lewis's life steeped in fantasy that he wrote, "The central story of my life is about nothing else" (p. 17). From Nesbit and Gulliver he advanced to Longfellow's Saga of King Olaf and fell in love with the magic and pagan myths of Norse legend. By the age of twelve, there had grown in Lewis's mind an intense relationship with the world of fantasy and elves: "I fell deeply under the spell of Dwarfs -- the old bright-hooded, snowy-bearded dwarfs we had in those days before Arthur Rackham sublimed or Walt Disney vulgarized, the earthmen. I visualized them so intensely that I came to the very frontiers of hallucination; once, walking in the garden, I was for a second not quite sure that a little man had not run past me into the shrubbery. I was faintly alarmed ..." (p. 55). Although one would expect childhood fantasies to subside after a time, in Lewis's case they became more a delight as he grew older.
When Lewis was sent to boarding school in Hertfordshire, England, his first impression was one of revulsion toward the unpleasant urban environment compared to his Irish countryside. He immediately hated England. Of this same time he writes, "I also developed a great taste for all the fiction I could get about the ancient world: Quo Vadis, Darkness and Dawn, The Gladiators, Ben Hur ... the attraction, as I now see, was erotic, and erotic in rather a morbid way ... what I took to at the same time, is the work of Rider Haggard; and also the 'scientification' of H.G. Wells ... The interest, when the fit was upon me, was ravenous, like a lust" (p. 35).
After advancing to preparatory school at Wyvern, Lewis gradually "ceased to be a Christian." He became interested in the occult and embraced an attitude of pessimism about what he considered a faulty world. His taste for the occult was nurtured and grew as he became enthralled with Wagnerian operas and their Norse sagas derived from Celtic mythology.
At the age of twenty-seven, after having been elected Fellow and Tutor in English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, C.S. Lewis met John Ronald Reuel Tolkien at a meeting of the English faculty at Menton College (5/11/26). J.R.R. Tolkien, though wary of Lewis at first, enrolled him in the "Coalbiters," a club founded by Tolkien for the study and propagation of Norse mythology. The two became close friends, sharing their common interest in occult fantasy. Tolkien argued that there is an inherent truth of mythology: that all pagan religions point in the direction of God. Through this faulty argument, Lewis reasoned the story of Christ to be a "true myth" -- a myth much the same as others, but a myth that really happened.
It was during their long association that both Lewis and Tolkien developed their most prestigious "sword and sorcery" material. Tolkien, of course, became well-known for his mythological tale, The Hobbit, and his later work, The Lord of the Rings, released as three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Lewis turned to expounding intermittently on Christian apologetics and to writing fantasy.
Perhaps the best-known fantasy from Lewis's pen is the seven-volume The Chronicles of Narnia. In it some see a parallel to the warfare between God and Satan. Many of Lewis's fantasies see the great lion, Aslan, as Christ. This because Aslan lays down his life to free the children from the curse of the evil witch (believed to represent Satan). He possesses knowledge of a greater "magic" than that of the witch -- a magic that brings him back to life and destroys the witch's power.
It is argued that in presenting a blend of fantasy with analogy to Christian truth, Lewis hoped to encourage his readers to search out the truth further. This, however, was not Lewis's intention in writing his fantasies. Rather, he was genuinely enamored of mythology and believed the "Story" to take precedence over any preconceived moral. In Lewis's own words:
So we see that Narnia was not by design Christian allegory. Yet even if Christian allegory or analogy was Lewis's intention, the fact is that the truth of God, when couched in terms less than accurate, is open to question. Aside from the fact that when presented as myth the truth may be mistaken for myth, no clear understanding can be forthcoming without prior knowledge of the truth -- in which case the allegory or analogy is useless. In any case, it is dangerous to present evil as good, and magic as synonymous with the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 5:20, Acts 8:9-23).
Many of Lewis's characters in his fantasies depicted as "good" are in reality associated with witchcraft, pagan mythology, and the Norse mysteries. They are, in fact, gods of nature. And magic in these stories is used for either "good" or "evil" purposes depending upon the source of that magic. One of the more pronounced confusions of good and evil is Till We Have Faces, Lewis's retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, written just a few years before his death. In this work, several ungodly concepts are espoused as valid truths. One such is a strong hint at universalist doctrine:
When such ideas are presented by one of the chief protagonists, heralded as a purveyor of wisdom by the author, one cannot but think the author also believed that way. So, too, one might for this same reason think Lewis looked upon suicide as an acceptable act:
Was Lewis necessarily aware of his error? He apparently saw no incompatibility between his professed faith and occult fantasy. His imagination, welded upon fantasy in preference to what he considered a faulty reality, set the theme for his writings and became the basis for confusion by readers who perceived them as "Christian" allegory.
While millions accept Lewis's apologetics as evidence of a genuine faith [mistakenly so, in our opinion], they forget that he was a fallible human being whose writings in total must be subjected to testing by God's Word. We see in Christian bookstores Lewis's treatises on Christian thought along side his occult fantasies. It has apparently escaped notice that Lewis is highly respected among those involved in occultism. In fact, there has developed a cult of sorts which venerates the fantasies of Lewis along with those of other writers who do not claim to be Christians. Evidence of this is the fact that Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia is listed along with other occult writings as recommended inspirational reading by the makers of the demonically-oriented game Dungeons and Dragons!
To some degree, we've all been infected by the world's philosophies. But those philosophies should be discarded as we come to a knowledge of truth. Yet, it's difficult to discard them when they are perceived as "Christian" allegory. While there may be insights into life that are profitable to be found in the works of C.S. Lewis, we think it not wise to encourage young or untaught Christians to feed on such a presentation of so-called Christian truth. Some may be readily attracted to Lewis's style and logic, but let us not be blinded and thus miss the plain and simple truth of Scripture.
* A prime example of how a fantasy novelist is able to weave truth and untruth and fact and fable, thus distorting God's Word, is found in the C.S. Lewis book The Last Battle of The Chronicles of Narnia series. Young people who read this book are falsely led to believe that all the sin and evil that a person has committed, in serving Satan, can in the end be counted as service rendered to God!
Lewis is teaching damnable false doctrine here, and it is even more wicked, in that it is intended for the indoctrination of children. First, according to Lewis, those who sincerely serve the devil (Tash) are actually serving God (Aslan), and will eventually be accepted by God. That is the heresy of Universalism, believing that God will somehow receive unbelievers and followers of false religions into Heaven even though they do not know Jesus Christ in this life. Furthermore, Lewis is teaching that salvation can be achieved by works and religious seeking, and that is a false gospel that is cursed of God in the book of Galatians. (Source: 5/29/01, FBIS.)
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