Wednesday, August 24, 2011

C.S. Lewis Roundup

I have been immersed in C.S. Lewis lately. Many of his writings have been invaluable to me in recent days. George Sayer's 'Jack' is a bit too adoring, but has proved to be an excellent introduction to his life in which both the romantic and rationalistic sides of Lewis are drawn out, and in which the real man and his environment are well portrayed.

I have also recently found re-listening to John Piper's biographical message on Lewis very helpful. His introduction, with which I agree with every word, sets the stage for a very helpful biography:

My approach in this talk is personal. I am going to talk about what has meant the most to me in C. S. Lewis—how he has helped me the most. And as I raise this question, as I have many times over the years, the backdrop of the question becomes increasingly urgent: Why has he been so significant for me, even though he is not Reformed in his doctrine, and could barely be called an evangelical by typical American uses of that word?

He doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, 1 and defaults to logical arguments more naturally than to biblical exegesis. He doesn’t treat the Reformation with respect, but thinks it could have been avoided, and calls aspects of if farcical. 2 He steadfastly refused in public or in letters to explain why he was not a Roman Catholic but remained in the Church of England. 3 He makes room for at least some people to be saved through imperfect representations of Christ in other religions. 4 He made a strong logical, but I think unbiblical, case for free will to explain why there is suffering in the world. 5 He speaks of the atonement with reverence, but puts little significance on any of the explanations for how it actually saves sinners. 6

In other words, Lewis is not a writer to which we should turn for growth in a careful biblical understanding of Christian doctrine. There is almost no passage of Scripture on which I would turn to Lewis for exegetical illumination. A few, but not many. He doesn’t deal with many. If we follow him in the kinds of mistakes that he made (the ones listed above), it will hurt the church and dishonor Christ. His value is not in his biblical exegesis. Lewis is not the kind of writer who provides substance for a pastor’s sermons. If a pastor treats Lewis as a resource for doctrinal substance, he will find his messages growing thin, interesting perhaps, but not with much rich biblical content.

I have also been listening to Dr. Knox Chamblin's class on C.S. Lewis, taught at Reformed Theological Seminary. While Chamblin is not as in touch with the 'Romantic' side of Lewis 'The Romantic Rationalist' as would seem warranted, and while his lecture style suggests that he was reading from a manuscript, his content is still excellent.

And then tonight I listened to the following two YouTube clips of the radio addresses behind 'Mere Christianity'. Most of those addresses were lost when, in a war-starved country, the tapes were re-used for other purposes. But these survive, and it was amazing to get to hear his actual voice, not to mention the truth he relates:

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