Monday, September 18, 2006

And That Too???

This morning I was reading an article on C. S. Lewis that was attempting to show that Lewis was not a Christian. I am not a big Lewis fan. My experience with Lewis started with four or five of the Chronicles of Narnia when I was in Junior High (which I did not understand to be any kind of allegory, much less spiritual), Mere Christianity (which I found less than interesting), and The Great Divorce (which I found to be just wierd). I guess my imagination is not well-enough developed or something.

There are certainly some questions about Lewis' orthodoxy. To call him a Christian is more than I am willing to do, but I admittedly am no expert on it.

Back to the article. The author, after detailing a number of the his concerns with Lewis, closes with this bombshell: "C.S. Lewis, who never stopped smoking his tobacco-filled pipes, had earlier been an actual witch, illuminist, and member of the coven known as the Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn."

"Never stopped smoking his tobacco-filled pipes"???

First, what other kind of "filling" is there for pipes? Perhaps I am naive since I am not up on pipe-smoking. I tried to call Pastor Spurgeon this morning to ask him, but his secretary said he was out and she didn't know when he would be back. But I assume that "smoking pipes" would include filling them with tobacco.

Second, if what the author says about Lewis is true, his pipe-smoking and former associations with the occult are the least of his worries.

Which leads me to wonder: Why do people include absolutely non-contributive information in an article like this? This seems an attempt by the author to lay a fall back position. In case you do not agree with him about Lewis' theology, you can certainly condemn for his "smoking his tobacco-filled pipes." And then we get him either way.

Which leads me to conclude: Write better articles, and omit the ad hominem attacks. I am not a smoker. I find it pretty disgusting. I am not a fan of Lewis. I find him pretty boring. But most of all, I am not a fan of this kind of writing that tacks on an irrelevant piece of information in an attempt to shore up an article. I find it pretty weak.


Nik C said...

Not willing to call Lewis a Christian? Tell me you are joking. Where could you even get such an absurd notion? Just beacuse you find him boring does not give you the right to condemn or disparage him in any way (esp. in such a public forum as a professed Christian yourself). How embarrassing! He was probably the finest apologist for the Christian faith in the 20th century.

Larry said...

Thanks for your kind response.

I wasn't aware that it was a great sin to admit a lack of knowledge on a subject (e.g. "admittedly I am no expert on it") and therefore refrain from being dogmatic on the subject.

The reason I am not willing to call him a Christian is because I don't know. I am sure Mr. Lewis is fine with that. I am not sure why you are not.

I have heard/read that Lewis held some doctrinal positions that were at best questionable. If what I have heard is correct, he was heterodox.

I do find it interesting that while I am not permitted to "condemn or disparage him in anyway" on my blog, you are permitted to "condemn and disparage me" on my blog. In other words, you are permitted to use my blog for things that I am not permitted to use my blog for. Isn't that hypocritical on your part?

Isn't your comment about me being a "professed Christian" an indication of your unwillingness to call me an actual Christian? How dare you disparage me. I am probably the finest Christian apologist that regularly posts on this blog.

In the end, if Lewis is the "finest apologist for the Christian faith in the 20th century," we are probably in a state of grave trouble.

But I simply don't know. So I said so. My apologies to you for my lack of knowledge that led to my lack of dogmatism.

Keith said...

None of us know for sure if anyone is an "actual" Christian. All we can know is if someone professes to be a Christian. Lewis definitely professed faith in Christ.

It is within biblical norms to question someone's profession based on his or her spiritual fruit. I think Lewis's fruit points to an authentic profession, you may not. Fortunately, God makes the final decision here.

Faith in Christ is what makes one an "actual" Christian. I can't see how any of Lewis's heterodoxies make his faith in the orthodox understanding of Christ and his work invalid.

All that said, I couldn't agree with you more that the "pipe-filled tobacco" arguments are less than worthless.

Lisa Z said...

I wonder...what is the profit in reading something that is trying to make the case that C.S. Lewis is not a Christian? What would possess someone to write such a piece? And what would possess someone to have a desire to knowingly read something that is trying to tear a fellow Christian down?

Bill Combs said...

There was an article in Christianity Today a number of years ago (I have a copy) by J. I. Packer that stronly suggested, as I remember it, that Lewis was not an evangelical Christian, in other words, not a genuine Christian. Given some of his serious doctrinal errors, one could certainly make a case that Lewis was a tare.

Larry said...

The profit in reading "such a piece" is to inform ourselves about the men that we read. If CS Lewis was not a believer, and if he espoused serious doctrinal errors, then all should be warned about him so they can be aware of the inherent danger. All who love truth should desire to be informed as much as possible.

As for tearing a fellow Christian down, we have not yet established that Lewis was a Christian. If the reports of his heterodoxy are accurate, we need to be warned so we can be aware and read with discernment and careful thought.

Lisa, why would you not want to be informed if someone regarded as a believer was in fact not a believer? Why would you not want to know that he espoused doctrinal error?

Keith said...


I'd like to see a quote from J.I. Packer which says that Lewis was not a genuine Christian. I am fairly certain you will be unable to find such a quote.

Packer may very well have argued that Lewis would not have been a member in good standing of the evangelical party within the Anglican Church. Such an argument does not mean that Packer thought Lewis was not a genuine Christian.

You guys really need to abandon this desire to figure out who is really saved. That is God's work and it is forbidden us.

What we can do is determine what degree of orthodoxy is required for one's profession of faith to be considered a Christian profession. I am fairly certain that Packer would unreservedly agree that Lewis's profession met that standard -- regardless of his eclesiastical party and doctrinal mistakes.

Larry said...

The subtitle of the article in question calls Lewis a "non-evangelical don." I don't have the article anymore, though I used to have it somewhere.

But I don't think there is a great fascination with figuring out who is really saved. In fact, that may be part of the problem. The evangelical church seems too loose on affording Christian standing on people who have no Christian credentials. Perhaps if we spent more time in rigid theological evaluation of people's fruit, we would be a stronger, if smaller, church.

Perhaps Bill can comment more since he has the article.

Keith said...

Non evangelical does not equal non christian.

If Packer thought that, he wouldn't have taken the stances he's taken in various Anglican and evangelical disputes.

You can evaluate someone's theology and you can evaluate their fruit, but I don't see how you can theologically evaluate their fruit. How can you know if someone's apparent love, joy, or peace is theological as opposed to natural?

Someone's status as a Christian must be determined by their profession -- their creed. Someone's consistency to their creed can be evaluated -- look at their fruit.

So, if you want to say that Lewis's creed was so erroneous that it does not qualify as Christian -- make a case.

On the other hand, if you admit that his creed was orthodox, but his fruit was inconsistent with it -- make that case.

But, don't confuse the cases.

Larry said...

First, since the evangel is the gospel, to be non-evangelical is to be without the gospel, it seems to me, and therefore to not be a genuine Christian. Now what exactly Packer meant, I am not sure since I no longer have the article and can't recall. In addition, Packer's consistency on the evangel is not admirable. Was he not a proponent of ECT, a document designed to blur lines between the gospel and the non-gospel?

Second, I am not sure why you draw a distintion between fruit and theology. Someone's theology is a part of their fruit. And that most certainly is a place where we are commanded to examine and separate from (cf. Rom 16:17-18; Jude; John; etc.). If someone has defective doctrine, their fruit is bad. I don't think that is confusing the cases.

Third, with respect to Lewis's creed, I simply don't know. Which is why I said I didn't know in my original post. My point was not to address Lewis at all, but rather to address supporting a position with an irrelevant issue.

Just curious, why your defense of Lewis?

Keith said...


Words can be legitimately used as terms in different ways . . . Of course if someone is truly without the evangel he is not a Christian. However, one could truly have the evangel and not be a member of the evangelical party in the Anglican church or the evangelical movement in America.

The evangel tells me that I am saved by God's Grace alone through Faith alone in the work of Christ alone. It does not tell me that I must have all my doctrine in line with a certain group of evangelicals and receive their stamp of approval.

As you note, Packer himself has alientated certain evangelicals. Does that, in and of itself, establish that he does not posses the evangel?

Regarding fruit, yes someone's theology is part of their fruit. Fortunately for everyone, we are not expected to start with a full fruit basket, we are told to grow in grace.

As I stated before, by all means judge someone's theology and judge the manifestations (or lack) of Love, Joy, Peace, etc. We are commanded to judge these things.
Nevertheless, we are not called to cast people out of the number of the elect because they are less than perfect in their doctrine or practice.

Regarding your point about supporting a position with an irrelevant issue, you'll find in my original post that I wrote: "I couldn't agree with you more that the 'pipe-filled tobacco' arguments are less than worthless."
In fact, I responded to Bill because I found his mention of Packer both erroneous and irrelevant.

I am confident that Packer never stated that Lewis was not a Christian. Even if he did, a good argument that Lewis was not a Christian would include some evidence -- who cares what Packer says.

I will now add that I find it suspect to question a professing Christian's faith when you admit to not knowing much about him including what he claims to believe.

As far as defending Lewis goes, he needs no defense from the likes of me. His own works and the vast body of scholarship on his life and works is sufficient to defend or condemn him. I'd just suggest that this readily available material be read, studied, and mentioned by name before suggesting he's a tare.

Mark Snoeberger said...

The key paragraph in Packer's article is as follows:

"His [Lewis's] brand of Christianity was conservative Anglicanism with catholic leanings; hence his nonpenal view of the Atonement, his nonmention of justification, his belief in purgatory, his praying for the dead, and his regular confession to his priest."

CT Jan 15, 1988, p. 32.

These issues seem to be substantial, Keith, and at the very least lend some doubt to the claim that Lewis held to the "evangel" as you described it above ("I am saved by God's Grace alone through Faith alone in the work of Christ alone.")


Keith said...

I never said their weren't substantial issues. I just said that I don't think Packer claimed Lewis was not a Christian.

Regarding my definition of the evangel, I am merely maintaining that it is Faith in Christ, and nothing else, that saves me -- it is not faith in "Faith Alone" that saves.