Friday, December 09, 2005

A Thumbnail of C.S. Lewis’s Troubling Theology
...orthodox or heterodox?

Was Lewis an orthodox Christian? On many points of doctrine he was not and it leaves one disturbingly wondering. Lewis's theology is so strewn, it is hard to understand his biblical logic and beliefs on many issues. My personal conclusion is that Lewis was plagued, confused and haunted with his religious entanglement of Romanism, Anglicanism, Darwinism, Arminianism and his deficient view of the authority and veracity of the Scriptures.

I hope before he died he repented.

Here are his theological underpinnings that give voice to those conclusions:

The Bible
1. He espoused Darwin’s theory of human biology forcing a different view of some parts of the Bible than the historic orthodox accepted evangelical viewpoint.

2. Though affirmed divine inspiration, the following statement would seem to categorize Lewis as neo-orthodox in his understanding of the Bible: "Naivete, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed [from the pages of the Bible]. The total result is not ‘the Word of God’ in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God…"

3. After researching such preceding material, Edgar Boss concluded: "Lewis does not accept the plenary verbal theory of Inspiration." Similarly, Lewis analyst Richard Cunningham deduced: "Lewis did not believe in the infallibility or the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures."

God and His Work
1. In the matter of God’s creation, Lewis had no difficulty in being committed to theistic evolution. Lewis called man "the highest of the animals." He also acknowledged: "If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection." Elsewhere he said: "What difficulties I have about evolution are not religious…."

1. The doctrine of Christ’s divinity seems to me not something stuck on…but something that peeps out at every point [of the New Testament] so that you have to unravel the whole web to get rid of it…and if you take away the Godhead of Christ, what is Christianity all about?" In Mere Christianity Lewis includes his belief in "the Virgin Birth of Christ."

2. He was emphatic about retaining the full deity and humanity of Christ as addressed in the early Christian creeds.

Humanity and Sin
1. Concerning the doctrine of "total depravity," Lewis wrote: "I disbelieve that doctrine."

2. Though Lewis believed that “men are sinners” – he didn’t believe in the doctrine of original sin.

1. Lewis said, “In the Incarnation we get…this idea of vicariousness of one person profiting by the earning of another person. In its highest form that is the very center of Christianity." Lewis’s apparent devaluing of substitution led Edgar Boss to conclude that Lewis held "the Example Theory [of the Atonement] with a very important modification. Mr. Lewis is a supernaturalist, while the Example Theory is usually held by Naturalists." For Lewis this was the bottom line: "Christ’s death redeemed man from sin, but I can make nothing of the theories as to how!"

2. J. I. Packer spoke of Lewis’s "failure ever to mention justification by faith when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, and his apparent hospitality to baptismal regeneration…."

3. Lewis wrote: “On the Protestant view one could not, and by God’s mercy, expiate one’s sins. Like an accepted lover, he feels that he has done nothing, and never could have done anything to deserve such astonishing happiness. All the initiative has been on God’s side, all has been free, unbounded grace. His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place. Bliss is not for sale, cannot be earned, "Works" have no "merit," though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once. He is not saved because he does works of love; he does works of love because he is saved. It is faith alone that has saved him; faith bestowed by sheer gift.”

4. Lewis was an Arminian and believed you could lose your salvation just as he believed, “"All may be saved if they so choose" (which included people on the bus ride from hell). He held to the skewed doctrine of Purgatory.

5. Beyond the parameters of traditional Arminianism, however, Lewis expected that some non-Christians would be saved. This is most troubling when he said: "Though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life." On the radio he announced: "We do know that no [one] can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him." Inclusivism is showing its ugly head here.

6. Lewis said: "I couldn’t believe that 999 religions were completely false and the remaining one true." Similarly he stated: "We are not pronouncing all other religions to be totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected."

7. Lewis believed in baptismal regeneration and The Eucharistic Presence (transubstantiation).

8. As a member in good standing of the Anglican Church, Lewis accepted an Anglican position on purgatory and prayers for the dead, as well as practicing auricular confession of sins. He believed in a substantive reality to heaven and hell but was agnostic about matters such as the precise dimension and duration of hell.


littlegal_66 said...

So it's safe so say I earned a passing grade with the following comments I made to Part 1 of the lesson on Lewis' theology?:

From Townsend's essay, I would tend to characterize Lewis as sort of "all over the place," theologically. Decidedly heterogenous, it's as if Lewis viewed his *form of* Christianity as a theological smorgasborg, picking and choosing doctrinal elements that appealed to him at any given moment. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and he tied it all together as his unique take on Christianity. I'm in agreement with what John Rush said; I think that Lewis was confused with some important issues.

Denise, John, I think we got an "A."

(Surely, Steve, someday there will come an issue that I am in disagreement with you on. :-) Until then, I guess I'm reduced to just sitting in the choir, nodding my head).

Shawn L said...

Very good concerns and accurate based on what I recall in my own study

Bhedr said...

I tell you boo, its just hard to understand aint it? I mean think about it. Cat Steven's repents and turns to Islam while Bob Dylan writes the most sound gospel songs dripping with doctrine after his experience and then turns to Judaism.Nichols turns to Islam as well after reading PDL. Now we have this mess about Lewis. Satan is clever isn't he? In Mark 12 a soundly biblical Scribe questions Jesus and Jesus confirms his wisdom but then says, "You are not *far* from the Kingdom." Not far is still lost. What inhibited his wisdom of Scripture from being converted to true faith? Of course the regenerative work of God even though he thought perhaps he had it. What was in his heart? Read Mark 12:38-40 and John 5:44.

Folks, do we desire Manna or do we complain against it? What do we truly seek if not Him alone and not his blessings and gifts. Oh search our hearts God and if one does not desire only you the living Manna then may the soul repent before its everlastingly too late. Indeed I pray Lewis did repent of His unbelief.

Whats that passage Piper likes so much? We do well to heed it. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

SJ Camp said...

Littlegal: You get an "A" for "a"rthodox. You are a faithful Berean and i appreciate you greatly, thank you.

Shawn: Thank you as always for your good words of wisdom and for the affirmation of study on Lewis.

Bhedr: LOL... Really great stuff here! The parable of the seeds answers your observations. A dry path, thorny soil and rocky ground may appear to have "real faith" for awhile... BUT only the fertile soil that the Lord prepares for Himself can receive the seed of the gospel.

Having more fun than a Reformed Baptist should be allowed to.

SJ Camp
Eph. 1:4-14

Mark said...

Congratulations again, Steve, on exposing another heretic in our midst. I have this Baptist neighbour who teaches Sunday School, but the other day I heard him yell "SH**" upon stubbing his toe. I think this demonstrates a deeper, more evil problem. Also, i once saw him mowing his lawn on a Sunday. Can you root out this apostate in an exhaustive post sometime? Thanks.

jigawatt said...


Maybe I'm a little dense, but please confirm this for me. By saying "I hope before he died he repented", are you are saying that based on what Lewis wrote, you believe that he was not a true Christian, and died as an unregenerate sinner? I assume that this is what you mean by "unorthodox".

If my assumption is correct, then which doctrine(s) did Lewis uphold (or fail to uphold) which indicate that he was not a true believer?

I certainly agree that Lewis was unorthodox with respect to several doctrines. But, of course, as a credobaptist, I believe that John Calvin was unorthodox with respect to his doctrine of baptism, and I hope he repented of that false belief before he died.

What are the essentials of doctrine by which we can judge someone's status as orthodox or heterodox? And, perhaps more importantly, by what means are we to come to distinguish those doctrines which are essential over against those that are not essential?

Obviously there are two extremes. One is full inclusivism, which would welcome into the family of God anybody and everybody, regardless of belief. The other extreme is to exclude everybody from God's family who doesn't agree with you on every little jot and tittle of doctrine, which would limit the size of God's family to perhaps only one person. Of course, there are hardly any people (who call themselves Christians) on either end of the spectrum. But where in the middle of the spectrum ought we to stand? And again, what is our basis for taking a stand at that spot verses a little to the left or right?

My wife and I were members of The Bible Church of Little Rock for about 4 years, and I remember that there was a document produced by the elders which outlined the relative weights of doctrines. It was called the Doctrinal Statement Functionality Matrix, under the broader heading of Preaching and Teaching. (I think the matrix has been updated since it's last posting, and I think it now classifies some doctrines as tertiary.) I agree with most of the designations made by the matrix, but not all of them (for example, I wouldn't say that someone is not a Christian if they upheld every "member primary" doctrine on the list except the one about the Great White Throne judgment). Thankfully, agreement with the matrix itself is not a primary doctrine!

Also, for those who are interested, Phil Johnson discussed this issue some back in September.

Libbie said...

Lewis was a fairly orthodox English Anglican. A good apologist for belief in a deity, and a very able writer. I believe he was a believer from the stretch of what he wrote that I've read, but I reckon if he was writing today, he'd be one of my brothers that I enjoyed reading very much, but some of his pet theological theory stuff was just way off-base. Like Doug Wilson, I suppose..

Uncle Zach said...

Sure, his theology was a bit off, but he was such an amazing writer. To be completely honest we have had a lot of gifted brothers and sisters who have been unorthodox, yet still powerful catalysts for the truth. In your profile you mention how you have been compared to Keith Green with Theology. I think that's very interesting. Keith Green had horrible theology, at times, but that cannot overshadow the work that he did for the Kingdom. He was so empowered by the Spirit of God. The same can be said for Rich Mullins. I think also of the fact that Lewis never claimed to be a theologian. He was educated in Literature. With that said: What other laymen do we see contributing to Christian thought the way Lewis did? The corpus of Christian literature is greatly enriched by this self proclaimed, "bleating sheep". I'm thankful to God for this brother of ours.

Anonymous said...

How do you protestants go around and question things you know nothing of? To repent means to change sides, which he did in a far greater sense than any of the schismatic individuals here could say. This is ridiculous!

Puritan Belief said...

Lewis conversion was more of an intellectual conversion rather then one of regeneration.

When you here quotes like number 6 from Lewis you have got to put him in the same basket as the Mother Theresa’s and the Gandhi's of this world. To me this sounds like worldly wisdom and trying to intellectualize Christianity.

6. Lewis said: "I couldn’t believe that 999 religions were completely false and the remaining one true." Similarly he stated: "We are not pronouncing all other religions to be totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected."

Mihailov said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mihailov said...

For me the author of this article suggests that he really has the power to look inside the heart of C.S.Lewis...Strange. How far can we go by making judgements as we are God ourselves...And I wonder how can I be sure that the author is "orthodox" himself? For me it is a miracle a person like C.S.Lewis got ever converted to christianity and dare not to speak as you knew whether he was saved or not. By the way how was the robber next to Christ on the cross saved? Did Jesus read a creed in which he should believe to get saved? C.S.Lewis never claimed to have all the answers but some folks maybe think they have them. And I many times wander if some theologians who believe all orthodox doctrines to be true are saved? If you would meet Lewis personally could you claim right in his face that his faith was purely intellectual? It is very easy to speculate about a death person's life. I am sure that you wouldn't be glad if someone after your death discusses whether you were orthodox or not. It depends how you define that term. The Bible says that every person that confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord and believes it in his hearth is saved (Rom. 10:9-10) So we are not the judges of the salvation of the other people.
Lewis writes apologetic books not theology and if you carefully read his books you would see his claim that HE IS NOT A THEOLOGIAN.If we think the way the author of this article thinks than all christians who doubt one or other teaching marked as "orthodox" is unorthodox.Can all of you claim that you fully have an orthodox theology? What about the people who go to church and know nothing of theology? Are they saved? Why shouldn't they repent? I believe that every believer has a journey in his faith in Jesus Christ. And the Saviour is Christ himself - not the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Easter Orthodox or etc. church. If orthodox doctrine saves than hell I think should be very full. I think that God is far greater than our human thoughts about Him that we call "doctrine". Now. I am a protestant, I have studied theology, I am an Arminian but I don't believe I can loose my salvation, I am a pentecostal in experience and I don't believe in baptism of babies. But I know that I am saved not because theology whether right ot wrong but because I put my faith in the PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. O.K. tell me what is "orthodox" in theology than tell me your theology and I will judge whether you are "orthodox" and whether you are saved.

Mihailov said...

By the way if we speak about theology would you define the term "orthodox" and "heretic"? Because the author uses it without even giving a definition of it. And that is not theologically right because theology uses creeds, definitions, formulas, cathehisms, books and etc.If you come to Bulgaria you all would be regarded by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as heretics. And I don't see any purpose in such a discussion where theological terms are not specified. Now someone mentioned here Berean. Well do you think that Heaven will be full of Bereans and waste of heretics (meaning not Bereans)? If you like then call C.S.Lewis "heretic" and "heterodox" but please define terms when you meen that! Because if you don't you are not speaking as a theologian but as a politician who twists words in every way he wants. Now if Berean = orthodox and non-Berean = (unorthodox or heterodox) I myself am a "heretic" in that system of thought. By the way why do we humans always put labels on everything? That is something I do not understand. We may think we know everything but we don't and I think that protestants tend toward thinking they know everything concerning faith and that is pure human pride not christian humbleness. C.S.Lewis was an Anglican and that is enough. Now you judge for yourselves whether to be an Anglican is to be "orthodox". For me "orthodox" is a pure theological speculation if not defined.