Clive Staples Lewis was a celebrated Anglo-Irish novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, lay theologian and Christian apologist whose impact and influence lives on.

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Lewis’s Reputation

August 20th, 2005 | Skip to comments

Just in the past two days I have received emails from earnest souls worried about C. S. Lewis’s reputation, by which I mean someone–a friend or a website wag–had said something to them untoward about Lewis’s “real beliefs” or, “If you knew what he and the Inklings really thought, you would not be so enthusiastic.”

One of my correspondents said someone in Australia told her the Inklings were “Masons” or that Narnia was never meant to be a depiction of the Christian gospel but “just an intellectual rendering.” (On this score: no Inkling was a “Mason” [has National Treasure and the Da Vinci Code really had that much an impact on people’s paranoia?]; Narnia is what it is: a “supposal” as Lewis called it–what if Jesus were incarnate in a land like Narnia, what would happen?)

Apparently, there is a web site somewhere that lists Lewis’s shortcomings about which evangelical Christians would be aghast “if they only knew.” (Imagine that–Let us hope the day doesn’t come when there is a website that lists each and every one of yours and my “shortcomings.” Thank Goodness, no, Thank Jesus, let me tell you there is such a list, but it’s not kept by God, and He’s already nailed it, to the cross, I might add) Here is a paraphrase of what I wrote to one of my correspondents, who was concerned that perhaps Lewis was not as orthodox as we would like (in doctrine and lifestyle):

“Lewis was, like all of us, a flawed Christian, with a deep faith and an ‘evolving’ respect for Scripture as God’s word. No one I have known took Scriptural authority more seriously, obeyed God more faithfully, prayed more, gave more of his money away, captured the gospel more imaginatively, etc., etc., than CSL.”

“Was he infallible and perfect? Of course not. Will we disagree with him, wish he had said this or that, or in a different way? Yes. But that is true of everyone I know who is trying to live a holy life. Which is worse: someone who does not state his belief in “inerrancy” the way we would prefer or someone who ignores Scriptures that plainly teach we should give to the poor, pray daily, and respect our wives as Christ loves the church. I know Christians who fail miserably in the latter three duties. Does that mean they are not Christians or everyone is hypocritical? Of course not. It means except by the grace of God, we are all lost. Everyone, no matter what he or she says, lives by the light that he has–and grows daily, or dies. Anyone who claims to have reached complete understanding and perfect obedience–well, see Matthew 19.”

“There is no reason not to rejoice in what Lewis has accomplished. He was a member of the Church of England. He was what he was-and not what we would call an evangelical nor a fundamentalist. The question I would have is: what is this list of Lewis’s supposed errors and shortcomings for? And what does it prove? What if it is true? Does that make Lewis anything other but someone whose work we must carefully and prayerfully evaluate–taking the good and leaving the erroneous behind? That has to be our stance no matter what writer or preacher we are dealing with–including the person next to us in the pew, and the one who shares our marriage bed. “There is none righteous, no not one. . .”

When all is said and done, we must live up to the light that we have, and should be grateful that the guidance God gives every day is sufficient to lead us home to him. One of the reasons I wrote my little dialogue (fictional, of course) with Lewis was to explore just these sorts of expectations. You may find it here on my website–and also in my new book on Narnia from Tyndale.


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