Saturday, September 04, 2010

The unfundamental C. S. Lewis

This is a treatment of Lewis's deviations from the conservative evangelical norm. It does seem to me that evangelicals are inclined to give Lewis a "pass" on deviations from doctrines like inerrancy and penal substitution theory that they don't give other people.

18 comments:

steve said...

I can't speak for others, but giving him a pass would two considerations:

i) Does Lewis have compensatory virtues that others who deny inerrancy/penal substitution do not?

ii) Should we make allowance for the limitations of his upbringing, cultural resources, &c.? Put another way, how many obstacles did he have to overcome to get as far as he did?

Blaise Pascal said...

The author of this essays attributes many things to Lewis which are in fact a part of traditional teaching.

"a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician's Book."

[...]

The focus becomes even clearer when what was "vaguely seen in them [the Jews] all comes into focus in Christianity--just as God Himself comes into focus by becoming a Man."


This is roughly what is called typology.

"143. What is the discipline called that illuminates the unity of the two Testaments? (CCC 128) The discipline that illuminates the unity of the two Testaments is called typology.
Typology is the discernment of prefigurations in the Old Testament anticipating the things to come in the New Testament e.g.: the manna of the Exodus is a prefiguration of the Holy Eucharist."

http://www.catholic-catechism.com/level_14.htm

"For Lewis, the myths of old, which he was familiar with from his education, contained hints and shadows of God's truth, but these were only understood partially."

This is also a very old position. The Church Fathers thought similarily that all what is true in heathen philosophies and religions is Gods truth and is a preparation for the Gospel.

"846. What does the Church recognize in other religions? (CCC 843) The Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved.
847. How does LG 16 value all goodness and truth found in other religions? (CCC 843) Lumen Gentium 16 values all goodness and truth found in other religions as a “preparation for the Gospel”.
Lumen Gentium is a Vatican II document, the Apostolic Constitution on the Church."

http://www.catholic-catechism.com/level_71.htm

"If the Old Testament is a literature thus "taken up," made the vehicle of what is more than human, we can of course set no limits to the weight or multiplicity of meanings which may have been laid upon it. If any writer may say more than he knows and mean more than he meant, then these writers will be especially likely to do so. And not by accident."

The theory of multiplicities of meaning is also not Lewis' own. The Church recognises traditionally two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual. The spiritual is further subdivided in three senses.

"The four senses of Scripture can be summarized according to the words of a medieval couplet:
1. the letter teaches the deeds
2. the allegory what you should believe
3. the moral [sense] what you should do
4. the anagogy where you tend ultimately.
In Latin: Líttera gésta dócet, quid crédas allegoría/ morális quid ágas, quo téndas anagogía (Augustine of Dacia)."

http://www.catholic-catechism.com/level_14.htm

Lewis thoughts about revelation also intersect in many points with Church teaching: http://www.catholic-catechism.com/level_10.htm

Mere Christianity is, as it seems, not fundamentalist Christianity.

unkleE said...

My early spiritual upbringing was in a reformed, evangelical culture of a fairly systematic kind, but we were not taught inerrancy. I understand that it hasn't been the main teaching of the church through most of its history, and think it has become unfortunately over-emphasised. I notice that is not a doctrine which the Bible teaches.

CS Lewis was my greatest early christian influence, and even from the "inerrancy-free" evangelical viewpoint, I found a few of his teachings a little liberal, and just accepted that he was wrong on some things. Now, 40+ years later, my understanding has changed, and I find his views on scripture much more compelling.

I predict we'll find (those of you still alive, as I won't be) in 50 years that the present arguments about inerrancy are the last gasp of a dying, unbiblical and indefensible doctrine, replaced with a more Biblical view.

Gregory said...

The doctrines of "sola scriptura" and "inerrancy" do not make for a "paper pope" (i.e. the bible), as some Catholics and Theological Liberals have argued. Rather, these doctrines make "popes" out of the interpreters themselves.

How ought a Protestant "defend" the doctrine of "sola scriptura"? From scripture? That would be begging a very important question. In fact, the disciplines of "evidential" and "presuppositional" apologetics are decidedly against this view. However, William Edgar's essay, "No Apology: A Defense of Presuppostionalism", bites the bullet and takes an a priori, fiat acceptance of the truths of Christianity. Hence the title of his essay. Yet, even here he fails the "sola scriptura" standard by injecting his own words and views, rather than simply quoting from scripture.

What about defending scripture outside of scripture? That would defeat the entire "sola" premise: that is, that scripture alone is necessary for all things pertaining to "faith" and "doctrine".

I mention all this because it seems to me that the bulk of criticism leveled at Lewis, among "fundamentalists", revolves around his views of scripture and his hermeneutical musings. But many recognized "heroes" and "saints" have had very questionable doctrines (i.e. St. Augustine). In fact, St. Augustine's doctrine of "original sin" has had dire repercussions for both "ortho-doxis" and "ortho-praxis". For instance, what does it say about Christ that the Virgin Mary, due to her sinful and fallen nature, failed to transmit (i.e. traduce) that "sin" to Christ? Was Christ conceived ex nihilo, apart from Mary? If so, then how is Christ said to be "human"? Perhaps "traducianism" is false. But if God creates each soul individually (i.e. "soul-creation"), is God then the author of sin? And if you're the sort of person who accepts the idea of "federal headship", this is especially vexing. Perhaps upon contemplation of this particular issue, alone, one might better see the Western aversion to sexuality. This is especially noticed in the vows of celibacy taken by Catholic priests, on the one hand, and--ironically--our own cultural obsession with sex, on the other. Just look at the statistics on infidelity, divorce and sexual deviance today. Augustines views, when taken to their logical conclusion, divorce sexuality from the author of sex: God.

C.S. Lewis embodied Christianity. I think his own life says a lot more about his "faith" than the sum of all of his writings put together. He was wise, kind and charitable. I can't say the same for many of Lewis' "doctrinally sound" critics. Prayerfully consider the meaning of 2 Cor. 3:1-3.

Also, it pays to read Lewis' essay "The World's Last Night"....especially, where he soberly discusses the issue of "theological knowledge" as it relates to the final judgment.

Gregory said...

Addendum:

I originally wrote,

"But if God creates each soul individually (i.e. "soul-creation"), is God then the author of sin? And if you're the sort of person who accepts the idea of "federal headship", this is especially vexing."

What I meant to say was:

"Even the idea of 'soul-creation' will not rescue a person who also accepts the doctrine of 'federal headship'; because 'spiritual' imputation would also have to be applied to Christ's humanity. Otherwise, again, Christ would fail to be truly human."

Blaise Pascal said...

"For instance, what does it say about Christ that the Virgin Mary, due to her sinful and fallen nature, failed to transmit (i.e. traduce) that "sin" to Christ?"

The Mother of God was of course without any sin, full of Gods Grace and the most holy woman of all human beings. She was literally Gods temple. He dwelt in her. Its unconceivable, at least for me, that she had any stain of sin.

"But if God creates each soul individually (i.e. "soul-creation"), is God then the author of sin?"

One little clarification: Original sin is not a sin in the primary sense (i.e. an unrightful act). Original sin means a state. It is the corruption of human nature, a loss of original holiness and justice. This corruption of human nature is transmitted by propagation and it comes originally from Adam and from God.

If Gods creation was orignally good, as Holy Scripture declares, but is now corrupt, then there has had to be a fall, an event caused by the free choices of Gods creatures and by which human nature was corrupted.

http://www.catholic-catechism.com/level_35.htm

"This is especially noticed in the vows of celibacy taken by Catholic priests, on the one hand, and--ironically--our own cultural obsession with sex, on the other."

The obsession with sex is certainly a consequence of orignal sin. But taking vows of celibacy is not a consequence of the doctrine of original sin.

Celibacy is a most complete devotion of ones life to God and it is recommended by St. Paul and our Lord himself.

Matthew 19, "10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." 11 But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."

Our Lord certainly did not recommend to castrate oneself.

For St. Pauls very clear recommendation see 1. Corinthians 25-40

And chastity is nothing more than submitting our sexual passions to human reason and our free will as it was in the beginning before the fall. His reason and his free will are what differentiate men from animal.

Blaise Pascal said...

Correction: "...it comes originally from Adam and from God."

It should read of course: "...it comes originally from Adam and not from God."

Gregory said...

Blaise Pascal said:

"The Mother of God was of course without any sin, full of Gods Grace and the most holy woman of all human beings."

Indeed, the Blessed Theotokos is very holy. But listen to what our Orthodox Liturgy hymns each Sunday:

"One is holy. One is Lord. Jesus Christ. To the glory of God the Father."

Regarding the transmission of sin, hear what Moses says:

"Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his/her own sin."

Deut. 24:16

and

"There is none who does good. No, not one."

and

"all sinned"

Psalm 14:3 and Romans 5:12

Therefore, the Virgin Mary was a "sinner". But, she could not pass her sin on to Christ.

I recommend John Romanides' book on this subject called "The Ancestral Sin".

Even St. Augustine, implicitly, agrees with this. Part of his insights during the Donatist controversy helped the Church affirm the validity of Baptism/Chrismation that were performed by heretical Priests and Bishops. It was argued that Baptism and Chrismation were not done by the power and authority of Clergy, but by God alone (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Therefore, a Priest and Bishop, no matter how unholy and unbelieving they may be, cannot nullify the work of God by virtue of their wickedness.

Gregory said...

Here is link that gives a brief summary of John Romanides work. I offer it because Romanides' "Ancestral Sin" is not as readily available as this link is:

http://www.antiochian.org/node/19137

Blessings,
Gregory

Blaise Pascal said...

Thank you for your response Gregory.

You said:"Therefore, the Virgin Mary was a "sinner". But, she could not pass her sin on to Christ."

I thought our orthodox brethren also use "all-holy" as a title for our Holy Mother. This means that she was without sin, fully obedient to God. (Her sinlessness is of course merited by our Lords sacrifice.) A sin is always a disobedience to Gods will. If Mary was fully obedient, she could never have sinned.

Also, if Mary is the new Eve, she must be as sinless as Eve was before the fall.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Theotokos#Full_title_of_Mary

Luke 1, 41 "[...]and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb![...]"

The Ark of the Old Covenant is a prototype for Mary. It was heavily guarded so that nothing unclean would touch it. And so Mary was blessed by God so that she would have no stain of sin.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUdYeYy3NQA especially from 5:34

See also what our Church Fathers said:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Full_of_Grace.asp

Gregory said...

To Blaise Pascal:

The word "Panagia" (i.e. "All-Holy") is, indeed, used in Orthodox Tradition. However, there is no clear meaning or definition attached to that term.

My point is that it's not necessary that the Theotokos be free from all sin in order that God may become incarnate. "Sin" is not traduced. And, of course, Orthodoxy rejects "original sin", as delineated by Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. That was my main contention....which remains true, even if the Theotokos happened to be free of "sin".

Secondly, you're views imply that Christ wasn't the Virgin Mary's "savior", since she had no sin of which she needed "saving". And this implies either that Christ is not actually "savior of the world", since the Theotokos is of the "world", or that Christ is "savior of the world", but that the "all-holy Virgin" was not of the "world".

Thirdly, Orthodoxy's rejection of "sophianism" implies my view.

Fourthly, Orthodox Liturgy says that Christ, alone, is "Holy"; even as the scriptures call Him "The Holy One of Israel".

Fifthly, Orthodoxy stresses "theosis", or "God-likeness", which is an eternal process of growth. Or, as St. Paul says, we will grow "from glory to glory". There is a time at which a "saint" is no longer hindered by the disease of sin. Yet, complete repentance is only part of that growth. But what does scripture say:

"God commands all men (humankind), everywhere, to repent."

--Acts 17:30

Is the Theotokos not a partaker of mankind/humankind?

Sixthly, it is not clearly stated in any of the 7 Ecumenical Council decisions that the Theotokos was born "sinless".

Seventhly, the scriptures speak of "all" mankind as being bound in sin. I have already pointed to the Psalms and Romans. But hear what St. Paul also says:

"God has committed all men to disobedience so that He may have mercy on all."

--Romans 11:32

and

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."

--Galatians 2:16

God delights in showing mercy...not merely to some, but to all. How can God show mercy to someone who has no need of mercy?

Incidentally, Pascal's "Jansenism" was condemned, along with Protestantism, by Rome during the Counter-Reformation. But, interestingly enough, the Papal edicts issued against "Jansenism", in a really weird twist of fate, had unwittingly condemned Rome's beloved "Doctor": Augustine.

Gregory said...

After dinner and a walk, I want to further address a point made by Pascal.

His argument seems to be that because the scripture calls Mary "blessed among women", that calling her "blessed", somehow, entails that the Theotokos was born without "sin". Ok, fine.

"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonas, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you."

St. Peter was without sin.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit".

The "poor in spirit" are without sin.

"Blessed are the meek".

The "meek" are without sin.

"Blessed are the peacemakers."

The "peacemakers" are without sin.

"Blessed are you when men revile you, persecute you and speak all manner of evil falsely against you."

The "martyrs" are sinless.

I don't think it's necessary to go on. I think you get my point. Your exegesis of Luke is very misleading, at best.

Mary and Mary's womb are, indeed, very blessed. In fact, the Theotokos is greater than Eve; not by virtue of being "sinless", but because she freely accepted the burdensome task of bearing and raising God Incarnate as her own child. It would take a person of extraordinary "purity" and "sanctification" to willingly accept such an awesome task. But we don't venerate Mary based upon her own virtue, alone. Rather, we venerate her because of her closeness to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. A closeness that none other share, or can share, because she hosted the Son of God within her own womb. What's more, she cared and nurtured Christ as His mother, fearfully and prayerfully. Like all mothers, she has a unique and special closeness/affinity, biologically speaking, with her child....which stretches into all eternity, for Christ is forever incarnate in the same body in which he was born. For these reasons, she is considered the loftiest of all the "Saints". She is greater than Eve because through her willingness to host the Incarnate God, she co-operated with God to the extent that mankind's salvation can properly be said to come from her. Not that Mary, of herself, can save. Rather, Mary sacrificed her own desires and opportunities in the world so that mankind might have redemption through Christ. In other words, the emphasis should be on Christ (i.e. Christocentrism).

Christ, alone, is Holy (with a capital "H"). All flesh, including the Theotokos, possess a derivative and acquired "holiness" (with a lower case "h"). The greatest among us can only be but a pale and imperfect reflection by grace. Christ is Holy by nature.

For this reason, the scripture has said of Him:

"Therefore God has exalted Him above all rulers and authorities above and below the earth, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

To think, say or imply otherwise is to betray the Faith once for all delivered.

But Mary was born of "sinful" parents. Likewise, her parents were born of "sinful" parents, etc. Does the "sin" among her ancestral lineage negate her presumed "sinlessness"? From a Catholic perspective, it doesn't. Ok, well and good. Then why should Mary's "sinfulness" negate the "sinlessness" of the One who was born "without spot or blemish"?

That's the crux of the matter. I leave it to you and others to decide on the matter. As for me, I think I've made my point now.

Blaise Pascal said...

The word "Panagia" (i.e. "All-Holy") is, indeed, used in Orthodox Tradition. However, there is no clear meaning or definition attached to that term.

I suppose that you agree that holiness and sinfullness exclude each other.

Then there are only two alternatives: either she is all-holy or not. If not all-holy, a sinner. If all-holy, sinnless.

If sinfull, not all-holy. If sinless, all-holy.

Decide for yourself.

-------------------
"Secondly, you're views imply that Christ wasn't the Virgin Mary's "savior", since she had no sin of which she needed "saving"."

The special grace that was given to Mary by God, was merited by Christs sacrifice. No sacrifice, no grace. She was saved by Christ.

----------

"Is the Theotokos not a partaker of mankind/humankind?"

And is Christ not also a partaker of humankind?

"Seventhly, the scriptures speak of "all" mankind as being bound in sin. I have already pointed to the Psalms and Romans. But hear what St. Paul also says:"

Christ, too?

There seems to be a fault with your exegesis of these passages.

-----------

"How can God show mercy to someone who has no need of mercy? "

She needed his mercy. It was shown to her by freeing her from original sin.

-----------

His argument seems to be that because the scripture calls Mary "blessed among women", that calling her "blessed", somehow, entails that the Theotokos was born without "sin". Ok, fine.

Lets look again at the passage:

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

1. She is more blessed than any other women, including Eve. This makes sense, if she had no original sin.

2.The parallelism indicates that the humanity of Christ was blessed in a similar way as Mary.

Lets take a look at another passage. It reads in Greek:

Luke 1, 28: "και εισελθων προς αυτην ο αγγελοσ ειπεν χαιρε κεχαριτωμενη ο κυριος μετα σου"

It says: "Greetings, blessed one, the Lord is with you."

"Blessed one" is used as a proper noun, this means that it is a special characteristic of Mary.

---------------

Christ, alone, is Holy (with a capital "H"). All flesh, including the Theotokos, possess a derivative and acquired "holiness" (with a lower case "h").

I do not clearly understand what you mean. In what sense was the holiness of Adam acquired? Or was he not holy before the fall? The flesh of our Lord too? How does this disprove that Mary was without original sin?

-----------

Likewise, her parents were born of "sinful" parents, etc. Does the "sin" among her ancestral lineage negate her presumed "sinlessness"?

She was freed from original sin by a special act of God in the moment of her conception.

-------------

How can Mary be the new Eve? What was there commonality? Surely not their obedience. But what other than their holiness, before Eves fall?

Edward T. Babinski said...

ADDITIONAL UNFUNDAMENTAL C. S. LEWIS QUOTATIONS

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/03/c-s-lewis-provocative-poignant-profound.html

Gregory said...

I think it's fitting that one of histories most noted devotees of "fideism", Blaise Pascal, should have his namesake ably represented here.

Pascal, you have made my point by completely missing the point.

Secondly, it is important that you do your homework. And I would begin by studying the vast array of early Patristic works, without having to consult, minute-by-minute, any online Catholic "catechisms". Surely, you don't need your priests permission. After all, many of these are the writings of "Saints". Who would you rather consult: "Saint" or local priest?

Thirdly, Eastern Orthodoxy expressly rejects the idea of "original sin", preferring, instead, the notion of "ancestral sin". But the contrast between these concepts is indicated by the respective interpretations of the Genesis passages concerning the nature and consequences of the "fall". Issuing from these respective understandings has come divergent, noticeable trajectories--between the "East" and "West"--that have lead us on much different paths of understanding God, man and salvation.

And I don't mean to say this as a matter of "mere ideas". We can see this difference in much more practical ways. We see such differences expressed in our iconography. Eastern iconography is done using 2-D depictions, as a way of reminding the faithful that these are representations, and not the people themselves; thereby helping to avoid the tendency to venerate the pictures, rather than the actual Angels, Saints and God.

Also, there are subtle differences in our depictions of the "crucifix". In the Roman Catholic icons representing the crucifixion, Christ is depicted as haggard and beaten. In Eastern Orthodox icons of the crucifixion, we see Christ as "asleep".....yet his arms are stretched out to show that the whole world is resting upon His shoulders. We see both His divine and His human nature displayed. Regarding His human nature, we see Christ as sleeping.....like you and I do at night. Regarding His divine nature, we see Christ as the sovereign Lord of Creation, the Word who sustains all things by His powerful might. It is an icon showing Christ, not as having been beaten to death, but as forever having conquered death by His own death.

Likewise, our icons depict the same Lord--who spoke through fearful peals of thunder and dark clouds and lightning at Mt. Sinai--lifting Adam and Eve up from their dark graves.

We see stronger differences in iconography during the Renaissance era.....especially in the decidedly "classical" (i.e. humanist) styled creations of Michelangelo, and especially among the Baroque artists. The emphasis was on "realism", "sensuality" and a "perfectionism" that's displayed in those images of the human body. I know that when I look at pictures of Michelangelo's "David", I get concerned that I'm eating a bit too much. Perhaps I should cut back on meats altogether and, instead, limit myself to a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a carrot and protein shake for lunch and a modest helping of lettuce for dinner. And I can start jogging 5 miles a day, just in case this hearty diet starts causing me to pack on the pounds XD

But another interesting, and significant, difference between Rome and the East is their Liturgical and Ecclesiastic practices. We don't have a "Pope". In fact, the "Roman Papacy" presents the largest stumbling block to any proposed "re-union" between Byzantium and Rome. Orthodoxy cannot accept any sort of ecclesiastic monarch over Christendom because Christ, alone, is the "head" of the "body of Christ".....of Whom we come to speak to, listen to and love, personally, whether we are praying in our closet or are taking in at Liturgy.

Gregory said...

What's more, the "filioque" clause lends itself to Sabellian--or monarchial modalist--interpretations of the Godhead. While it alleges to secure the deity of Christ, it also manages to leave the "Holy Spirit" in the theological lurch. Orthodoxy will never acquiesce to the "filioque" doctrine. Nor should we.

Our confessions are much different. We do confession both privately and publicly. In terms of our public confession, we confess to the priest, before the whole church, our illnesses. It is not done privately in any confession booth. But, because of the problems that might be caused by "open" confessions.....like someone confessing "Hey James. I'm so sorry that I slept with your wife. Please forgive me".......the church decided to keep confessions between priest and laity private, to end the grievous animosities that arose from such kinds of confessions. Yet, coming publicly before the church to confess one's problems still let's everyone know that you haven't been the Christian that everyone hoped you would be.
Still, the priest's role is more like that of a doctor, rather than a mediation lawyer. For instance, the priest's arms are around you the whole time so that you will not fear or panic during your confession, lest your mind goes blank and you forget what you came to confess. Hence, having come for healing, tragically, you walk away unhealed.

This also shows the differences between how the East diagnoses and treats "sin", qua treatment of sickness, and how the West reprimands and punishes "evil", qua divine litigation against human rebels.

There is much more I could say....much more that I could elaborate on....but I fear appearing more "unfundamental" than the late great C.S. Lewis.

Blaise Pascal said...

"Eastern Orthodoxy expressly rejects the idea of "original sin", preferring, instead, the notion of "ancestral sin"."

Its the same notion, just different names. The term "original sin" doesnt really convey the idea, that is meant. I think that the term "original" was originally :) taken from the Latin where it means:

"origo
a beginning, commencement, source, start, descent, lineage, birth, origin"

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=origo&la=la

Blaise Pascal said...

You might want to read: "http://orthodoxwiki.org/Original_sin" for an Eastern Orthodox perspective.