Thursday, December 07, 2006

Comments by a Lewis fan and former student of John Beversluis

Anwyn, a former Beversluis student but an admrer of C. S. Lewis, has some things to say about her former teacher's views on Lewis. It supports my long-held contention that Beversluis projected a more harshly critical view of C. S. Lewis in his book than he actually accepts. Of course he doesn't think Lewis's apologetics work, but the idea that he thinks Lewis is just a blithering idiot is just not true. I think that his revised book may disappoint some people like S. T. Joshi, who wrote God's Defenders, and who does think that Lewis is a blithering idiot and uses Beversluis to support his position. Ditto for Austin Cline of atheism.about.com.

7 comments:

Victor Reppert said...

I had myself been reading Beversluis as a hostile critic until I read his essay, "Surprised by Freud," which is a critique of A. N. Wilson's biography. This is the reference to that review:

John Beversluis, "Surprised by Freud: A Critical Appraisal of A. N. Wilson's Biography of C. S. Lewis," Christianity and Literature, Vol. 41, No. 2 (1992), pp. 179-95.

I wish people who like Joshi and Cline who use Beversluis to support a hostile critique of Lewis would read his review of Wilson. In fact, I wish it were more readily available instead of being somewhere in the back shelves of your local academic library.

Jason said...

Maybe he'll reference it a lot (or even be able to include it in an appendix) when he finishes his revised version.

Tim said...

Whether Beversluis counts as an intemperate Lewis-basher or not, it certainly seems to me that he seriously overstated his case against Lewis. I reread the book this past spring, about 20 years after I first encountered it, and I was not terribly impressed.

Like many readers, I assumed that Beversluis was hostile to Christianity, though that sat oddly with the endorsement from William Alston on the cover of the 1985 edition. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this piece by Peter Kreeft that reveals Beversluis -- a highschool classmate of Kreeft's -- to have been, not an atheist or an agnostic, but a Calvinist! I'm saddened, but not surprised, to hear that he now describes himself as an agnostic.

If Beversluis is indeed revising the book, I hope he'll tone down the rhetoric and withdraw some of the bad criticisms and insupportable readings. If he wants to know where the original edition was least persuasive, I'm sure that Kreeft, Purtill (who reviewed it when it first came out and who has written his own book on Lewis's arguments), Vic and I would all be happy to provide input.

Tim said...

I'll just add that this is Beversluis's responsibility. It is very sad and is not something I would want on my conscience.

If Beversluis was a Calvinist at the time, why is there no hint even of a Reformed Epistemological stance on questions of religious knowledge? I think RE is wholly inadequate, but it seems to me that if he was still a Christian at the time of writing Beversluis should have provided something in the way of an alternative. But perhaps Kreeft is just mistaken and Beversluis became an agnostic while writing the book.

Jason said...

Considering how strongly he was flaming Ockhamism--frequently associated thematically with hardline Calvinism--I'd say odds were good that he was taking out some of his dissatisfaction with Calvinism on a handy target who shouldn't have been Ockhamist but (per Bev) turned out to be anyway.

That being said, I do believe Beversluis has a bit of a valid case for 'accidental Ockhamism', so to speak, at a couple of points. (I'm thinking of a place in TPoP.) If he polished and fine-tuned his argument better, he could make a real case for critiquing Lewis on a couple of points by appealing to stronger positions Lewis holds elsewhere (including elsewhere in TPoP, ironically. {s})

JRP

PS: nice to see you again, Tim! {g}

Victor Reppert said...

I think the new edition will answer a lot of our questions about his own views. He comes across as a religious skeptic to me. I think the book served to improve Lewis scholarship in that it required people like us to take a skeptical viewpoint into consideration.

Victor Reppert said...

I e-mailed Kreeft a couple of years back to see if he knew something I didn't about Bev. He really didn't and saw him as a skeptic himself.