Some things you should know about C. S. Lewis!

The writings of C.S. Lewis have again come into prominence with the release of the Hollywood version of The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe. Many evangelicals see this as a tremendous opportunity to present gospel truth. The claim is made that C.S. Lewis’ fictional writings are saturated with Biblical truth and even are a sort of parable-like repetition of Scriptural doctrine.

C. S. Lewis attempted to present Scriptural truth under a cloak of pagan mythology in order to give it popular appeal. Such an approach to Scripture is really just tampering with the word of God in an unacceptable fashion. The article below sets out some reasons why the Bible-believing Christian should have little to do with C.S. Lewis’ literature.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, N. Ireland in 1898 and for most of his adult life lectured in English literature at Oxford University. He wrote more than thirty books and his most popular accomplishments include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. At age 32, through the encouragement of his devout Roman Catholic friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings), he apparently converted to Christianity from atheism on route to the zoo in a motorcycle sidecar. Later that year, Lewis decided to become a practising Christian. He died in 1963.

C.S. Lewis has received much acclaim for his fictional works. Recently, his fantasy novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has been made into a movie.  According to Lewis, this is a “Christian” allegory. What does he mean by that? His definition of what he meant by “Christian” is clear – not in his fictional works – but in his theological works which provide ample evidence of his religious persuasion.

Quoting C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis’s personal religious beliefs are readily available to anyone who cares to know them. Therefore, it is assumed that anyone quoting him in a positive light is aware of these beliefs and by extension concurs with them.  Similarly, fundamental Christians freely quote from the writings of C.H. Spurgeon or Matthew Henry because they agree with their faithful Biblical positions and are not ashamed to identify with them. The simple old adage is still true: you are known by the company you keep. The same applies in the realm of citation.  Quoting C.S. Lewis has become a sort of phenomenon in the evangelical world.  One wonders if the purpose is to enjoy some sort of academic credibility? On the contrary, it only reveals ignorance: either of the man and what he believed or of the Scriptures of Truth.

The New Evangelical Perspective

It is not surprising that new evangelicals revere Lewis as a foremost Christian thinker and philosopher. In an article commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lewis’s birth, J.I. Packer called him “our patron saint.” Christianity Today said Lewis “has come to be the Aquinas, the Augustine, and the Aesop of contemporary Evangelicalism” (Sept. 7, 1998) and “the 20th century’s greatest Christian apologist” (April 23, 2001). Focus on the Family (November 2001) made a similar claim; however, the late Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones warned that Lewis had a defective view of salvation and was an opponent of the substitutionary and penal view of the atonement (Christianity Today, Dec. 20, 1963).

C.S. Lewis’s Beliefs

In simple terms, C.S. Lewis was an Anglo-Catholic and though dead, remains a living spokesman for ecumenism – a link to ecclesiastical reunion.  The following documented facts regarding his religious beliefs speak for themselves and raise some disturbing questions about his meaning of “Christian.”

1. Lewis believed in a “Christian” purgatory after death. “Death should not deprive people of a second chance…Lewis frankly admitted believing in purgatory.  To him it was a place for souls already saved but in need of purifying – purging.  Lewis felt that our souls demand purgatory.  Who would want to enter heaven foul and dirty? Lewis thought of the dentist’s chair. ‘I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am coming round, a voice will say, ‘Rinse your mouth out with this’ This will be purgatory.’” (Kathryn Lindskoog.  C.S. Lewis: Mere Christian, 4th ed. Chicago: Cornerstone Press, 1997, p. 105).

2. Lewis prayed for the dead. “Lewis could never accept the Roman Catholic practice of praying to saints…however, he emphatically believed in praying for the dead.  He believed that his prayers could somehow bless them. One must remember that Lewis believed in a temporary purgatory for the blessed dead as a kind of entryway to heaven”  (Lindskoog 135 based on Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm, London: Collins p. 15, 107-110).

3. Lewis believed in mystical experiences. “Rational though he was, Lewis thoroughly believed in the mystical experience, a way to go out of this world before death … mystics from all kinds of religions have much the same mystical experience” (Lindskoog, p. 197).

4. Lewis did not believe in the total inerrancy of the Bible. “Although Lewis never doubted the historicity of an account because the account was miraculous, he believed that Jonah’s whale, Noah’s ark, and Job’s boils were probably inspired stories rather than factual history” (Lindskoog, p. 199).

5. Lewis believed that Roman Catholicism is a “Christian” religion. Regarding Mere Christianity, Lewis said: “I tried to guard against this [putting forth his Anglican beliefs] by sending the original script of what is now Book II to four clergymen (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic) and asking for their criticism.  The Methodist thought I had not said enough about Faith, and the Roman Catholic thought I had gone rather too far about the comparative unimportance of theories in explanation of the Atonement.  Otherwise all five of us were agreed”  (C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. New Jersey: Fleming Revell, 1982, p. 11).

Continuing this thought, Lewis added that he “did at least succeed in presenting an agreed, or common, or central, or ‘mere’ Christianity” and congratulated himself in having helped to bridge the “chasm” between Protestant denominations and Catholicism: “If I have not directly helped the cause of reunion, I have perhaps made it clear why we ought to be reunited” (Mere Christianity, p. 12).

“You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic.  This omission is intentional.  There is no mystery about my position…the best service I could do was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times” (Mere Christianity, p. 6-7).

“And, whatever you do, do not start quarrelling with other people because they use a different formula from yours” (Mere Christianity, p. 284-5.)

6. Lewis accepted the Mass as being the same as Christian Communion. “There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names – Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper …anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will, in fact, tell you to use all three, and that is enough for our present purpose” (Mere Christianity, p. 108-09).

In chapter 19 of his Letters to Malcolm, Lewis suggested that the Roman Catholic conception of the bread and wine becoming the actual body and blood of Christ might be just as valid as the Protestant view of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial.

The conclusion?

By including a so-called “Christian” purgatory in his beliefs, Lewis immediately destroys the Bible doctrine of the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ imputed to the sinner’s account in salvation. By including Roman Catholicism under the umbrella of Christianity, and admittedly omitting its doctrines for the sake of unity, Lewis condones the heresies of the Mass, idolatry, Mariolatry, and salvation by works still taught and practised by that institution.  These are not “merely” cosmetic differences between denominations as Lewis would have us believe; these make up the great divide between truth and error. According to the Scriptures, salvation by works sends souls to Hell!  How can such a life and death truth be casually omitted?

Lewis, alcohol, and other questionable issues

“It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotalers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion” (Mere Christianity, p. 132).

While awareness of Lewis’s confused Biblical perspective is of primary importance, one cannot ignore his tobacco addiction (Lindskoog, p. 187), pub frequenting, relationship with life-long mentor Roman Catholic nun, Sister Penelope, and even his questionable marriage of convenience late in life to American author Joy Davidman. Then, there is the use of profanity [including the Lord’s Name] in his allegory The Great Divorce, written fourteen years after his conversion. In addition, his chapter on “Hell” in The Problem of Pain raises some serious doubts as to his belief in a literal Hell.  And there is the constant referral to sexual matters in Mere Christianity, but not one Bible verse is quoted in the first half of the book and only three partial verses in the latter half with no Bible reference in the entire book! With such a lack of supporting evidence, one wonders upon what foundation this “mere Christianity” is built?

So why is Lewis so revered by some evangelicals today?

In 1993, Christianity Today suggested this interesting reason why C.S. Lewis is so popular among some evangelicals. “Lewis’s concentration on the main doctrines of the church [which included Roman Catholic Church] coincided with evangelicals’ concern to avoid ecclesiastical separatism.”

One wonders how serious-minded, discerning evangelical Christians can support a man with such fundamental flaws in his basic theology.  Even Lewis himself admitted his own lack of knowledge in doctrine: “I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others” (Mere Christianity 7). So why is Lewis – a man who devoted his life not to the study of theology but to ancient pagan mythology – revered as the greatest Christian apologist in our century? Simple. Many professing Christians have rejected their God-given heritage and are trading in the solid rock of the Word for the shifting sands of man’s intellectual conjecture. One look at the seminaries and Christian bookstores of our lands reveals the very evident shift.  Sadly, even some fundamentalists are beginning to tread the same precarious ground of compromise.

Today, the market is full of writers like Lewis.  If ever we needed discernment, it is now.  Every book needs to be tested on these grounds: “What saith the Scriptures?” If books are not in total agreement with the Scriptures of truth, we should avoid them.  “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Rev. Ivan Foster (The Burning Bush, May 2001) observed of C.S. Lewis:  “A greater understanding of the man and his theology showed that he was not an advocate of the teachings of Holy Scripture but his own scholarly notions.  It is a foolish glorying in worldly scholarship that makes some admire the man.”

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth…” II Timothy 4:3-4.

J. Saunders, Whitefield Christian Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Canada, December 2005.

36 thoughts on “Some things you should know about C. S. Lewis!

  1. Autoverzekering online says:

    I don’t agree

  2. You are of course perfectly entitled to disagree but any opinion on spiritual matters counts for very little unless you can support your views from God’s word. I should like to see how you could support Lewis’ ecumenism and unbiblical teachings from the word of God! If you cannot do that then please realize that you are wrong.

  3. BaptistBrother says:

    While I totally agree with your statement “Every book needs to be tested on these grounds: ‘What saith the Scriptures?’,” I believe that it would be misinformed to say the Lewis’s works are not doctrinally sound or that he only cares about the advocation of his scholarly works.

    “The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether” -Mere Christianity

    Is that doctrinally wrong and incorrect according to the Scriptures? I realize that I am just taking a couple of sentences out of the book itself, but if I tried to fill this post with the many statements he makes in Mere Christianity that are right on with Scripture, then I probably would not have enough room.

    I think that you would agree that the Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom for a Christian; I think you would also agree that reading or using any guide regarding the Christian life from man should be scrutinized heavily with the Word of God. I am disappointed in your use of Kathryn Lindskoog because she was clearly against what C.S. Lewis wrote and basically called him a fraud.

    Within Mere Christianity, he does make the occasional reference to his Anglican church; but remember, that a denomination doesn’t save you nor damn you. As you can see from my screenname, I am a Baptist, but I wouldn’t ever say that a denomination who sprinkle-baptizes infants is in sin. It isn’t in the Bible (What Saith the Scriptures), but I don’t write those denominations off as a fraud. Neither should we write off C.S. Lewis as a fraud.

  4. The quotation that you use from Mere Christianity is interesting. It is true that those who have true dealings with God view themselves as He sees them – abhorrent and vile because of sin in the light of His holiness and justice. However, it is not true to say that such feelings are a real test for the presence of God. Many an ungodly wretch feels such a thing when he is caught out having been degraded by sin. Many a drunk in his stupor forgets about himself altogether! Yet God is with neither.

    The theology of Mere Christianity is acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church – it was deliberately intended to be so by the author – and being so, cannot be true to the theology of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Did you really read the article and the documentation of his beliefs? How can you possibly say that there is no conflict with Scripture? Any attempt to define Biblical Christianity that includes the views of Rome and accepts that organization as a Christian church is fatally flawed and entirely unbiblical.

    I find your parting comment about baptism interesting. You should be aware that those who practice baptism by sprinkling do so on a solid Scriptural foundation – in fact just as solid as any argument you might make for immersion! The case for sprinkling, pouring, or immersion can be argued from Scripture. The Bible is not as clear on the mode of Baptism as you might like to think. It is for this reason that the Church of which I am a minister (FPCNA) has since its inception practiced an open position on baptism. I find it sad that it seems that your views on Baptism are more clear cut that your views on the gospel.

  5. BaptistBrother says:

    I don’t agree with your presumption that the theology only applies to the Roman Catholic/Anglican church. I consider myself Reformed, and I know the many heresies that the Roman Catholic Church teaches. I read your arguments, but most of the arguments against him in your article display the views of Kathryn Lindskoog (someone who is staunchly against Lewis), not what Lewis actually wrote. He makes reference to his church, but from what I have read, he neither supports or favors them in his writing (Mere Christianity). For example, not once does he mention that I have to go through a Pope for my prayers or have to confess my sins to a Pope. If you don’t want to accept him for his affiliation with the church, I will accept that; however, based upon what I have read so far (I could have missed it), his writings do not show the Catholic beliefs that we both would consider heresy.

    Ultimately, if you base your whole Christian faith on a book other than the Bible, then there is a problem. Reading Narnia, Mere Christianity, or The Screwtape Letters alone will not help you at all; however, I have greatly benefited from reading his books, but maybe I am still immature in the faith or the things of God. Forgive me for coming across as rude for my comments on Baptism because after posting it, I realize the comment was very unnecessary and made you believe that my views of Baptism were supreme and overbearing to the gospel when they didn’t attribute to the argument at all.

  6. I’m not clear on what you mean by your opening line. However, it is not presumptive to state that any attempt to define Biblical Christianity, in terms that are acceptable to the Church of Rome or apostate Protestantism as represented by the Church of England, is fatally flawed. Such ‘lowest common denominator’ christianity as Lewis represents is decidedly not the Christianity of the Bible. In fact, so much of the vital core of the gospel must be set aside to facilitate a ‘mere Christianity’ that it becomes a counterfeit of the truth. You would not accept a counterfeit $50 bill simply because it shared some similarities with the real thing, would you? His books may contain themes that partially reflect the teaching of Scripture but I may find similar reflections in many other writers even pagans. It is what has to be left out that really matters! Many others besides Lewis have tried this. In more recent times the efforts of Evangelicals and Catholics Together got men like J. I. Packer and other men who ought to have know better, on board. The Manhattan Declaration was a similar effort that ensnared prominent evangelicals. Sadly, we live in an age where the great and glorious truths of the gospel have been so weakened and diluted as to be almost unrecognizable.

    Let me give you an example. Here is a story from Christianity Today that names Disney’s Toy story 3 movie as a film of the year because of its theme of “redemption”. Modern ‘Christianity’ has been so polluted by worldliness; is so ignorant of God and His word; is so out of touch with God, that those who adhere to the philosophy of Christianity Today – much of modern evangelicalism – can regard Toy Story 3 as an allegory of redemption. Such a view is utterly destructive of truth and gospel revelation. It reduces Divine truth to the equivalent of a fable with a few moral overtones.

    If what is stated in the article about C. S. Lewis’ personal beliefs is true then the man wasn’t born of God at all. Why would I want to try to learn anything about God and His sacred truth from such a source?

    Just a final comment to clarify a point you raise about Katheryn Lindskoog in your first comment. Her book “CS Lewis Mere Christian” Edition Four, totally supports him! The credits on the back cover alone “rave” about her scholarly insight that “quickens one’s appetite to return to the banquet of his writings.” (Dr. Terry Lindvall, author). The foreword of the book says, “The author of this book has long been a reader and follower of CS Lewis. In fact, her own life was changed and deepened by reading him. Furthermore, she has the great advantage of having actually known him personally and having had his particular and hearty approval of an earlier study which she did.” (Clyde Kilby, Curator Emeritus of the Marion E. Wade Center.

    Kathryn Lindskoog published “The CS Lewis Hoax” in 1988 (a year before “CS Lewis Mere Christian”). Unlike its title, the book exposes the hoaxes that have surrounded his life by people making money from marketing him. The cover says: “Because he and his books are dearly loved, an industry has grown up around him since his death. Careers and fortunes can be built upon his popularity, either worthily or unworthily.” In her book, Lindskoog resents the industry that has built upon his popularity e.g the sale of his personal possessions like his “imposing wardrobe closet”, the pond where he swam was purchased (p.18), “Narnia video game” (p.20) was invented etc. Lindskoog only supports Lewis, but does not support this trivial pursuit surrounding him.

    It seems you are rather mistaken in your view of Lindskoog’s work and your ‘disappointment’ at the author’s use of her book!! Now, where does that leave your own view of him and his theology?

  7. BaptistBrother says:

    I haven’t been convinced of the fraudulent nature of Lewis’s theology, but I do appreciate the correction of my assumption about Lindskoog. I just want to speak a moment about some of the comments that you made in your last post.

    “However, it is not presumptive to state that any attempt to define Biblical Christianity, in terms that are acceptable to the Church of Rome or apostate Protestantism as represented by the Church of England, is fatally flawed.”

    If you have ever read Mere Christianity, you would see that he doesn’t define Christianity in terms “acceptable” or even biased to the Church of England.

    “Such ‘lowest common denominator’ christianity as Lewis represents is decidedly not the Christianity of the Bible.”

    Observing your comments and the article, I assume that you have never read Mere Christianity or other works by Lewis, and I don’t suspect you will either, which is fine; I can respect that decision.
    What is the Gospel? That Christ came down, lived a perfect-sinless life, and was the perfect and only sacrifice for our sins so that we may have a relationship with God—in other words, substitutionary atonement. Man can’t do anything to save himself or even come close to God. . .it is the act of God alone to call us unto salvation, and He chose us before the foundation of the world. We are spiritually dead, not spiritually sick or some other concoctions that these easy-believism preachers are preaching today. Even pastors/bishops/etc. who profess to be Christian have appeared on CNN to say that there may be other ways to heaven other than through Jesus. I would say that I have a pretty good discernment regarding Christianity and beliefs. If I have erred in not noticing a flaw in Lewis’s writings in relation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then of course, I will admit to it. At this point, however, Lewis’s theology regarding salvation is not in error; either that, or I have gravely missed what he actually wrote or meant. The Catholic Church’s view upon salvation is corrupt of course, but according to the books he wrote, his views don’t represent those of the Catholic Church.

    “In fact, so much of the vital core of the gospel must be set aside to facilitate a ‘mere Christianity’ that it becomes a counterfeit of the truth.”

    Again, what is this “vital core” that Lewis leaves out? Your example of Toy Story 3, in my opinion, doesn’t really match the same type of allegories that Lewis wrote and told. For one, I don’t believe there is any redemption story in that movie, and two, Toy Story/Pixar had no intent of putting any elements of the Christian faith in it. Of course you can’t match Lewis’s allegorical characters with the exact replica of who they represent. That is the point of it being an allegory. Lewis himself even said that Aslan is a Christ-figure, but in no case, does Aslan actually display the true Jesus Christ. Of course, if one allows Aslan to become the actual Christ, then of course, he or she would be totally wrong to make that assumption and believe that Christ could be watered down.

    If Lewis ultimately makes you stumble by his Catholic/Church of England backgrounds or even if the allegories make you stumble, then I can respect that. I am just curious to know exactly what the “vital core” of the Gospel that you are referring to that Lewis leaves out. I don’t say that in hate by any means; I, myself, have been challenged by this post, and I desire to know the truth. It’s not like I hold an attitude of “C.S. Lewis or bust.” I myself even consulted some of my Christian mentors and pastor back home about Lewis because I had heard similar type arguments against him and his theology before even picking up a book about him.

  8. I confess I cannot understand how you can say that the Church of Rome’s doctrine is corrupt – it is in fact a blasphemous assault of the Biblical doctrine of atonement – and yet stand ready to revere C.S. Lewis who deliberately presents a ‘mere Christianity’ that is acceptable to Rome. There is something radically wrong with a version of the gospel that is acceptable to Popery. The central plank of the gospel is Christ’s finished work of atonement. Popery’s doctrine of atonement involves the sacrifice of the Mass (a dangerous deceit and a blasphemous fable) yet Lewis was prepared to accept this and his mere christianity accommodates it!! Lewis’ mere christianity actively makes room for the errors of apostate religion and does not warn against such error, and in doing so acts contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I was intrigued by your comment:
    “Lewis himself even said that Aslan is a Christ-figure, but in no case, does Aslan actually display the true Jesus Christ. Of course, if one allows Aslan to become the actual Christ, then of course, he or she would be totally wrong to make that assumption and believe that Christ could be watered down…”

    Have you really thought of the implications of what you wrote? According to you, Lewis presents a view of Christ that you say is not true! That, my friend, is reason enough to reject his teaching. You have actually argued for the very same position adopted by CT and Toy Story 3 as I referred to above! You claim to derive spiritual benefit from something that looks a little like Christ’s work of redemption even though it does not ‘display the true Lord Jesus Christ’.

    I am closing this discussion simply by observing again that you have not been able to challenge the points made in the main article above. You have not been able to prove a single line of the article incorrect and instead, have had to acknowledge your own approach/criticisms of the author to be wrong. Perhaps with a little prayerful thought over the points raised in article you might yet come to recognize that faithfulness to the gospel of Christ requires us to separate from the compromise represented by Lewis and his mere christianity and stand openly on the side of Christ our sin offering as demanded by Hebrews 13:13.

  9. I have a question for you, would you discount the work of John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress for the same reason that it waters down truth? Have you considered that any picture or story given to describe truth as an allegory will be inherently flawed but that that is understood and the value in such stories is not their flawless picturing of complete truth but rather the replica that allows one to better understand the truth presented? Perhaps I’m way out in left field with this though…

    I also share your extreme dislike for many of the teachings of Rome and agree that, as a whole, the religious organization is corrupt and the gospel preached is warped. However, does not Paul himself say in Philippians 1:15-18 that there will be those who preach the gospel (and yes, I understand that as a whole Rome does not believe nor preach the gospel, but I have heard priests who do, in fact, teach the gospel, including substitutionary atonement) out of selfish ambition or wrong motives, but he rejoices because Christ is preached, even though those preaching will themselves end up in Hell. (And yes, I am aware that in other places, such as Galatians, Paul has strong words against such teachings as what the Roman Catholic Church pushes).

    I guess this is my real question/thought… Is it necessary to throw out the entirety of the works of a man such as C.S. Lewis simply because pieces of it were flawed? If you say yes, then I would submit to you that you cannot read any book or author other than the text of sacred Scripture, because you will find all of them to be inherently flawed. While I agree with you that we must be aware of C.S. Lewis’ obvious theological errors and problems, I think that we can still glean from his theological wisdom (yes, I do actually think that C.S. Lewis had some wisdom given from God James 1:5) and the things that he does teach us about God and truth.

    You even go so far in this discussion as to claim that C.S. Lewis was not a believer because of the beliefs that he held to. Who are you to say this? He lived in a particular time and place and held certain beliefs associated with it. Are you at the time of justification immediately eradicated of all of your false beliefs? Are you made perfect in mind upon receiving Christ as your Savior? Is it not the love of God imparted to us that brings us to Christ rather than the savvy of our intellect? Yes, one must grow in their knowledge of God once being made to believe, but is it actually their belief that draws them to God? If you expect someone to have perfect theology in order to be a child of God then God does not have any children! We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are transformed as we gaze upon the glory of God. We put on the new self. You cannot expect perfection from any Christian author, and I fear that in your writings about C.S. Lewis you have actually condemned yourself because of your own apparent view of some need for perfection in order to come before God.

    One last thought. In Mere Christianity the goal in the first half was to present a case for Christianity apart from Scripture (which we have credence for from Romans 1 and Acts 17:16-34) so it is no wonder that it includes no Scriptural references. Also, Mere Christianity was originally a radio program that was later put into a book, and the purpose of it was to wet people’s appetite for the gospel, not necessarily to present the whole gospel. It’s purpose was to make a case for Christianity, to show non-believers, and specifically atheists, that Christianity held some weight. It makes sense then that the gospel presented there would not be 100% coherent and that it is not in all of it’s fullness. It also makes sense as to why C.S. Lewis tried so hard to present the essentials of Christianity (which I know that you would argue that he failed to do so) which would be affirmed by differing denominations (and I understand that you believe that to include Rome in this was entirely wrong and you would crucify the man over it) so that when the one listening to such a radio broadcast started to seek God in whatever church they found themselves they would not find themselves to have been misled by his broadcast or to have been distracted by particulars rather than essentials. I personally have known quite a few people that were converted in such a context, such as a church that I would not even consider to preach the gospel, only later to realize the truth through Scripture and move on to a solid gospel preaching church. I, for one, greatly appreciate Lewis for what he was and is and for the desires that he had. He was by no means a perfect man, and his theology was flawed in many ways, so that I would not teach MOST of what he said, but I do see things in it that are beneficial and useful and would therefore have no problem quoting him.

    Oh, sorry I know I keep saying I’m done and then I continue, I do find that there is a thread of the redemption story woven throughout Toy Story 3 which could easily be used as an evangelistic tool. You can find such things in many other pieces of secular literature and media. Does this mean that I would preach a sermon based on Toy Story 3? By no means! But does it mean that I may use Toy Story 3 to explain the gospel to a non-believer? Absolutely. I believe that this is the exact example that we receive from Jesus and the Apostles throughout Scripture. They used things that were common to the people, things that the people understood, in order to make the truths of the gospel plain. At times quoting their poets, at times referencing their idols, at times talking about their occupations, at times referencing their food, all of these things were seen as useful for making the gospel plain. I fear that you have become so concerned with doctrine that you would never be able to actually communicate it to an unbelieving world… I fear that you have such a complete view of the gospel, that you are so wise in your own eyes, that you would be unable to worship or even communicate, with someone who was doing drugs yesterday and today found themselves a converted Christian, or worse, was a converted Christian yesterday and today found themselves doing drugs. I fear that if a prostitute who claimed to be a Christian came to you you would know nothing of what it would mean to “restore her gently”. I fear that if a genuine Christian were to have a view that was contrary to yours that you would know nothing of living in peace, or removing the block from your own eye, or leaving it to God to avenge.

    I do not take everything that C.S. Lewis says as true, but I also do not take it all as false.

  10. I do not intend to reply to every point you raise in your comment. I will simply make a couple of points.
    1. To embrace the doctrines of Rome in the way C.S. Lewis did – to the point where had he lived he would likely have converted to Rome – is not just to be a little mistaken on gospel truth. His views of the Mass especially mean his views on the gospel are not to be trusted at all. You write as if Lewis’ theological issues very only minor matters and that anyone who speaks against him is picking at a mote while ignoring a beam in their own eye! Accommodation of the doctrines of Rome on the central truths of atonement is fatal for truth.
    2. Do I have a problem with Pilgrim’s Progress? No, because it is a faithful exposition of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The problem is not the use of metaphor but the doctrine that is conveyed.
    3. I am very happy to use the methodology and doctrine of Scripture as a whole in presenting Christ to men and women. I believe however that caution must be used when using illustrations of the gospel at work. The Saviour and the Apostles certainly used illustrations – and I am happy to use similar ones – but their use must be studied carefully so as to avoid any improper and derogatory implications. You will never find this in the Biblical use of illustration. In my estimation, to take a Disney movie as an illustration of the glorious theme of redemption is a very poor reflection on the person and work of Christ

  11. Your points are well intended, well stated, and well taken.

    I do have concerns with C.S. Lewis’ theology and many of his ideas. I have a friend who tends to be on the fringes of Christianity but is well read in evangelical and other Christian literature. He often likes to throw ideas of C.S. Lewis at me in discussions and say, “See, here is someone supported by the majority of evangelical Christianity and he said this, so how can you disagree with it.” So when I saw this article, it caught my attention, however you seemed to almost go to the opposite side of overboard, in my opinion, and it wasn’t necessarily your treatment of Lewis that bothered me but rather your treatment of the writing styles that he used and his method of conveying information.

    So I agree with you that there is great danger in the writings of C.S. Lewis and that we must tread carefully within his works. I also agree that the widespread, undisputed support of him by modern evangelicalism is surprising and in some ways concerning.

    However, I maintain my last statement in my last comment, “I do not take everything that C.S. Lewis says as true, but I also do not take it all as false.” Although that could be said of anyone….

    PS. Sorry for the length of my previous comment. Thank you for taking the time to read, consider, and reply to it.

  12. I quite agree that there are things that C. S. Lewis says that may be true. However, there is a point in dealing with spiritual matters where such is the nature of the error that is embraced that it renders even the ‘good’ unusable. There is a powerful illustration of this in the Saviour’s ministry: “…Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6 AV) There can be no question about the veracity and power of the Law of God – yet it had been rendered effectively null and void in the lives of those who embraced the erroneous teachings of the Pharisees. In a nominal/external sense only they presented Divine truth, and yet effectively destroyed truth by the bulk of their teaching. That is exactly where I think we can put men like C. S. Lewis. The wholesale recommendation of Lewis by the modern church is alarming as it demonstrates a severe lack of spiritual understanding and godly discernment. Error is naively presented as wonderful – and usually in the name of scholarship!

  13. Richard R.Davis says:

    I see you have started quite a stir among some brethren by this topic.
    I myself have some strong reservations with anyone who is regarded a guru,and practically “worshipped” by those who revere him/her. Not to demean C.S.L. as a person,since I don’t believe he wanted that kind of adoration,yet,from what I have experienced by SOME who admire him and his writings,that’s exactly what they do,whether realized or not. I am reminded of a R.Catholic lady,who hardly smarts at slants against Christ but will go ballistic when the “Blessed Virgin” is spoken ill of. The same goes for some I know who are C.S.L. fans. They claim to be Protestant,Reformed,but refuse to consider Lewis’s strongly R.C. bent,or worse,defend him in it. I know one who started drinking port wine and smoking a pipe;he was so enamoured by C.S.L. Now,I do not condemn any Christian that may smoke or drink in moderation,(though I do not do it myself)but it seems a bit idolizing to do it because your favorite guru does.
    It is the Spirit that speaks to the hearts of His elect,not convincing words of men.

  14. Thank you for your clear exposition of C.S. Lewis’ theology. I used to read the Narnia books to my children, but their “strangeness” stopped me. The children even begged me not to continue in the series.

    Later, a friend convinced me of the “merits” of these books, and we tried again. While in the period of enjoying the first books of the Chronicles of Narnia, a family we knew, who had previously shunned this author, thought that if we were reading them, it must be alright! What a chain of deception follows when we are not intelligent, discerning believers.

    I thank the Lord that our late pastor cautioned us against reading such books, as well as The Lord of the Rings series by Tolkien. Unfortunately, the friends I mentioned above are so enamored with all of the movies based on these two authors’ books, that, although I have solid articles to share with them about the wrong theology, they do not want to hear criticism. So many in our circle of friends love the movies, and set up outings to see the new hits…even those in places of leadership. They feel sorry for us, that I will not allow our family to attend, even though NOT ONE of my nine children would even want to.

    One of the worst encounters for me was when a visiting pastor incorporated ASLAN into his Bible message! To me it was blasphemous and I shuddered. How can we continue in such deceit? THANK YOU for standing firm!

  15. Warren Oldfield says:

    Well written article and a wonderful discussion. I especially appreciate the fact that comments/responses were intelligent.

    I hate to “throw the baby out with the bath water”, but in the case of CS Lewis’ theology/doctrinal beliefs… the baby just isn’t in the tub.

  16. I have read a couple of C.S. books and I enjoyed them. He is indeed a very popular writer in the Christian world. Is he ‘too’ popular? Are his words alone held with too much merit? Perhaps… But I reject the idea that his books are garbage or that they should not be read at all. Everybody interprets the bible differently and there is no proven best Christian book or Christian writer when it comes to the subject. It is impossible to be totally objective when writing about the bible. So Lewis’ works should be looked at as subjective pieces of art that help one in faith.

  17. There is a fundamental issue that needs to be borne in mind when dealing with Scripture. It is objective truth in every word. The problem often in these types of discussions is the view of the Bible that is held. It is on that issue that we need to focus. If the Bible is what it claims to be then no matter how clever, plausible, popular, the error written about it may be, there can be no debate about the relative merit of that error.
    It is true that no sinner can perfectly grasp nor explain truth, yet so long as the clear language of Scripture and its plain teachings are taught, we may be said to know and speak the truth. C. S. Lewis demonstrates obvious inclinations to depart from the basic teaching of Scripture in many areas of doctrine. Such errors cannot be simply described as ‘subjective pieces of art’ and accepted as such. This concept, of course, is what leads ultimately to idolatry – after all, it is argued, the image (of Christ, a saint, Mary etc) is an aid to faith and therefore acceptable and good. Once anything subjective is introduced to the plain teaching of Scripture truth is perverted and is to be opposed. C. S. Lewis’ books are presented as and used as commentaries on Scriptural themes. This means that they MUST be tested by the Biblical standard and when found wanting, set aside as promoting error. Error is NOT an art form although sadly many today believe that it is.

  18. As a young Christian I got a lot out of Screwtape Letters and could easily see where the devil tries to trip us up; not bad help for a young Christian! But our kids are screwed up something awful with all this weird witch/dragon/dungeon/internet games/etc., without us feeding more to them in the form of “Christian” versions of the same foolishness.
    I think parents just feed them this to keep the kids busy while they pursue more important things like making money and attending to their own pleasure. Do they ever take the time to explain “the deeper meaning of the Lewis fables? I doubt it!
    Parents … take time for your kids; you are ultimately responsible for them. Present them some real wisdom ….from the Bible. When Mohammed came along he used a term in current use to describe us … Ahl al Kitaab … the People of the Book. If he were to use that term today his audience might well ask, “And who are they?”

  19. Rob Van Duyse says:

    I think it odd that someone would think that C.S. Lewis ever even thought himself to be any sort of theologian. I am am quite sure he would flatly reject the notion. And as far as his own life’s example and specific doctrinal views, I am also quite sure he would not suggest that he had any corner on the truth, or that anyone should see his life as something to follow, again quite the contrary. He simply was a great thinker, and his ponderings on the faith, and the implications of the faith, make his writings an insight into reason and faith, and how the two are not impossible bed fellows. So that being said, it would not be wise to suggest he was any sort of biblical theologian, or commentator. And the argument to not quote him is sound, if that quoting is suggesting he is any sort of the latter. His thinking can be enlightening in the process of determining ones individual beliefs, as so many christians are spoon fed their doctrine. So I feel his thinking is important, because it demonstrates that the human mind is indeed active in the birthing of genuine faith, and indeed must be so.

  20. Whether he would call himself a theologian or not is irrelevant. The fact is that he presents a form of theology/doctrine that is at variance with Scripture. Sadly, many Christians in an attempt to appear scholarly and acceptable to the academic world embrace Lewis because he was a great ‘thinker’. Our thinking on spiritual matters is to be strictly limited by, and subject to, the truth of Scripture. It is not a spiritual virtue to be a great thinker and to use that ability to present teaching that is foreign to the Bible. Such thinking is falsehood and lies and in fact is condemned by God as foolishness.

  21. It is true that some may learn something helpful from Lewis’ writings but that principle in itself is hardly enough to justify an endorsement of them. I know that there are people who find something edible in a trash can – but that does not mean I encourage others to go dumpster-diving! If you learned something of God’s truth from anything Lewis wrote you can thank the Lord for His mercy in communicating that truth to you. But, thank Him also for preserving you from the errors Lewis taught.

  22. Sadly, I have heard Lewis’ name spoken in the pulpit way too many times. You are absolutely correct in your assessment of Lewis’ writings. Too many pastors are found reading numerous theology books, and not found reading enough of God’s word. The Bible will keep us away from such trash, or the trash will keep us away from God’s word. Thank you for speaking the truth. Keep standing.

  23. Guatemala says:

    Dear Mr. Foster. Thanks so much for your clear exposition of the truth and the excellent answers you have given to each comment. Many years ago I made a personal decision not to read any “Christian Books” out there. The Bible is clear in itself, it does not need allegoric aids and God has used His Word’s true doctrine for ages to speak directly to people. Also, in James is Clear that if you are lacking wisdom you need to refer to the giver of wisdom, not to the best seller author out there. Having “Christian Books” bombarding us constantly for few dollars is relatively new. Not because a book mentions references to God or other religious vocabulary is to be given a clean bill. For me is as easy as the story of the “Chocolate Pie” in the movie “The Help”. Even when something looks so good and clean and ready to be eaten, if it has been contaminated in it 0.1%, would you eat it? NO. I know that Proverbs 10:19 refers to the tongue and its excess use. But it is also true in a time when we do not lack of words and opinions. When we hear all this enlighted ones around us, there is no lack of sin. Among all noise the only true comes from the only God, Almighty. The God of the Bible.

  24. There is a saying if it were not for Christians there would be more followers of Christ. Andy Foster seems to be one of those “christians”. The Pharisaic attitude he has in the “name of God” is repulsive. I think I know the Bible very well and certainly think of myself as a follower of Christ and an evangelical Christian. But I will say this, if heaven is full of people like Andy Foster I would rather be somewhere else. Perhaps Heaven will not have people like that. Maybe all the Pharisees will be hanging together. Ug! Sounds more like hell. One thing about the Andy Fosters is they smugly go through life without an inkling they may have some holes in their theology. What does God say about the proud in heart. I know, I know it’s all for the good of the kingdom Andy. Any persecution you get is for the glory of God. We should all thank you. I’m not a C.S. Lewis fan but perhaps Andy is just a bit jealous know one has ever heard of him.

  25. I was relieved to read your article. It was refreshing to finally hear a dissenting voices. I have heard his writing lauded for years, and it has always disturbed me. I even tried to watch the movie incase I was off. I wasn’t. It smacked of sorcery, was unbiblical and strange.

  26. Well written arguments brother. I really appreciate your high view of scripture. I would humbly put forth that your arguments might be received better by simply exchanging your exclamation marks with periods. The exclamation point probably evokes two responses from your readers: If someone agrees with you, they probably hear a voice emboldened by a loving heart steadfastly gazing upon Jesus and His Word. If someone disagrees with you, they probably hear an angry, ranting, prideful voice, emboldened by the self-loving desire to be right. If the absence of that powerful punctation mark helps people to see you as more gentle and loving in your zeal for the truth of God, then they might listen more carefully to your arguments. Grace and peace be multiplied to you.

  27. What I liked about C.S.Lewis was his inclusiveness towards all religious beliefs and demonations He was just human, and I’m sure he made alot of mistakes, but he practised the most important thing through his words. He tried to live love as Jesus did by not being exclusive. You can debate for hours on whose doctrine is right or wrong, but it’s a futile exercise in self rightesness, and causes dissension, and not love. Love is the most important thing, and real love never fails. That should be our witness as true Christians.

  28. Hi Shawna. You have absolutely hit the nail on the head. Your comment indicates so clearly why C.S. Lewis’ writings still pose a danger to the Church of Christ. True Christianity manifests a love for the truth as it is revealed in Scripture. Love has to be defined! It is not enough to say “love is the most important thing”!!! What do you love? Is it the “most important thing” that an alcoholic “loves” the alcohol that is killing him? Truth is by definition exclusive. It does not include every other notion and idea that is suggested.
    The word of God is the plain message of truth. It is NOT a futile exercise to discover the truth of God’s word, to teach it and defend it against those who, like C.S. Lewis, teach lies and error. If I love truth I must necessarily hate error. The Lord Hmself has command: “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Ps 97:10)

  29. Thanks for your kind words. If you look carefully you will see that I am not actually the author of the article. It was written by a very able author and I think I’ll let the punctuation stand. I doubt if changing punctuation will have any effect on those determined to defend the ecumenical philosophy of C.S. Lewis.

  30. A classic case of ‘shooting the messenger’ rather than dealing with the message! The only comment I will make on your reaction to this article is to point out that you did not present a single Biblically supported argument against what was written. Followers of Christ must deal as He did with error and false teaching. That is what I have sought to do with C.S. Lewis and others. Personal insults and diatribe is not argument! If you “know the Bible very well”, as you claim, advance some Biblical reasons for my being wrong in anything written above.

  31. C.S. Lewis is a popular author because of his conversion from atheism to Christianity after his experience in the first world war, and a very difficult childhood – because despite his personal suffering his arguments for the existence of God were based on the existence of the moral good. He became a Christian at the time Bertrand Russel was all the rage and the logical positivists held sway over western philosophy. C.S. Lewis practically took on the intellectual elites in popular culture with an amazing proof for the existence of God based on moral law – the very subject matter which so many atheists since Voltaire have tried to use to discredit Christianity – revealing again the truth of Romans 1. He also pointed out many of the self contradictions of Godless thinking. He did this while fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. were enmeshed in their own denominational internecine wars – a tradition which this article continues. The same fundamentalist Christians who have abandoned the intellectual and secular world declaring that they’d rather not polish the brass rails of a sinking ship – an idea resulting from flawed theology – the dispensationalist view of scripture, and pre-tribulation eschatology. Two uniquely American theologies from the late 19th century that have left fundamentalists like the writer of this article unable to even understand the significance of C.S. Lewis’ apologetics since they’ve abandoned the mission field of the mind more than a century ago.

    I primarily oppose this article because it misses the point of C.S. Lewis’ life and the ways in which God used him and continues to use his apologetics today. Yes i think some of his theological ideas were wrong headed – including several of the theologies listed. But theology was not his expertise – his standing for the gospel in an antagonistic university setting, using scripture, reason and imagination to engage the lost was an example we all should learn from even as we discard some of his theological inclinations. He never claimed to be a theologian – in fact he disclaimed that expertise time and time again. Leave his contributions where they belong, in apologetics, in declaring the obvious truth of the existence of the good, and standing for Christ in a hostile university setting.

    Your next article will probably criticize the apostle Paul on Mars hill since he quoted a pagan philosopher and pointed out a pagan inscription to introduce people to the gospel. Get a grip.

  32. The logic of this comment is admirably simple: C.S. Lewis’ theology was wrong but because he defended it so admirably i.e. his apologetics were good, we should simply accept his errors. Bad theology can never be compensated for by good apologetics!

  33. I would not know where to start to refute the things you said in your article about C S Lewis .Accusing people who quote him of trying to gain some academic credibility is high handedly judgemental. How dare you decide anybody else’s motivations for their behaviour? I like C S Lewis and quote him in my private life because he shows wisdom and succinctly puts basic beliefs into language that makes it intelligible to idiots like me. I read my Bible every day and hold its truths above all others, but find it helpful to read the writings of other Christians who can throw different insights onto Christian subjects or the Bible. I started my Christian life in a denomination that, like you, felt they had the only corner on real truth. It is not an attractive quality and has the capacity to turn people away from Christ. I do not think we should try necessarily to be attractive to the world, but self righteousness is going totally against Christ’s teachings. Because of my varied denominational experience, I have learnt that there are real Christians in most denominations, and though I may disagree with some of their theology, I have no right to decide that they are lesser Christians. It is only God who can see the heart and give a true evaluation of a person’s faith. I can only say that I am glad that the Christian friends I have now are humble enough not to think that only they have the real truth!! I wish that I had the time to find a really good quote by C S Lewis that could put my thoughts more astutely.

  34. You could always start by referencing the teaching of the Scripture which indicates that C. S. Lewis’ approach to theology was unbiblical and erroneous. I wish you would take the time to find something from God’s word to prove your point rather than something from C. S. Lewis!

  35. Oh for goodness sake, trying to hide behind having to have a Biblical reference for every thought we ever have is ridiculous. Which statement do you want Biblical reference for, reading literature other than scripture I cannot immediately find, but we are not prohibited from doing so. We are surely taught to measure it against scripture, but that does not mean every time a persons’s opinion differs from ours slightly we condemn them; unless they blaspheme or deny Christ! Judging others is a lot easier: Matt 7:1,2: Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure it will be measured to you.
    Could you reference for me the scripture that says that your interpretations or your denomination is the only true one?

  36. Your response is full of ‘red herrings’. I do not condemn an opinion that differs from mine – unless it differs from the explicit teaching of the word of God. I do not believe that my denomination is the only true one at all and have never said so. I DO believe very firmly that the only arbiter of truth is the written word of God and when C.S. Lewis or anybody else teaches contrary to the word of God then they are wrong and that fact should stated. Blasphemy/denial of Christ is not the only point when criticism and forthright condemnation is justified. Peter had done neither and was a true believer, yet Paul spoke very strongly against his error in Galatians 2.
    I might also point out that the word of God IS to rule every thought and action we engage in. It is by this word that we will be judged at the judgement. Everything we do is to be to the glory of God (1Cor 10:31) and what glorifies Him is defined by Scripture.
    By your comments on Matt 7:1 it is evident that you do not understand the Saviour’s words at all. He is not prohibiting discernment and judgement but rather is calling for a readiness to submit to the same standard of criticism. If you read on in the passage you will see that HE calls us to make a judgement’ on wether men are spiritually fruitful or merely thorns and thistles! I DO endeavour to live by Matt 7:1 ff and when I apply the standard of the word of God and by it discern error I use the same word of God to examine my own life.

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