Distinguished “Oxbridge” literary scholar, prolific writer, and lay Anglican theologian, C. S. Lewis continues to influence Christian thinking in the twenty-first century. In this second and final part of this article series1, I share two more lessons that I think believers can take from Lewis’ works and philosophy (see part 1 here).
3. Christian apologists of the twenty-first century would do well to emulate Lewis’ example in providing a comprehensive apologetic. By “comprehensive” I mean an apologetic that includes positive evidence for the faith (as in Mere Christianity), willingness to tackle the difficult questions of our day (for example, The Problem of Pain), and a penetrating critique of non-Christian systems of thought (such as Lewis’ critique of naturalism in Miracles).
In his own colorful way, Lewis expressed the importance of Christian apologetics:
To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies [of Christ] on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.2
4. Mere Christianity is one of Lewis’ most popular books. In it he proclaims, explains, and defends the central truths of Christianity. What impresses me most about this book is its lucid style and its single-minded focus on the essentials of the faith. Knowing the core elements of historic Christianity and being able to articulate them with clarity to believers and nonbelievers alike will help all Christians fulfill their God-given role in drawing others to follow Jesus Christ.
Learning from Lewis doesn’t mean we must embrace everything he believed. Some conservative evangelicals have criticized him for holding a view of Scripture that falls short of full inerrancy.3 Others are disturbed by his Anglican/catholic belief in purgatory and in prayers for the dead.4 Lewis also apparently held the controversial position of theistic evolution which raises serious red flags for many conservative Christians.
Regardless of the differences, C. S. Lewis deserves honor for his clear and courageous witness for the Lord Jesus Christ during his days as an Oxford don and later as a Cambridge professor. Such outspoken faith was no more politically correct or socially acceptable a half century ago than it is today.
1. This article was published originally as one piece in RTB’s publication Facts & Faith 12, no. 2 (1998), 6–7, to commemorate the centennial of C. S. Lewis’ birthday.
2. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 58.
3. Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), s.v. “Lewis, Clive Staples,” 630–31.
4. J. I. Packer, “What Lewis Was and Wasn’t,” Christianity Today (January 15, 1988): 11.