Archive for the ‘C.S. Lewis’ Category

mere christianity

CS Lewis. Mere Christianity.  New York, NY: MacMillian Publishing Company, April 16th, 1986. 175 pp.

This is my second reading of Mere Christianity.  I first read it when I was a teenager and I was prompted to read it again since I was curious to see what I would think of Lewis’ famous work now that I’m a bit older.  After all these years I still think the book’s presentation of the moral argument for God is a classic and one of the tope presentation out there.  Of course I would add the caveat that I would utilize the moral argument as a form of the transcendental argument for God’s existence but nevertheless I think Presuppositionalists can profit from reading this book.

What is Good:

There were many instances in the book that I found CS Lewis to be tremendously insightful.  His command of the English language is beautiful in a way that one expect from a Cambridge literary professor (which he was).  I am jealous of his keen ability of making observation and illustrations.  Lewis talked about how only those who resist sin can truly know the power of sin versus those who always give in to temptation; he illustrates this point by raising the question of who knows more the power of the enemy, one who surrenders or one who fight against them.  I also thought his illustration about faith and reason was very helpful in showing how they are not necessarily against each other.  He talks about how someone can intellectually know a medical fact but when one is undergoing a medical procedure sometimes it takes continued faith in the facts despite one’s hesitation and fear and in such an instance it is a virtue.

What is Bad:

CS Lewis aims to defend a “mere Christianity” and not a particular denomination or specific Christian creed but I don’t know if he succeeded in arriving at a minimalistic “mere Christianity.”  He wants to defend and discuss a Christianity which all Christians have in common but there’s instances where that’s not possible.  For example, he talks about the means of accessing God’s grace through faith, baptism and Lord’s supper but this “mere Christianity” is not that of Evangelicals who would say we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone apart from works.

Lewis does have a universalistic streak when it comes to salvation.  This is probably due to the influence of George MacDonald, a writer and Christian minister who was instrumental in Lewis’ conversion.  One find in the book that Lewis mentioned at least twice that some who are not professing Christians might be closer to God than they realize or professes.

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There is a doctoral dissertation for a PhD. in Dogmatics and Christian Ethics over at University of Pretoria (located at South Africa) by Donald Neil Wilson, whose topic deals with C.S. Lewis and Postmodern Epistemology.  The title is “Postmodern Epistemology and the Christian Apologetics of C S Lewis.”  It was completed in 2006.

Here is the abstract:

Epistemology in its contemporary post-modern ethos is generally believed to be inseparably hinged upon language. This of course ensures a major paradigm shift in the disciplined human conceptions of reality. It has been stated and is widely acknowledged that the Kantian Noumenal barrierhas, in this recent shift, been proved to be looming far closer than it was ever previously considered. This new barrier to the world of ‘objective absolutes’ comprises a barrier of semantics and syntax, and calls for a radical restructuring of all the human sciences. There is surely no discipline in the humanities that can claim immunity to this colossal shift in epistemology, and theology (particularly of the Evangelical variety) is no exception to the rule.

The impact of post-modern epistemological assumption upon contemporary Evangelicalism presents to those who adhere to this school’s position, a profound challenge. Conservative Christians, who hold to the propositional universality and the objectivity of biblical truth, find in the post-modern ethos little sympathy and no rational justification granted for their ‘metaphysical objectivity’. A major challenge therefore to Evangelical Christianity at the present time is this: Is there, in the light of the challenge of post-modern epistemology, any reasonable justification for continuing to adhere to the evangelical claim that God has spoken in unchanging propositional terms that are universally valid and binding? It would seem that in this regard many evangelicals are feeling pressured. Evidence of the pressure of this challenge can readily be found either in the growing contemporary evangelical tendency towards advocating a more cooperative attitude to the post-modern ethos, or in the reactionary theology of schools of thought like the Spiritual Warfare Movement.

The writings of Clive Staples Lewis (1898 – 1963) have been proven effective in the countering of negative challenges to Christian faith for the past sixty years. Lewis, as an apologist, in the opinion of many intellectual searchers, positively and convincingly countered modernistic objections to faith in his own time. Modernistic assumptions prevailed in the Western world in Lewis’ day that tended to discredit a rational belief in the supernatural. Lewis was widely held to be an effective apostle to counter this modernistic scepticism.

It is the conviction of the present writer that C. S. Lewis apologetics can be just as effectively utilised today in addressing post-modern challenges, as it was fifty years ago used to answer the questions raised by modernism. Lewis in all of his Christian writings, reveals an underlying epistemology that I believe (because it is based firmly upon Christian orthodoxy), has stood the test of time. The apologetics of C. S. Lewis may serve to answer post-modern challenges just as rationally as it did modernism.

In this thesis, Lewis’ underlying epistemology will be examined. This will comprise the first part of my work. The second part of the thesis deals with the post-modern epistemological challenge to Evangelicalism as a world-view. The final part of this thesis consists of a dialogue between the most common post-modern challenges to evangelical thinking, and rationally compelling answers thereto that are found in Lewis’ writings.

Here it is in five parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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The author Victor Reppert has spend a significant amount of time defending the argument from reasoning for the existence of God in various setting before this book was written (2003) and after this book was published as well. As the title reveal, the author is a fan of C.S. Lewis’ particular formulation of the argument from reason, though the author wishes also to improve it and develop nuances. Although my theological and apologetics biases is Calvinistic and Presuppositional, I would have to say that the discerning and Scripturally grounded reader can profit from this work, though of course there will be disagreements (For the record, the author is neither Reformed or Presuppositional). There is something to be gained here especially with some of the parallels with the Presuppositionalist’s Transcendental Argument in general and in particular as that form of argument is applied to the issue of Logic/reasoning.  The work only mention Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen once, and in the footnote in discussing about the author’s evaluation of a debate that Doug Wilson engaged in.  The first chapter of the book discusses about how some biographies of Lewis has been inaccurate about certain facts concerning Lewis’ life and apologetics. This chapter alone was worth the time and money of reading this book! Very fascinating. The author also discuss about Lewis’ argument from reason in the context of Lewis’ challenger, Elizabeth Anscombe. The author notes Lewis’ improvement of his argument as a result of this interaction and then the author goes on to provide some further improvements to the argument from reason against Naturalism and responses to some rebuttals. The following were quotes that I thought were beneficial, whether insights or illustration that would be useful for future conversation:

Four kinds of explanation: (1) naturalistic causal explanations [physical laws], (2) logical explanation [relationship between premises and conclusions], (3) Psychological explanation and (4) personal history explanations [how someone came to a conclusion over time].

“But if wind blown leaves were to spell out the premises and conclusion of an argument of the form modus ponens, would we continue to regard it as even an argument at all if we truly came to believe that the leaves got to be in that formation because they have randomly blown that way?” (61)

“Instead he [C.S. Lewis] argues that there are two types of connection, connection by cause and effect and connection by ground and consequent. Both types of connection use the word because, but these represent two different types of relationship. If we say, ‘Grandfather is ill because he ate lobster yesterday,’ we are giving a cause of Grandfather’s illness. If we are told, ‘Grandfather is ill because he hasn’t gotten up yet,’ we are not talking about the cause of his illness (which antedates his failure to rise early); what we are talking about is the evidence that Grandfather is ill. The former is an example of cause and effect, the latter an example of the ground and consequent relationship. While every event in nature must be related to one another by cause and effect, the premises in a rational inference must be related to the conclusion by the ground and consequent relationship” (63).

“If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might on that account be inclined to consider him a very rational person. But suppose it turned out that on all disputed question Steve rolled dice to fix his position permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title of ‘rational.’ Clearly the question of whether a person is rational cannot be answered in a manner that leaves entirely out of account the question of how his or her beliefs are produced and sustained” (64-65).

“Any adequate account of the relation between reason and causes must provide an account of the role that convincing plays in our cognitive economy. The idea of being convinced by something seems to imply that reasons are playing a causal role. Anscombe is attempting not merely to distinguish, but to divorce reasons-explanations from causal exaplanations, considering the former to be noncausal explanations. And insofar as she is divorcing these types of explanations, here critiques of Lewis is faulty” (65).

“Rational inference involves the employment of the laws of logic. These laws are not physical laws. Indeed they pertain across possible worlds, including worlds with no physical objects whasoever. So while the laws of physics denote the powers and liabilities of things in the physical world, the laws of logic tell us what must be true in any universe whatsoever. Even in possible worlds with no law of gravity, the law of noncontradiction still holds. If one accepts the laws of logic, as one must if one claims to have rationally inferred one belief from another belief, then one must accept some nonphysical, nonspatial and nontemporal reality—at least something along the lines of the Platonic forms” (81).

“It is often supposed that the laws of logic are true by convention. But this is clearly not a coherent idea. Before conventions can be established, logic must already be supposed. If logical laws are human conventions, then presumably it is at least possible for us to have different conventions. But the laws of logic are conditions of intelligibility; without them we could not say anything. Part of what it means to say anything is to imply that the contradictory is false. Otherwise, language simply does not function in a declarative way. So the reality of logical laws cannot be denied without self-refutation, nor can their psychological relevance be denied without self-refutation” (82).

“If the chief enemy of a creature is a foot-long snake, perhaps some inner programming to attack everything a foot long would be more effective from the point of view of surval than the complicated ability to distinguish reptiles from mammals or amphibians” (101).

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After meeting someone who was a die hard C.S. Lewis fan, I thought I go through this book since the guy says he believes this was his favorite book by Lewis. I thought the book was alright, but largely the reason why I say this was because there was time I was wondering if Lewis’ observation enjoyed lexical support. Nevertheless, despite that nagging thought in the back of my mind, I did find his observations interesting at times. For instance, he talks about philia being the only one of the four love that does not demand exclusivity. His observation about eros, that it is a love that would go through even trials and tribulation is interesting, and shed light as to why when couples get together they don’t budge when people tell them their future will be miserable together.

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