C.S. Lewis on Holy Scripture - page 4


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From the Spring 2014 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

C.S. Lewis on Holy Scripture

by Philip Graham Ryken, D.Phil.
Professor of Theology, President, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

 
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   What was not an option, as far as he was concerned, was to rule out the very possibility of miracles the way that modern, supposedly scientific scholars tended to do. Here is what Lewis wrote in “Fern-Seed and Elephants” about biblical scholarship that denied the miraculous:

Scholars, as scholars, speak on [this question] with no more authority than anyone else. The canon “If miraculous, unhistorical” is one they bring to their study of texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the Biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing. On this they speak simply as men; men obviously influenced by, and perhaps insufficiently critical of, the spirit of the age they grew up in.26

  It was because he believed in miracles—including, supremely, the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ—that Lewis was so critical of liberal scholarship on the Bible. He spent far more time defending the Bible than he did criticizing it, which he hardly did at all.  
  C.S. Lewis was so anti-liberal that many of his contemporaries labeled him as a fundamentalist. Here is how he explained their attitude toward his theology:

I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold.27

  Needless to say, Lewis’s defense of miracles led many liberal scholars to treat him with suspicion. For his own part, Lewis regarded liberal scholars as wolves among the sheep, especially “the divines engaged in New Testament criticism,” whom he held chiefly responsible for undermining theological orthodoxy.28
   Lewis exacted his revenge in the fiction he wrote. The Screwtape Letters, That Hideous Strength, and The Great Divorce all feature liberal clergy who are held up to mockery. Lewis treated them this way because he believed that liberal Christianity was not real Christianity at all. Instead, it was:

a theology which denies the historicity of nearly everything in the Gospels to which Christian life and affections and thought have been fastened for nearly two millennia—which either denies the miraculous altogether or, more strangely, after swallowing the camel of the Resurrection strains at such gnats as the feeding of the multitudes.

  Lewis proceeded to explain what happens when this kind of Christianity, so-called, is offered to an ordinary person who has recently come to faith in Christ. Either the convert will leave a liberal church and find one where biblical Christianity is actually taught, or else eventually he will leave Christianity altogether. “If he agrees with your version [of the Christian faith],” Lewis said to his liberal opponents, “he will no longer call himself a Christian and no longer come to church.”30

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