Intellectually Fulfilling Faith: Lessons from C.S. Lewis - page2




Intellectually Fulfilling Faith: Lessons from C.S. Lewis
by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College

« continued from previous page

Now the subject of those lectures was the poetry of John Donne. Lewis called him the saddest and most uncomfortable of our poets. And yet in spite of this, he wrote in his autobiography: “The key to my books is Donne’s maxim, ‘The heresies that men leave are hated most.’ The things that I assert most vigorously are those that I resisted long and accepted late.” And this may well be one of the keys of Lewis’s intellectual domination of the twentieth century as a Christian apologist. It was because he had resisted atheism long, and so penetrated its force, that he has had a formative influence on the thinking of millions of people, including myself. You see, ladies and gentlemen, like some of you, maybe many of you, I do not know what it is like to be an adult atheist. I had parents who taught me about God, who had the insight, intelligence, and love sufficient to give me space to think, so that when I arrived in Cambridge I was not freighted down with the baggage of Northern Ireland sectarianism. But once I got there, I soon encountered the winds of opposition and in my very first week a student said, “Do you believe in God?” and then he stopped, muttering: “Oh sorry, I forgot, you’re Irish. Of course you do. In Ireland, all you people believe in God and you fight about it.” That was a turning point in my life. I’d heard it before, of course, but I thought: Is my faith in God merely a product of my Irish genetics, heredities, environment, as Sigmund Freud would have suggested? And it was here that Lewis crucially, similarly endowed like myself with Irish genetics, came to the rescue. Because what I needed was a tour guide to atheism. But more than that, I needed someone to guide me who didn’t only know it through books. He knew it from the inside, right up to his middle life. And it was his experience of coming to grips with the arguments of atheism and his crystal clear articulation and refutation of its beliefs that I found and still find deeply instructive.

He arrived to study in Oxford at New College in 1917 and was immediately sent off to war, was seriously wounded in 1918, and invalided out, recommencing his studies in 1919. He was a strong atheist at the time. Firstly, because he had come to believe that science had rendered belief in God untenable. Secondly, an unhappy boyhood and his experience of human tragedy and suffering in the Great War had given him a sense of futility; indeed, of a grim cosmic futility and anger against God that was increased by the fact that God did not exist. Science and suffering then, were for him the barriers as they are the barriers for so many of our contemporaries still today. But as he studied classical philosophy and the great literature of the world, his atheism began to be undermined. He began to suspect that views like Christianity were not necessarily false because they were old, a notion he’d dubbed “chronological snobbery.” He rapidly came to the conclusion that it was the modern world that had gone wrong and needed to get back to the ancient truths of Christianity. Also, the writings of John Donne and George Herbert and other Christian authors began to suggest to Lewis the possibility that Christianity actually made better sense of the world than either atheism or agnosticism. He subsequently wrote that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” And it was that conviction and the articulation of it – that Christianity makes sense – that I believe is one of his greatest contributions to the Christian faith. He argued that Christianity is no mere philosophy, nor is it intended to be something to be entered upon as some intellectual, suicidal leap of faith. He insisted there were reasons for believing, that there was a Creator God, the Word who had become human as Jesus the Messiah.

Next page »

Page   1   2   3   4   5   6   7
To view this full article on a single page, click here.


Support Discipleship
Come partner with us in the
call to develop disciples for Christ!

Learn More

Discipleship Resources
Audios, videos, publications, &
small group DVDs for heart & mind

Learn More

Find discipleship conferences
and events in your area.

Learn More

Fellows Program
Do you want to experience the
power of a transformed life?

Learn More