The Good Serves the Better and Both the Best: C.S. Lewis on Imagination and Reason in Christian Apologetics Part 3 of 3 – page 4


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From the Winter 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:

The Good Serves the Better and Both the
Best: C.S. Lewis on Imagination and Reason
in Christian Apologetics
Part 3 of 3

by Michael Ward, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford

« continued from previous page

Imaginative Reason Serves a Purpose

  There are two ways by which the supernatural may intervene. One method of supernatural revelation is by means of natural revelation. The creative Word of God sustains the ‘natural virtues’25 among which we may include the good use of fallen imagination, no less than the good use of fallen reason, for God is the Father of lights. The divine light enlightens all human minds, not just those which are already Christian, so that certain examples of ‘imaginative perception’ can be argued to be real approaches, however rudimentary, to the ‘idea of God’, approaches that operate ‘beyond our own resources’.26 Imagination, like all created things, including reason,27 properly understood, reflects something of its Creator.28 It is this sort of imagination which Lewis told T.S. Eliot he believed in as ‘a truth-bearing faculty’.29 To think otherwise would be to embrace the ‘negative theology’ of the modern ‘German Protestant’ kind, of which Lewis, with his deep-rooted belief in Natural Law, disapproved.30 ‘I am inclined,’ he wrote, ‘to distrust that species of respect for the spiritual order which bases itself on contempt for the natural’.31 The natural exercise of imaginative reason may, up to a point, be a revelation of (and therefore an intervention by) the supernatural.
  However, even this is insufficient. The rationally imaginative explanations and defences of Christianity provided by the apologist (and supported by the divine) can only take one so far, and it is at the point where they fall short that the divine intervention already seen in the exercise of natural faculties may be supplemented, God willing, by divine supervention. The internal presence of God in the human subject may meet the external presence of Holy Spirit in direct illumination, or, as may be, mediated through the more normal channels of preaching, sacrament, scripture, prayer, absolution, fasting or other forms of askesis.32

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