I once worked in a large church attended regularly by a heavy number of college and university students. On the wall in the front lobby, overhanging notices of interest to the church’s student population, was a saying by C.S. Lewis that read:
“If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, why is it you don’t feel at home there?”
I walked past this sign a number of times before I actually stopped to analyze its content. When I fully considered the statement it took only a moment to realize its emptiness. The statement made no sense and was wrong in every aspect!
But one is not supposed to say this because, after all, it was a comment made by the famous and revered, C. S. Lewis. But stop and think for a moment. If I am not the product of a materialistic universe—what am I a product of? I did not float down here in a bubble from the third heaven, nor am I a product from some other dimension.
I was produced on planet Earth in a materialistic manner, mechanically outfitted to breathe the materialistic air of this planet, and to eat the materialistic food grown here. In fact, did not God form (produce) Adam from the very dirt of our materialistic ground; and did he not also say to Adam, “...For out of it you were taken; for dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19b NKJV). Can we get any more materialistic than that?
Then the second half of the statement: “Why is it you don’t feel at home there?”
But I do feel at home here. As a rational, well-adjusted individual, I am supposed to feel at home here because this is the environment for which I was created. Yes, the present world is imperfect, but as a Christian, or otherwise—so aren’t I. So what’s the problem? And since, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9) there is no way at this time that I could know anything else anyway. People who do not feel at home in their natural surroundings (and as a result are unable to cope with everyday life) are usually found in asylums or in the waiting rooms of psychiatrists.
Surprised at the shallow thinking of this supposed icon of the Christian faith I began looking more carefully at some of his writings. In his book, Mere Christianity under What Christians Believe he says, “If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through.”
Excuse me, C. S., but I think you do. Nowhere does the New Testament suggest that Christianity does not have a monopoly on truth. And if other religions are not wrong—just where are they right? True Christianity is not a religious system as much as it is a relationship. If there is no relationship with the God of the Bible in other religions then there is nothing in them that could possibly be of any lasting value. Therefore they are wrong all through.
In chapter 4 of that same section Lewis says, “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.”
I ask, would anyone with a solid biblical understanding of the Christian faith explain Christianity that way? He then goes on to say “theories as to how it did this are another matter,” and adds, “Christians wouldn’t all agree as to how important these theories are. My own church—the Church of England—does not lay down any one of them as the right one.” (So much for the Church of England.)
Most startling of all is his comment, “I think (other churches) would probably admit that no explanation will ever be quite adequate to the reality.”
This statement has to be a shocker to anyone who has studied the Pauline epistles, especially the book of Romans. The explanation as to how the death of Christ takes care of the sin question and brings the sinner through faith into fellowship with God can be easily understood by any teenager. Unfortunately C. S. was never able to fully grasp this.
C. S. Lewis understood Christianity as more “behavioral” than “doctrinal.” For him, how one lived is what determined his Christianity, and not so much what one believed. But this is Christianity (salvation) by works, and not Christianity (salvation) by faith alone (a teaching that Lewis rarely mentioned).
Another strange statement. In chapter five (The Practical Conclusion) Lewis writes: Now the Christian belief is that if we somehow share the humility and suffering of Christ we shall also share in His conquest of death and find a new life after we have died and in it become perfect…”
Sorry, Mr. Lewis, but that is not “the Christian belief.” This is the belief of one who doesn’t quite “get it” and is trying to fake his way through what he does not yet fully understand. This sounds like a man on the outside explaining to someone else on the outside what is going on in the inside, even though he has never been on the inside himself to get a proper understanding of what he is trying to explain.
What does Lewis mean when he says further in the chapter, “There are three things that spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names—Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s supper, and adds, ”Anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will, in fact, tell you to use all three…” What…? This sounds more like Roman Catholicism than biblical Christianity.
Another interesting comment from the same chapter. “God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us.”
More Roman Catholicism here? New life is put into us via a wafer? Do we then jettison the plain teaching of Gal. 3:2 that teaches the Holy Spirit (new life) is received by faith?
One of his more bizarre statements in Mere Christianity can be found in the chapter Nice People Or New Men. Here Lewis comments: “There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate of those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.”
Secret influence…? What secret influence? Doesn’t the Bible plainly teach that the Holy Spirit is the agent used to move the hearts of men? Why such an unbiblical substitution? And where is the man who belongs to Christ without knowing it? Just how does that work?
But enough of this silliness! What part of what other religion says that God sent His son to die on the cross as payment for the sins of the world and that through Him sinners could be born again of the Holy Spirit and thus inherit eternal life? Exactly what part of what false religion agrees with this? The answer to this question is None! We should also ask where C. S. Lewis got this information to begin with, as he obviously did not find it in the Word of God. The idea that “they belong to Christ without knowing it” is straight Roman Catholic teaching, Mother Teresa stuff, and void of any biblical content. This kind of thinking allows some Voodoo witchdoctor who sacrifices chickens in his backyard while casting spells on his enemies to be claimed for Christ because he is sacrificing something, and sacrifice is a main ingredient of Christianity. (Admittedly an off-the-wall illustration, but the reader should get my point.)
In Lewis’s book Reflections on the Psalms, chapter 11, he questions the historicity of the Book of Job because Job appears unconnected to history or even legend, and has no genealogy. So what then do we have here, myth, fairy tale, what…? He then adds that he has no difficulty in finding the creation story in Genesis as being derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical. In 2nd Tim. 3:16 we read “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”oops, wait a minute. Not quite. It seems, according to C.S., that we have a bit of plagiarism here by this fellow named Moses who attached his name to someone else’s stories and tried passing them off as his own. Yeah, right. And we are supposed to consider this the inspired Word of God?
In the introduction to Reflections on the Psalms Lewis admits that he writes for the unlearned about things in which he himself is unlearned. A paragraph later he adds “In this book, then, I write as one amateur to another.” (And this man is considered a great apologist of the Christian faith?)
In his book Surprised by Joy, chapter 15, he refers to Paganism as being the childhood of religion that reached its full maturity in either Hinduism or Christianity. (Where does Genesis teach this?) Lewis fortunately(?) decided upon Christianity.
C.S. Lewis was not what we might call “a Christian insider.” He was on the outer fringe of the faith, never fully comprehending its power or uniqueness. Yet he is quoted constantly in many of our Evangelical churches.
But many Christians feel they can do quite well without Mr. Lewis. In fact, maybe we all can. There is already enough wishy-washy confusion in Christian churches without adding more from men whose celebrity from writing about “witches and lions” has by now outstripped their spiritual intellect.