, , , , , , , , , ,

Hellbound?: @PastorJaredROLM Thanks for the mention. BTW, our interaction inspired a recent blog post: http://hellboundthemovie.com/?p=847

While the blog post made no direct mention of me (which was not a big deal — I’m sure @HellboundMovie was interacting with other tweeps as well), it was a general critique of my argument, dubbed the “C.S. Lewis” defense, after the influential Oxford professor and Christian apologist. To start out with, Hellbound? admin mused as to why Evangelicals loved C.S. Lewis so much, seeing as how he was an Anglican with some “Catholic” leanings.

Most evangelical Christians aren’t too big on Catholicism, Anglicanism or Eastern Orthodoxy, which makes their embrace of C.S. Lewisa bit of a mystery, seeing as he was pretty enthusiastic about all three.

Despite his Catholic leanings, virtually all of Lewis’ books have been put on the “approved reading list” for evangelicals, with Mere Christianity and the Chronicles of Narnia cited as favorites on Facebook pages everywhere.

As an Evangelical whose favorite author is C.S. Lewis, allow me to answer that. The reason why Evangelicals still embrace Lewis is because as a Christian apologist, he generally defended a “mere Christianity.” There are little or no Anglo-catholic doctrines in his most popular works Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Screwtape Letters. Mere Christianity is a defense of just that — classical Christian doctrines common to Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox alike. Screwtape Letters deals with the ways evil forces might tempt the average Christian to abandon God, and since all branches of Christianity believe in temptation, this isn’t particularly controversial either.

Out of those works, the only possible example I can recall of distinctly Anglo-catholic doctrines is in the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, entitled The Last Battle, in which a Calormene named Emeth is allowed to enter into Aslan’s Country, though he has worshipped the bird-demon Tash all his life. Even though he has worshipped a false god all his life, Aslan lets him into his country because,

I take to me the services which thou hast done to Tash… if any man swear by him and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me  that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.

The first reason I believe many Evangelical Christians have not objected to this is because the average church-goer sitting in the pews does not know what inclusivism even means, let alone grasp that this is what Lewis intended to promote. The other reason is that many Evangelicals are increasingly embracing inclusivism, and for much the same reason other Evangelicals do not even notice it in The Last Battle: theological ignorance. The average Christian is not as much to blame for their ignorance as the pastors, who have watered doctrine down.

This is not to say that every Christian who adopts inclusivism is theologically clueless; there are certainly knowledgeable believers who believe in inclusivism. It is merely to say that the primary reason some Evangelicals have now adopted it is because their pastor has promoted it, and they simply do not know any better. It is a feel-good message, and is therefore popular. It soothes itching ears.

I would venture to say that the average Evangelical may have read one or more of the aforementioned books, but has not ventured into some of Lewis’s less popular writings, such as Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, in which some of Lewis’s less Evangelical views are more clearly expressed. In fact, I doubt that the average Evangelical even knows that Lewis was Anglican. Many people think he was English (he was, in fact, Irish)!

Now, one might ask, “Since your are a conservative Evangelical, and do know all that C.S. Lewis believed, why do you still approve of him?” I am still a fan of Lewis because, despite disagreeing about some tertiary doctrines, we still agree for the most part; also, I am a fan because he was simply an excellent writer. I see no reason to reject Lewis’s writings because he didn’t believe exactly as I do in every respect. That’s just childish. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways ~1 Corinthians 13:11.

I find this a bit ironic seeing as fellow Brit and Christian J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are still viewed with suspicion. Rowling writes about witches and is accused of seducing a generation with the occult. Lewis writes about witches and is lauded by the evangelical Sanhedrin for his brilliant allegory of the Christian faith.

This is very easily explained. The reason why Lewis gets a free pass and J.K. Rowling is often condemned, even though both books feature witches, is because in The Chronicles of Narnia witches are the bad guys, whereas in Harry Potter witches are the heroes.

Now, to be fair to Hellbound?’s comments, Narnian heroes do occasionally use magic. I cannot explain exactly why most fans of The Chronicles of Narnia ignore this while taking issue with Harry Potter. However, it seems to me that the “magic” employed by good characters in both books is more of a fun, Mary Poppins sort of magic that does not promote the occult. I have to admit, I have never read any of the Harry Potter books myself. However, both my mother and sister, who are also Evangelical Christians, love the books and do not seem to find anything objectionable in them. There were a lot of programs I was not allowed to watch growing up, such as The Simpson and Beetlejuice, which my mother found objectionable. I strongly doubt she would ban these television shows and like Harry Potter if she found anything offensive in them. Some of the folks at Reasons to Believe, a conservative Evangelical think-tank, do not find Harry Potter promotes the occult either.

(I do find it troubling that Rowling has openly stated that one of her main characters, Dumbledore, is gay. However, this does not seem to be explicit in the books, otherwise my family and Reasons to Believe would take issue with Harry Potter for this reason. I could go into detail about why this troubles me, but this post is about hell, not homosexuality, so I’ll leave for the time being.)