Monday, September 29, 2014

C.S. Lewis's Flawed Christianity - Part IV

In my previous posts on C.S. Lewis, I looked at his views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general.  I focused on his religious tolerance in Part I; his beliefs of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer in Part II; and his views of the Lord's Supper, theistic evolution, and the immortality of animals in Part III.  In this post, I will consider Lewis's positions on Christ's Atonement and the historicity of the Bible.

In Chapter 2 of C. S. Lewis on Scripture, Michael Christensen writes about Lewis's position on Christ's Atonement:
"Lewis gradually came to realize that theories about Christ's death were not as important as the fact of his death.  Many theories have been advanced by Christians as to what the Atonement means (e.g., penal substitution, limited atonement, vicarious atonement, ransom to the Devil, satisfaction theory, moral influence theory), but theories are not to be confused with the reality itself.  As Lewis says, "A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works."  Any explanation of the Atonement is at best only a reasonable approximation.  Doctrinal statements never quite square with the absolute reality.  In this context Lewis offers his opinion on the subject.  The meaning of Christ's death for Lewis is in its exemplary demonstration of divine repentance.  Jesus died on the cross to show us how we are to die to our fallen natural selves," (p. 33).
However, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that "The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father has given unto Him," (Chap. 8, para. 5).

Lewis's unbiblical view of Christ's death as an "exemplary demonstration" has been labeled the example theory of Atonement.  The Apostle Paul tells us that the Gospel which saves us from our sins is believing that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures, (1 Cor. 15:1-4).  By faith a Christian believes what is revealed in the Word of God.  Jesus Christ is more than just an example for Christians.  His perfect sacrifice on the cross satisfied the wrath of God for the sins of the elect so that believers can put on the righteousness of Christ and inherit eternal life.  There is nothing for fallen man to do in the salvation process.  Mr. Lewis's view of atonement not only puts him outside of orthodox Christianity, but also marks him as a heretic.  The sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of His elect is an essential, core doctrine of Christianity; without it, you are not a Christian and need to be saved.

Finally, in Chapter 2 Mr. Christensen writes about Lewis's position on the historicity of the Bible:
"In Reflections on the Psalms Lewis frankly admits that he does not believe every sentence in the Old Testament contains historical or scientific truth...It makes little difference to Lewis whether the story of Ruth, for example, is historical or not.  "I've no reason to suppose it is not," he says.  Either way, the truth of the story is inspired and acts on us as the Word of God.  Nor does he have any theological difficulty in accepting Genesis as "derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical."  But just because the creation story has mythic qualities does not mean it is untrue.  Myth can be truer than historical fact," (pp. 34-35).
Jesus Himself tell us that "thy [God's] word is truth," (John 17:17).  The Apostle Paul states that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Therefore, the Old Testament books of Genesis and Ruth are true, historical narratives.

The Bible reveals God and declares His will (1689 LBCF Chap. 1, para. 1).  The Old Testament includes types and shadows pointing to Jesus who is fully revealed in the New Testament.  Ruth is a true story about a kinsman-redeemer, but it also gives us a glimpse of the ultimate Redeemer to come, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

When Christians allow the Old Testament to lose its veracity, then the door is opened to bad hermeneutics.  Rather than preaching what the passage actually says, some pastors will allegorize the text and read themselves into it.  For example, a pastor might identify himself with King David and look for the Goliaths in his life that need to be fought, such as financial problems, marital issues, or work challenges.  This is not how the Old Testament should be exposited because King David actually existed and he actually fought and killed a Philistine named Goliath.  King David is a type of Jesus who is the King of Kings (Rev. 19:16).
In addition, Christians know that the Old Testament books are true since Jesus refers to Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David as real people (this is not an exhaustive list).  The Bible cannot be approached like other ancient books or myths due to the fact that Scripture itself claims supernatural origin (2 Peter 1:19-21); therefore, a true believer must treat it with fear and reverence because it is the very Word of God, (John 1:1-4).

The liberal mindset that Christ's atonement is really just an example for Christians to follow and that the Bible may or may not be true is not part of orthodox Christianity.  Therefore, Bible-believing Christians should not read or revere the books of C.S. Lewis.  I will conclude my review of Lewis's views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general in Part V of this series.

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you," (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

C.S. Lewis's Flawed Christianity - Part III

In my previous posts on C.S. Lewis, I looked at his views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general.  I focused on his religious tolerance in Part I and on his beliefs of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer in Part II.  In this post, I will examine Lewis's views of the Lord's Supper, theistic evolution, and the immortality of animals.

In Chapter 2 of C. S. Lewis on Scripture, Michael Christensen writes about Lewis's view of the Eucharist:
"Lewis might also be on shaky evangelical Protestant ground regarding the Eucharist.  As indicated in the section "What Christians Believe" (Mere Christianity), "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."  Lewis supposes that his ideas about Holy Communion "would probably be called 'magical' by a good many modern theologians."  He believes in the "real" presence of Christ when Christians partake worthily of the Lord's Supper.  The physical bread and wine are "transposed" into spiritual vehicles that carry the very life and grace of God," (p. 30).
The idea of transubstantiation is another Roman Catholic construction.  Protestantism completely rejects the teaching that the bread and wine used during the sacrament of the Eucharist literally turns into the body and blood of Christ.  Jesus was sacrificed once on the cross:  "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," (Heb. 10:10).  From the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith:
"In this ordinance [the Lord's Supper] Christ is not offered up to His Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of Himself by Himself upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same.  So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ's own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect," (Chap. 30, para. 2).
Continuing in Chapter 2, Mr. Christensen writes about Lewis's views on theistic evolution and the immortality of animals:
"Whatever view Lewis holds of Scripture, however he understands the doctrine of creation, the theory of organic evolution cause him no problems...In The Problem of Pain, he [Lewis] discusses the doctrine of the Fall of man and offers a "not unlikely tale," that is, a "myth" in the Socratic sense, of what might have been the case: [quoting Lewis] For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself...The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man...Thus man evolved and fell.  In Lewis's theology, evolution is still going on -- both toward and away from the Creator," (p. 31).
"If Lewis too willingly accepts the Darwinian thesis of man's ascent from the beasts, perhaps it is because he holds a high view of animals in general...Lewis speculates that animals may have immortal souls...But Scripture, he states, and it is important to note, doesn't claim to answer all questions posed by man.  The curtain of truth has been torn at one edge "to reveal our immediate practical necessities and not to satisfy our intellectual curiosity."  The theory Lewis suggests (and again, it is only a theory) is that animal immortality is related to the immortality of man," (p. 32).
Again, we are told in the 1689 Confession that "In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six day, and all very good," (Chap. 4, para. 1).  God created man in his own image on the sixth day and gave him dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth, (Gen. 1:27-28).  God did not create animals in His image or breathe life into them, and man certainly was not perfected from animals over long periods of time.

The Bible gives us God's redemptive plan for man; it does not include a plan of redemption for anything else, including animals and angels.  Man sinned and fell from grace and Christ came to earth to atone for the sins of God's elect; those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, (Rom. 10:13).  Animals do not have a soul, and they do not talk (as in the Chronicles of Narnia series).  In Book Seven: The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia series (copyright 1979, ISBN 0-06-023493-8), C.S. Lewis shows animals entering into the Kingdom of Aslan.  However, in Jesus' account of heaven, we only see Lazarus and Abraham.  Animals are mentioned in the Bible, but they are used to serve the needs of man or as a means for God's providence (see the narrative account of Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22).

Again, we see that C.S. Lewis's views of the Lord's Supper, theistic evolution, and the immortality of animals are not in-line with orthodox Christianity.  Christians cannot ignore discernment for the sake of unity, and toleration of self-professing "Christians" like Mr. Lewis is not a virtue when it comes at the expense of the Gospel.  Therefore, Bible-believing Christians should not read or revere the books of C.S. Lewis.  I will continue my review of Lewis's views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general in Part IV of this series.

"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts," (Isa. 55:7-9).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Judge Not?

In his sermon "Did God Promise Health and Wealth?", Pastor Phil Johnson looks at the duty of Christians to use discernment regarding the false teachings of the leaders in today's evangelical movement.  I took limited, paraphrased notes of Mr. Johnson's ideas as I listened.  I'm sharing my notes and personal thoughts below.  The Scripture verses included are from Mr. Johnson (but quoted from the King James Bible).

Mr. Johnson says that it is the job of all Christians to test the truth claims of our evangelical leaders because Jesus warned us that many shall come in His name and deceive many (Matt. 24:5).  In Acts 20:29 Paul warns the elders of Ephesus that grievous wolves will enter in among them.  Therefore, Christians need discernment to keep the church faithful to biblical doctrine so that false apostles who transform themselves into apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13) are exposed.

We see several verses in the Bible which call for discernment and judgment.  Jesus exhorts Christians to beware of false prophets and judge them by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-16); the fruit that we judge is their teaching, not the results of their teaching.  The book of Jude and 2 Peter 2 also warn us that there are false prophets among the people.  Finally, Paul tells us that if any man preaches another gospel, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9).

But what about Matt. 7:1?  This verse says:  "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

I've thought about this verse while writing my blog series on C.S. Lewis, and the question naturally arises of whether or not I should be judging Mr. Lewis's biblical views.  Obviously, I think that I should, and based on his sermon, Phil Johnson agrees.

Mr. Johnson explains that Matt. 7:1 is telling us not to judge unfairly or unrighteously.  Christians should examine doctrine with a critical mind.  The 'judge not' admonition involves judging people's hearts and drawing conclusions about motives, thoughts, or intentions.  Christians should not judge what they can't see because they can't righteously judge what they can't examine or understand.  But, judgment is absolutely essential regarding the quality and orthodoxy of the biblical doctrine being taught or any teaching that goes beyond Scripture.  Christians cannot detect wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15) if it is unrighteous to make any judgment at all.  In John 7:24, Jesus tells us to "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

As a Protestant, Mr. Lewis wrote many books on Christian topics and was well-known as a Christian apologist.  His writings continue to be endorsed and promoted as "must read" Christian literature.  Therefore, the beliefs of C.S. Lewis should be held up to the light of Scripture.  If you haven't done so, you can read my first post on Mr. Lewis here.

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so," (Acts 17:11).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

C.S. Lewis's Flawed Christianity - Part II

In Part I of my series on C.S. Lewis, I looked at his views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general and focused specifically on his religious tolerance.  In this post, I will analyze Lewis's views of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer.

In Chapter 2 of C. S. Lewis on Scripture, Michael Christensen writes about Mr. Lewis's beliefs on heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer found in Lewis's book Mere Christianity:
"He [C.S. Lewis] viewed human beings as being on the road of life progressing toward a state of heaven or hell.  Each moral choice we make furthers us along the road and slowly changes us into a more heavenly or a hellish creature...It is significant that for Lewis, hell is not a place God sends people who disbelieve the gospel, but a state of mind one chooses to possess and become...Lewis's conviction that Christianity is a process, that people are potential gods or devils who will one day rule in heaven or hell, necessitated for him a belief in purgatory...For Lewis, purgatory is a place of purification of the saints where, at the very gates of heaven, the saved soul "begs to be taken away and cleansed"...Belief in purgatory led Lewis to offer up prayers for the dead...He believed in praying to the saints," (pp. 27-30).
It is important to remember that the Bible tells us that God cannot lie (Num. 23:19).  Jesus references heaven (John 14:2-3) and hell (Luke 16:23-24) as actual places; therefore, heaven and hell exist in a physical sense and are not just a state of mind as Lewis supposes.  If Jesus lied about heaven and hell, then He is not God; if He is not God, then the sins of the elect are not forgiven and our faith is in vain.

The idea of purgatory is a Roman Catholic construction and has no basis in the Bible.  Sanctification is the will of God, (1 Thess. 4:3), and it is part of the salvation process here on earth.  Christians are sanctified (made holy, set apart) through the Holy Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).  After death, Christians are either with Christ or in hell; there is no in-between place, and there is no second chance.

Using the scriptural references of 1 Tim. 2:1-2 and 2 Sam. 12:21-23, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that "Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead," (Chap. 22, para. 4).  Therefore, Christians should not pray to the dead or to saints, but their prayers to God alone should be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Holy Spirit, and according to God's will.

In analyzing Lewis's views of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer, I also noticed an endorsement of Arminianism which recognizes man's free will in salvation.  Mr. Christensen writes:
"In The Great Divorce Lewis imaginatively portrays his belief in what other Christians might regard as a second chance:  "You have been in Hell," a bright Spirit says to a ghost from hell, "though if you don't go back you may call it Purgatory."  Those who choose to go back (as most do in the allegory) or to remain within the locked doors of hell (as is more likely the case) God cannot redeem.  God wills that none should perish but that all should gain eternal life, yet all will not be saved.  In creating beings with freedom, God submits to the possibility of defeat," (p. 28).
Again, you can see this Arminian view (along with Lewis's denial of hell as an actual place) in Book Seven:  The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia series (copyright 1979, ISBN 0-06-023493-8).  The Dwarfs are in the Kingdom of Aslan, but they refuse to recognize it and still think that they are in the stable.  C.S. Lewis writes about Aslan's inability to save the Dwarfs:
"Aslan," said Lucy through her tears, "could you--will you--do something for these poor Dwarfs?"

"Dearest," said Aslan, "I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do."

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane.  Instantly a glorious feast appeared at the Dwarfs' knees...They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn't taste it properly.  They thought they were eating and drinking only the sorts of things you might find in a stable...But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had...till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot.

"You see," said Alsan.  "They will not let us help them.  They have chosen cunning instead of belief.  Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out," (pp. 167-169).
In his Manual of Theology, John Dagg states that "God is able to do whatever he pleases," and "has everything in the universe under his immediate and perfect control.  He needs no instruments, no mechanical aid, no series of contrivances; but, at his will the thing is done."  God is sovereign and omnipotent; "For with God nothing shall be impossible," (Luke 1:37).  Therefore, C.S. Lewis's view of a limited God that will not send anyone to a literal hell is not biblical.  His beliefs on heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer are not part of orthodox Christianity.  Therefore, Bible-believing Christians should not read or revere the books of C.S. Lewis.  I will continue my review of Lewis's views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general in Part III of this series.

"For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar," (Rom. 3:2-3a).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: A Vine-Ripened Life

In his book A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ, Stanley Gale explores the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  His goal is to have the reader come away from this study with a deeper knowledge of Christ and more profound dependence upon Him (Kindle location 141).

Mr. Gale begins his book by looking at the sanctification process.  He then devotes a full chapter to each fruit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The book ends with an inspection of humility and grace.  I found the author's chapter on peace very helpful.  He states that "it is clear that the battleground for the prize of peace is the mind," (Kindle location 833).  I was spurred to memorize Philippians 4:4-8 as a reminder to rest in God and trust His providence in all areas of my life.  The author's call to apply God's Word to our lives is a good, daily reminder for all Christians.

In addition, I found Mr. Gale's chapter on goodness to be edifying.  He notes that Christians do not gain goodness by meritorious works, but by emptying themselves and finding goodness in God alone.  He adds a very convicting quote by Charles Spurgeon:  "Our imaginary goodness is harder to conquer than our actual sin," (Kindle location 1212).  

In spite of the plethora of biblical references and personal anecdotes, Mr. Gale also uses many worldly examples when explaining the different aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.  Even though the contrasting works of the flesh are specifically listed in Galatians 5:19-21, the author does not address these verses, but looks to the world for illustrations.  I found his secular references, which include The Far Side comic strip, the Pink Panther films, Greek mythology, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, and even the vague reference to Miley Cyrus, to be extremely distracting and not helpful to his overall goal of helping the reader to know Christ more deeply.  Christians are not be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2), but they are to come out and be separate (2 Cor. 6:17).

While Mr. Gale's worldly references might help explain a particular virtue, the presence of morality in a person does not indicate that the person is a Christian.  For example, the author talks about the gentleness exhibited by his dentist (Kindle location 1584), but he does not state whether or not his dentist is a Christian.  Just because his dentist is gentle, does not mean that he is a person to be emulated by all Christians; and while the author does not specifically state this, the inference is there.  Christians are to look to Christ alone as the role model and example of godly behavior that we are to imitate.  Paul encourages Christians to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), and Matthew Henry warns that "We should follow no leader further than he follows Christ."  There are many moral, lost people in the world, such as the Mormons; they make great neighbors, but they are not a model for Christians to follow regardless of how virtuous they look.  The danger of holding the things of this world up as good examples of virtue is that it may lead Christians away from Christ, not toward Him.

In cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in my life, I am encouraged by Mr. Gale's reminder that "Our standing is in Christ, and our strength is in Christ...One of the primary ways by which we abide in Christ for the bearing of fruit is prayer," (Kindle location 1887).  Therefore, I recommend this book for all Christians because it is helpful in the on-going process of Christian sanctification.  Christians living in the Spirit should also walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), and as the author notes, "The fruit that proceeds from a new heart is manifold.  It brings glory to God," (Kindle location 1936).

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 12, 2014

C.S. Lewis's Flawed Christianity - Part I

To support my contention that Bible-believing Christians should not read books written by C.S. Lewis, I'm going to post a 5-part series investigating Lewis's beliefs and comparing them to Scripture.

I've read and heard many things (good and bad) about C.S. Lewis on-line, but to assume the integrity of everything that's on the Internet and reiterate it without further study would be foolish on my part.  Therefore, I searched for a book about Mr. Lewis that drew mostly from primary sources and included a look at his theological beliefs.  I found such a book called C.S. Lewis on Scripture:  His Thoughts on the Nature of Biblical Inspiration, the Role of Revelation and the Question of Inerrancy by Michael J. Christensen published by Word Books in Waco, Texas,  (copyright 1979, ISBN 0-8499-0115-4).  

In his preface, Mr. Christensen states that he wrote this book as a research project in his senior year at Point Loma College "to explore the mind of one great scholar in light of the present theological controversy over biblical inerrancy," (p. 13).  The Selected Bibliography shows that Mr. Christensen uses 27 books written by C.S. Lewis as primary sources.  The Foreword is written by Owen Barfield and the Introduction is written by Clyde S. Kilby; both were friends of C.S. Lewis and praise Mr. Christensen for his work.  The author writes honestly and openly about Mr. Lewis's theological beliefs.

In order to determine whether or not C.S. Lewis thought that the Bible was inerrant, Mr. Christensen looks at Mr. Lewis's views on the Bible itself, the Bible as literature, and the Bible as myth.  In this post, I'm going to look at what C.S. Lewis believed about the Bible itself and Christianity in general by analyzing his view of religious tolerance.

The Bible is very clear that Jesus is the only way to God the Father:  "No man can come to me [Jesus], except the Father which hath sent me draw him," (John 6:44), and "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me," (John 14:6).  In addition, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that the "office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from Him to any other," (Chap. 8, para. 9).  The Confession goes to tell us that someone not being effectually drawn by the Father neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore, cannot be saved (Chap. 10, para. 4).

In Chapter 2, Mr. Christensen writes about Lewis's view of religious tolerance:
"A widely read Christian scholar, Lewis does not confine his religious views to the Bible but recognizes God's revelation in literary masterpieces, in other religions, in ancient worlds myths, and through human reason and intuition.  Christianity is true, he [Lewis] seems to say, not just because the Bible says so but because God choose to reveal himself through many different ways, yet supremely through Christ.  This liberated perspective leads Lewis to a degree of tolerance of other beliefs and lifestyles in Christianity as well as other religions...As a Christian, Lewis also remains somewhat tolerant of other religions; at least he did not conclude that all other religions are totally wrong in what they believe.  Some religions are closer to the truth than others, and even the most peculiar religions, he supposes, "contain at least some hint of the truth."  The fact is, Lewis insists, that God has not told us what his arrangements are for those in other religions.  While maintaining that the only way to the Father is through the Son, he adds, "we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him."...Though salvation comes only through Christ, Lewis reminds us not to conclude that only those who explicitly accept him in this life are truly being saved.  Legitimate religious experience transcends superficial appearances.  Instead of labeling people as either Christians or non-Christians, Lewis would encourage us to appreciate Christianity in the context of developmental process...[quoting Lewis]: There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it," (pp. 24-27).
It is obvious that C.S. Lewis did not believe that Jesus is the only way to God the Father; this belief contradicts the Bible.  In June 2008, I read Lewis's Book Seven: The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia series (copyright 1979, ISBN 0-06-023493-8).  At that time I actually recognized Lewis's religious tolerance, but I didn't know what to do with it.  This happened before I aligned my beliefs with the biblical view of reformed theology.  I never even considered questioning the beliefs of a scholarly "Christian" author, so I passed over the departure from Scripture as literary license in a fantasy series without much thought.  In this book, the character Tisroc has been serving Tash (a false god), but in the last days of Narnia, Tisroc is allowed to enter the Kingdom of Aslan (the "Christ" figure).  To explain why, C.S. Lewis writes:
"But the Glorious One [Aslan] bent down his golden head and touched my [Tisroc] forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.  But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.  He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.  Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, it is then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?  The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false.  Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou has done to him.  For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.  Therefore if any man swear by Tash 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.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted," (pp. 188-189).
As you can see, C.S. Lewis incorporated his belief of religious tolerance into his children's fantasy series.  This view alone puts him outside of orthodox Christianity, and therefore, his writings should not be read and revered by Bible-believing Christians.  I think that his Chronicles of Narnia books are especially harmful because they subconsciously plant seeds of doubt and disbelief in key Christian doctrines at a very early age.  I will continue my review of Lewis's views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general in Part II of this series.

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed," (Gal. 1:8).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scrutinizing Two Literary Giants: Lewis and Tolkien [Updated]

Over the course of my Christian walk, I have been lead astray by many well-meaning Christians, especially in the homeschool world.  As I ventured out into unknown waters back in 2003, my head went under many times.  The goal was to educate our three boys at home using a classical Christian approach.  At that time, I was not a mature Christian, and I was not well-educated despite my college degree.  Looking back, I can see where the ecumenism of the evangelical world today had already taken hold in the homeschool scene.

Historically, Protestantism was birthed out of the Reformation in the 16th century.  The Roman Catholic Church was deemed heretical with its icons, belief in transubstantiation, works-based salvation, and worship of Mary and the saints.  But unbeknownst to me in 1994 (the same year that God saved me), the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document was signed, which called for a need to deliver a common witness to the modern world.  Even though Catholic beliefs and practices had not changed since the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church was now considered an alternative community of worship for Christians, even though it still does not worship the same Jesus as orthodox Christianity.  As the evangelical world embraced Catholicism, the rise of the Christian homeschool movement allowed the scholarship and literary talent of Anglican C.S. Lewis and Roman Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien to supersede their theological beliefs.

Quite honestly, I had never read anything by Lewis or Tolkien prior to my introduction to them in 2004.  As I was trying to accumulate our curricula, the homeschool world was lit up with books and curriculum for both The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings series.  I never even considered that these books were not Christian because everyone knew that they were filled with Christian allegories and allusions.  Many of my on-line and local homeschool friends were reading and discussing both series, and I did the same.  In 2009, I embraced the reformed faith, and since that time I've slowly moved away from Lewis and Tolkien; however, with the entertainment value in the movie sector, it's been more difficult to exclude them from our family life and Christian fellowship.

I would never recommend that any Christian read Lewis or Tolkien*; and if I could start over, I would not include Lewis or Tolkien in our homeschool.  I know that's borderline blasphemy for some, so I've decided to do a blog series on Lewis (Part I) and Tolkien (Part I) to show why these authors should not be read by Bible-believing Christians.

Thankfully, my family never read the Harry Potter series or saw the movies.  Ironically, the same reasons that I initially rejected J.K. Rowling from our Christian home are very similar to the reasons that I now reject C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Like most boys, my boys are very enamored with the fighting scenes and cinematography of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, as well as the well-written prose by both authors.  My prayer is that my lack of initial discernment will not hinder their Christian walk, and that they will come to see the evil unbiblical fruits of these authors and discard them accordingly.

*NB:  Based on further research, I am updating my initial disapproval of all J.R.R. Tolkien books to reflect that I would recommend reading his books, but with a high level of discernment.  I still would not use his books in our homeschool, but with guidance and daily dialogue, I would let me boys read The Lord of the Rings series (for more details regarding this reserved recommendation, please watch for my upcoming series on J.R.R. Tolkien).

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of the light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them," (Eph. 5:8-11).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Earthly-Mindedness -- Chapter 8

This is my final post on Jeremiah Burroughs' Earthly-Mindedness.  Please see my introduction and Chapter 1 summary here, Chapter 2 summary here, Chapter 3 summary here, Chapter 4 summary here, Chapter 5 summary here, Chapter 6 summary here, and Chapter 7 summary here.

In Chapter 8 Jeremiah Burroughs looks at the five directions of how to get our hearts free from earthly-mindedness:
  1. Be watchful over your thoughts.
  2. Be humbled for sin.
  3. Set the example of the saints before you.
  4. Consider the great account we must give to God.
  5. Set the Lord Christ before you.
As we become more watchful over our thoughts, Mr. Burroughs gives the following exhortation:
"Do not take liberty to let your hearts run too far in the things of the earth.  What time you have for meditation, let it be as much as can be reserved for spiritual things.  Most men and women think they may take liberty in their thoughts.  Why, the thing itself is not unlawful!  Aye, but your thoughts will steal upon you and affect your heart very much; therefore, watch narrowly over thoughts, keep them within Scriptural bounds."
While reading the final chapter in this treatise, I was challenged by his call to action:  "But above all, set Jesus Christ before you and be meditation on the death of Jesus Christ."  Therefore, I've decided to memorize and meditate on Philippians 2:5-11.

This completes my summary look at the first treatise of earthly-mindedness by Jeremiah Burroughs.  I pray that it has been as helpful to you as it was for me.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was make in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God that Father," (Phil. 2:5-11).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Earthly-Mindedness -- Chapter 7

I'm continuing my look at Jeremiah Burroughs' Earthly-Mindedness.  Please see my introduction and Chapter 1 summary here, Chapter 2 summary here, Chapter 3 summary here, Chapter 4 summary here, Chapter 5 summary here, and Chapter 6 summary here.

In Chapter 7 Jeremiah Burroughs looks at eleven considerations to take the mind off of  earthly-mindedness:
  1. Consider that if you possess all the things of the earth that your mind and heart are upon, there is still not enough good in them as to undo the evil of the least sin.
  2. Consider that the choicest things of the earth have been and are the portion of reprobates.
  3. Consider that God has made man for higher things than the things of the earth.
  4. Consider that the soul of a man is too high a birth to have the strength of it spent about the things of the earth.
  5. Consider that all things of the earth are uncertain.
  6. Consider what has become of such men in former ages.
  7. Consider how short your time is in this world.
  8. Consider that a little will serve your purpose and carry you through this world.
  9. Consider that there is no good to be had in them further than God is pleased to let himself through them.
  10. Consider that if you are godly, God promises to take care of you for the things of the earth.
  11. Consider that all who are professors of religion should be dead to the world.
As I've been reading this book, Mr. Burroughs has convinced me that I'm earthly-minded, so the one question that keeps popping up in my mind is "What do I think about?"  As usual, Mr. Burroughs provides a simple, yet convicting answer:
"Let me tell you if you had but one sinful thought, there is more evil in that than there is good in all that you shall get all the days of your life.  And, if this is so, it concerns you rather to have your mind on how to avoid sin, how to get the evil of sin removed, and how to get your sin mortified.  That ought to concern you more than minding and plotting about the things of the earth."
In my next post for this series, we will look at the five directions of how to get our hearts free from earthly-mindedness in chapter 8.

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God," (Col. 3:1-3).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: How Can I Be Sure?

In his book How Can I Be Sure?, John Stevens acknowledges that the people reading this book may be struggling with doubt themselves, or know others who are struggling, (Kindle location 40).  His prayer is that the reader "will be reassured to discover that doubt is a common experience for God's people, and that you [the reader] will be helped to grow stronger in your faith."

In the introduction that author goes on to state that "doubt is one of the hidden struggles that many Christians face," and he exhorts Christians to be "honest about the problem, so that we can find help and recover a joyful and confident faith," (Kindle location 31).  One problem with this book is that Mr. Stevens does not give a single definition of 'doubt', but describes it as "a number of different feelings of uncertainty."  The author notes that sometimes doubt is used to mean unbelief, (Kindle location 117), but he also says that "doubt is not the same as unbelief," (Kindle location 159).  His arguments are confusing at times because he does not have a clear thesis with defined terms stated in his book.

In addition, Mr. Stevens doesn't identify one specific object or instance of doubt, but considers a myriad of situations.  Sometimes he talks about Christians who doubt their faith, (Kindle location 602); other times he talks about Christians who doubt the existence of God, (Kindle location 876); and still other times he talks about Christian leaders who doubt the essential doctrine of Jesus' resurrection, (Kindle location 123).

It is apparent that Mr. Stevens views salvation from an Arminian point of view which means that regeneration is a synergistic process involving action from both God and man.  This view of salvation is clearly seen in his book when he writes:  "I became a Christian through the witness of a number of friends...who shared the good news about Jesus with me...I resisted God's call on my life for more than a year, but finally trusted in Christ...," (Kindle location 15), and "You are not an unbeliever until you reject Jesus as Lord," (Kindle location 348).  With this belief system in place, it's easy to see why the author is so concerned when Christians doubt their faith.  When fallen man is perceived to have the power to resist and/or reject God in accepting the Gospel, then man must also be a part of maintaining that salvation.  The Bible tells us that no man is righteous, (Rom. 3:10); therefore, losing salvation must be equally as possible as obtaining salvation in the Arminian belief system.  To say that God is not sovereign in salvation, but that He is sovereign in perseverance is inconsistent.

A more consistent view would be that God is sovereign in the salvation process because regeneration is a monergistic work of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible clearly states that no one seeks after God, (Rom. 3:11).  The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF) says that the "effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power in the creature co-working with His Special grace,' (Chapter 10, paragraph 2), and that "perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father," Chapter 17, paragraph 2).  The Confession goes on to say that true believers may have their assurance shaken by negligence, sin, temptation, or God's will, yet they are never lacking the seed of God and life of faith whereby their assurance may in due time be revived, (Chapter 18, paragraph 4).  The belief that God is sovereign in salvation and perseverance is consistent and biblical.

At the end of his book, the author gives good advice on how to develop spiritual disciplines in the Christian life, but he concludes that these disciplines will help overcome doubt and develop a more secure faith.  These disciplines may help in the sanctification process, but they will not result in saving faith.  The nebulous use of the word 'doubt' in this book, along with the unbiblical view of salvation, left me doubting the author's ability to truly help strengthen Christian faith.  In How Can I Be Sure?, Mr. Stevens tries to dispel Christian doubt and give assurance of saving faith.  However, this assurance is impossible given his Arminian soteriology; therefore, I cannot recommend this book.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.