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).