"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Learning from Lewis

Evangelical Christian leader Chuck Colson presents an insightful view of the great author, critic, philosopher, and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis on the 106th anniversary of the latter's birth, in an excellent column on today's TownHall.

Colson offers an unusual but quite correct and astute explanation of what made Lewis such a great thinker: Lewis was not an evangelical—

"Why was Lewis so uncannily prophetic? At first glance he seems an unlikely candidate. He was not a theologian; he was an English professor. What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends?

"The answer may be somewhat discomfiting to modern evangelicals: One reason is precisely that Lewis was not an evangelical. He was a professor in the academy, with a specialty in medieval literature, which gave him a mental framework shaped by the whole scope of intellectual history and Christian thought. As a result, he was liberated from the narrow confines of the religious views of the day—which meant he was able to analyze and critique them. . . .

"The problem is not that modern evangelicals are less intelligent than Lewis. As Mark Noll explains in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the problem is that our sharpest intellects have been channeled into biblical scholarship, exegesis, and hermeneutics. While that is a vital enterprise, we rarely give the same scholarly attention to history, literature, politics, philosophy, economics, or the arts. As a result, we are less aware of the culture than we should be, less equipped to defend a biblical worldview, and less capable of being a redemptive force in our postmodern society—less aware, as well, of the threats headed our way from cultural elites."

American Evangelical Christians have been unsurpassed in their enthusiasm for C. S. Lewis, and they are to be commended for that. However, as Colson points out, they still have a lot to learn from him. For starters, I should like to point the evangelicals to Martin Luther's Two Kingdoms theology for a very reliable way out of the labyrinth.

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