The beautiful rocky cliffs of our
Oregon Coast, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. __________________________________________________
Below are excerpts from an Essay by C. S. Lewis
originally entitled "Modern
Theology and Biblical Criticism". Lewis read this essay at Westcott
House, Cambridge, on 11 May 1959. Published under this title in Christian
Reflections (1981), it is now in Fern-seed and Elephants (1998).
...the claim that
the real behavior and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly
to be misunderstood...
All theology of the liberal
type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the
claim that the real behavior and purpose and teaching of Christ came
very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers,
and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars.
Tolkien's The Lord
of the Rings
...And yet they would often
sound - if you didn't know the truth - extremely convincing. Many
reviewers suggested that the Ring in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
was suggested by the atom bomb. What could be more plausible. Here is
a book published when everyone was preoccupied by that sinister
invention; here in the centre of the book is a weapon which it seems
madness to throw away yet fatal to use. Yet in fact, the chronology of
the book's composition makes the theory impossible.
Only the other week
a reviewer said that a fairy-tale by my friend Roger Lancelyn Green
was influenced by fairy-tales of mine. Nothing could be more probable.
I have an imaginary country with a beneficent lion in it; Green, one
with a beneficent tiger. Green and I can be proved to read one
another's works; to be indeed in various ways closely associated. The
case for an affiliation is far stronger than many which we accept as
conclusive when dead authors are concerned. But it's all untrue
nevertheless. I know the genesis of that Tiger and that Lion and they
are quite independent.
...the results are
either always, or else nearly always, wrong. The 'assured results of
Now this surely ought to give us pause. The reconstruction of the
history of a text, when the text is ancient, sounds very convincing.
But one is after all sailing by dead reckoning; the results cannot be
checked by fact. In order to decide how reliable the method is, what
more could you ask for than to be shown an instance where the same
method is at work and we have facts to check it by?
Well, that is what
I have done. And we find, that when this check is available, the
results are either always, or else nearly always, wrong. The 'assured
results of modern scholarship' as to the way in which an old book was
written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because the men who know
the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff.
The sort of
statement that arouses our deepest skepticism is the statement that
something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology
or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date.
...We think that different
elements in this sort of theology have different degrees of strength.
The nearer it sticks to mere textual criticism, of the old sort,
Lachmann's sort, the more we are disposed to believe in it. And of
course, we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be
It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of
a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method
waivers; and our faith in Christianity is proportionally corroborated.
The sort of statement that arouses our deepest skepticism is the
statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it
shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date.
...our faith in Christianity is proportionally corroborated.
For this implies that we know, first of all, that there was any
development in the matter, and secondly, how quickly it proceeded. It
even implies an extraordinary homogeneity and continuity of
development: implicitly denies that anyone could have greatly
anticipated anyone else.
This seems to involve knowing about a number
of long dead people - for the early Christians were, after all, people
- things of which I believe few of us could have given an accurate
account if we had lived among them; all the forward and backward surge
of discussion, preaching, and individual religious experience.
...Such are the
reactions of one bleating layman to Modern Theology.
...Such are the reactions
of one bleating layman to Modern Theology. It is right that you should
hear them. You will not perhaps hear them very often again. Your
parishioners will not often speak to you quite frankly. Once the
layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than
the vicar; now he tends to hide the fact that he believes so much
Missionary to the priests
of one's own church is an embarrassing role; though I have a horrid
feeling that if such mission work is not soon undertaken the future
history of the Church of England is likely to be short. __________________________________________________
S. Lewis Pages __________________________________________________
Photo of Lone Monk Copyright © 2006 S.G.P. All rights reserved.
Michael Photo: Copyright © Irish Tourist Board All rights reserved.
C. S. Lewis
by Hulton Deutsch Collection/John Chillingworth)
Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the
twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of
wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and
his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.
C. S. Lewis was the
most popular and best-selling theologian of the entire Twentieth
Century, an amazing fact considering that technically, he wasn't a
Theologian at all, but an Oxford Professor of English Medieval and
books include The
Chronicles of Narnia fantasy
series and his science fiction Space
Trilogy. Both series
are must reading for all Christians interested in these genres.
His most famous book among non-Christians is