Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis, pt. 6

Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis, pt. 6 September 18, 2018

I have certainly been impressed with my Dad’s (Rev. Vernell Ingle’s) knowledge of C.S. Lewis, and his vocal dramatizations when reading.  However, to be honest, when I saw that he had read 13 books prior to this paper, I began to understand his unique ability to speak about Lewis and his faith in Jesus Christ.

Because he was preparing for this paper, he reread 2 of the books and read another 3.  I am honored that he would share this level of graduate research with us.

Crystal Ingle | Vernell and Jared Vernell Ingle | 06.17.18

This is the last of the seminary research that Rev. Vernell Ingle has shared with us, as part of this series on C.S. Lewis.[1]


Lunatic, Madman, Fiend, or Liar?

C.S. Lewis’ definitive work is his book on Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity.  I have read this particular book a number of times through the years and have utilized parts of its content in Christian Evidences courses and lessons.

In my opinion, the most impressive argument of the book is his defense of the deity of Christ.

Obviously, that is the pinnacle of Christian doctrine and that is the answer to the question, “Who is this Jesus?”

Lewis claimed that those who just answer that Jesus was a great teacher cannot be intellectually honest, unless they know what He taught and what He claimed about Himself.  So when one studies these two points about Jesus, then one has to come to a conclusion in which there is no middle ground.

For people who conclude that Jesus is a great teacher, Lewis labels their conclusions as patronizing nonsense.  He made his point quite pointedly:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.”[2]

Lewis went on to state that Jesus did not leave us an option for middle ground.  That was not His intention.  His obvious conclusion is that Jesus was neither a lunatic nor a fiend, but was in fact God.  And God landed on enemy-occupied territory in human form.  What was His purpose in coming?  “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.”[3]

Later, Lewis likened this world to a great sculptor’s shop.  He claimed that we are the statues and that there is a rumor going around that one day we are going to come to life.[4]  Interestingly, it seems like he alludes to this years later in his children’s book, previously mentioned, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Toward the end of Mere Christianity, Lewis suggested how Theology started:

People already know about God in a vague way.  Then came a man who claimed to be God; and yet was not the sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic.  He made them believe Him.  They met Him again after they had seen Him killed.  And then, after they had been formed into a society or community, they found God somehow inside them as well: directing them, making them able to do things they could not do before.  And when they worked it all out they found that they arrived at the Christian definition of the three-personal God . . . Theology is, in a sense, experimental knowledge.[5]

Conclusion

C.S. Lewis was not known as a Theologian as much as a great Christian thinker.  In fact, his Theology would be considered Neo-Orthodox.  It is known that he held such beliefs as universalism and the pre-existence of the soul.  Biblically speaking, these two doctrinal views are incompatible with Scripture.  Such views probably stem from his fuzzy view of Biblical inspiration, if he believed in it at all.

Lewis had a type of crisis Theology, “To me the Text means this or that at given times.  To you it means this or that at given times.”  In other words, the Bible speaks to one on occasions and then becomes the Word of God to the individual.  Certainly such views cannot be dismissed out of hand.

And yet one cannot dismiss the positive impact of C.S. Lewis upon Christianity in the twentieth century.

Harold Lindsell, former editor of Christianity Today, said it best in his description of Lewis in the foreword to the Lewis reader, The Best of C.S. Lewis:

Lewis was a gifted writer.  From a literary viewpoint he was certainly one of the greatest twentieth-century craftsmen.  But he was more than that . . . a profound thinker . . . a hard-headed logician.  He followed the trail to its end, courageously and persistently, never afraid of where truth could take him.  He reinforced his premises with substantial evidence and gained for his efforts great skill as a Christian apologist.  There is nothing shoddy about his product; each of his books bears the marks of a genius, his labors, and his polish . . . Even those who might oppose him most vigorously would have to say that he was an able scholar and a true Christian gentleman.[6]


Questions to Consider:

1) What’s your verdict of Jesus Christ?  Why?

It seems like almost everyone has an opinion about Him.  So what are some common conclusions you’ve heard?

2) Do we have an obligation to engage our world with the truth of Christianity, even if we do not use the same methods as Lewis?

If we do have an obligation to share, what are we doing as a result?

3) Is Christ as radical as He said He was?

Furthermore, is He as radical as Lewis says He is?

If so, doesn’t Christ have a right (or rite) to engage our corner of the world through us?


[1] This post is part of a series about C.S. Lewis.

Aslan Acrostic: Dr. Thomas Woodward shares the story of C.S. Lewis

Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis

Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis, pt. 2

A Distinction in Ancient Literature (a/v)

Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis, pt. 3

On the Supernatural as the Natural Life (a/v)

Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis, pt. 4

Language Acquisition (a/v): LEWIS, TOLKIEN, & PIAGET(?)

Vernell Ingle reflects on the works of C.S. Lewis, pt. 5

Jared & Mateo: Hearing the Story for the First Time (a/v)

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1943), 56.
Amazon: Mere Christianity

[3] Ibid., 56-57.

[4] Ibid., 140.

[5] Ibid., 143.

[6] Harold Lindsell, ed., “Foreword,” in C.S. Lewis, The Best of C.S. Lewis: Five Complete Books in One Volume (New York: Christianity Today, Iversen Associates, 1969), vi-vii.
Amazon: Best of C.S. Lewis


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