C.S. Lewis Should Be An Evangelical Reject Too! (John Janzen)

I am one of the ones who, after reading Kurt’s post on evangelical rejects, felt even more at home [link: article and follow-up]. Coincidentally, I read the post the day after listening to an interview with Richard Rohr, where he mentioned that it was vital for people who desire to be change agents to stay on the “inside edge” of their faith communities. His point was that once you position yourself on the outside, it is much easier for the resisters of change to write you off as irrelevant. You are then a heretic, and heretics are best ignored – not engaged.

I am not good at staying on the inside edge. I find it easier to take an all-or-nothing sort of stance. I remember years ago having a discussion with an evangelical friend. We were discussing salvation – who will make the cut, and how exactly Jesus is going to sort us all out. I was telling him how my views were being altered by, among other things, a passage from C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle that seemed to suggest that salvation might be possible for those outside the explicitly Christian fold. The discussion ended with him telling me that if that is what I believed, then I couldn’t really call myself an evangelical anymore.

My response at the time was to say: fine, who cares, if I’m not an evangelical then so be it. I find much of the culture grating anyway.

I suppose that is a fairly typical way for a young, arrogant know-it-all to react. It’s perhaps also typical that a decade later I find myself missing home. Alright, so maybe it’s not exactly like I’m off eating pig’s feed somewhere and am ready for a humble return, but it has been hard to shake the feeling that there are aspects of the culture and theology I grew up with that are still a perfect fit. Kurt says that “if evangelical means the belief in repentance and conversion into a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit,” then he should still qualify. But experience seems to be telling him otherwise. I know that feeling.

I will say, though, that for all the people who have implied that I’m not a proper evangelical, there are just as many who hold to a much broader definition. Mostly this just highlights the confusing space we are living through at the moment: no one really knows what an evangelical is anymore!

Perhaps we never really did. I mentioned before that it was one of the 20th century’s biggest evangelical heroes, C.S. Lewis himself, who caused the very black and white thinking of my youth to fade into a more honest grey. The scene in The Last Battle, where Emeth, soldier of Aslan’s enemy, Tash, is accepted into paradise on account of his righteous seeking, was just the starting point. As I read further I found that in both Lewis’s fiction and apologetic works there were themes significantly at odds with what I had come to regard as “evangelically orthodox.”

Yet Lewis, during his life and still now, is up there with the likes of Billy Graham as one of the evangelical world’s greatest champions. How is it that Lewis gets a pass on the same subjects that get guys like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren cast into outer darkness?

Questions like this led to me making Lewis’s apparent “heresies” the subject of my M.A. thesis. By the time I had worked my way through a mountain of research, I was convinced that evangelicals should pay closer attention to their hero. Lewis may have been writing more than half a century ago, but it is remarkable just how relevant his thinking is to the arguments that rage even now.

Too bad he wasn’t around for the Rob Bell controversy. Anyone who has read The Great Divorce knows that Lewis’s atypical take on hell, while it might not please the traditionalists, offers a carefully considered alternative view. Residents of hell on a visit to heaven are offered the chance to stay. Apparently, God doesn’t condemn us to hell. We choose to stay there ourselves. Even long into the afterlife.

To most evangelicals, that is an unorthodox thought. Yet somehow Lewis proved adept at avoiding arguments over “sound doctrine.” I think he managed this by presenting his conceptions of hell as imaginative guesses instead of as a rigid theological party line.  In fact, there is a passage in The Problem of Pain where Lewis seems to defend a more traditional conception of hell, with a discussion of what it might mean to be in a state of eternal conscious torment. Lewis understood that in some areas it is simply necessary to hold somewhat incompatible views in tension. Perhaps, when it comes to ideas and realms that are far beyond our own reality and ability to grasp completely, this approach is the most honest, and maybe even the most accurate.

I get in to all of this a little more in depth in a short book that I adapted from my thesis work. If you are interested in this particular conversation, the book is on Amazon as Kindle Single-length digital book, but if you’ll send it on to a friend or two, I’ll gladly send you a copy for free.

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John Janzen is a Canadian living and working in Nagoya, Japan where he and his family have spent the last 9 years trying to figure out what “ foreign mission” might look like in the 21st century. His writing, fiction and non-fiction, has appeared in academic journals, literary magazines, and recently in Quakebook, a compilation of responses to the March 11th Japan earthquake. He recently completed an M.A. thesis on C.S. Lewis, which has been adapted in Heresy in Narnia: Departures From Evangelical Orthodoxy in the Writings of C.S. Lewis, available on Amazon. You can connect with him on his blog .

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  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    I read this quote the other day from a German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer - ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second,
    it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.’

    I think it very interesting to ponder as we consider the rethinking of our theological stances and beliefs.

    • Yshekster

      Also, “never believe anything until it is officially denied”. Can’t remember who said it. But there it is.

    • http://merechristianarchy.tumblr.com/ JJ

      I have often thought about just how true this is, whether we like it or not. 150 years ago, slavery was justified from the bible. Now most would find that horrific. In my father’s generation, women were expected to wear a head covering and be silent in church. Now the majority would find that horrific. Is the current transition stage homosexuality? It arouses the same sort of passion now that slavery and women in ministry once did. Will we look back on it with the same sort of embarrassment someday?

      Is there a solid bedrock of belief that can never change? I would say “love” but I suppose we will continue to argue about love’s application til the stars fall from the sky….

  • Tasiyagnunpa

    You realize of course that Lewis was an Anglican?

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      Yep. In fact, between Lewis and NT Wright, I think I’ll soon be a full convert…

  • Yshekster

    I find myself venturing to the outside edge too. Lots. Have abandoned the big E label years ago. 
    :-) 

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      I have pretty much done this for most of my twenties. But I am wondering if abandoning the name was a bit hasty. In another post on the matter Kurt had some good words about reconciliation that rang true. If somehow Tony Campolo and Shane Claibourne can call themselves evangelicals, I should be able to get past the parts I don’t like and contend for the good bits.

      That said, venturing out might be just the thing you should do. I don’t think there’s any rule on that one…

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ jshmueller

    I find it increasingly burdensome to pass others’ litmus tests to prove I still am sincere in taking the Bible seriously. C. S. Lewis has always been a hero of mine in his example of wrestling with the intellectual integrity of faith. And there is no doubt his actual views would be considered heretical by many self-proclaimed gate keepers of evangelical orthodoxy today.

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      That’s what interesting about guys like Campolo, Wallis, and Claibourne continuing to call themselves evangelicals. They are basically saying to the gatekeepers, “Hey, you don’t get to proclaim yourself  gatekeeper!” Admittedly, there is a bit of a tug-o-war on right now to see what the core definition of “evangelical” will ultimately be.

  • http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/ Edward Green

    As an Anglican C.S. Lewis is a great hero of mine. As I covered in my Sunday sermon ( http://t.co/vG2zKxK ) he also talked about Purgatory which some people seem to conveniently forget:

    “Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’
    My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am ‘coming round’,’ a voice will say, ‘Rinse your mouth out with this.’ This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed.”

    Agree with him or not (I do) it is passionately and beautiful described.

    I left the Evangelical Big Tent in my mid twenties and have never looked back. I remain theologically orthodox. As I came to a fuller understanding of faith and embraced the sacraments I discovered that a lot of things that some evangelicals believed were not historically orthodox, but rather were revisionist. Errors like six day creationism, rapture-centric eschatology and some charismatic extremes were far from the Spirit’s witness through the historic faith. Equally some of the things some evangelicals didn’t believe in, such as the Spirit’s witness through tradition, apostolic order, baptismal regeneration and the real presence struck me as significant denials of the supernatural action of God in the world. ( http://t.co/VPgxW8h )

    Despite coming to more counter-reformation conclusions the Anabaptist tradition was a big influence on me, so I very much enjoy your work.

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      Yes, purgatory comes up in The Great Divorce, as well as other places that I can’t recall at the moment.

      I am an outsider to Anglicanism, but from where i am standing, it seems that the Anglican church does an impressive job of balancing a wide expression of the Christian faith, from left to right (maybe you can correct or confirm!). I think that in itself is an important witness of how the church should look.

      • http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/ Edward Green

        Sometimes that wide expression causes plenty of tensions. Grass is not always greener, but I am a very happy convert. It is also increasingly possible to theologically orthodox without signing up to a whole lot of evangelical baggage. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/jewelblade Daniel Xavier Knight

      Um moron, the Bible sets the standard for truth, not “well um dumb de me dibovered dis not traditional belief derfore me not belieb” are you an idiot? Are you an evil pharisee who think traditions of men go first? Stupid idiot, if God said he made the earth in six days, BELIEVE IT MORON. He did not say you idiot imbecile you thoughtless moron, “i evolved it in six billion years, i made dis first den plants, den made a sun, den stars poof” shut the hell up you idiot. How can dumb massive morons like you exist? Seriously dummy? You’re like those the Bible says are ever learning and never coming to truth, you’re a gullible simpleton who followers her heart rather than God’s will. Seriously you could’t look up “creationism evidence” or “evidence for genesis”? Instead, “Me diboverbed evendelicals npot beliefbv traditions”. Shut the Hell up. God, damn, dumb. Again, how can a moron like you not know the truth? You couldn’t find it at Answers in Genesis, creationwiki, anywhere? Ur that dumb? Ur that thick to reason? Ur stupid. What an arrogant imbecile. You don’t notice that evolutionism and big bangism is full of crap contradictions gaps and nonsense? Full of logical fallacies? No wonder ur dumb, ur an illogical idiot. You’re like the Bible says, a person who decieves and gets decieved, believing one doctrine after another that contradicts, because you’re a feelings follower rather than a genuine follower of Christ. You’re heart is corrupt, believe the Bible when it says, The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it. Yet you didn’t believe that or any part that says we are sinners, instead, you fell for the nice fake gospel, “God loves you, just accept Christ and traditions, and it’ll all be good.” Dumb hole, speaking of traditions, you don’t even know those, Augustine taught predestination you idiot, yet your ur obviously a stupid arminian. And who cares moron if lewis is anglican except morons like you who don’t care about truth, but YOUR FEELINGS? Stupid. WHAT MATTERS IS WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS YOU ITCHING EARS IDIOT. Do you even know what itching ears refers to? Probably not moron, or u think, in ur dumb moronic sweeping generalization stupid stereotype fallacy, “well dats not me cud neber be, must only b doze preacher peopoles who preach dat dumb gbospel tingy, yeaqh, evangedlicals” and like someone here apparently said, lewis was an evangelical. u dont even know what that word means obviously. it’s a fact u idiot that those who promote evolution and big bang crap end up increasing abortion and murder rates. ever heard of communism moron? ever heard of atheism moron? do commies and atheists believe genesis is literal moron? and how have atheists and communists treated the world moron? you don’t think moron you don’t know history ignorant moron, 150 million deaths not even including brutal abortions and ur moron self doesnt even notice, instead u say, “me like lewis cuh he angicnan, and me no like doze evandelidcs cuz dewy have six errors in createnism thingy”. The Bible says to ignore arguments of ignorance, and wow are u a moron ignorant arguer. Listen idiot, to God, nor your nasty heart, “A fool has no pleasure in understanding, but in airing his own opinions.” Next time idiot, don’t cherry pick verses, traditions, and facts. Wake up because you’re obviously going to Hell. Yes, God HATES you: “YOU HATE ALL WHO DO WRONG.” NOT “YOU LOVE EVERYONE, BUT UR SENDING THE HYPOCRITE CALVINISTS AND EVANGELICALS TO HELL, AND THE MEANY PEOPLE DAT HATE U TOO AFTER HEARING UR “GOD LOVES U JUST ACCEPT CHRIST INTO UR PURE AND LOVING HEART””.
      Next time, ACTUALLY READ THE BIBLE IDIOT, RATHER THAN BEING LIKE AN ATHEIST WHO ARGUES AGAINST IT, WHO ARE ALSO OBVIOUS MORONS THAT DID NOT READ IT CAREFULLY.

      Here’s the gospel explained clearly on a single page, which no doubt you’re prideful self will most likely will not read, because you’re a stubborn rebel and wolf inside: http://eternian.wordpress.com/life hopefully others will HUMBLE themselves and be exalted misses Just Believe What I Say, Not That Bible Thingy Which Tradition Decides Is True, Not Men [aka doze meany calvinists and evangelidalscials] (wow no contradiction there, yeah there’s no calviniststs in the Bible that say salvation is God’s choice, that his will rules all that Christians actually went out and preached and learned to interpret the Bible, not “Just believed whoever said they were the real Christian”!).

  • Megan

    Thank you John. Well said.

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  • http://twitter.com/DanMcMonagle Dan McMonagle

    Great post, good discussion.  Lewis is one of my favorites too, and that bit from The Last Battle played a significant part in helping me reconcile my thoughts on how God will handle salvation.
     
    One point on the Great Divorce…. You (and other commenters I’ve seen) mention that Lewis seems to think that Hell may actually work the way he described.  But, in the preface to the Great Divorce, he specifically asks his readers not to assume that.  The exact quote from the preface is:
     
    “I beg readers to remember that this is a fantasy.  It has of course – or I intended it to have – a moral. But the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us.  The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosityabout the details of the after-world.” CS Lewis, preface to The Great Divorce.
     
    One thing I love about the way Lewis handled the “good soldier” from Tash’s army in the Last Battle was that he left it an open question.  Aslan told Emeth (trusting you that the name is correct) that whenever he did something good or honorable, he was responding to Aslan’s call, then Aslan told him “Now, come and follow me” and turned and walked away… and Lewis DID NOT indicate whether Emeth actually followed him or not. I like the fact he left it unresolved because… well, it is unresolved — none of us know how God will actually handle it with any certainty.
     
    The way I view the issue of salvation for people from other faiths was affected by Lewis’ illustration.  For me, the key issue lies in how we interpret something that you noted above:

    “evangelical means the belief in repentance and conversion into a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit”.  
     
    What does it mean to have “repentance and conversion into a genuine relationship….”?  If we have an evangelical background, typically we think that means saying a prayer of salvation, truly repenting, etc. — the typical “salvation experience” that we see in evangalical churches, right?  Note that this model almost always involves a Christian sharing the gospel with someone else who responds to it and “repents and believes unto salvation”. 

    BUT, what if the way we label it isn’t how God sees it? What if the model Lewis used in the Last Battle is closer to the truth?  If God is omnipresent, what would stop God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit from calling someone via a means other than a Christian sharing with them?
     
    What I’m saying is, I think that Jesus/Holy Spirit can potentially call a person to “repentance and conversion” whether or not a Christian has “shared the gospel” with them.  Can we tell when that’s happened?  No, and it’s not our job to judge if it has.  God does call us to share the gospel, but that doesn’t mean He’s not calling people via other means at the same time.   

    Bottom line: 1) trust God that He’s handling it right, 2) don’t assume that God sees the “labels” the same way we do, 3) continue to “make disciples” as Jesus did anyway. 

    God’s got it under control.  How’s he going to handle salvation for people from other faiths?  I don’t know for certain, but I trust Him to be fair as He does it.  And it won’t be based on the externals that we can see…..
     

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      You make a good point. That is one of the things I like most about Lewis’s mode of communication – there are so many ideas that he offers as “an interesting possibility” rather than “the way it is.” He uses this method to great effect in The Problem of Pain in speaking about how evolution and the creation story in Genesis might mesh. But that’s a long talk for another time I suppose.

      When it comes to salvation, I tend to throw my lot in with the Eastern Orthodox who say that salvation is a mystery, and it is not our business to say who is in or out. Kind of like, who do we think we are, telling an infinite and perfect God how to do the judging?! Instead, they say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” and get on with the real mission of translating the Love of God in a world that needs it.

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    the guy is clearly a heretic on more fronts: http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2009/06/30/cs-lewis-outside-the-pale-rjs/ 

    :p

  • http://www.dodifferent.org.uk David Bunce

    Just to add something else to the already exciting list of resources – the Archbishop of Canterbury talked about the symbolism of Narnia in his Lent lectures this year, during which he also talked about C.S. Lewis as a thinker. All MP3s are available for listening: http://www.canterburydiocese.org/lentlectures/ - well worth spending the time, Rowan Williams is easily one of the most shrewd and intelligent thinkers in the Christian world at the moment :)

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      Great find! I hadn’t seen this yet. Thank you.

  • Annie

    So interesting! I am in a book club and so far we have read 2 of CS Lewis’ books. Mere Christianity and Screwtape. We are getting ready to start the Great Divorce paired with Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Should be thought provoking and great conversation! I don’t really feel as if I fit into a certain theological category. I am still discovering God (Even though I was raisesed in church) I don’t want to depend on people hundreds of years ago to tell me of his nature. God is infinitely more than anything we can possibly understand, so what is the point in acting like we have it all figured out?

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      I completely agree with you there! I think that if the one thing we got figured out is that we don’t have everything figured out, we would be way closer to the spirit of humility and unity that Jesus was praying for.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    I appreciate this comment…love Lewis’ work…and God knows I love Kurt’s explorations on this subject.  Nevertheless I keep wondering:  if the label “Evangelical” has accumulated so much distasteful baggage, as many readers of this blog will grant, why are y’all so attached to retaking the name?  Mightn’t it be better off left to those who appropriated it?

    I choose (for now at least) to attend an Evangelical church, but I do not, nor have I ever, accepted the label upon myself…and I’m not sure I can envision a circumstance in which I would wish to.

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      This a point I debate constantly with myself. For much of my life I said “forget it, don’t need that name.” Recently I am wondering if we shouldn’t try to hold on to the good parts of it.

  • http://blog.rrchapman.us/ Bob Chapman

    The joke is on the Evangelicals. Lewis was High Church Anglican.

    Having said that, there are two strains of “high church” within Anglicanism: view of the Church (the more traitional one) and role of liturgy (where much of the High Church party went after the Oxford Movement). I really can’t say where Lewis dropped down on that, but I imagine he would consider liturgy imporant as a means of reaching creative thought, not not as important as the Church itself. But, that is only my guess and not from research.

    Being an Anglican of his period, he would have regularly heard the Summary of the Law when attending Communion services during the begininng of the service. That call to love God with all our hearts, mind, and stregnth would have informed and reminded Lewis about the importance of using our brains.

    Then, by using fiction (fantasy), Lewis breaks through our rigid, rational thought patterns to get us to use our imaginations. He teaches us that God wants us to think about our faith.

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      You put it well in those last two sentences. Lewis’s example of using imagination to explore theological possibilities probably has influenced me more than anything he actually said.

    • Anonymous

      “I imagine he would consider liturgy imporant as a means of reaching creative thought…”
      Well it certainly wasn’t the music/hymnology.  Three notable on-record quotes: “Hymns were (and are) extremely disagreeable to me. Of all musical instruments, I like the organ the least” (Surprised By Joy)
      - “I considered [hymns] to be 5th-rate poetry set to 6th-rate music” (God In The Dock)
      - “What I, like many other laymen, chiefly desire in church are fewer, better and shorter hymns; especially fewer” (Christian Reflections)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163800401 Carson T. Clark

    Terrific post. However, I still don’t like this whole “evangelical reject” phraseology. While it certainly will draw readers, it reinforces an unfortunate and misleading stereotype that evangelical = (neo-)fundamentalist. I stand with such non-fundamentalist, evangelical leaders as Billy Graham, Mark Noll, Philip Yancey and countless others in appreciating Lewis.

    By the way, here’s a CT article from a few years ago to similar effect:
    http://www.christianitytod​ay.com/ct/special/cslewis.​html

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      I’m afraid that stereotype comes mostly from the self-styled Evangelicals many of us have known, Carson.  Don’t forget that the younger Billy Graham probably would have rejected the older Billy Graham, too.  I think your Anglican buddies are just a nicer stripe of Evangelical than most I’ve known…

    • http://twitter.com/CSLewisIsOnFire Jack the Heretic

      I understand that sentiment. I am still antsy about it all too. Should I stay or should I go? I see good reasons in both directions. But Kurt’s manner of phrasing it does a good job of indicating that though you still want to play a part, there is something that doesn’t quite fit.

    • Dan Allison

      I find the semantic hairsplitting annoying. Evangelicals/fundamentalists, for all PRACTICAL purposes, are identical.

      • Aaaaaaargh

        I’m not so sure about that, although evangelicals are getting more influenced by fundamentalism.  True fundamentalism, to me, is the home-school your kids/listen only to Christian rock, if rock at all/man is the head of the home kind of philosophy.  I know a lot of more conservative Christians who are less narrow-minded than that–I guess the question is whether it’s a difference of quality or kind.

  • http://twitter.com/JeremyCushman Jeremy Cushman

    I think I love everything about this post.
    Seriously, though, how often do we hold certain beliefs in tension subconsciously? Like the incarnation: Jesus was (in his time on earth) fully God, fully man. How does that work? Man has limitations; God has no limitations. Tension is thick in that belief alone.
    It may seem slightly off topic for what’s discussed here, but my point is that we rarely truly consider the beliefs we hold dear to. It’s even rarer if we question many of the beliefs we were raised with – to be in a sort of intellectual limbo state on certain things, where on one hand we’re comfortable in asking questions and yet on the other, we aren’t.
    I think you’re exactly right that C.S. Lewis would be considered a heretic if his works were read honestly and thoroughly. Is it odd that this is the reason why I appreciate his works (and the works of N.T. Wright as well) so much more – that he was willing to engage God on a deeply intellectual level regardless of what people thought of him? I find this to be the area God is challenging me in.
    Anyhow, great post. Thanks for stirring the pot of thought!

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    Very nicely written. I too have always wondered how Lewis has somehow escaped the sharp rebukes that Bell and McLaren often receive from the Evangelical community. Lewis was, in a broad sense, a Christian universalist. He was also quick to challenge anyone who felt they had “insider information” about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. Ironically, some within the Reformed camp, particularly The Gospel Coalition, did have some discussion to determine if Lewis would count as an Evangelical or not by today’s standards. Sadly, these modern day Pharisees concluded that Lewis, although a great theologian, was not. At least they were honest.

    I have always enjoyed Lewis and place him in my top 10 all time favorite authors and theologians, right up there with Bell and McLaren. 

  • Anonymous

    To be an apologist for the Christian faith is inherently to be an evangelical reject insofar as you care about Christianity making sense to other people. The irony is that one of the defining characteristics of evangelicals is that we accept the call to evangelize, which means that we’re inherently invested in searching for ways to help others grasp the gospel.

    There is a healthy way in which apologetics and dogmatics ought to be held in tension with one another. Some of us are called to translate the gospel for the world, while others of us are called to make sure that we don’t lose the gospel in translation. However, many evangelicals today are engaged in not simply dogmatics, but anti-apologetics, because they have an investment in earning their salvation through believing in a “tough” gospel.

    Here’s my latest attempt at trying to help the gospel make sense to the postmodern ear:
    http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/from-self-justification-to-mercy/

  • http://markingtime4now.wordpress.com Mark S. Nielsen

    Good stuff, JJ. I too heard and was shaken (in a good way) by that Rohr statement about staying on the edge of the inside. Even put it on my temporary business card! As for Lewis, I agree he was a model for the “holding in tension” that Rohr and the emergents are talking about. He would not have been  able to do the courageous emotional work of material like “A Grief Observed” unless he’d already surrendered to some things being a mystery, forever, given our broken human state.

  • Treeves46

    interesting questions and insights…I actually found this site because I was looking for pictures of C.S…

    I grew up an evangelical but now stay away from the term as is seems to no longer describe who I am, nor do I want to be pigeon-holed by those outside of the faith by certain religious and political stances and applications…I have always been amazed by the evangelical tendency to make C.S. a hero…I am an avid reader and admirer of C.S., and have always found evangelicals mesmerized by him.  While orthodox, he is hardly ever been an evangelical…it leads me to believe that evangelicals don’t read him much, don’t understand his acceptance of complexity in philosophical and theological categories, or just give him a pass because he isn’t around anymore. 

    It is my observation that Evangelicals us artificial categories to define “orthodoxy” largely because they are still products of poor theological and philosophical thinking left over from Historic Fundamentalism.  It is a sad thing that we can’t allow people to be at different places in their thinking (although, i think Bell is more concerned with being edgy than really being a careful and clear thinker), and still count them as our brothers in Christ (even if we think them wrong or sloppy). 

    Again, Historic Fundamentalism, and the fear that accompanies it, permeates the evangelical culture theologically, philosophically, and pastorally (application) and hinders us as from being a people and church in progress…not beyond the creeds, the scriptures, or historic orthodoxy, but in progress spiritually, theologically and philosophically.

    Yep…your not the only one who makes a really lousy Evangelical.  However, I would rather be an authentic and historic Christian….Peace.

  • Paul D.

    I have nothing to add, except that I am also by coincidence a Canadian in Nagoya, Japan.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EDDPBF6T74E4TB4PRKHY5OJQB4 Helen

    I think that anyone who thinks things through for themselves will never fit neatly into a category unless it’s one they’ve invented themselves. And possibly not even then! Not just in the field of religion, but politics, music and any other time there are several schools of thought or styles. 

    Why should ‘conservation’ of nature and natural resources be seen as a left issue and opposed by ‘conservatives’? How did they end up on opposite sides of the fence? Likewise how much sense does it make for abolishing abortion but supporting the death penalty, or abolishing the death penalty but supporting rights to choose abortion, to end up as part of the same package of beliefs?My intention is not to spark debate about these issues in particular, just to point out that sometimes beliefs get packaged together that shouldn’t necessarily have to be taken  wholesale. As a skilled user may choose ‘custom’ settings when with installing new software on a computer which make more sense for them, a skilled thinker (or at least someone thinking through their beliefs themselves) does not have to adopt the default beliefs of a group of people, although they may hold many in common with that group.

  • A_T_T

    Seventh-day Adventists have long believed that many non-Christians will be in heaven who have responded to the knowledge of God that they have and kept the law in their hearts (become like Jesus).

    Similarly they have been where Rob Bell is (and beyond) since, well the 1800s.


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