Shocking Beliefs of C.S. Lewis

Shocking Beliefs of C.S. Lewis March 13, 2019

Image result

What follows is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s new book – ReGrace: What the Shocking Beliefs of the Great Christians Can Teach Us Today. The endnotes which contain first-hand sources are not included in the excerpt.


1) Some of the so-called shocking beliefs that I cover in ReGrace are beliefs that I myself agree with. Others I find abhorrent.

Consequently, just because a shocking belief is listed doesn’t reveal how I personally feel about it.

It simply means that many evangelical Christians will find the belief to be shocking (at worst) or peculiar (at best).

Therefore, to those of you who are inclined to finish this book and proudly throw your chest out saying, “Good grief, I wasn’t shocked by any of those beliefs!” remember three things:

You missed the point of the book; each person I feature had people who believed they were heretics during their day; and every one of them still have people raking them over the coals because of their viewpoints.

2) While I disagree with a number of beliefs that each person I feature held, I have respect for each of them. In fact, I cannot tie the laces of their shoes.

Each individual was remarkable in his own right. I realize this means that people who don’t like Calvin, Lewis, Wesley, Augustine, and so forth will be turned off by that statement.

And some may misuse this book as a frontal attack on each person it covers, completely missing the boat on those chapters and the intent of this volume.

Finally, remember, the point of this book is NOT to highlight what our spiritual forefathers believed. It’s simply that they all had imperfect views. For that reason, let’s have more grace and civility whenever we disagree with each other over theology and politics.

The book explains practically how to disagree – even strongly – in a Christlike manner without getting down in the mud and engaging in fleshly, carnal behavior over a diverging viewpoint held by a fellow Christian.

For if the “heroes” of the faith didn’t possess immaculate perception, than the same is true for every child of God today – including you.

Read Excerpt Now

The Shocking Beliefs of C. S. Lewis 

People pour themselves into their own doctrines, and God has to blast them out of their preconceived ideas before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.

~ Oswald Chambers

With the popularity of his Chronicles of Narnia (selling millions), Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters (both considered classics among evangelicals), Clive Staples Lewis is regarded by many to be a saint of evangelicalism.1

Christianity Today even called him “our patron saint.”2

According to Time magazine, Lewis was “one of the most influential spokesmen for Christianity in the English-speaking world.”3

According to J. I. Packer, Lewis was “a Christ-centered, great-tradition mainstream Christian whose stature a generation after his death seems greater than anyone ever thought while he was alive, and whose Christian writings are now seen as having classic status.”4

Because evangelical Christians, as a whole, regard Lewis to be the greatest apologist (defender) of the Christian faith in modern history, these beliefs of his will surprise (and perhaps even shock) many evangelicals because they are regarded to be unbiblical by evangelical standards.

1) Lewis believed in praying for the dead.

Here’s a quote:

Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden.13

2) Lewis believed in purgatory. 

Springing out of his belief of praying for the dead was his belief in purgatorial cleansing. According to Roman Catholic dogma, purgatory is the final purification of the elect after death.14

In A Grief Observed, Lewis talked about his deceased wife, Joy, connecting her to suffering and cleansing in purgatory. Lewis believed in salvation by grace, but he thought complete transformation was dependent upon one’s choice. Thus he felt that transformation can even occur after death, and some Christians need to be cleansed in order to be fit for heaven and enjoy it.

For Lewis, purgatory was designed to create complete sanctification, not retribution or punishment. So Lewis saw purgatory as a work of grace.

Here are some revealing quotes from Lewis:

To pray [for the dead] presupposes that progress and difficulty are still possible. In fact, you are bringing in something like Purgatory. Well, I suppose that I am. Though even in Heaven some perpetual increase of beatitude, reached by a continually more ecstatic self-surrender, without the possibility of failure but not perhaps without its own ardours and exertions—for delight also has its severities and steep ascents, as lovers know—might be supposed. But I won’t press, or guess, that side for the moment. I believe in Purgatory.15

3) Lewis believed that it was possible for some unbelievers to find salvation after they have left this world. 

While Lewis didn’t subscribe to universalism or ultimate reconciliation, he did believe that salvation after death was a possibility for some.

His view was that some people may seek and find Christ without knowing Him by name. However, he was very clear that this was not “salvation by sincerity” or “goodness” but rather a Spirit-driven desire for God.16

For Lewis, Christianity is not the only revelation of God’s way, but it is the complete and perfect revelation. Lewis, therefore, didn’t hold to the idea that all roads lead equally to God. In addition, Lewis believed that time may not work the same way after death as it does in life. Thus all those who lived before Christ and after might be subject to the grace of repentance.17

Interestingly, Lewis’s distant mentor, George MacDonald, believed in ultimate reconciliation (meaning, hell will be empty because God will win everyone to Himself in the end). Lewis’s regard for MacDonald was incomparable.

He said of MacDonald, “I dare not say that he is never in error; but to speak plainly I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.”18

That’s quite a statement to make about someone you don’t fully agree with doctrinally. And it’s a perfect example of what it means to “regrace.”

The above is a short excerpt from ReGrace with the endnotes removed. There’s much more on Lewis and his views in the book.

To order the book, go to ReGrace: What the Shocking Beliefs of the Great Christians Can Teach Us Today.

Here is the Back Cover Description:

The church is tired of seeing Christians act ungraciously toward one another when they disagree. Social media has added to the carnage. Christians routinely block each other on Facebook because of doctrinal disagreements. The world watches the blood-letting, and the Christian witness is tarnished.

But what if every Christian discovered that their favorite teacher in church history had blind spots and held to some false–and even shocking–views?

Bestselling author Frank Viola argues that this simple awareness will soften Christians when they interact with each other in the face of theological disagreements.

In ReGrace, he uncovers some of the shocking beliefs held by faith giants like C.S. Lewis, Luther, Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, Wesley, Graham, and Augustine–not to downgrade or dismiss them, but to show that even “the greats” in church history didn’t get everything right.

Knowing that the heroes of our faith sometimes got it wrong will empower us to treat our fellow Christians with grace rather than disdain whenever we disagree over theology.

"It seems like man always wants to take control of an authentic move of God. ..."

Between Tyranny and Anarchy
"I don't see anything in this post that would provoke such a question, so I'm ..."

Shocking Beliefs of Augustine
"How is the Just War view a demonic doctrine?"

Shocking Beliefs of Augustine
"Sadly, for decades if not centuries, nobody emphasis and reinforce it to the parents that ..."

Tips to Make Relationship with Your ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Smack_41

    Edited by Blog Manger to include full quote and context.

    “Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

    It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. That they stood thus in the mouth of Jesus himself, and were not merely placed thus by the reporter, we surely need not doubt. Unless the reporter were perfectly honest he would never have recorded the confession of ignorance at all; he could have had no motive for doing so except a desire to tell the whole truth. And unless later copyists were equally honest they would never have preserved the (apparently) mistaken prediction about “this generation” after the passage of time had shown the (apparent) mistake. This passage (Mark 13:30-32) and the cry “Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) together make up the strongest proof that the New Testament is historically reliable. The evangelists have the first great characteristic of honest witnesses: they mention facts which are, at first sight, damaging to their main contention.

    The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined. Nor indeed can the unconsciousness of Christ in sleep be imagined, nor the twilight of reason in his infancy; still less his merely organic life in his mother’s womb… It would be difficult, and, to me, repellent, to suppose that Jesus never asked a genuine question, that is, a question to which he did not know the answer. That would make of his humanity something so unlike ours as scarcely to deserve the name. I find it easier to believe that when be said “Who touched me?” (Luke 7:45) he really wanted to know.

    “C.S. Lewis from his sermon, “The World’s Last Night”.

  • Bryr Brannigan

    I honestly couldn’t pick a single quote from CS Lewis…there are far too many that have influenced me. We studied a lot of his works in Bible College (17yrs ago) and many of them have helped me stand firm in my faith when a lot of odds were going against me. I love stories, and I love logic and reasoning, great bloke, so glad for his contribution to Christendom. Would recommend anyone make an effort and read some of his works.

    OK, so I remembered one that really stuck out to me. It’s not a direct quote as I can’t even remember which book it’s from, but it’s a concept:

    If we could see people as they truly are, we would either see something so beautiful we would be tempted to bow down and worship, or something so hideous that we would shrink away…and that we have the capacity to drive others toward either one of these destinies. And the concept that there are many people walking around who to our eyes look saved but aren’t, or don’t look saved, but are.

  • Morgan

    Heard this from a scholar who heavily researched Lewis – one of his friends was an Orthodox priest, and when Lewis died, the priest laid a three-bar cross on the coffin. Lewis may not have been Orthodox in life, but, as the saying goes, ‘He’s Orthodox now.’

  • Morgan

    Hmmmm. This comment does a disservice to both Lewis and Chick.

  • Wiirute_Guthoma

    When do we get to Calvin?

  • Joy_F

    Til we have faces is probably my favorite : “I see why the gods do not answer….. How can we see face to face til we have faces?”

  • Nel Retheh

    The Chronicles of Narnia were pretty huge for me. My fifth grade teacher read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to our class. I do not come from a reading household, so that something like that existed was a revelation to me. I have been a voracious reader since then and fantasy will always be my first love.

    As far as my spiritual journey . . . it is hard to pick. I think Aslan as a symbol of Christ is pretty powerful and I like to think that has had an impact on me. Definitely the Last Battle where Aslan accepts a servant of Tash because he followed the Law that was written in his heart, has stuck with me. My upbringing was pretty devout Assemblies of God and I’ve always *wanted* to believe in a God that doesn’t send good people to hell for believing in the wrong god (or no god).

    The beauty of Narnia’s creation story has also always stuck with me. The bravery of Reepicheep. The redemption of Edmund and of Eustace.

    The Four Loves helped me clarify kinds of love and my thoughts about them. Also, I remember him saying that he didn’t feel qualified to speak on the sins of homosexuality and gambling because those were two things he hadn’t been tempted by, but that he did think there could be real love and affection in a homosexual relationship because he believed he had seen it himself (in school, I think). That probably helped start me on a path of not-homophobia, for lack of a better word. Because my mom is still convinced gay men are lurking in restrooms waiting to attack unaccompanied little boys.

    When We All Have Faces has stuck with me, too, though not so much in detail as in impression.

    Anyway, if there is a heaven and I wind up there, C.S. Lewis is one of the people I look forward to chatting with.

  • Nel Retheh

    I love several of George MacDonald’s stories, thanks to C.S. Lewis.

  • Phyllis Hopper

    Well summarized. His statement about “fallen man…” serves the unspoken value of being human. While unaware of it at the time, CSL laid the groundwork in my life for a more accurate understanding of what it is to be human. This ultimately reversed years of indoctrination that it is shameful to be human (the ultimate quandary because I can’t help the fact that I’m human). Do you know what it feels like to be set free to be? Wheee!

  • Ladyofthelake (Andrea)

    The book I love most from C.S. Lewis is a book he actually was the editor/compiler of, not the writer. It is called “George MacDonald” and is an anthology in 365 readings from MacDonald’s writings. Lewis called MacDonald his “master” and said something about MacDonald baptizing his imagination long before his mind and heart came around.

  • Steve MacLean

    Several years ago I started compiling a document of “quotable quotes” from the many books that I have read. On the basis of the number of quotes from the books of CS Lewis (and if I really had to choose!) the most influential have been Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. Consider the following gems from the latter: “The earliest Christians were not so much like a man who mistakes the shell for the kernel as like a man carrying a nut which he hasn’t yet cracked. The moment it cracked, he knows which part to throw away. Till then he holds on to the nut: not because he is a fool but because he isn’t.” Or the following on Professor D.M.S Watson’s defence: ‘Evolution itself,’ he wrote, is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or … can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.’ And then there is the following from Mere Christianity: “fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.” Or this on love and marriage: “Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from ‘being in love’ – is not merely a feeling. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of love is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” And I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • laverl09

    It is an established fact that in the General Conference addresses of the LDS Church, C.S. Lewis is the most quoted non-Mormon author. His ability to phrase the basics of the Gospel in innovative phraseology touches the very heart and soul.

  • Susan

    Don’t know about that, because he married a divorced woman…..just saying… separated him from his great friend and a Catholic, JRR Tolkien. CS Lewis was brilliant, though….as Tolkien. Unique–both.

    Reason and Tradition did go with the pre-Vat. II Catholics, though, and Thomistic Theology and CS Lewis exhibited a lot of Reason (Natural Laws).

  • Acintyabedhabedhadasa

    C.S. Lewis was the Jack Chick of his day.

  • Jerry Lynch

    Mere Christianity came at just the right time for me, then deeply into Zen and the Tao. It helped reveal a link in those disciplines back to my early faith. My favorite quote of his is, “The more God takes us over, the more our true selves we become.” I wonder how many Christians would find that “shocking”?

  • Cody

    Lewis helped me discover the path away from Evangelical Protestantism which eventually led me to the Holy Orthodox Church, even though he himself was Anglican! But he was Orthodox at heart and I am eternally grateful for his influence. Not one of the views mentioned is really that controversial from an Orthodox perspective.

  • Derrell Wyshynski

    I too love Pilgrims Regress…!

  • Definitely “Pilgrims Regress” followed by “The Four Loves.” Amazing man, amazing thoughts.

  • BT

    At the end of the Narnia tales, Lewis opens to door to view universalism in an entirely new light for me. That was very worthwhile and prepared me for conversations I would have much later on in life.

    Edit to add: Yes, I am probably using the term universalism in an incorrect way. What’s the correct term for viewing the idea that a non-Christian still may find salvation by believing and acting in accordance with Christian ideas but not ascribing the name of Jesus to them due to either ignorance or misinformation? It’s not exactly universalism, but it’s not entirely unrelated.

  • Dr_Jackson

    Oh, how I recall being shocked by these beliefs of Lewis years ago! I think that shock and my continuing love for Lewis played some part in my eventual migration to the Orthodox Church. But to answer the question, the two works of his which I consider most helpful in helping me to understand sin and repentance are “That Hideous Strength” and “The Great Divorce.” On the other hand, the single passage which has stuck with me more than anything else is Puddleglum’s speech in the witch’s underground kingdom in “The Silver Chair”–that speech which allowed the small group of adventurers to shake off the witch’s illusion and recall their aim and their first love, and which I have found a great encouragement during times of doubt and great sadness.

  • Daniel Richard Asperheim

    And I also recommend for reading Dr Michael Ward’s “Planet Narnia” or his easier-to-read version, “Narnia Code”. Not only do you learn more about The Chronicles of Narnia–and about Lewis himself–but also about life itself. For me, “Planet Narnia” has virtually put the magic back into my life and has made me re-think the significance of the mundane. I believe Dr Ward, who is a leading Lewis scholar, made a genuine discovery.

  • While I find C.S. Lewis fascinating, he doesn’t have deep insight into the Word of God. Since he thought the Bible contains errors he seems to miss the fact that it’s the Holy Spirit that gives illumination to scripture. Most certainly contributed to a better understanding of Faith in Jesus.

  • John Gale

    Frank, you always give rich food for thought. My favorite Lewis book is Surprised By Joy. “The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered
    what now appears a moment of wholly free choice.” Spoke to my heart as a teenager; now brings tears to my eyes as a senior citizen! “The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation”. Blows my mind! Blessings

  • Aaron Acton

    Mere Christianity greatly influenced my original decision for Christ. Test everything – keep the good.

  • Although I have read the vast majority of his works, I am almost daily reminded of some instance or another from the seven Chronicles of Narnia — which I have read more than 20 times. Especially the undragoning of Eustace and Aslan’s challenge for Lucy to follow, even if the others don’t see. Truly, as we get older, we are better able to see these seven books for the gems they are.

    But, as I have gotten older, his comment in a letter to his friend, Sheldon Vanauken (which became the title of his deep book, A Severe Mercy, that I read in November of 1979), concerning the death of Sheldon’s wife, Davey, resonates: You have been granted a severe mercy: as severe as death; as merciful as love. Life is full of what I have come to recognize as “severe mercies”…and I am grateful to Jack for giving me that language (along with so much other language for things I felt but could not put into words).

  • bdlaacmm

    I’m pretty sure that over the years I’ve read most everything I’ve ever come across by C.S. Lewis. But more than anything else, I love his three science fiction novels: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve read these, and I’m certain I will go through them again at least one more time. (For those who have yet to experience them, they form one continuous narrative and are best read in the order they were written.)

    The first two contain some of the most beautiful prose ever written about other worlds and the wonder of traveling to them, all the while tackling some pretty deep stuff about the fall of man and the nature of sin (and obedience). The third is a terribly relevant story about many of the dangers modern society presents to humanity. Despite its being somewhat dated, its fundamental theme is as current as the latest news. That Hideous Strength is probably my favorite Lewis work of all.

  • Lois

    The CS Lewis idea that has influenced me the most seems it must have come from his admiration of George MacDonald. To think of grace after death would have been heretical to myself years ago. GM is mistakenly called a universalist because of that, which is not true. All must come through Jesus, which is not universalism. I did not realize until this article that CS Lewis also believed that. Interesting! Thank you!

  • L. Bajus

    Well! At this point in my journey a portion from Lewis’s “The Horse and His Boy” speaks most deeply to me… (I know – not very sophisticated!)

    Shasta is finally meeting Aslan. He realizes that Aslan was the Lion that injured Aravis. Shasta asks Aslan why. It is Aslan’s response that dropped into my heart:
    “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own”

    I remember that when the lives of people cross and things are confusing and muddled and hard to understand. I remember that I need not figure out another’s story, but rather trust the One who is writing…

  • Bob Romanelli

    Wonderful comment. In the light of Christ’s love, so much else fades into oblivion. In the light that streams from Calvary, all other problems are resolved. How do we know that God does not have different paths for different people. After all, Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. He is alive, not dead. Only dead things are static. Living things are dynamic. Maybe there are more perspectives than we imagine. God lives outside time and space. We are bound by time and space. All our ideas about doctrine are shackled to spacetime. We need to keep that fact in mind when we view the things of God. Rob Bell was attacked when he wrote Love Wins, but he may have been right about many things his critics did not want to think about because they thought they knew all the answers. I don’t think anyone knows all the answers. Even Jesus said that only His Father knew the day and the hour–let’s be humble enough to give God this much space to move around in when it comes to the Bible.

  • Bob McGaw

    Frank, although I love Lewis’ body of work, I’m still steeped in your work and now getting into NT Wright’s work (thanks to you). Now I’ll definitely have to pick up McGrath’s new work. As a former pastor, now in exile, I’m more prepared to help point people to God’s eternal purpose.

    Between blogs, books and podcasts, it’s hard to keep up.


  • Thanks Tobie and to all who actually answered the question the post was asking. 😉

  • You aren’t in touch with the majority of evangelicals in North America then.

    These things are VERY shocking to them, especially those who have venerated Lewis on the one hand but denounce anyone who disagrees with them on any subject on the other.

    It’s a reality check for such people to lighten up and re-examine how they access individuals.

    The point was made at the beginning of the post that most non-evangelicals will not find these points shocking at all.

    Interesting how you simply repeated that and didn’t answer the question that was being asked in the post. 🙂

  • Yes, many evangelicals in America still believe in total abstinence of alcohol and some Bible teachers teach it.

    Do you plan on answering the question in the post?

  • Maybe I am not a mainstream Evangelical anymore, but are there many that still suggest that drinking alcohol is sinful? It is extremely hard to reconcile an Evangelical understanding of scripture and a requirement for the complete abstinence of alcohol.

    I am not sure you can really say he believed in Transubstantiation (not that I think it is heretical, just that I don’t think you can really say he did.)

    The reality is that Lewis was a 20th century Anglican, not a 21st Century Evangelical from the US. Of course he didn’t believe all of the things we do now. In general, I trust Lewis to be more orthodox in his faith than the general Evangelical is. Because he actually studied Christian history and was familiar with the longer term traditions of the faith. While many Evangelicals really don’t have a good grasp of what other Christians believe (both now and historically.)

  • One of CS Lewis’ books that I’ve really enjoyed and been helped by is Pilgrims Regress. It seems to be a lesser known book but the depths of his analogies in that book are amazing!

  • Tobie

    Nice article. My greatest Lewis book: First and Second Things. Chapter that influenced my understanding of life the most: First and Second Things. Chapter that revolutionised my reading habits the most: On the Reading of Old Books. Chapter that most helped me to understand that Christianity is to look in the light and not at the light: Meditation in a Toolshed. Most helpful quote: One converses better when one does not say “Let us converse”. Most disturbing book EVER read: The C S Lewis Hoax by Kathryn Lindskoog (Even though one of the main assertions in the book has been disproven, the rest of it is enough to make a grown person weep.)

  • malcolmdfrench

    I’m not sure why any of these points should be “shocking” to anyone. Lewis was not a North American evangelical. He described himself as an ordinary member of the Church of England, neither particularly high nor particularly low. He didn’t even identify as evangelical in the sense that the word is used in the Church of England. Indeed, his views on purgatory tend towards the Anglo-Catholic, which isn’t surprising since his worshiping life was strongly influenced by the Catholic revival in the Church of England. Like most educated members of the Anglican Communion in the middle of the 20th century, he was not a biblical literalist.

    This is only “shocking” to those many North American evangelicals who have remade Lewis in their own image with little or no reference to the Lewis who actually existed.

  • Of all Lewis works, it has been “The Great Divorce” that has informed my journey the most. The perspective of all the human attitudes one holds, and how if they are not renounced, one cannot receive God’s free gift of salvation. How satan deceives us into holding on to a lie that appears or becomes more important than

    the true riches we are offered. Like “Screwtape”, “Divorce” provides insight into the strategy of counterfeit that the enemy deploys and how ridiculous it appears when viewed through the lens of the truth.

  • John Quirk

    If C.S. Lewis was alive today he would become Catholic.

  • Trev

    The Great Divorce. I am Catholic, and whilst not a perfect picture of the the Final Four Things as formulated by dogma, it greatly influenced my journey across the Tiber from a general Christianity.

  • Lewis has long been one of my heroes. I admire his tough-minded (yet tender-hearted) faith. I suppose the quote that’s moved me the most is from the end of Till We Have Faces:

    “I ended my first book with the words “no answer.” I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words. Long did I hate you, long did I fear you. I might–”

  • Greg

    I enjoyed that very much Frank. If the Wright brothers could be brought forward into the future and witness a jumbo jet or a fighter jet. The brilliance of CS Lewis in abundance of thought and all the wheat gleaned from his works. How many ideas get thrown around the writing tables of Seinfeld and Ray Romano? We, the viewer get all the good stuff condensed. Chaff? Ahh, theres always a bit of chaff mixed in with the good. God Bless

  • Great post – Frank very insightful. I’m a lifelong Lewis fan and I was surprised with #5 re: transubstantiation, I didn’t know that was his belief. As always, thanks for educating me!

  • Fran McHugh

    “Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”
    -The Great Divorce

  • Good post. I appreciated the posture of humility and view that each of us are a work in progress. My favorite quote: “Speaking personally, if I demanded that a person’s views on every subject under the sun be identical to mine as a condition to be helped by them, then if I had met myself 20 years ago, I’d have to disfellowship myself!” – Amen to me too! 🙂

  • It seems too strong to assert that these were Lewis’s beliefs. He was a philosophical man, always thinking and adapting to new insights and old discoveries. In a culture where “beliefs” separate and agitate, one must ask to what extent Lewis held these thoughts and prescribed them for others. Did he pray for the dead because he believed it would affect something of reality and he had an obligation to do so, or did the longing of his heart move him to lift those he
    loved or knew to the Lord even after their death? Lewis wrote his thoughts, but many of those things were just thoughts. I doubt that they were considered doctrine or truth as much as they were considered hopes and salves for his soul.

    Perhaps part of the evangelical struggle is the idea that any thoughts put in writing must be “beliefs” we would die (or kill) for. We expect that aberrant thoughts, ideas outside those considered acceptable, will be hidden or, perhaps, shared only with intimate friends. But previous generations and much of the academic community today understood that putting thoughts out promoted dialogue and understanding. Talking things through, even in writing, is part of the process rightly used to discover truth.

    As I have aged, I have developed many “suspicions.” These are not things I would defend to the death or even to the point of heated argument. I would not judge anyone for disagreeing with me on my suspicions. Nor would I call them beliefs—even if they were strong enough for me to act on them. I understand that they are a little outside of orthodoxy, but I also understand that my experience of faith grows and adapts as life changes. I have even found that some of those things I formerly held as beliefs may not have the firm foundation that I once
    thought. I don’t have to abandon them because of that, but I do have to categorize them differently. They are now theories, suspicions, or just thoughts.

    Great article and very well written. I especially appreciate the Chambers quote at
    the beginning. Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to others in the

  • Peyton Jones

    I read the McGrath book this year and it was amazing. My favorite book was the Space Trilogy. Three books I know, but they cover the same story, so cut me some slack. That book was the most insightful thing I’ve read on heaven. It’s hard to express, but I had an experience with God that I talk about in Leadership Journal a little bit, and I quote Lewis. He was injured in WW1 and although not much is known about his experience, I believe he may have had a near death experience. I say that only because of some of the hints he seems to have dropped in the space trilogy and elsewhere. He “knows” certain things that it would seem only people who have had the experience would really know. Anyways, I sound like a gnostic now, so I’ll shut up.

  • Alice0721

    Well, I was about to march in here with my pitchfork and blowtorch to defend my favorite Christian author. But, this was an insightful blog. Most of the things I already knew about Lewis, but there were a few I didn’t. I view other people’s interpretations of scripture kind of like going to the grocery store. If you find something you like, you buy it, but you don’t burn the store down or never go there again because it has something you don’t like in it. Pulling from diverse views is important for a few reason.

    First of all, they will make you examine your own beliefs on the matter more thoroughly. This can make you change your mind, or make you more confident in your beliefs, and either one can be a good outcome.

    Secondly, it reminds us that if we disagree with some of the beliefs held by our church, it isn’t the end of the world. I see so many people leave Christianity because they disagree with an aspect of theology that others hold to be true, such as eternal torment, evolution, ect… What they don’t seem to realize is that there are others who disagree with the church on it and it is okay. It is important to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Greg Carlet

    I read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, but that was the extent of my exposure to Lewis until more recent years.

    I had read many good Lewis quotes, but never read an entire book by him. I even owned a few of his books, but they sat on my shelf unopened for years.

    A few months ago, I decided to pick up Mere Christianity after finishing The Reason For God by Tim Keller. I’m glad I did. It was everything that people had said. It was thought-provoking and encouraging. I’m glad I spent the time reading it.

    I plan on reading Surprised by Joy next.

    Also, I came across The Romantic Rationalist recently as well. I plan on reading that sometime too.

  • stefanstackhouse

    In response to the question, I would have to say that it isn’t so much something specific that Lewis said, but rather his overall example: that it is possible to have an intellectual approach to Christianity, and to have the open-minded creativity to approach and faithfully think through difficult questions outside of the usual rigid language and categories that professional theologians have developed. In this respect, I guess one could say that Lewis is the “patron saint” for well-educated laymen.

    A further note, however: “Letters to Malcolm” was a relatively late work. Yes, Lewis’s thinking seems to have evolved, but I wouldn’t take it for granted that the evolution in the thinking of authors in their later stages always constitutes an improvement. It seems to be an unfortunate tendency that some authors do their best work earlier in their lives, and toward the end they move in a direction that is unfortunate. We clearly see this in the works of Francis Schaeffer, for example. During the prime of his career, during the L’Abri days between the Trilogy and “How Shall We Then Live”, Schaeffer was brilliant, and he was inspiring and instructing to Christians across the political spectrum. It was in his declining years that he took to writing right-wing polemics that were not nearly so edifying. In a different way, we see a somewhat similar phenomenon with Lewis, especially with “A Grief Observed” near the end of his life.

    A few specific comments with regard to Lewis’s apparently heterodox viewpoints:

    Most evangelical Christians don’t believe that we become perfect in our sanctification in this life. (I’m sorry to have to say this, but a good case could also be made that those who do think that they have been so perfected actually haven’t.) We do believe that we will have been perfected when we are with Christ for all eternity. Obviously, something must happen between the point where we die and the point where we are resurrected that results in our sanctification being completed and perfected. The Bible is not absolutely clear what this something is or how it works. The Roman Catholic teaching on purgatory is unscriptural in its elaborate detail, and I am not at all sure that Lewis was endorsing that in its totality. For Lewis to merely claim that some sort of transformation does occur is quite proper, however. It is just unfortunate that he used the word purgatory, and that may reflect some poor judgment due to his not actually having been trained in theology.

    As for praying for the dead and any sort of belief in a “second chance” after death, on the surface these are heterodox and I disagree with them. However, given the thrust of Lewis’s apologetic, I am thinking that he might have thought it so important to emphasize what seems, from our perspective (but not from God’s perspective: Lewis was too well-schooled in Augustine to be a died-in-the-wool Pelagian), to be totally up to us: our need to choose life with Christ rather than eternity apart from Him. Perhaps he thought it necessary to leave the door open rhetorically; whether or not he really believed that is the way it was is less clear.

    Jesus and his disciples drank a little wine with their meals, and Paul commended the practice to Timothy. This is what the Bible actually says, and that is what Lewis was defending. I do think that Lewis could have been a little more sensitive to the reasons why so many Christians felt that a complete break with alcohol was necessary. What apparently wan’t a problem for him was a problem for many others.

    Lewis took great pains to be a “mere Christian”, building bridges and maintaining friendships as much as he could between confessional lines. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. Lewis’s views on the Eucharist are actually a fairly accurate reflection of the rather muddled thinking of mainstream Anglicans of his day. They tended to be rather ambiguous about whether the bread and wine did or did not change, and to what extent it was or was not actually Jesus.

    Job is not a book of history, and should not be read as a historical narrative. Job is assumed to be a real person in James 5:11, but beyond that it is more of an open question as to what extent the book should be read literally.