When Worldviews Collide: 

Lewis Critics in Cyberspace

It is only natural that all popular authors have both their defenders and their critics. C. S. Lewis is no exception to this rule. What I find to be so interesting about C. S. Lewis’s critics is, on the one hand, the diversity of their individual perspectives and on the other hand, the harsh, almost always, venomous spirit that seems to flow from their criticism. Some visitors to this site may doubt the wisdom of sharing these articles with the general public. My own opinion is that we do more harm by ignoring them than we do by making others aware of what his critics thought of him. In spite of what some may imagine, the "real" Lewis generally found himself at home in such places as "The Socratic Club" where both the pro’s and the con’s of a subject could be freely discussed.

Yes, like all of us, he had both his shortcomings and eccentricities. Some of them probably hurt both his Christian witness and his relationships with others. I remember myself, how back in the mid 70’s I struggled with the discovery of his duplicity both in his relationship with Mrs. Moore and with his father. But, in spite of his flaws, what impresses me the most about Lewis, particularly after his conversion, is his integrity, not only in his writing, but also in his devotional life, his financial stewardship and his thinking. For all intense purposes, he was the same person at work and at home and among his friends as he was at church. He not only wrote about and talked about his faith, he lived it unashamedly before others.

I do caution those of you who venture into these critical articles for the first time to read them with an open mind. Much of what is said about Lewis has a grain of truth mixed in with much error. In addition, a number of details are often taken out of context, and each author will sometimes have their own axe to grind, regardless of the facts. Responses and questions are welcomed, and, if possible, I will do my best to point you to someone who might be able to give you a satisfactory answer.

  

 
1. C. S. Lewis: General Teachings and Activities

Last updated in February, 1999, this article is one of 70 "exposes" on individuals posted on the Web page of  Biblical Discernment Ministries of Bedford, Indiana which is edited by Rick Miesel. The site itself is maintained on "The Beardsley's Homepage" where they describe themselves as "members of a local area church 'Liberty Baptist Tabernacle' of Rapid City, South Dakota: An Independent Fundamental King James Version Only Church." If you check out some of the other exposes, you will notice that even Bob Jones or Jerry Falwell is not fundamental enough for this group. Initially this website elicited much response from the MereLewis listserv, with Doug Gresham encouraging Lewis fans to write BDM and express their positive opinions about Lewis. It is sometimes instructive to see someone we know through someone else's eyes. For further constructive consideration of how Christians may approach fantasy literature see Connie Neal's helpful articles "What Would Jesus Have Me Do?" and "Guarding Your Child."

  

 

2. C. S. Lewis: The Devil's Wisest Fool 
This article, written by Mary Van Nattan in the Balaam’s Ass Speaks Journal, seeks. to "expose" Lewis, along with 20 others, as modern Balaam's. For starters, I might mention that Lewis is described on the first line as "the single most useful tool of Satan." Steve Van Nattan, her father and a former missionary and pastor, is the journal's editor. For further constructive consideration of how Christians may approach fantasy literature see Connie Neal's helpful articles "What Would Jesus Have Me Do?" and "Guarding Your Child" that I also mentioned above.
 
3. C. S. Lewis and Evangelicals Today
 This article, written by David W. Cloud for the Fundamental Baptist Information Service, was originally written on July 1, 2000 and was updated on April 11, 2001. Neither Evangelicals nor C.S. Lewis are acceptable to the Fundamental Baptist interpretation of Christianity. Cloud concludes with this thought about Lewis: "if evangelicals read and applaud such books as Mere Christianity, it should come as no surprise if we find them ‘working towards a common mission’ with the enemies of the gospel." For a much more positive and charitable view of Lewis, written in response to this article by Cloud, see "Of Elves, Angels, and Dueling Theologies" by Frederick Meekins at OpinioNet who notes that "Christians ought to be cautioned where the writings of Lewis stray from the narrow path. However, that does not mean there is not insight to be gained from Lewis or that his collected works should be consigned to the garbage to prevent weak minds from falling prey to their questionable aspects."
 
4. The Darkside of Narnia
This article, written by award-winning author Philip Pullman in October, 1998 in The Guardian, pulls no punches. He sees almost nothing positive in the whole of Narnia, noting that for him they are "one of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read." A more recent interview of Pullman, conducted for the Washington Post by Alona Wartofsky, quotes him, in contrast to Lewis, as saying that in his writing he is trying "to undermine the basis of Christian belief." This somewhat confirms the view that it is quite possible that in "The Darkside of Narnia" we learn more about Pullman's presuppositions than about Lewis's failures as an author. Another interesting article about Pullman is from Australia. It is an annotated response to "The Darkside of Narnia," Also some 50 responses to Pullman's comments were recorded on the MereLewis listserv. 
  
5. Cardboard Characters and 'Escapism' ? 
Award-winning novelist and Orthodox Presbyterian, Larry Woiwode likes Lewis's essays but is critical of his fiction; so writes Stamper and Veith in this July, 1998 World Magazine article. For further information on Woiwode see Veith's other article in this same issue of World. Also checkout some of 23 immediate responses to Woiwode's comments that were sent into the MereLewis listserv and found on a search within MereLewis.
  
6. Mere Christianity Censored at Dartmouth College 
Click here to find four articles on this issue. There is some difference of opinion as to who was to blame - the administration or the liberal denominational ministries at the college.
  
7. A Secular Critique of Lewis's book on Miracles
The goal of this website, The Secular Web, is to defend and promote metaphysical naturalism, and in this article the author claims to assess Lewis's challenges to the rationalists, agnostics and deists in Miracles. In a separate essay Houston Craighead  defends Lewis's teleological argument in the revised edition of Miracles. Read also the Time magazine cover story on Lewis which appeared just after his book, Miracles, was published in 1947. The Time magazine article and many other helpful articles can be found on this Apologetic.org website whose purpose is to "present Christianity as an understandable, defensible, and compelling world view."  
  
8. Lewis correspondent criticizes his reasons for not becoming a Roman Catholic
This November, 1998 article publishes a May, 1945 letter from Lewis to Lyman Stebbins and Stebbins' s response, in which he criticizes reasons Lewis gave him for not being a Roman Catholic. 
  
9. Deeper Life adovcate concerned about C.S. Lewis cult
This article mentions C.S. Lewis several times as an Anglican whose popularity has led "numerous highly intellectual neo-evangelical leaders .... into the Anglican and Episcopal churches-- there to be immersed in the subjective religion of so-called Apostolic succession, baptismal regeneration, ritualism, and priestcraft." 
  
10. Another popular author attacks Lewis's theodicy
Prize-winning author James Morrow based one of his characters in Blameless in Abaddon, Professor G. F. Lovett, on C.S. Lewis. Be sure to read  down  to "Question and Answer with James Morrow" section. This interview notes that in Morrow's modern satiric retelling of the Book of Job that he expresses his anger "at books like C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain." In another place he states that "Lewis's The Problem of Pain remained the main source of my energy during the composition process. I truly detest that little book - and think it is itself an evil - and my anger provided me with the needed inspiration." I could be wrong, but In my own opinion Morrow's dualistic solution at the end was less than satisfying as was his one-dimensional depiction of C.S. Lewis.    
 
 

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Last Updated: Thursday, October 09, 2003