C. S. Lewis

Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 6)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. Read the entire series.

Essential Beliefs of Mere Christians

Neither Baxter nor Lewis was as explicit as he could have been concerning the content of MC. However, we saw that Baxter was much more thorough than Lewis. What is immediately obvious is that both Lewis and Baxter speak highly of tradition. As they look into the tomes of church history they find a continuity of belief and doctrine from the apostles to their own day. They believe that Christ passed the truth to his people and the truth was never lost to the ages. Thus, they share a common conviction of the holistic unity of the church. Both men also gave Scripture priority over tradition. In sum, Baxter and Lewis essentially have much the same criteria for determining the content of MC.

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 5)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. Read the series so far.

Baxter Vs. Lewis

In seeking to find the relation between MC and Christian apologetics, we have noted two great historical figures. Both men were successful in their respective ages in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, their understandings of MC were not the same. Though they share commonalities, there are some differences as well. In this section of the paper, we will flesh out the commonalities as well as the distinctions to determine if anything can be gleaned for effective Christian apologetics today.

Points of Commonality

Historical Setting

Tumultuous historical circumstances thread together the lives of these two men. Lewis was fighting against the tide of naturalism, materialism, and liberalism that was sweeping through his country after two great World Wars. Baxter was fighting the onslaught of political factions, which were taking clerical garb. Each man’s unique situations brought the same problem: a weakening of religious conviction that threatened the integrity of Christ’s body.1 Both Lewis and Baxter found a way to present the gospel to the world in the midst of these difficult times, and for this God can be thanked.

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 1)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission.

By Timothy E. Miller1

Introduction

C. S. Lewis has been hailed as one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century. A great measure of his success was due to his appeal to large segments of the “Christian” religious community. Duncan Sprague commented on this phenomenon: “I am amazed the extreme positions within Christendom that claim Lewis as [their] champion and defender…liberals and the fundamentalists; the Roman Catholics and the evangelical Protestants…the most conservative Baptists to the most charismatic Pentecostals claiming Lewis as one of their own.”2 This led Walter Hooper, a prominent Lewis scholar, to brand Lewis as an “Everyman’s apologist.”3

A major portion of Lewis’s wide appeal should be attributed to his concept of Mere Christianity. When engaged in apologetics, Lewis believed he ought to avoid controversial issues that divided Christians.4 Instead, only the core of Christian doctrine should be advanced and defended to unbelievers. Consequently, since most of Lewis’s doctrinal comments are contained in apologetic works, it comes as no surprise that many—even strongly opposed movements—could claim him as their own.

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The Mixed Blessing of C. S. Lewis (Part 1)

There is probably no Christian in modern times better known or more influential than Clive Staples Lewis. Born in Belfast in the year 1899, Lewis would write dozens of books on a variety of topics before his death on November 22, 1963 (on the very day of the deaths of John Kennedy and Aldous Huxley).

At the time of his death his popularity was starting to wane but shortly thereafter there was a revival of interest in Lewis and, arguably, today he is more deeply admired than ever. He is considered by many to be the greatest apologist for the Christian faith to have ever lived.

Whether you agree with this assessment or not, there is no doubt that Lewis was in a league almost by himself in his ability to write great truths in ways that spoke to our hearts and opened our eyes. For this reason, even those who are troubled with much of Lewis’ theology can hardly resist quoting him. There is a danger, however, of all-but-canonizing Lewis, giving more weight to his imaginative explorations and philosophical reasonings than to Scripture. Ruth Tucker writes, “Among Protestants there is only one pope of apologetics…. If C. S. Lewis said it, it must be true. In many circles it seems that the voice of C. S. Lewis is second only to the voice of God.”1

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From the Archives: Getting Pleasure Right

Reprinted with permission from Spiritual Reflections.

In The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer made the following assertion in an insightful chapter entitled, “Why We Must Think Rightly About God”: “The most portentous [weighty] fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (p. 9).

Tozer does not mean that one’s words or actions are of little consequence. Rather, he means that one’s view of God serves as the control center for one’s words and actions (Luke 6:43-45, James 4:1). False views about God will naturally and inevitably issue forth in a lifestyle that, despite all pretensions to the contrary, dishonors God (Matthew 23:1-36). Conversely, right beliefs about God have the potential to fuel genuinely righteous deeds.

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Getting Pleasure Right

Reprinted with permission from Spiritual Reflections.1072078_rebirth_5.jpg

In The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer made the following assertion in an insightful chapter entitled, “Why We Must Think Rightly About God”: “The most portentous [weighty] fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (p. 9).

Tozer does not mean that one’s words or actions are of little consequence. Rather, he means that one’s view of God serves as the control center for one’s words and actions (Luke 6:43-45, James 4:1). False views about God will naturally and inevitably issue forth in a lifestyle that, despite all pretensions to the contrary, dishonors God (Matthew 23:1-36). Conversely, right beliefs about God have the potential to fuel genuinely righteous deeds.

A proper view of God certainly does not guarantee godliness—Satan himself holds many orthodox views about God (James 2:19). Nonetheless, Tozer is right to suggest that evil behavior is always rooted in false beliefs about God.

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