APOLOGETICS IN THE SECULAR CITY - THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

(C. S. Lewis' Legacy of Apologetic Literature)

 

Theme: Apologetics in a Literary Stance:

 

"I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it." (Mere Christianity, p. 123)

 

I. C. S. Lewis became a convert from Atheism to Christianity in 1931.

 

1. His writings The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, Beyond Personality, The Pilgrim's Regress, The Problem of  Pain, and Miracles are apologetic works that set forth a philosophical defense of the Christian faith. Surprised By Joy is not directly a genuine apologetic effort; it traces Lewis' intellectual development and provides insights into the experiences and arguments that finally led him to believe in Christianity (compare with the conversion journeys of Augustine, Luther, Pascal, et al).

 

2. A Grief Observed on the other hand, written upon the death of his wife, Clive Staples Lewis, who died on November 22, 1963, finds him overtaken by shattering doubts that forced him to rethink the whole matter of rational religion.

 

3. Lewis' classic words were written in his spare time. He was neither a theologian nor a philosopher, but a tutor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford University and later at Cambridge University.

 

4. Lewis described himself as "a very ordinary layman of The Church of England, not especially 'high', nor especially 'low', nor especially 'anything else' (Mere Christianity, p. 6).

 

5. Through his literary contribution, Lewis is one of the most influential spokesman for Orthodox Christianity in the twentieth century.

 

6. Thousand, perhaps millions, claim that they converted to Christianity by reading Lewis' works, among them Charles Colson and Francis Schaeffer. Even the most lavish estimates of his influence are likely to be too conservative.

 

7. Opponents of early Lewis claimed that he capitalized on the chaos of wartime conditions. Most of the early 'criticism' was mere 'invective.' While his critics are too ferocious, his admirers are too benign (of. informative and admirably balanced reminiscences (see Lewis' correspondence with J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Arthur Greaves (the Oxford Inklings). There are C. S. Lewis calendars, sweatshirts, aprons, bumper stickers, and tote bags, etc.

 

8. Lewis needs to be rescued from both excessive hostility and excessive loyalty. Lewis was committed not only to the truth of Christianity but to debate it with all comers. His was an open forum!!

 

II.  Lewis' Apologetic Mode:

 

1.  Lewis considered it a serious mistake to define faith as belief in propositions for which- there is no evidence, and he maintained that those who advocate "leaps of faith" do a grave disservice to the Christian religion (a la Kierkeggard, et al).

 

2.  "A sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants or does not want to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. ...  If he thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, that would be merely stupid."  (Mere Christianity, p. 122)

 

3.  Faith must come to terms with the decisive questions of logic and evidence. If it were legitimate to believe in spite of the evidence, anyone could believe anything "by faith."  If Christianity is not reasonable, it cannot be credible.  Lewis expands on the "evidential objective" - the contention that it is not only irrational but morally wrong to believe .anything without sufficient evidence (cf. the critic was Alistair Cooke, "Mr. Anthony at Oxford," New Republic 24 (Apr 1945):pp. 578-580).

 

4.  Lewis was quite aware that most converts are not dragged in by the weight of the evidence.

 

5.  Lewis conveyed the perspective that reason was on the side of faith and that is not the believer but the unbeliever for whom rational discussion poses difficulties (cf. so also Schaeffer, et al Reformed Apologetics). This willingness to confront head on the decisive questions of logic and evidence is the very quality that attracts so many readers to Lewis.  He embodies "sound doctrine" and "rigorous argument" which is both lucid and compelling.

 

6.  Lewis was an apologete with whom his readers could identify (cf. contemporary concern for the "reader response" "listener friendly") relevance is not the sane as truth.

 

7.  Though Lewis' believed in "nonremedial hell" he avoided the appeal of "organized evangelism."  (Billy Graham, the mega church "user friendly") to generate a "testimony" or "decision" for Christ.  He objected to terrifying people into embracing Christianity by dwelling on the torments of hell (Mere Christianity, p. 786 - conversion and life style).

 

III.  What Can Reason Establish?

 

Lewis' most important response is probably found in God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970).  "Is Theism Important?" pp. 172-176

 

1.  Lewis did not hold that reason can establish faith.

2.  To the question. Does God exist?, Lewis responded with the question. What was meant by the term God?

3.  In its philosophical sense. God has a variety of meanings — the First cause, the necessary Being, the moral Lawgiver, the Designer of the universe, etc.. In its religious sense, however. God means the Creator of the universe, the heavenly Father who loved the world and sent his Son to die for the sins of mankind, the Being worshipped by Christians whose nature has been defined and elucidated by the Scriptures and the great creeds of Christendom.

 

4.  Reason can prove the existence of God only in the philosophical sense, not the theological sense.

 

5.  Lewis uses the term God in two senses:  (a) Faith A and (b) Faith B.  By Faith A he meant nothing more than belief understood is intellectual assent (cf. proposition that God exists).  Faith B is a religious state of mind. Unlike A, it is not merely intellectual assent.  The first is belief that God exists, the second is belief in God (Abraham's faith; Christ's faith). Faith A is a "necessary precondition" for Faith B; it does not invariably lead to it.  To that extent Lewis agreed with Pascal's dictum so often employed by others, that God of the philosophers is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 

6.  The same view is found in Lewis' apologetic work, Mere Christianity. Reason can establish the existence of a power behind the universe and moral law, but Lewis acknowledges that he is "not yet within a hundred miles of the God of Christian theology."  (Mere Christianity, p. 34).  Note his argument in Miracles.  Surprised by Joy acknowledges that to accept theism is not to accept Christianity.  Lewis became a theist in 1929 but it was not until two years later that he became a Christian.

 

IV.  Lewis' Apologetics:

 

Philosophical arguments can produce Faith A, nothing more. Then what is the value in Christian Apologetics?  Philosophical arguments cannot establish, generate religious conclusions, but they can expose the plausibility of the Christian faith.  Hence, apologetics operates on two fronts.

 

A.  They try to establish conclusions that have a direct bearing on the claims of Christianity (God in the Dock, p. 174). B.  By replying to objections, apologists remove "inhibitions" and thereby

enable the claims of Christianity to get a mass hearing.  The function of philosophical arguments are preliminary but crucial.

 

1.  In Lewis' apologetic writing he gives us three arguments for believing in God:  (a) the argument from Desire; (b) Moral Argument; and (c) the argument from Reason.

 

2.  The fundamental question that Lewis must answer is. Why believe in God in the first place?

 

V.  Lewis' Three Arguments:  Desire, Morals, Reason (see Beversluis', C. S. Lewis and The Search for Rational Religion)

 

1.  In Romans 1.20 and I Corinthians 1.10ff, Paul declares that God has not left himself without a witness in the world and that the invisible things of the Godhead are clearly discernable in the created universe.  (Does this endorse natural theology?)

 

2.  Plato/Paul - the human heart had an unquenchable desire that impels the soul to look beyond the world.

3.  Man cannot be adequately defined in terms of nature.  Augustine gave this argument its classic form; "basic restlessness in man, a permanent dissatisfaction with the things of this world."  Thou has created us for thyself", he declares, "and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, oh God."  (See Weight of Glory, p. 12 and Surprised by Joy)  Joy is Lewis' name for this experience and Surprised by Joy is his attempt to analyze it and to draw out its philosophical implication (cf. on account of his conversion).  Surprised by Joy, while not an apologetic work, is nevertheless a work with apologetic implication (Lewis referred to the works of Kierkeggard and Sartre as philosophical moonshine (C. S. Lewis at The Breakfast Table) MacMillan, 1979), p. 160).

 

4.  The Pilgrim's Regress (1943 preface) contains Lewis' argument that convinced him of the validity of theism. (The argument from Desire is different from Surprised by Joy; Lewis' false paths to Joy (Pilgrim's Regress, pp. 8-10); Joy is fleeting, it is not a substitute for sex).

 

5.  Lewis broke-out of his self-defeating predicament; you cannot identity a desire with a sensation or any other inner state that happens to accompany it (Surprised by Joy, pp. 168,169).  The object of Joy must be something that transcends the world.  This could be God. Clearly Lewis is on solid ground in claiming that aesthetic experience is one of the important verities of the experience he calls Joy (cf. Samuel Alexander's Space, Time and Deity; distinction between "enjoyment and contemplation.").

 

6.  Lewis characterizes the argument from Desire as empirical, based on experience.  Every desire is a desire for something.  How is Joy attached to God?  Joy is temporal!!  How does Joy transcend our psychological states?  (Nature does nothing in vain. Joy and its object in Pilgrim's Regress and Surprised by Joy is natural desire and satisfaction.) Lewis' use of natural law (cf. tradition, Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas; R. Hooke, Laws of the Ecclesiastical Polity; Purtill, C.S. Lewis' Case for The Christian Faith (Harper, 1981) p. 21; Kilby, The Christian World of C. S. Lewis (Eerdmans, 1964), p. 36; also C. S. Lewis: Defender of  the Faith (Westminster, 1967), p. 158); Lewis' Miracles, "The Pantheist God does Nothing, Demands Nothing"). The route of desire and repentance are not only based on incompatible views of God but on incompatible theories of human nature.  There is no denying that the demand for radical repentance is what Christianity requires of every potential convert.

 

7.  Lewis' use of Greek philosophy as preparatio evangelica.  Lewis defines the essence of religion as a thirst for the pursuit of an end higher than a purely natural end (God in the Dock, p. 131).  He also believed this thirst was present in paganism (Ibid., p. 132).  Christianity was for Lewis the realization on fulfillment of pre-Christian thought.  The way had been prepared by Plato, Virgil and Aeschylus as well. "What think ye of the exclusivism of Plato?"  "How can they believe in one of whom they have not heard?" (Romans 10.14); and the categorical denial that "there is any other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved?"  (Acts 4.12)

 

VI.  LewisÕ Apologetic Mode of Morality (This method is a far stronger objective method)

 

The apologetic method presented in Surprised by Joy presents the thesis that man cannot be defined wholly in terms of nature and that all naturalistic views fail to account for our transcendental longings.  Just as desire is a pointer to God, so morality and reason give important clues about man. the universe in which live and what lies "behind" it.

 

1.  Lewis' development of the moral argument for the existence of God is found in Book I of Mere Christianity.  This is Lewis' most evangelical book.

 

2.  Books I and II of Mere Christianity entitled "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe" and "What Christians Believe" were originally delivered on a series of installments over the B.B.C. and first published in America under the provocative title The Case for Christianity.  In less than fifty pages he attempted to prove the objectivity of morality, to refute ethical relativism and ethical subjectivism, to establish the existence of a power behind the moral law, to show that atheism is too simple and theological liberalism too naive, to prove that Jesus is God and that Orthodox Christianity is the only view that faces all the facts, and to offer some practical advice about how to deal with conflicting theories of the atonement — all this before wrapping things up with a resounding appeal to accept God's offer of salvation while there is still time.

 

3.  One of the things that Christianity explains better than Atheism is morality.  Mere Christianity opens with a discussion of people quarreling about morality.  Someone says, "How would you like it if I did the same thing?" or "That's my seat.  I was here first!"  or "Come on, you promised."  The discussants recognize a "Law or role of fair play or decent behavior or morality." (Mere Christianity, p. 17).  These two facts, our knowledge of a moral law and the awareness that we do not keep it, are, for Lewis, "The foundation ,of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in." '(MC, p. 21)

 

4.  Moral Laws are different from the laws of physics, which are only descriptions of how things in fact behave.

 

5.  Moral Law is more than herd instinct (Freud).  Lewis also rejects cultural relativism (Christian Reflections, Eerdmans, 1967), p. 77). If moral relativism is the case, then it is irrational to claim that some moralities are better than others.  Even the comparison presupposes the very objectivity we just denied.

 

6.  Lewis is convinced that scientific naturalism/materialism reduces morality to an illusion.  (But what causes the illusion?)  (MC, pp. 31-33)

 

7.  What is the content of this information?  We know that we find ourselves under a Moral Law.

 

8.  In Book II, Lewis goes further. From the conclusion of power behind morality, Lewis deduces God's goodness (contra non-Christian denial that Christianity affirms that God is good).  If God is good and omnipotent why does God allow evil to exist?  (Lewis discusses this in The Problem of  Pain and Mere Christianity; see esp. MC, pp. 52, 55,56; Christian Reflections, pp. 67, 75). Lewis affirms that all subjective theories of morals lead to ruin. (Christian Reflections, p. 67) If materialism is the case, there is no right and wrong and morality is "inexplicable illusion" (Problem of Pain, p. 22, and Reflections; "mere subjective Christian preference" p. 67).

9. Lewis accuses the atheist of setting forth a version of Christianity suitable only for a child of six and the making that the object of his attack (MC, p. 47; Luther White, The Image of Man (Abingdon, 1969), p. 222)

 

10. Lewis' apologetics is weakened by use of "false dilemma" (egs. mathematics, music correct or not? or illusion or pluralism?) Hume Westermark and Ayer all hold that moral values are important and perfectly rational (contra "Ethical Subjectivism" but without ultimate grounding).

 

11. Lewis on Power behind the Moral Law. This argument is the fallacy of affirming the consequences; the power behind the facts manifests itself through moral laws (MC, pp. 20; 30, 31, 34, 46, 56). Lewis' apologetic is filled with fundamental ambiguity!!! Lewis' moral law fails on both logical and theological grounds (cf. the arguments in Books I and I in MC).

 

VII. Lewis' Apologetic Mode of Reason:

 

Man declares Aristotle is a rational animal. The demise of universal reasoning after Kant in post modern logic, epistemology, language, etc.; see my paper, Demise of Transcendent Explanatory Mode; and my Post-Modern Logic, Epistemology and Language.

 

1. In chapter three of Miracles, Lewis seeks to refute naturalism "The Self Contradiction of the Naturalist" (pp. 15, 16, 17, 18).

 

2. Lewis seeks to prove that God exists by arguing that naturalism is self-contradictory. Lewis' case for miracles depends on this thesis.

 

3. For Lewis' argument against naturalism, see pages 24,26,28,46 in Miracles and pp. 63,65 in Christian Reflections.

 

4. Lewis does not require of his own theory what he requires of the naturalist, namely, that it provides us with genuine knowledge about the world rather with an account of how our mind "happen to work."

 

5. Deprived of his inconsistent appeal to the criterion of regularity, Lewis is left with no justification whatever for making inference from sense data to actually existing objects. "We never see tables or atoms, DNA, etc." Lewis is writing as a champion of reason and that necessarily forces him to reject naturalism and acknowledge that believing in the validity of reason commits us to believing in God. Lewis fails to understand both naturalism and ethical subjectivism. His celebration of the defeat of naturalism is premature. His arguments often depend on straw men and false dilemma. AS with the Lord on lunatic dilemma, these alternatives are simply not exhaustive. Alternative positions remain open to us. Naturalism is one of them.

 

VIII.  Lewis' Apologetic Arguments are Unsound:

 

They establish the existence of neither an infinite God or desire nor a power behind the moral law nor a cosmic mind.  Lewis is not emotionally neutral about atheism and other views that he considers false.  Lewis holds that the evidence is "mixed" to such a degree that neither the Deist nor the Atheist can be accused of "irrationality or absurdity."  (The World's Last Night and Other Essays (Harcourt, 1960).  The judicious tone is often absent from Lewis' apologetic works.

 

1.  In Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis explicitly refers to himself before his conversion as a "fool" who had held all sorts of false views.  Does this stance make all non Christian sociologists, physicists, etc., fools?  The mixed quality of evidence is absent from Mere Christianity.  Instead those who have doubts about Christianity are ridiculed.  (In MC, he claims that materialism (p. 124), is a "boys' philosophy," "a philosophy for 'the nursery'." (Rehabilitation and Other Essays, Oxford, 1939).  In Miracles, we learn that naturalists contradict themselves and reduce human reasoning to an involuntary response, "like a hiccup, yawn, or vomit."  In "De Futilitate" and "The Poison of Subjectivism", we discover that ethical subjectivists hold that moral judgments are "mere taste" and "personal preferences" on the same level as a fondness for pancakes or dislike for spam.  In The Abolition of Man, we are assured that the heads of these so-called intellectuals seem larger because they have allowed their chests to atrophy.  In The Problem of Pain, atheists are said to "part company" with half of the great poets of the human race.

 

2.  Lewis is the twentieth century's chief apologist fighting the good fight. Few of Lewis' target audience have made any serious investigation of ethical subjectivism, naturalism, or materialism.  Lewis declares in Surprised by Joy, "the key to my books is Donne's maxim, 'The heresies that men leave are hated most.' The things I assert most vigorously are those that I resisted long and accepted late."  (p. 213)  Karl Barth once said that belief cannot argue with unbelief; it can only preach to it.  Often Lewis' portrait of unbelief not only decisively undercuts his criticism of opposing views but also undermines his defense of Christianity!!!  Since Lewis' arguments fail, we will sooner or later have to reconsider what arguments Christianity is in fact up against (cf. arguments in our Post Modern Era, collapses of received views of science, technology and education is salvic, resurgent non-Christian religions. New Age Pantheism, etc.)

 

3.  Lewis' concept of rational religion requires that we proportion our beliefs to the state of the evidence at any given time (see my Theories of Evidence).

 

4.  Counter evidence:  In The Problem of Pain Lewis declares that the most powerful objection to Christianity is the existence of evil. "If God were good. He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty. He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness or power, or both."  (p. 26)

 

a. The Problem of Evil raises the tangled subject of the connection between God and morality.

b. Whether we see evil as a problem depends largely on what we mean when we call God good (cf. Plato's Euthyphro; Achamist view, 14th century philosopher; William of Ocham, Calvin; Lewis attacks Calvinists' "total depravity", pp. 37,38; 66,67.  God's goodness is no longer recognizable in Lewis; Aquinas de-fines omnipotence as the power to do everything except that which involves a contradiction; "You may attribute miracles to God, but not nonsense."  (Problem of Pain, p. 28)

c. God's omnipotence can create a society of free souls without at the same time creating an independent and inexorable nature (Problem of Pain, p. 19).

 

5.  Lewis claims that God created human beings as free agents. God created creatures who could abuse their freedom (but not ultimately because God is in control of the ultimate outcome).  Lewis claims that it would have been logically impossible for God to have created a rational, moral agent such as man who was not free.

 

6.  How does Lewis relate God's omnipotence and His goodness?  (Problem of Pain, pp. 39,40).  Man's desire cannot be fulfilled on earth in our lifetime (p. 115); John Stuart Mill has written forcefully about recognizing the divine goodness and the ordinary meaning of ethical term "honest doubter" and his inability to believe.  Mill refuses to worship a being to whom the ordinary meaning of good does not apply to our "omnipotent friend."  Lewis' redefinition of good and evil removes him operating within our shared moral vocabulary.

 

IX.  Lewis and Fideism: Does the weight of the evidence favor Christian commitment?

 

1.  A. J. Ayer (Language, Truth and Logic, 1936), set forth the main tenets of Logical Positivism.

 

2.  Most post-modern philosophers of religion reject evaluating religious beliefs on empirical grounds (see my Demise of Transcendent Explanatory Models : Post Modern Interpretation; Post Modern Theories of Logic, Epistemology and Language; Philosophical/Psychological Horizons of Post Modern Hermeneutics; and Thiselton in Our Post Modern Hermeneutical Maze).

 

3.  It is widely maintained that Lewis' apologetic method is outmoded and old fashioned. Traditional philosophers had debated the truth claims of the Christian religion.  No one doubted that Christian truth claims were either true or false.  But whose arguments were valid—Christian or non-Christian?

 

4.  In the positivistic mode, only empirical and observational methods in science as the paradigm of and the basis for all genuine knowledge.  It is logical in that it conceives of philosophy as the analysis of language in general and of meaning in particular.  Ayer charged that all classical Christian truth claims are not merely false, they are meaningless.

 

5.  The Verification Principle precludes truth status to all non verifiable propositions—theological, moral, aesthetic, etc. (Ayer, Language, truth, and Logic, Dover Press, 1936) pp. 35-45)  Since statements about God cannot be empirically verified, such statements such as "God exists", "God loves," God is good" are dismissed as pseudo statements.  Ayer's claims that since nothing true about God can be asserted, neither can anything false.  Theists who claim that God exists are deceiving themselves.  Language, truth, and logic unsettled the Christian apologetic mode for almost six decades.

 

6. Flew challenged Ayer with the "Falsifiability Thesis". Ayer made verifiability criterion as the criteria of empirical meaningfulness. He did not claim that religious language was wholly meaningless (cf. Flew's "Theology and Falsification," in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, ed. by Anthony Flew and Alesidair Maclntyre (NY: MacMillan, 1955), pp. 97-99. The essence of Flew's thesis is any statement put forth as a genuine truth claim about the world must satisfy the requirements of falsifiability, that is, it must exclude something, there must be some fact or set of facts that, if shown to be true, would count against the truth of the statement and force the speaker to withdraw it as mistaken.  Flew argues that religious believers systematically violate the falsifiability requirements by their willingness to allow anything to count against their assertions. Theological assertions die "the death of a thousand qualifications". Flew's attack on Ayer brought the downfall of British Linguistic Analysis/Logical Positivism (responses to Flew's challenge (see bibliography at end of paper).

 

7. J. L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein seemed to provide the tools for the recovery of religious discourse. Austin's work revealed that language functions in more than a truth-stating function. Truth stating is only one function (Cf. Flew/Maclntyre, p. 108).

 

8. Braithwaite recovered that the primary use of religious assertions is "to announce allegiance to a statement of moral principles. What is essential is the story rather than empirical propositions presented by the story as corresponding to empirical facts."

 

9. R. M. Hare also set forth a non-descriptive analysis. He, too, rejects the view that religious language consists of empirical assertions to account for its meaning. (The resurgence of myth as a communication force in Science Fiction and Media in the 1960s.) What did change when Paul was converted? (Augustine, et al)

 

10. Some consequences of this development beyond Wittgenstein caused Kai Nielson to dub this position "Wittgensteinian Fideism." Both Austinian counterparts, the Wittgensteinian Fideists, reject the view that believers employ religious language to put forth empirical assertions that must satisfy the requirements of falsifiability. The price paid for the Austin/Wittgenstein influence or religious discourse was devastating. Wittgenstein ultimately recovered Kierkeggardian reinterpretation of religious discourse. Norman Malcolm argues that belief in God's existence is not religious, therefore the classical apologetic defense of God's existence is fruitless and futile.

 

11. Austin Farrer ruefully observed that although Lewis was a "bonny fighter," he had not kept up with the developments in philosophy, that he had "dropped out of the game." (quoted by Jocelyn Gibbs in Light on C.S. Lewis (NY: Harcourt, Brace, World, 1965), pp. 25, 34. What game? The contemporary apologetics game the counters of which had been provided by the conceptual tools of the new school of linguistic philosophy associated with Austin and Wittgenstein. Critical judgment of Lewis entailed that he insisted on proceeding as if the crisis precipitated by Ayer and Flew had never occurred. Both before and after Ayer and Wittgenstein, Lewis believed the language of religion to be empirically meaningful (see my Demise of  Transcendent Explanatory Modes; Philosophical/Psychological Horizons of Hermeneutics; Demise of Classical Views of Logic, Epistemology, and Language; and Thiselton  in The Post Modern Hermeneutical Maze).

12.  Lewis refused to drop out of the classical mode of the "true Truth" claims of Christianity on empirical grounds.  He-maintained the techniques of the New Apologists. By 1963 this linguistic battle was all but over.  Lewis has said, "The difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you . . . think it true.  What is being discussed is a question about objective fact, not gas about ideals and points of view."  (God in the Dock, pp. 90,91)

 

In 1963 he was still saying it. "Alex Vidler wants. . . to retain some doctrines.  . . . some must go as venerable archaisms or as fairy stories. (Letters to Malcom, 1964, p. 32) This tendency to deny or soften the objective, factual character of the Christian belief remained one of Lewis' chief targets until the very end.  (Cf. Lewis' use of the 'falsification argument' in Miracles (1974) and in a 1943 paper, "Dogma and the Universe") This use antedates Flew's published controversial paper that almost single handedly launched the whole contemporary discussion; note Lewis' use of "Falsification Argument" in God in the Dock, pp. 39,40. "When the doctor at a post mortem diagnoses poison, pointing to the state of the dead man's organs, his argument is rational because he had a clear idea of that opposite state in which the organs would be found if no poison were present ....  We treat God as the police treats a man when he is arrested; Whatever He does will be used in evidence against Him."  (God in the Dock) This is precisely the objection Flew made in 1950.  What evidence would be required for rational belief in God's existence?

 

The falsification issue is not purely a theoretical question remote from all human concerns.  Shortly after Lewis lost his beloved wife, he wrote the book, A Grief Observed.  His wife's death caused Lewis to doubt the goodness and love of God.  In the depths of his sorrow, he found that he had come to grips with "contrary evidence" (to doubt the belief in a good and loving God).  His desperate struggle to find a solution in which he could rest reveals that we have not heard the last of fideism (cf. Abraham/Isaac and Kierkeggard's "transcendental suspension of the ethical").  We thank God for the literary apologetic genera that C. S. Lewis has given to the believer who dwells in The Secular City.

 

X.  Apologetics for A Broken Heart

 

In his poem, "The Apologist's Evening Prayer", Lewis implores God to take away his trumpery.  A Grief Observed exposes Lewis with a new apologetic.  The Apostle to The Skeptics has himself become a skeptic, if not about the existence of God, at least about his nature.  C. S. Lewis was clothed by sadness in his twilight years. The death of his wife provided Austin Farrer's "existential" solution.  In order to move beyond his tragedy, he felt compelled to confess publicly that his faith had been unreal.  The absence of God during suffering is no help.  In A Grief Observed, he experienced for himself the cost of comfort for The Problem of Pain and recognized that he had been a Job's comforter, someone who found it necessary to "pelter" with ordinary moral standards.  And he could no longer accept his own arguments.

 

The good God of The Problem o Pain is identical with the Cosmic Sadist.

 

If Lewis' A Grief Observed does not falsify the assertion that God is good what would?  Lewis claims that his faith somehow survived.  I am sure that it did.  But it no longer invites the assent of the rational man. Ockhamism, pursued to its logical conclusion, leads to a form of fideism.  Lewis' response to his suffering did not derive from Ockhamism but a disposed Platonist worried about contrary evidence that bears on the belief that God exists and the He is good.  Lewis' suffering cast an eerie retrospective light over his entire career as an apologist.  By the time he wrote A Grief Observed his confidence was nonexistent and his arguments became incoherent.

 

Bibliography

 

Responses to Flew's challenge:

 

H. E. Allison, "Faith and Falsifiability" The Review of Metaphysics 22 (1969):515.

Dallas M. High, Language, Persons and Beliefs (Oxford, 1968), p. 517.

Braithwaite, "An Empiricist's View of The Nature of Religious Belief" in Christian Ethics and Contemporary Philosophy (London: SCM, 1966), p. 53-73.

Basil Mitchell, ed, "Religion and Morals" in Faith and Logic (London: Allen/Unwin, 1957), pp. 183-184.

Zuurdeeg, "The Nature of Theological Language", The Journal of Religion 4 (I960):1-8.

 

C. S. Lewis Bibliography:

 

A Grief Observed (NY: Seabury Pres, 1963).

The Abolition of Man (NY: MacMillan, 1947).

The Four Lovers (NY: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1960).

The Great Divorce (NY; MacMillan. 1946).

Miracles (NY: MacMillan, 1947). Revised edition London: Fontana, 1960.

Mere Christianity (NY: MacMillan, 1952).

The Problem of Pain (NY:MacMillan, 1943).

The Pilgrim's Regress (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1943).

Surprised by Joy (Harcourt, 1956).

The Screwtape Letters, and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (MacMillan, 1962).

The World's Last Night and Other Essays (Harcourt, 1960).

 

Pro and Con Literature on Lewis:

 

J. R. Christopher and Joan K. Ostling, C. S. Lewis: An Annotated Checklist of Writings About Him and His Works (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1974.

Roger L. Green and Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography (NY: Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich, 1974).

Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings (Houghton Mifflin, 1979).

Corbin S. Camel, Bright Shadows of Reality (Eerdman, 1974).

Richard C. Cunningham, C. S. Lewis; Defender of The Faith (Westminster, 1967).

Paul L. Holmer, C. S. Lewis; The Shape of His Faith and Thought (Harper, 1976).

Clyde Kilby, The Christian World of C.S. Lewis (Eerdman, 1964).

Peter Krieft, C. S. Lewis, Contemporary Writers. Christian Perspective series (Eerdman, 1969).

Richard L. Purtill, Lord of The Elves and Eldils: Fantasy and Philosophy of C.S. Lewis (Zondervan, 1974).

Chad Walsh, C. S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics (MacMillan, 1949).

William L. White, The Image of Man: C. S. Lewis (Abingdon, 1969).

John Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search for a Rational Religion (Eerdman, 1985).

 

James D. Strauss

World View Studies

Philosophy and Religion

Lincoln Christian Seminary