The Case against Scientism – leading scholars explore Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the abuse of science

„The new oligarchy must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists,

till in the end, the politicians become merely the scientists’ puppets”.

C. S. Lewis in „Willing Slaves of the Welfare State”.
oligarchy

More than a half century ago, famed writer C.S. Lewis warned about how science (a good thing) could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In this documentary „The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism,” leading scholars explore Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the abuse of science and how Lewis’s concerns are increasingly relevant for us today.

Some quotes, followed by notes from the documentary video:

  • lewis holy trinity churchDuring the first half of the 20th century, 3 prophetic writers warned about the dark side of scientific and technological progress: (1) G K Chesterton, ‘Eugenics and other evils‘ (2) George Orwell, ‘1984‘ and (3) C S Lewis ‘Abolition of Man‘. Best known for his Narnia story and his books of Christian theology, C S Lewis also had an intense interest in the growing power of scientism- the efforts to use the methods of science to explain and control every part of human life.
  • Lewis was opposed to an ideology, which in his view had been confused with science. It was a particular materialistic approach which  wanted to reduce everything we could learn scientifically to materialistic causes- blind, undirected causes. (Angus Menuge PhD) Lewis thought that science was a perfectly legitimate enterprise. He never denied it, he in fact studied it quite a bit. (Victor Reppert Phd). Just like in all human disciplines, Lewis thought that science could be corrupted, and that some people could pursue science because they wanted power over the world and power over other people, in particular. (John G West PhD) What he saw was that you had to avoid those extremes, not in the employment of science, but in the popularization of science. (Michael Aeschliman PhD)
  • You could not afford to ignore the finding of science, the importance of scientific method, you had to see that it’s one of the greatest applications and developments of the rational method perse, a subset of the rational method. But, that it was very dangerous, and then in the 20th century we had had very malignant consequences to deify it. Scientific socialism is credibly a scientific version of politics. The Marxists called their system scientific socialism. Well, no one in their right mind, in 2012, will say that Marxism was scientific. No one in his right mind, but people did for 170 years.
  • Social Darwinist racial science in Nazi Germany. Enormous prestige was given to racialist views by their apparent clothing people such as Heckel and Münchner popularizing reductive scientific ideas with immense success. In many ways, more success in Germany than in England.
  • Lewis saw these developments: 2 World Wars, in one he served and was badly wounded, had roots in barbaric and hysterical scientistic ideas of abuses of the scientific method, abuses of scientific terminology and language, abuses of scientific faith. When warning about the abuse of science, Lewis made an unusual comparison. Although most people think of science as something modern, Lewis compared it to something ancient: MAGIC. Lewis thought that science and magic are twins. If you think about this, it might sound very strange. But Lewis was very perceptive here. In fact, he highlighted 3 different ways that science and magic really are quite similar.

(1) Science as religion.

Science has the ability to function as a religion. Certainly, a magical view of the world can give one a sense that there’s something more than just our every day lives. If you walk through a forest and think it’s enchanted it gives you a grand vision that there’s something out there that we don’t ordinarily experience.It can give you a sense of meaning. There’s a real reason why fantasy stories are so beloved… It gives people a sense of grandeur of the universe and something higher than ourselves. And in fact, for some people who aren’t religious, this magical view of the world can actually be more attractive, because it substitutes for that. In the same way, science can be an alternative religion. And during Lewis’s own time, there were people like H G Wells, who turned Darwins’ theory of evolution into this cosmic theory of life developing in this long struggle in the human universe, and then human life develops in this heroic character fighting against nature, and then, eventually, man evolves, and evolves himself through eugenics into a wave of demigods. This epic cosmic struggle of evolution was really an alternate religion for H G Wells, and you see that same thing today, whether it be Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins who says that „Darwin has made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist„. Or, in 2012, we had 10-20,000 people converge on Washington DC for this Reason Rally, where a lot of people testified that they really offer science as a religion. Today, you see a lot of people speaking in the name of science, who offer science as a quasi religion. It’s what gives their life meaning. Another area where we see this today is in the celebration of Darwin’s birthday. Hundreds of colleges, community organizations, if not thousands around the world, on Feb. 12th, every year, hold Darwin day celebrations. It really takes on the trappings of a religion.

(2) Science as credulity

A second way science and magic are similar, according to C S Lewis, is their encouragement of a lack of skepticism. Again, this may seem just completely outlandish, because science, how does that promote gullibility? How? It’s supposed to be just the hard facts. Now, in magic, you can think there’s a witch doctor and the tribe believes whatever the witch doctor says. And so, magical thinking can promote a type of credulous thinking where you just trust what the authority figure says. But, how does science promote that type of credulous and gullible thinking? Lewis pointed out that in the modern world, people will believe almost anything if it’s dressed up in the name of science.

For Lewis, one of the leading examples of science fueling gullibility was Freudianism. Lewis had an interest in Sigmund Freud since his days an Oxford undergraduate. Lewis was intrigued by some of the claims of psychoanalysis, but he ultimately rejected the efforts by Freud’s followers to explain everything from religion to stealing cars as a result of our subconscious urges. Lewis pointed out that if you actually take Freud’s view to its eventual conclusion, that actually undermines even the belief in Freudianism. Lewis’s point is: Where does this end? If you really think that all reasoning, fundamentally, is based on sub rational urges and that we can’t analyze those urges, and there isn’t real reason we can judge, based on evidence, and that we can’t be self critical, then that destroys Freudianism, just like it destroys everything else.

Shortly after Lewis accepted Christianity, he satirized Freud in his allegory ‘The Pilgrim’s Regress’. In Lewis’s story, the main character, John, winds up thrown in jail by a character named Sigismund enlightened. Sigismund was actually SIgmund Freud’s real first name, so this was very much a parody about Freud. But, what is this jail he is thrown into? Well, it’s a jail governed by this giant, and this giant has a particular propensity, that anything that he looks at becomes transparent. And so, when this pilgrim character is thrown into this dungeon, into this jail, it’s a jail of horrors because whenever he looks at someone , he doesn’t see them, he sees their insides, he sees through them. It’s like a house of horrors. And that was Lewis’s picture of where Freudianism leads you: If you try to deconstruct everything, you’re left with nothing

Another example of science inspired credulity, according to Lewis, was what he called evolutionism- the popular idea that matter could magically transform itself into complex and conscious living things, through a blind and unguided  process. Lewis’s doubts about unguided evolution went back to his days as a soldier in World War I. While recovering from shrapnel wounds, a young Lewis read the book ‘Creative Revolution’ by french natural philosopher Henri Bergson. Bergson questioned the ability of Darwin’s theory to account for complex structures, like the human eye, through a blind process like natural selection. Lewis believed that evolutionism, like Freudianism, contained a fatal self contradiction regarding the human mind, according to the Darwinian view. Reason was simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process based on survival of the fittest. Lewis pointed out the key difficulty with the Darwinian account of reason: „If my own mind is the product of the irrational,” he asked, „how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about evolution?” In his personal copy of Charles Darwin’s autobiography, Lewis underlined passages where Darwin had asked himself the same question. (16:00) The idea that a blind and purposeless process without a mind  can produce things like human beings that have minds, and produce moral beliefs in things that sometimes go against our need for physical survival, the idea that a mindless process of survival of the fittest could create such things, really was an outlandish one, according to Lewis. How could a mindless process produce minds? And, to think that it could really just shows how gullible people can be in the name of science.

(3) Science as power

The third similarity between science and magic, according to Lewis, is the quest for power. Magic was about the quest for power. Magicians wanted to have power over the world and over the universe. They wanted to harness the deeper powers of nature in order to control it, and Lewis said that much of modern science, not all, but much of modern science was actually developed fro power over the world. For many people in the 20th century, the power of modern science was its greatest virtue. They hoped science would usher in a new age of peace and prosperity- a scientific utopia. For the scientific utopians of Lewis’s era, science was the savior that would allow us to remake our world. And of course that can be good. Modern science can bring us good things. Many things: from the microwave oven to the computers, to life saving treatments of modern medicine, which Lewis certainly appreciated, But, on the other hand, that tendency to want to control things can bring us the Orwellian state of George Orwell’s 1984. And so, Lewis thought that modern science, in fact, was far more dangerous than magic, because magic failed. Magic doesn’t work at the end of the day. And so, it wasn’t so dangerous because people couldn’t use it to control the world. Modern science has the potential that you really can control  people, if you find the right drugs, or find the right treatments, you can manipulate them. And so, if you don’t have some other way of protecting to remedy what you do in the name of science, some ethical basis that isn’t dictated by science itself, that can control it, then you are facing a really bleak future.

1927 Supreme Court

Lewis’s critique of scientific utopianism was at the heart of his novel ‘That Hideous Strength’, which tells the story of a conspiracy to transform England into a Scientific dictatorship. The conspiracy is led by a government bureaucracy, with a deceptively innocuous name  of the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments or NICE. „That Hideous Strength’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ are the 2 greatest dystopias  in our language, in the 20th century. The agenda of NICE in ‘That Hideous Strength’ reads like a wish list drawn up by England’s leading scientific social reformers. It included sterilization of the unfit, selective breeding, biochemical conditioning, experimentation on both animals and criminals, and above all- truly scientific planning. A scientific planning that is pretending to provide a new humanity, that is doing away with traditional ethics, that is doing away with all traditional restraints. (United States 1927: Forced Sterilization Upheld. Supreme Court Rules: „Three generations of imbeciles are enough”. Alabama 1947: Blacks denied Penicillin as part of US Public Health Service study on effects of syphilis.) Lewis depicts a world in ‘That Hideous Strength’, in which nothing is sacred. Daniel Dennet has told us that the essence of modernity is that nothing is sacred.  Nothing is sacred, which includes the human person, and when that happens, there are no distinctions between individuals, or humans and animals, or humans and vegetables, and humans and minerals and we have the kind of things we had in the 20th century.

In the 2 decades before his death, Lewis became increasingly alarmed by the scientific authoritarianism. Lewis was very concerned by the dogmatic use of science, and that is why he wrote his novel ‘That Hideous Strength’, that is why he wrote his book ‘The Abolition of Man’, where he actually worries and somewhat predicts the rise of a new class of people, of experts, speaking in the name of science, who would dictate to everyone else. In fact, by the end of his life, Lewis was worrying about the rise of what he called scientocracy- government and society that claim to be based on the claims of modern science, but, in reality really is based on a scientific click of a few people who are speaking in the name of science. And maybe they’re adopting the majority view of science, but, they’re claiming the right to rule based on their scientific knowledge and expertise.

barcode at birthLewis’s concern for the authoritarian science seems eerily prophetic. (See photos of actual headlines form newspapers at the 23rd minute) In a world driven by science and technology, those who question the new order, like C S Lewis did, increasingly find themselves labeled anti-science. C S Lewis would have rejected the charge. Lewis did not accept the idea that science was a special form of knowledge, that was somehow immune to inspection, or somehow cordoned off from the nonspecialist assessing the deliverance of the sciences. Lewis was well aware, first of all, that there is no such thing as science, as such. There are sciences. And each science has its particular methods, and its particular area of study, and also, that the sciences to be good need to interact with one another, but they do so by means of the larger tools of good rational critical thinking. And so, the things that scientists say are subject to review by everyone who is able to think critically, to think rationally. Lewis did not deny that scientific expertise might be necessary for good public policy in many areas. But he insisted that science alone was not sufficient. Knowing how cells work, or knowing how ecosystems work doesn’t tell you what you ought to do for your society, because public policy is not just about technical expertise as to how things work. It’s about what good it’s worth having it in first place and as C  S Lewis pointed out, on these questions a scientific training gives you no added value. Scientists are not moral philosophers. Yet, political and social judgments involve, not just how do things work, and how can we make them work better? But, how should we act, and what’s worth spending money on, and what’s worth doing, and what freedoms are worth giving up or not?

healthcare mandate

On these sort of moral and ethical questions, someone in science training, it doesn’t give them the right to dictate to the rest of society. C S Lewis: „I dread government in the name of science, that is how tyrannies come in”. C S Lewis thought that science was a good thing, but he also thought that it held some really strong dangers. The biggest danger, really, was the penchant to control. In a scientific view, that is the only way that we have knowledge of the world. And so, if you think that I have the scientific truth about something, that’s end of story. I know everything. That really tends to feed a power trip, whether you’re a scientist or a politician who is trying to latch on to the prestige of science, you really have people who are going to abuse their power because they thing, „Look, we’re the only ones who know what should happen, because we know how the universe really works. Therefore, we should be able to dictate what our cultural beliefs are, we should dictate what our government should do, how we should design governmental programs, we should dictate all manner of public policy and anyone who doesn’t have a scientific training or isn’t part of the consensus view of science is basically stupid or against progress, or against science, and so should be swept by the wayside and shouldn’t be listened to. And Lewis thought that that almost totalitarian impulse was really a dangerous thing.

Lewis was properly so, frightened by that potential within science. That’s why he stressed, „We really need limits on science and that there is something behind science, a larger, transcendent ethical sphere behind science and that we aren’t just blind matter  in motion, that we’re part of a designed universe that actually sets limits on what we should and shouldn’t do. It’s an age old problem: How do we prevent something good to being twisted for evil ends? C S Lewis hoped that scientists themselves would find a way to rescue science from scientists, creating a regenerate science that respected human rights and honored human dignity. A science that would no longer be the magician’s twin.

The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism

C S Lewis from atheism to theism, and then from theism to Christianity

1. C.S. Lewis – from atheism to theism

lewisLewis: The new Psychology was at that time sweeping through us all. We were all influenced. We were all concerned about fantasy, or wishful thinking. I formed the resolution of always judging and acting with the greatest good sense.

Walter Hooper: He was saying that all youth at that time were trying to escape from wish fulfillment dreams. They got that from Freud. And they wanted to in one way spit on the images of their youth, and go onto they knew not what. But, anyway, leave that behind because it was juvenile.

Lewis: I was at that time living like many atheists; in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with him for creating a world. Why should creatures have the burden of existence forced on them without their consent?

Lewis: All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been as blind as a bat not to have seen, long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. The most religious were clearly those on whom I could really feed.

Lewis: I can only describe it as the Great War between Barfield and me. When I set out to correct his heresies, I find that he had decided to correct mine! And then we went at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night.

Duriez: Barfield believed that the imagination plays a very important part in how we know. He rejected the model that science is the only way to truth, to acquiring truth. He felt that the imagination was laid behind even the work of science. It gave meaning to propositions. And so he felt that Lewis was missing out in his whole approach to reality on what made knowledge possible.

Peter Kreeft: When Lewis talks about joy, he talks about something that he labels the central theme of his whole life. But what he means by joy is not the satisfaction of a desire, but a desire that is more desirable than any satisfaction.

Lewis: There was no doubt Joy was a desire. But a desire is turned not to itself, but to an object. I had been wrong in supposing that I desired for Joy itself. All value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. The naked other. Unknown, undefined, desired. I did not yet ask „Who is desired?”

Kreeft: The very experience of Joy that Lewis had was an arrow that led to the target of belief in God. Lewis argued innate, deep desires do not exist unless they correspond to something that can satisfy them. If there is hunger, there is food. If there is sexual desire, there is sex. If there is curiosity, there is knowledge. So if there is the desire for this thing that is beyond this world, there must be something beyond this world.

Lewis: The fox had now been dislodged from the wood and was running in the open, bedraggled and weary, the hounds barely a field behind. The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears to be a moment of wholly free choice. I was going up Headington Hill on the top of a bus. Without words, and almost without images, a fact about myself was somehow presented to me. I became aware that I was holding something at bay.

I felt myself being given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut. I chose to open. I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt. Drip-drip. And presently trickle-trickle.

I had always wanted, above all things, not to be interfered with. I had wanted — mad wish — to call my soul my own. I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight.

You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.

Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark, were demanded. I gave in, and admitted that God was God … perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

VIDEOS by EXPERIENCINGGOD

2. C.S. Lewis: from theism to Christianity

lewis holy trinity churchC.S. Lewis: It must be understood that my conversion at that point was only to theism pure and simple. I knew nothing yet about the incarnation. The God to whom I surrendered was sheerly non-human.

C.S. Lewis: [Reading from Chesterton] A great man knows he is not God and the greater he is, the better he knows it. The gospels declare that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person. The most that any religious prophet has said was that he was the true servant of such a being. But if the creator was present in the daily life of the Roman empire, that is something unlike anything else in nature. It is the one great startling statement that man has made since he spoke his first articulate word. It makes dust and nonsense of comparative religion.

C.S. Lewis: As I drew near to Christianity, I felt a resistance almost as strong as my previous resistance to theism. As strong but shorter lived for I understood it better. But each step, one had less chance to call one’s soul one’s own.

C.S. Lewis: What Tolkien showed me was this — that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a pagan story I didn’t mind it at all — I was mysteriously moved by it. The reason was that in pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth.

C.S. Lewis: I know very well when but hardly how the final step was taken. I went with my brother to have a picnic at Whipsnade Zoo. We started in fog, but by the end of our journey the sun was shining. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and when we reached the zoo I did. I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, becomes aware that he is now awake.

CLICK HERE and See also –

Prof. Alister Mc Grath – C S Lewis: Reluctant Prophet at St. Paul’s London

VIDEO by StPaulsLondon by 7 April 2013 The Revd Prof Alister McGrath speaks on the life, faith and work of CS Lewis at St Paul’s Cathedral. Part of the St Paul’s Sunday Forum series of lectures with prominent Christian authors.

Alister McGrath on C.S. Lewis & the Postmodern Generation 50 years later (Christian Biography)

lewis

Biography snippets of Clive Staples Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland 29th of November 1898 and died 22 November 1963.

A very interesting lecture, in which Dr. Alister McGrath gives some previously unknown details from C S Lewis’s life. Dr. McGrath (a former atheist, similar to C S Lewis himself) has written a biography for C. S. Lewis, for which he has done extensive research. I have met a few people who have been greatly assisted by Lewis in their search for God, while they were atheist. I have also seen college students greatly assisted by Lewis’s apologetics, especially Lewis’s book ‘Mere Christianity’,  so it a worthwhile biography to read up on and Dr. McGrath gives some detailed and personal insights into the man we now know as C S Lewis in the first video, following with a question and answer session in the second video.

Dr. McGrath explores some of the issues that Lewis engages, which remain important to us today. The theme of Dr. McGrath’s lecture is:

What does Lewis say to us today?

Dr. McGrath addresses 3 questions:

  1. So why does Lewis matter so much?
  2. What does he have to say to us today?
  3. Why does Dr. McGrath refer to Lewis as reluctant prophet?

The 4 themes of C S Lewis

(1) Christianity gives us a big picture

C S Lewis writes: „I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only do I see it but by it I see everything else.” His point is that Christianity gives us this way of looking at things which helps them to come into focus. It gives us a panorama of reality  and it enables us to see what things are really like, and where we fit into things as well. And for Lewis, the ability of the Christian faith to make sense of things is a very important reason for thinking that it is true.

(2) The argument from desire

This is a quote from Lewis’s book ‘Mere Christianity’: „If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Well, what does he mean by that? Let me try and explain. He’s saying that most of us have this experience of longing for something that really satisfies, or the sense that there has to be more than what we know, there’s something beyond us. And Lewis starts to argue like this. He argues that there’s:

  • Spiritual longing
  • A sense of emptiness
  • Something that nothing created or finite can satisfy
  • A longing for God

So we begin to ask questions like: If there’s something, and we found it and we began to make sense of things, it will bring satisfaction and fulfillment to our lives. And then Lewis argues that, really, nothing in this world, nothing that is created or finite seems able to satisfy the deepest longings of humanity, because in reality, these are longings for God. And Lewis’s argument is that this experience of longing, which is so difficult to satisfy, is really a longing for God, which we get muddled about and attach to something else.

This a quote from Pilgrim’s Regress: „The human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given- nay, cannot even be imagined as given- in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience.” There is something we are meant to possess, to enjoy, and it’s not something in this world. But, our desires and longings help us realize that we are looking for something and that it is not to be found in this world. It lies beyond it.

This is brought up clearly, in what I think is some of Lewis’s best writing, preached in the University Church, Oxford, on 8 June 1941. Sermon: Weight of glory- Title comes from John Donne, who spoke of the ‘exceeding weight of divine glory’. In this sermon Lewis explores this idea of desire. What he is saying is this: We think that this- for example, the quest for beauty- or a really important relationship, that this is going to satisfy us, that somehow this is our destination of our quest for meaning and truth. But in reality it’s a signpost, pointing beyond itself. It’s not the signpost we’re looking for, it’s what it points to. And he argues like this:

„The books or the music which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.”

And so Lewis suggests that the things that create desire and longing- „like beauty, or the memory of past, these are good images of what we desire. In other words, not what we desire, but echoes of it or hints of it. But if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn them into dumb idols and they break the hearts of their worshippers.” So Lewis suggests that „they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.” Lewis is saying that one of the things you and I can help people to do is to realize that Christianity makes sense of this longing and points towards the One who is able to satisfy, to fulfill these deepest yearnings and transform us. So, Lewis ends this sermon by talking about his hope for transformation:

At present, we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door… We cannot mingle with the splendors that we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

(3) Lewis on Imagination and Stories

I think Lewis’s greatest contribution lies in his imagination, in his importance of stories. Even as a teenager Lewis realized the powerful appeal that stories made to the imagination. His conversion to Christianity was partly about discovering that Christianity told a „grand story’ that both made sense of things, and appealed deeply to his imagination.

(4) Translation

We need to translate the Gospel message into terms an audience can understand. Lewis is good on this. We’re coming up on Easter Day and we’re going to be using words like Atonement, Redemption, Salvation, and we all know that these are very rich and important words, but they’re words our culture does not necessarily understand. And so, we have to explain, unpack, translate these ideas for the benefit of our audience. For example, Paul talks with great excitement in Romans 5 about being justified by faith, but if you talk to your friends about justification, they will mean something like this: Justification is giving an excuse for being late at work, or it’s about things you do to the right hand margin on your word processor. So the important thing is how do we translate?

During World War II, Lewis began to speak to ground crews at Royal AIr Force bases. He had to learn how to express himself in terms that this audience could understand and appreciate. And he did it. That’s one of the reason his broadcast talks over the BBC in the 1940’s were so successful. They connected up with where people were.

C S Lewis's church Holy Trinity Headington

Photo from video – C S Lewis’s church Holy Trinity, Headington

This lecture was given at Lanier Theological Library. VIDEO by fleetwd1
This lecture by Dr Alister McGrath was sponsored by The Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX and presented at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, TX, Saturday, March 23, 2012 titled: „C.S. Lewis and the Post Modern Generation: His Message 50 Years Later”.

Dr. Alister McGrath is a Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at Kingʼs College London, and Head of its Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture. He is also Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, and President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. Until 2008, he was Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University.

Dr. McGrath was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1953. He attended Methodist College, Belfast, in 1966 studying pure and applied mathematics, physics and chemistry. McGrath continued his education and eventually earned both a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and a Doctorate of Divinity from Oxford University. The interactions between these two areas of study—Christian theology and the natural sciences—have been a major theme of his research work.

Dr. Alister McGrath poses for a picture while ...

As a former atheist, McGrath is respectful, yet critical of scientific atheism. He has frequently engaged in debate and dialogue with leading atheists, including Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins. McGrath has explored Charles Darwinʼs role in atheist apologetics and other controversial concepts of atheism, such as the „meme” in recent atheist accounts of the origins of belief in God.

McGrath is working on many projects, including his research on the late C. S. Lewis and a major intellectual history of the Swiss Protestant theologian Emil Brunner. His new book to be published in March is entitled C. S. Lewis – A Life. Reluctant Prophet, Eccentric Genius. This biography will be supplemented by a collection of eight major academic essays on Lewis, to be published in May 2013. Other forthcoming books are the first in a five-volume series entitled „Christian Belief for Everyone” and a new textbook on Christian History.

For more infomation on the Lanier Theological Library:http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/ VIDEO by fleetwd1

Alister McGrath Q & A

  • Did C S Lewis doubt God when his wife died?
  • What would C S Lewis think about our current culture?
  • Do you have any idea why Lewis made the ruler of Narnia a woman?
  • Is there any author today that could carry on Lewis’s legacy of writing compelling fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature?
  • Has C S Lewis’s intellectual legacy done us any notable disservice?
  • How did Lewis’s Platonism influence his christianity?
  • Did Lewis continue his studies of Nordic Myth after his conversion?
  • Do any of his writings reveal any hesitations or change in his viewpoint?
  • What do you think of Lewis’s view of Scripture? (13:50)
  • Is it true that C S Lewis’s reputation is more admired in the US, while the British are more skeptical of him?
  • If someone has never read C S Lewis, where do you recommend they start?
  • Was Lewis willing to suspend some of his more orthodox views for the good of the story?
  • What story would you or Lewis use to explain justification in the 21st century?
  • C S Lewis operated from the margins of religious life. Why is he a central  figure now?
  • What would you say in regards to C S Lewis’ apologetics?
  • Could you speak to the correct order of Narnia books?

Related articles from this blog

From the C S Lewis Institute 6 videos- very, very interesting and from an extremely enjoyable lecturer:

More C. S. Lewis

  1. C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man Chapter 1 – Men without chests
  2. C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man Chapter 2 The Way
  3. C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man Chapter 3

IN ROMANIAN:

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (6) Escaping the Wiles of the Devil (last video)

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

The Screwtape Letters Part 5 – The Lust of the Flesh

the-love-of-god-

Last Part 6 – Escaping the Wiles of the Devil

Dr. Root, C.S. Lewis scholar at Wheaton College, Illinois, in his last lecture gives some antidotes to Screwtape’s wiles and ways to avoid temptations and see more victory from the writing of C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.

Screwtape’s overtures must be detected and overcome. How can this be done? Any study of C S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters must end with a word of hope and some positive advice, as to how we can become less and less susceptible to the wiles of the evil one. In Mere Christianity, C S Lewis said he thought pride was the great sin. And, certainly pride is one area, one thread on which several of the Screwtape Letters are held together. When Lewis says ‘pride is a great sin’ though, I would tend to take issue with him, unless he means by ‘great sin’, like the apex of a pyramid is the greatest point of a pyramid, I’m comfortable with what he’s claimed. Lewis wasn’t the only one who said pride was the greatest sin. Augustine, in his commentary on Psalm 19 says the same thing. And, many christians throughout time.

But, let me see if I can make a case. If, again, they mean pride is at the apex of a pyramid, it’s at the end of a process. We know that the apex of the pyramid is being supported by things far more substantive beneath the apex. But, let me explain what we discover as we go to the parts that are the more substantive of the pyramid, where something like pride would be the apex. I am not talking, too, of pride as pride in a job well done. I’m talking about that form of pride that manifests itself as a kind of pretense- making myself look better than I am. Deluding myself into thinking I am  better than I am, or wanting other people to buy into the delusion.

Could it not be that maybe pride is preceded by insecurity and fear. If you knew me as I am, you might reject me. So I try to make myself better than I am. If this is true, then the Bible is explicit about what would be beneath – fear and insecurity. 1 John 4:18 „perfect love casts out fear”. Now, you and I have never been loved perfectly by another human being before. Well meaning people have done the best they can, but we’ve still picked up mixed messages. So, consequently, if perfect love casts out fear, a corollary might be that imperfect love breeds anxiety. And, each of us, by the methods we picked up from others, have been at some level saddled with the burden of anxiety. Furthermore, it gets worst before it gets better. You and I have never loved anybody perfectly either. So people in our world, who have looked to us for love. Though we’ve done the best we know how, we’ve still saddled them with some burden of anxiety.

There’s only one person who knows you utterly and loves you completely, and that’s God. His love is non contingent, it’s not based any kind of performance on our part. When we fail, He loves us and forgives us. When He’s picked us up by His grace, His love nurtures us. His love is not increased by our performance, nor is it diminished by our failure. This is overwhelming. God knows us and loves us completely. That doesn’t mean He’s not disappointed at our failure. But His love is such that He remains with us. He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

Therefore, it would appear that the greatest sin, at the base of the pyramid is to reject the love of God, to be unwilling to accept the love of God in our lives.

Antidote – The love of God. 

Security in the love of God is a preventative, making us less susceptible to Screwtape’s temptation and offerings. Lewis writes an essay: First and Second Things. You put first things first, you get second things thrown in. You put second things first, you lose out on first and second things. For, who can eat, and who can enjoy life without Him? Screwtape provides false notions of the self and of the world. When we define ourselves by these falsehoods, we become susceptible by the things he suggests will fulfill us. We look for artificialities, rather than something substantive in God. God loves you. He knows you and He loves you. And, nothing will keep you safe from the evils of the wicked one more than the realization of God’s love for you and your loving response to Him. Trusting that He has your best welfare at stake, so you don’t start looking for it in other places. I think we need to define ourselves by how He sees us and He loves us. We are always having a great love story told to us, by the great lover of our souls, and we live most of our lives out of cognition. There are brief moments when we get it. He loves us and we’re overwhelmed. And then, we fall out of cognition as quickly as we fell into cognition.

In the heart of God, He offers us the best He can offer us- His love. And we, instead, vector off towards artificialities. The love of God keeps us secure. If you neglect God’s love, you will begin to drift away from Him and drift towards those artificialities that we use as a substitute for God. And once Screwtape could move towards these idols, these artificialities, he’ll start to have His way with us. We, withdrawing into ourselves  and becoming self-referential, we also look on others in a utilitarian way, which compounds our sense of isolation. We also increase our own sensitivities, becoming more easily hurt by the actions of others around us, while becoming less sensitive to the hurt others around us may be enduring because of us. Photo below via www.pastormattrichard.com

Growing in Virtue

There is something we can do in order to grow in grace as well

Growing in Virtue 2 Peter 1:1-11 and Lewis also writes about virtue in Mere Christianity. Virtue is an integrated hole. Virtue is a means to the good life. Virtue had facets, but they were all interdependent. – These things grow in response to our love for God. These are the offerings of our love back to God, in loving response. All these are habits, too, by the way.

  1. Courage is the habitual ability to suffer pain and hardship. It’s endurance, fortitude, it’s staying power. Courage is the ability to say „Yes” to right action, even in the teeth of pain. Our own moral development will not progress if we don’t have this endurance. When the temptation comes we endure. When we run the risk of vectoring we need to endure in our loving response to God. We need to lather up again in God’s love for us, that we might triumph over some of these other things. 
  2. Temperance, on the other hand is the habitual ability to resist the enticement of immediate pleasure, in order to gain the more remote good. If courage is the ability to say „yes” in the right action even in the teeth of pain, temperance is the ability to say „no” to wrong action even in the jaws of pleasure. And we can do that most readily, when we’re most satisfied in our relationship with God. If you find yourself caving in because you’re intemperate, let the red light go on the dashboard of your life- God loves you, He forgives you… when the red light goes on, go to Him in your intemperance and receive from Him His grace, that you might reinsert yourself in the world. Temperance is a mark of maturity. When my children were little, they weren’t born temperate. When they were little, they would have been willing to sell their souls for sweets. They were easy marks for Screwtape whenever he came. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.
  3. Justice is the habit of being law abiding and concerned with the common good and general welfare of ones society. Justice recognizes that my own moral development is interlinked with my responsibility to you. Justice seeks to secure and protect natural rights, to be fair and render to others their due. If I am engages in self-referential ways that treat you in a utilitarian way, my own character is diminished, and as a human being I am not enjoying life to the fullest. Justice testifies to the fact that character and development is connected to one’s responsibility to another. One’s moral development is linked to practicing fairness and showing genuine concern  for the welfare of others.
  4. Wisdom. Lastly, wisdom is the habit  being careful about decisions one makes. It seeks counsel and advice. Wisdom is the perspective of the scaffold, it’s the perspective of God’s word, it’s the perspective of friends who bring to us insight that we wouldn’t have, if we were operating individually, or self-referentially. We need this wisdom.

The thing that keeps us moving in the realm of virtue and spiritual maturity is when it’s all built on the foundation of God’s love. God’s love is the antidote to the wiles of the evil one. Three weeks before C S Lewis died, an American girl wrote him a letter, and she had read the Narnian chronicles, and Lewis was on his deathbed, virtually. Nobody would have faulted him if he wouldn’t have wrote this girl back. But, he writes her a letter, this great christian leader, not struggle free in his life, but a struggler who learned the art of living through his struggles. He learned about the grace of God and the love of God. And Lewis writes this girl, as he’s on the threshold of eternity, to an 11 year old American girl on the threshold of her earthly experience, and he says to her, „If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much will go wrong with you. And I pray you may always do so.” It’s still great advice.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (5) The Sins of the Flesh

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Part 5 –  The Sins of the Flesh

Screwtape, when he writes, especially about the sins of the flesh, and fleshly desire, he writes this in Letter 19, and it’s his key concept to the desires of the flesh. He writes: Separate your patient’s sexuality from all that might humanize him. To humanize the desire is not to deny the desire, but to allow love and justice to guide and direct it. That place where we begin to respect  the humanity of the other person, not be self-referential and utilitarian, using other people for our own ends. Screwtape writes in Letter 7: Once you’ve made the world an end of faith and means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. So we see that Screwtape seeks to hold the patient in a state of confusion over real pleasure. And, artificiality, or the corruption of pleasure.

In letter 9, we are informed that the devil cannot produce pleasures. Screwtape says, „All we can do is to encourage humans to take pleasures which our enemy has produced at times, or in ways, or in degrees He has forbidden. Hence, we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure, to that which is least natural, least redolent of its maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „Exploit the troth. Undulation – we have these up and down periods in our life. He says, „Exploit the troth, exploit the down time.” In other words, help your patient move towards pleasure, that is a kind of anesthetizing behavior.

All of us are wounded. Not necessarily all of us are broken. Brokenness is an awareness of our wound, and how it affects us at some level. And, our tendency, because of our woundedness, rather than bringing it to Jesus, to begin the process of healing us, we will gravitate towards anesthetizing behaviors. These behaviors are things like drug addiction, alcohol addictions, eating disorders, sexual addiction, workaholism. Usually, these anesthetizing behaviors get us by, they don’t get us better. And, usually, as time comes, we pick up some convictions along the way, and the anesthetizing behaviors that got us by from our youth, these anesthetizing behaviors begin to operate in contrast to our convictions.

Romans 7 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Who will set me free form these things? Paul says Christ will. Why is it that we keep going back to these things, even though they are contrary to our convictions? I would like to suggest to you that: Our wounds are deeper than our convictions. And, if we’re not finding the grace of God healing us in the places of our life, especially in the troth period, we become particularly susceptible to the sins of the flesh, and Screwtape has his way on us. (10:22)

What is the antidote to lust? It’s reality. To see another person as she or he really is. That is why Screwtape says, „Separate his sexuality from all that might humanize it. Separate it from reality. Separate it from virtue, as a means to pleasure, and lead them towards vice and unrestrained expression that doesn’t take into account the humanity of another person.” In Letter 13 Screwtape warns Wormwood not to allow his patient to experience real pleasure. The characteristic of pains and pleasure, he writes, is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. He writes, „How could you have failed to see that a real pleasure  is the last thing you ought to have him meet?” Because a real pleasure would see things as they are, not as he would have them be. In an experiment in criticism, Lewis said: In coming to understand anything, we must accept the facts as they are, not as they are for us.

In Letter 17, he talks about the glutton of delicacy, and we talked about that under pride. But, Lewis finishes his discussion of the gluttony of delicacy by talking about this woman, who talks about- „All I want” state of mind. I want it like this, I want it like that”. She has in her mind what she wants. He says at the end of that particular statement: She doesn’t mind what she eats herself, but does like to have things nice for her boy. In fact, of course, her greed has been one of the chief  sources of the boy’s domestic discomfort for many years. She thinks she’s doing right by the boy, but she’s projecting on the boy what she wants the boy to be like, rather than being concerned to let the boy be what he ought to be. (18:00)

In Letter 20 we see Screwtape say this to Wormwood, „The goal is to produce in every age, a general misdirection of what may be called sexual taste.. (Here, sexual taste is the abuse of another person for my own ends, but, it’s an abuse of another person in a particular way). This they do, by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses, and advertisers, who determine the fashionable type. As a result, we are more and more directing the desires of men towards something that does not exist, making the role of the ‘I’ in sexuality more and more important. At the same time, making it’s demands more and more impossible.

The use of undulation is a seedbed for temptation. In Letter #8, Screwtape invites Wormwood to exploit troth times. In Letter 25, we see this: There’s the horror of the same old thing. The lust then for novelty. You can’t get a person, then, to be satisfied in their present state, they have to lust for something that’s beyond what’s in their own pasture, or their own world. The God who is immutable created the immutability of time. He even entered it himself. He gives His creatures a love of permanence, as well as a love of change or variety. God seeks to gratify both of these loves via the rhythms of life. To overindulge one side of the permanence-variety struggle is to neglect the other, to play to eternity, while failing at temporal responsibility. This is gnostic. So to, to play to time, while failing at the eternal responsibility, this is damnable. The antidote to the excesses of change is permanence. Permanence is to discover the light in the particular.

Screwtape seeks to exaggerate the pleasures of either, to make an end of it. He seeks to destroy balance, and the struggle to bring about balance. And this results in diminished pleasure and increased desire. So, the pleasure of novelty is subject to the law of diminishing returns. This leads to the susceptibility to fashion or vogues, and so on. Screwtape’s goal is mainly to produce that nonsense in the intellect, which reinforces corruption in the will. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „We want cattle who can finally become food, but God wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. Screwtape will try to make man in his image, where as God will remake us in the image of His Son. All choice moves us one way or another, towards a miserific vision, or the beatific vision.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (4) The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil

Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

We are almost predatory about self deception and Screwtape advises his nephew, Wormwood to help people in that regard, to be self deceived. The word Akrasia means to make excuses and rationalize bad acts. It self justifies. Remember that even when Christ was dying on the cross for our sins, there were those at the foot of the cross who said, „If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself.” We understand the ‘save yourself’ mentality. But, Jesus didn’t come to save himself, He came to save lost humanity. And, Job’s self referential experience, and we’re tender towards Job because he’s suffering, and any time we suffer, we wanna give people in the moment of their crisis a wide swath of understanding and patience. But, Job, even in his hurting moments, God says to him: Gird up your loins like a man, Job, and I will ask you and you will instruct me. It’s a very ridiculous juxtaposition of God as the student and Job as the teacher. And then He says to him, „Will you really annul mu judgments, that you may be justified?”

The bad alternative to repentance is this akrasia, this rationalization. It’s a bad alternative to repentance and the obedience that follows on the heels of repentance. Obedience is the opener of eyes. We might say, akrasia is the closer of eyes. It keeps us from seeing reality. Obedience allows me to live in the benefits of omniscience. I’m a pea brain, I don’t know very much. But, every time God, in His omniscience, calls me to obedience, I can live beyond my own capacities. If I obey Him, I receive the benefits of omniscience. Furthermore, obedience is the splint that God places on a broken life in order that it might mend. But, disobedience and akrasia, in willful blindness, keeps me in that broken state.

We get the concept for akrasia from Aristotle’s ethics. Aristotle wrote: vice is unconscious of itself. It’s a statement that Lewis himself footnotes in the abolition of man, from Aristotle’s ethics. Lewis is very much aware of this concept of self deception. Lewis writes from the preface of Paradise Lost- Continued disobedience to conscience makes conscience blind. Then, of course, Paul in Romans 1:18 – „We suppress the truth in our unrighteousness.” Screwtape urges Wormwood to engage in a corrupted form of rhetoric, to keep his patient blind. (8:25) So we see first:

The rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior:

  • The Unknowing Falsification of Reality
  • Intentional & Dishonest
  • Devoid of Principle or Legitimate Ends
  • Self-referentialism

Photo from http://www.swordofthespirit.net

Screwtape tells Wormwood: Jargon, not reason is your best ally in keeping your patient from church. In his Oxford History of English Literature, Lewis said of the Renaissance humanists, in their reaction to the medieval literature, he said, „They jeer, but they do not refute.” You can call a person a name, you can be dismissive of that other person, but, never engage them rationally to see if your ideas hold muster against the challenges that must come. Screwtape says, „By the very act of arguing you awake the patient’s reason. And once it is awake, who can foresee the result?” Reason is an ally to faith, it’s not an ally to self justification. Real criticism is going to do 2 positive things to my faith. (1) It’s gonna cause me to prune those accoutrements that have surrounded my faith, that are false. Maybe I picked them um blindly from my subculture. I entered into something like a group think, that can sometime occur in religious communities. (2) Or, the challenge can help me to understand my faith more robustly, as I see that my faith position stands up to the challenge, even as I engage in seeing how I can answer the particular questions that are brought up in the moment. Screwtape wants us to avoid that kind of thinking, because that kind of thinking, again, either prunes the falsehood or strengthens the truth and helps us see its vitality.

Truth is not reality, truth is what I think about reality when I think accurately about it. In Letter 1, Screwtape wants to keep those he seeks to destroy in a state of moral blindness. Screwtape writes: Give to him, your patient, a grand general idea that he knows it all, and that everything he has happened to pick up in casual talk and reading is a result of modern investigation. And so, then the person moves towards informal fallacies and logic, and we don’t even realize we’re blinding ourselves in these processes. In Letter 2 Screwtape talks about this rationalized behavior in more detail. He writes to Wormwood: All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily are still in our favor. Because those habits, especially if they are bad will tend towards the rationalization of the habit. If you move the person again towards reason, then they apply the reason to the habits and they try to adjust the scoliosis of their life to the plum line of reality, and they start to change and get better. Screwtape writes: Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which hell affords. Screwtape also advises Wormwood to notice hypocrisy in others also, while remaining blind to his own hypocrisies.

Lewis and Tolkien, both often quote this passage from Plato’s laws, where Plato says: An abuse does not nullify a proper use. A lot of time we point to abuse and we think the problem is solved. But, the abuse is usually the anomaly, the misuse of a particular thing. If we judge any segment of society by its worst example, nobody could stand. But, we find then, that we’re moving towards Screwtape’s inculcation of hypocrisy and delusion, when we begin to dismiss an entire class because we’re projecting the bad example on the whole.

In Letter 3, this rationalized behavior moves towards blame. Screwtape advises Wormwood to redirect his patient’s thinking towards unrealities. He says, „You must bring him, your patient to a condition to practice self examination for an hour, without discovering any of those facts about himself, which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him, or worked in the same office. Screwtape advises to keep his patient constantly irritated by things his mother does, without thought how irritating his own actions might be to others. At the end of the day, he has 2 visions of reality. The false vision of his mother, who is not as bad as the one he projects on her, and the false image of himself, which is not as good as the one he projects on himself. Wormwood is instructed to make that imaginary person daily less and less than the real mother. 24:37

There is another rhetoric Screwtape engages in. It’s- The Rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior: Intentional & Dishonest. In Letter 6, Lewis allows us to enter in this particular topic. He is engaged also in The Rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior: Devoid of Principle or Legitimate Ends. He basically creates an illusion of truth, we see this in Letter 23. We can have a kind of very religious illusion of truth. I believe that there are 2 kinds of people in this world. Goofy people who know they’re goofy, and goofy people who are dangerous. Lewis has Screwtape say, „Get your patient on a quest for the historical Jesus, which is always a distraction from reality, because this historical Jesus they’re pursuing is a Jesus of their own construction. First, he says, each historical Jesus is unhistorical. Second, all such construction places their importance of the historical Jesus on some peculiar theory he was supposed to have promulgated, which thus destract men’s mind from who He really is and what He actually did. A third aim, Screwtape writes, is by these constructions to destroy the devotional life. Instead of the Creator adored by his creature, you have merely a leader claimed by a partisan, and finally a distinguished character approved by a judicious historian. Fourth, a religion of this kind is false to history in another sense, Screwtape writes. No nation and few individuals are really brought to the enemy’s camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus. It is simply his biography. The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact: The resurrection. And a single theological doctrine: The redemption operating on a sense of sin, which they already had.

And the Screwtape says: About the general connection between christianity and politics our position is more delicate. Certainly, we do not want christianity to flow over into their political life, for, the establishing of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster for Screwtape and his kind. On the other hand, we do want men to treat christianity as a means, just a means. In some senses, devoid of principle, and devoid of particular and righteous ends, preferably, of course as a means to their own advancement. But, failing that, even the means to anything, even to social justice. The thing at first is to get a man to value social justice as a thing the enemy demands, and then work on him to the stage at which he values christianity because it may produce social justice. C S Lewis said: When the means become autonomous from the principle and ends, they become evil. He even says: Even when love becomes a god, it becomes a demon. He’s not saying social justice is inappropriate. He’s saying that even social justice can become a distraction, if it leads away from centering on Jesus.

Screwtape says, in Letter 26: Get your patient to believe this, not because it’s true, but for some other reason. This leads to the Rhetoric of Self Rationalized Behavior: Self-referentialism. While Lewis rightly acknowledged that all judgments rightly imply a standard, judgments are destined to go wrong when the standard is self-referential. And this is the thing we always want to avoid, this kind of rationalization.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (3) Pride

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

Part 3 – The Screwtape Letters and Pride

One of the most dominant themes of the Screwtape Letters is Screwtape trying to woo his patient, through Wormwood, into this swollen sense of self into pride.

Dr. Root unpackages the 3 recurring themes that occur throughout the letters:

  1. Pride – a swollen sense of self and a diminished view of God. Pride, basically is man trying to play God of his own life. Every definition of sin in the Bible – gluttony, anger, greed, envy, sloth, lust-  has this (pride) as the definite concept embedded in what it means to sin. (Romans 3:23) God knows we have a diminished experience if we are estranged from him. He seeks to woo us back. Screwtape wants us to be as estranged as possible forever, if he would have his way. PRIDE is the complete anti-God state of mind. It is the essential vice leading to every other vice. Lewis concludes his chapter on pride with these words: If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can tell them the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. Screwtape seems to take good things and corrupt them with pride- even humility, even prayer, even the church. 
  2. The Rationalization of Evil (coming up in lecture 4)
  3. Temptations of the Flesh (coming up in lecture 5)

Lewis says all evil is a perversion of good. You can’t think of a bad banana, without thinking of a good banana that went bad. Evil compares to good like bread mold compares to bread. It feeds on the original thing. But, even man made in the image of the Creator can take bead mold  and make penicillin out of it; something good out of something bad. And so too, God can take the worst of evil events, as He demonstrated at Calvary and make of it divine penicillin, and the ultimate healing medicine  for the worst ailment of all- our sin and our pride. Pride is self centered and self exalting, and as such, estranges us from the real world where God and others can be met. It engages in projection of self and self interest onto the world around us and thereby becomes utilitarian. Pride results in actual attempts to alter reality. 

Each of us is intolerant of pride when we see it in others, of course. But, a false humility is manifested in our blindness to pride in our own lives, every time it raises its ugly head. Pride transforms prayer into idolatry. The subtle act of one creating their own god, can provide ample reasons for being disappointed at that god, and then projecting the disappointment on the christian God. I wonder sometimes if some of the rejection some of the people have, even some of the new atheism, if some of that rejection is a rejection of a god they made in their own image. We would say, in an informal fallacy it’s a straw man argument. In essence, in pride, things matter if, and only if, they matter to me. This sets me in conflict with the rest of the world. And, if it sets me in conflict with the rest of the world, it has to be rationalized.

 

C S Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (2) C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will post as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

See Part 1 – The Background here

In Part 2, Doctor Root gives one more background on which Lewis paints the Screwtape Letters, and that is Lewis’s concept of hell.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (1) The Background

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

Part 1 – The Background

C.S. Lewis – God as God (2) God’s Love and Do I have a right to be happy?

Read part 1 here – 

God can be no other than what he is: absolute goodness, justice, mercy and love. And he is all of these supereminently, as we have just said.

Being all-sufficient in himself, God still loves into existence the superfluous, since he is almost overflowing with goodness. This is not to be understood in the Neo-Platonic sense, for God is under no compulsion to create anything. He creates and conserves in existence so that he can love all created being.

God’s Love

This brings us into consideration of God’s love. We are not to construe it as something sentimental, or something which excites our feelings. We have a Father in heaven, but not a benevolent grandfather who simply wants everyone to have a good time on earth. God’s love is pure, spiritual and intellectual, and quite unlike the love we generally experience.; there may be almost an element of ferocity about it. In a word, God is exacting in his love, we are happy only insofar as this is compatible with praising, reverencing and serving him. He is not concerned about people’s saying at the end of the day,”A good time was had by all”. He is not to be mistaken for mere kindness, because he has loved us to the utmost.

In The Problem of Pain (Chapter 3), we come face to face with God’s love and human suffering. Each one of us is a divine work of art, and the Heavenly Artist has paid us the „intolerable compliment” of creating us in his image. Nor will he rest until he has accomplished his will, until each of us grows in Godlikeness according to the plan he has laid out for us. We may not altogether like the infinite care and patience which go into our artistry, but Lewis points out that in wishing for a less glorious and a less arduous destiny, we are asking not for more love but for less.

Our God is a consuming fire, a tremendous lover, a passionate seeker after every individual. He is the Lord of the terrible aspect, and to look upon him face to face is to die. We must not sentimentalize this God.

We are not the center of the universe; God is its center and all things- man included- exist for God. Hence God cannot allow us to remain as we are; his love constantly seeks to enlarge the mansion of our soul, for it is in this mansion that he intends to live himself. In answer to the question, Have I a right to be happy/ God replies no. Sin has marred our character to such an extent that God must cajole, woo threaten, refashion, and redesign our inner selves to his satisfaction, not our own. To struggle against this, to throw up blocks, to fail to surrender to the fort, is once again to ask for less love, not for more.

Excerpt from The Theology of C.S. Lewis  (Pleasures Forevermore by John Randolph Willis, Chapter 2)

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The BBC is the reason C S Lewis wrote „Mere Christianity”

You can listen to the surviving B.B.C. tapes here – C.S.Lewis BBC surviving audio tapes from the 1940′s, or read his Rationality of the Christian worldview here, and read some related articles at the bottom of this post.

I came across this information from Walter Hooper of Oxford, who was C S Lewis’s private secretary and contributed these bits to the preface of C.S. Lewis’s „Pleasures Forevermore” (Loyola University Press, 1983):

Although his readers don’t appear to notice any „change of voice” in his books, some– such as the Narnian Chronicles– were written simply because he enjoyed it. A few were written at the request of others, and Mere Christianity is one of them.

In fact, it didn’t originate in his mind as a book at all. What happened was that the British Broadcasting Corporation asked him to give a series of four fifteen-minute talks over the radio. The impact of those talks was so great that the B.B.C. asked for another series, and another, until the end– del, there was Mere Christianity. 

However, from the beginning there was a lot of talk going on behind the scenes. It was mainly about how, in such short radio talks, Lewis could– as was the intention of the BBC– reach the „Great British Public.” A „public” made up– as it is in the United States– of Christians of all the denominations and most Christians who are not Christians at all. Because of this, Lewis knew that his only chance of helping anyone was to confine his broadcast to those elements which all Christians believe.

Most people had never heard anything like it and they were entranced. „Entranced” because, odd as it may seem, there had hitherto been few broadcasts and few books about those elements in Christianity which unite us, but a great many about those things which (however true and important) divide us.

The „cathedral” intention behind Mere Christianity is very clearly defined in Lewis’s preface to that book. He said:

„Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depths in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.

Related articles

Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul Learning from the Mind and Heart of C. S. Lewis – Desiring God

Born November 29, 1898 was one Clive Staples Lewis. His friends called him Jack. We know him as C. S. Lewis. He died just shy of 65 years old on November 22, 1963, the same day as John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Davdi Mathis over at Desiring God writes a birthday note along with a link to this John Piper tribute to Lewis in his biographical address „Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul.”

1) It Seems I Shouldn’t Find Lewis So Helpful

My approach in this talk is personal. I am going to talk about what has meant the most to me in C. S. Lewis—how he has helped me the most. And as I raise this question, as I have many times over the years, the backdrop of the question becomes increasingly urgent: Why has he been so significant for me, even though he is not Reformed in his doctrine, and could barely be called an evangelical by typical American uses of that word?

He doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, 1 and defaults to logical arguments more naturally than to biblical exegesis. He doesn’t treat the Reformation with respect, but thinks it could have been avoided, and calls aspects of if farcical. 2 He steadfastly refused in public or in letters to explain why he was not a Roman Catholic but remained in the Church of England. 3 He makes room for at least some people to be saved through imperfect representations of Christ in other religions. 4 He made a strong logical, but I think unbiblical, case for free will to explain why there is suffering in the world. 5 He speaks of the atonement with reverence, but puts little significance on any of the explanations for how it actually saves sinners. 6

In other words, Lewis is not a writer to which we should turn for growth in a careful biblical understanding of Christian doctrine. There is almost no passage of Scripture on which I would turn to Lewis for exegetical illumination. A few, but not many. He doesn’t deal with many. If we follow him in the kinds of mistakes that he made (the ones listed above), it will hurt the church and dishonor Christ. His value is not in his biblical exegesis. Lewis is not the kind of writer who provides substance for a pastor’s sermons. If a pastor treats Lewis as a resource for doctrinal substance, he will find his messages growing thin, interesting perhaps, but not with much rich biblical content.

The Ironic Effect of Reading Lewis

So you see the kind of backdrop there is for this message. How and why has C. S. Lewis been so helpful to me when I think he is so wrong on some very important matters? Why don’t I put Lewis in the same category as the so-called “emergent” writers? At one level, the mistakes seem similar. But when I pose the question that way, it starts to become pretty clear to me why Lewis keeps being useful, while I think the emergent voices will fade away fairly quickly.

In fact, I think posing the question this way not only explains why he has been so helpful to me, but also goes right to the heart of what the life and work of C. S. Lewis were about. There was something at the core of his work—of his mind—that had the ironic effect on me of awakening lively affections and firm convictions that he himself would not have held.

Something About Lewis

There was something about the way he read Scripture that made my own embrace of inerrancy tighter, not looser. There was something about the way he spoke of grace and God’s power that made me value the particularities of the Reformation more, not less. There was something about the way he portrayed the wonders of the incarnation that made me more suspicious of his own inclusivism, not less. There was something about the way he spoke of doctrine as the necessary roadmap that leads to Reality, 7 and the way he esteemed truth and reason and precision of thought, that made me cherish more, not less, the historic articulations of the biblical explanations of how the work of Christ saves sinners—the so-called theories of the atonement.

It may be that others have been drawn away by Lewis from these kinds of convictions and experiences. I doubt very seriously that more people on the whole have been weakened in true biblical commitments than have been strengthened by reading Lewis. I am sure it happens. I am sure that for many, for example, who have taken the road to Roman Catholicism away from evangelicalism, Lewis has played a part in that pilgrimage. He devoted his whole Christian life to defending and adorning what he called “mere Christianity”—“the Christian religion as understood ubique et ab omnibus [everywhere by everyone].” 8 “I have believed myself to be restating ancient and orthodox doctrines. . . . I have tried to assume nothing that is not professed by all baptized and communicating Christians.” 9 This means that he rarely tried to distance himself from Roman Catholicism or any other part of Christendom. He rarely spoke about any debates within Christianity itself. 10

A Pastoral Price to Pay

There is a price to pay when you set yourself this kind of agenda. You will almost certainly omit things essential to the gospel. Not that you yourself do not believe those things, but since virtually all important doctrines have been disputed from within the church (not just from outside), the effort to omit what’s disputed runs the risk of omitting what’s essential. We all should be warned about this, because the disputes in the New Testament letters themselves are virtually all disputes within the church, not with those outside. In the marketplace and the synagogue, Paul argued for the gospel with unbelievers. But in his letters, he defends and defines the heart of the gospel not by disputing with those outside the church, but with those inside the church. He did not consider these disputes—for example in Galatians—as peripheral skirmishes but rather as part of what “mere Christianity” actually is.  This dispute is what the Reformation was about.

Therefore, Lewis set himself a lifelong task that no pastor should follow—namely, to adorn and defend only those truths that he thought all Christians always and everywhere have believed. 11 Lewis was not a pastor. He was a professor of English Literature from 1924 to 1963, first at Oxford and then at Cambridge. He did not have to open the Scriptures week after week for a group of people over the course of 30 or 40 years. He didn’t have to explain to his flock the fullness of God’s written revelation. He was a scholar, a writer of science fiction, children’s books, poetry, essays, and apologetics. In these spheres, he chose his focus. He called it “mere Christianity.” Within that limited focus (which he would say is infinitely large), he fell short of saying many important things regarding the gospel of Christ. But if I focus not on what he failed to say, but on what he said and did, I find that even for me—for one who considers some doctrines to be crucial that he neglected—even for me, the blessings of his work have been incalculable.

2) Why Lewis Is So Helpful to Me

Mai mult

God in the Dock: The Apologetics of C. S. Lewis

from Ligonier ministries Tabletalk magazine:

essay by Roger Nicole, professor emeritus of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla., and author of Standing Forth.  There are 2 other essays by Nicole at Ligonier: Christ our righteousness and Dealing with differences.

In modern English the words apology and apologize indicate regret because some statement or action was offensive and wrong. This is not the case for “apologetics” in theology, for that discipline is intended to manifest “a point of view is right.” It is intended for those who differ in order to win them over, or for those who agree in order to confirm them in the truth for which the apologist testifies.

It is in this sense that C.S. Lewis is recognized as an “apologist,” for a number of his works are intended to manifest the adequacy of the Christian outlook over against a “naturalist” position, which asserts that the universe is simply a great material mass functioning in terms of its own mechanism or laws without any possible intervention from the outside and specifically without a creative or governing power of a mind.

You can read the rest of this essay on C S Lewis at Ligonier.org

how God worked through C.S.Lewis ‘Mere Christianity’ for Josh Caterer

Here’s a video of Josh Caterer (former lead singer of the Smokin’ Popes, a rock band who had a contract with Capitol Records) retelling his story of finding God. He is a worship leader today at a big church in Chicagoland, and an example of how God can change the course of our life.

and you can hear him sing ‘I’d rather have Jesus’ in the video below. He has a great voice. and if you like guitar at all, listen to it to the end. This is one of my all time favorites, both the words and the music,especially his guitar playing. It’s fantastic!

It is from his album ‘Why me’

if you like his songs you can listen to some others here:

Why me Lord

When He was on the cross

Green Pastures (has a nice guitar interlude at 1:42)

I know you love me (nice guitar playing-live)

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