Sunday, April 29, 2007

A "diehard patrician Anglican"

Carl Trueman at Reformation21 describes C.S. Lewis as "a diehard patrician Anglican." He was indeed an Anglican. "Diehard" would not be the first adjective to spring to my mind. But "patrician"! Does an Oxford accent automatically make one a "patrician"? Was the offspring of a Belfast lawyer a "patrician"? Did Lewis ever convey to anyone that he considered himself a member of the "upper classes"?

Trueman goes on to argue that Evangelical affection for Lewis is possible because we have been able to turn him into one of us — aided by the fact that he is dead and can't object. Of course, it was while Lewis was still very much alive that the fundamentalist Bob Jones remarked that even though "that man" smoked and drank, he believed he was a Christian. While Lewis was still living, his books became enormously popular with Christians of every stripe who appreciated a defender of the orthodox faith.

Trueman then argues that the popularity of Lewis (and John Bunyan) among Evangelicals derives from the "readiness of human beings to read themselves into texts and thus to avoid the challenges that such texts offer to us...."

At least one alternative to that interpretation might be that human beings are capable of taking from a text that which they find important and true. Perhaps that can be done without "making over" Lewis into a contemporary Evangelical. Perhaps even Evangelicals can recognize that some doctrinal issues are central and fundamental, and others, though important, much less so, and profit from what Lewis offers while acknowledging that he was not an Evangelical but an apologist for what he called "mere Christianity."

Trueman's worry that consumerism affects Evangelicals altogether too much is certainly warranted, but Lewis's continued popularity is a good thing, and insofar as Evangelicals are moved to read him, part of the cure, not part of the problem.

Source: Reformation21 »

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