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Was C.S. Lewis reformed?

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  • Was C.S. Lewis reformed?

    It seems that Reformed people do not think he is reformed. I think this is based on the Reformed thinking that Lewis over-emphasized freedom: perhaps adhered to libertarian freedom. But tell me what you think of this passage in Surprised by Joy where Lewis talks about his conversion to Theism:

    The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. In a sense. I was going up Headington Hill on the top of a bus. Without words and (I think) almost without images, a fact about myself was somehow presented to me. I became aware that I was holding something at bay, or shutting something out. Or, if you like, that I was wearing some stiff clothing, like corsets, or even a suit of armor, as if I were a lobster. I felt myself being there and then, given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut; I could unbuckle the armor or keep it on. Neither choice was presented as a duty; no threat or promise was attached to either, though I knew that to open the door or to take off the corslet meant the incalculable. The choice appeared to be momentous but it was also strangely unemotional. I was moved by no desires or fears. In a sense I was not moved by anything. I chose to open, to unbuckle, to loosen the rein. I say "I chose," yet it did not really seem possible to do the opposite. On the other hand, I was aware of no motives. You could argue that I was not a free agent, but I am more inclined to think that this came nearer to being a perfectly free act than most that I have ever done. Necessity may not be the opposite of freedom, and perhaps a man is most free when, instead of producing motives, he could only say, "I am what I do." Then came the repercussion on the imaginative level. I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt. The melting was starting in my back — drip-drip and presently trickle-trickle. I rather disliked the feeling.
    You must picture me alone in that room in 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. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
    Now, we've all read this passage, probably more interested in the autobiographical elements instead of the theological ones. But it does seem interesting that Lewis emphasized freedom, but then emphasized God's compulsion, God's approach being contrary to desire. In fact, Lewis seems to endorse compatibilism: we're most free when I am what I do. By implication, if what I am necessitates what I do, then Lewis is right: necessity is not contrary to freedom in this sense, and I think Jonathan Edwards or John Calvin might agree.

    Then, what about Lewis becoming aware of a fact presented to him for which Lewis felt that he could choose? Was this the beginning of the Spirit's effectual call as it manifested itself in Lewis' particular consciousness? Or was this Lewis reacting to Spirit enabled prevenient Grace? The wikipedia entry introduces the concept thus:

    Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Arminian theology.[1] It is divine grace that precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer.
    Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
    George Horne

  • #2
    Was C.S. Lewis reformed?
    How does that matter?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Paprika View Post
      How does that matter?
      It's just out of curiosity: since it seems many of the Reformed think that Lewis not reformed.
      Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
      George Horne

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mattbballman31 View Post
        It's just out of curiosity: since it seems many of the Reformed think that Lewis not reformed.
        Does he speak truth? That's all that matters.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Paprika View Post
          Does he speak truth? That's all that matters.
          Ultimately, I agree. Truth is what matters. The topic that I wanted to open up for discussion isn't an ultimate truth. The topic is whether it is true (if you like) that Lewis can be considered reformed. Whether 'what he said' was true is a topic for a different thread. If you're not interested in the subject of the thread (since it's not talking about whether what Lewis said was true), then please do not contribute.

          Thanks!
          Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
          George Horne

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes, Lewis was Reformed, but not exactly.
            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

            Comment


            • #7
              I'd ask how we are defining the word Reformed first of all. To some people, the word seems to be synonymous with the five points of Calvinism; to others, it refers more or less to Protestantism itself (i.e. the Reformation). Roger Olson, who stridently opposes Calvinism, considers himself Reformed.
              "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

              Comment


              • #8
                Yeah!
                "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                Comment


                • #9
                  I am reformed.
                  βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                  ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                  אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                    I am reformed.
                    God's still working on me.
                    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No agreement yet on what is reformed. I guess Matt has to do the definition or will have.
                      The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                      [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                        I'd ask how we are defining the word Reformed first of all. To some people, the word seems to be synonymous with the five points of Calvinism; to others, it refers more or less to Protestantism itself (i.e. the Reformation). Roger Olson, who stridently opposes Calvinism, considers himself Reformed.
                        Good call. By Reformed, all I was hinting - probably - was their typical understanding of freedom: compatibilism. Specifically, the nature of freedom when one is saved by God.

                        Lewis says:

                        1. He was given a choice.
                        2. He might not have been a free agent.
                        3. Not being free (sense X) meant being more free (sense Y) than he would be otherwise (paradox).
                        4. Necessity and freedom (sense Y?) are not opposed.
                        5. Freedom (sense Y) meant a creature who is what he chooses.
                        6. God's compulsion is our liberation.

                        Many questions arise.

                        a. If according to 1, Lewis was given a choice, in what sense was he not, according to 2, a free agent?
                        b. How does not being a free agent entail being more free if this agent isn't free?
                        c. What are the two senses of 'free' that Lewis is using in question b?
                        d. What does it mean to say, 'I am what I do'?
                        e. How can God compel and yet liberate?
                        f. What type of freedom (sense Y?) is compatible with God's compulsion?

                        Reformed thinkers endorse compatibilism: the thesis that determinism and freedom can logically coexist. Jonathon Edwards seems to have endorsed this. In the entry on Edwards in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, William Wainwright says:

                        The argument from motivation depends upon Edwards' identification of willing or choosing with one's strongest inclination or preference. Since choosing just is a prevailing inclination, it is logically impossible to choose in the absence of a prevailing motive. If there is a prevailing motive, however, then the will is necessarily determined by it, for if the will were to choose contrary to a prevailing motive, the agent would have two opposed preponderant inclinations at the same time. All choices, therefore, are necessarily determined.
                        Lewis admits he wasn't aware of motives, but he does say that when necessity and freedom coexist, it's not that motives are produced that ensure the necessity, it's that he can say, 'I am what I do'. Thus, Lewis and Edwards probably disagree on how they reached compatibilism, but they would both agree with the conclusion. To be fair, Edwards is philosophizing and Lewis is being autobiographical. But Lewis does seem to be teasing out theological points in analyzing his own conversion experience. So, it's probably hard to say what Lewis means by 'I am what I do' (something that deserves more research), but it seems hard to deny that Lewis is endorsing a compatibilism that Reformed Theology would be happy to agree with.

                        As for what I'd call Reformed Theology's total package, one could argue that Lewis would demur. In the chapter on Divine Goodness in his book The Problem of Pain Lewis says on his understanding of Total Depravity:

                        If God's moral judgment differs from ours so that our 'black' may be His 'white', we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say 'God is good', while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say 'God is we know not what'. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) 'good' we shall obey, if at all, only through fear--and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity--when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing--may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.
                        But given Lewis' other remarks (divine compulsion), this could be seen as an element in Unconditional Election. I'll leave the other three petals alone for now.
                        Last edited by mattbballman31; 11-04-2014, 01:56 PM.
                        Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of [this] kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.
                        George Horne

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                          I am reformed.
                          I am redeemed, bought with a price...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mattbballman31 View Post
                            Good call. By Reformed, all I was hinting - probably - was their typical understanding of freedom: compatibilism.
                            To my knowledge, Lewis NEVER ate another human being!





                            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mattbballman31 View Post
                              It seems that Reformed people do not think he is reformed. I think this is based on the Reformed thinking that Lewis over-emphasized freedom: perhaps adhered to libertarian freedom. But tell me what you think of this passage in Surprised by Joy where Lewis talks about his conversion to Theism:





                              Now, we've all read this passage, probably more interested in the autobiographical elements instead of the theological ones. But it does seem interesting that Lewis emphasized freedom, but then emphasized God's compulsion, God's approach being contrary to desire. In fact, Lewis seems to endorse compatibilism: we're most free when I am what I do. By implication, if what I am necessitates what I do, then Lewis is right: necessity is not contrary to freedom in this sense, and I think Jonathan Edwards or John Calvin might agree.

                              Then, what about Lewis becoming aware of a fact presented to him for which Lewis felt that he could choose? Was this the beginning of the Spirit's effectual call as it manifested itself in Lewis' particular consciousness? Or was this Lewis reacting to Spirit enabled prevenient Grace? The wikipedia entry introduces the concept thus:
                              CS Lewis was definitely not reformed in the Calvinistic sense or deterministic sense - but definitely so in the wider protestant sense. The 'free will' spoken of by Edwards is contrary to the free will (LFW) spoken of by CS Lewis. In fact, I believe that the 'free will' spoken of by Edwards is not 'free will' at all.

                              Comment

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