Sola Scriptura and Mr. Cs Lewis

csRecently I was studying Galatians 1 with a friend. When I read the verse “if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be eternally condemned!” I openly wondered “Have I ever heard a gospel preached other than the biblical gospel.” I thought this to be certainly true. But moreover I though “Have I ever heard of a very holy, authoritative person- perhaps a saint, preach something that I felt was not in accordance with scripture?”

Recently, my pastor among others is in Chicago for Samuel Lee’s birthday party. To save some effort I will refer to him as “Sam” for the rest of this, mostly because full names are for Roman emperors and criminals. As far as I know he is neither. When I think of the reverence given to Sam the closest comparison in my life has to be Cs Lewis. I wondered openly if I had perhaps given Cs Lewis too much authority as I read that verse in Galatians. I believe that only scripture is authoritative, yet I find I refer to Cs Lewis in many cases more often than the bible. I realized there were some clear similarities between how many view Sam and how I view Cs Lewis. I wondered “Have I ever heard Cs Lewis say something wrong? If I did would I point it out? Or would I just make excuses like people do for other revered leaders.”

Before I answer that I believe it is critical to know how I view Cs Lewis. When I was 8 years old I was assigned a mentor at school to read with me. The school realized that my mother was not reading with me. For the Christmas of 2000 I was given The Magician’s Nephew. We read about half of it before he moved on for whatever reason. When I was a freshman in college I was given a copy of Mere Christianity for my birthday by my roommate. I started reading the book but found it dry and boring. As a junior in college I was struggling greatly in my faith, when that same roommate told me to read a sermon by Cs Lewis called The Weight of Glory (it is available online). That sermon brought me back from nearly losing my faith. If I am not carful I feel myself wanting to assign the reverence that is due to God, to him. Intellectually this seems absurd, but experience proves to me otherwise. To many people who either didn’t have Christ, or had fallen away Cs Lewis has been an instrument of God. But he was also just a man, and men make mistakes. Men do not have the authority of scripture, even the holy ones. I have read every essay of Cs Lewis and nearly his entire volume of Christian writings. In it I have found him to be fallible. It is with great caution (or perhaps pride) that I will now point out the single instance with which I have found disagreement.

There is an essay available online entitled “The World’s Last Night.” In this essay Cs Lewis explains his views on the apocalypse. He starts by addressing people who claim the entire message of Jesus was that of the apocalypse. He states there case as this:

“Say what you like” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, “this generation shall not pass till all these things be done/ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

Cs Lewis goes to call the verse “embarrassing” (I shudder at such a description of the words of Christ)

It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.

Cs Lewis then says that it is unreasonable that this verse would be fabricated because it makes Jesus look bad. Furthermore gives evidence to the accuracy of the gospel. But he has not yet answered the argument. When he does he states that Jesus is ignorant, and says although this may sound bad, we just cannot comprehend it. Let me state that again. Cs Lewis in The World’s Last Night calls the Incarnation of God, the Word made flesh ignorant.

The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man…We are committing [a] blunder whenever we ask how Christ could be at the same moment ignorant and omniscient, or how he could be the God who neither slumbers nor sleeps while he slept.

Cs Lewis appears to have found a problematic passage, but his solution is problematic because this reasoning could be applied all over the place and lead to a non-authoritative word of God. If this statement is true it means revelation is flawed and we cease to have reason to hold scripture as a standard. The consequences of such are dire, at the very least we are trapped by a suicide of our own thoughts. His answer is not only problematic, it is false.  Cs Lewis knew Greek, and I have a hard time believing that he did not know the word “generation” in Greek could also refer to “race”. I am very puzzled how this conclusion was reached. Cs Lewis was not a biblical scholar and likely did not know that Jewish prophesy is often times fulfilled in part, and then in whole. This is called compenetration. This occurs in 2 Samuel 7 and again in Psalms 2 in which a single prophesy refers to both David and the Messiah. It also occurs in Isaiah 8:3 which uses the word almah, which means with young woman or virgin. There it is used to refer to Isaiah’s wife (a young woman) and then later with regards to Mary (a virgin). So an explanation could be that part of this prophesy was fulfilled in part by the end of that generation, and later all the rest. Whatever the case I found myself in opposition to the Christian giant.

All great things come to a point, like swords, and this essay. And my point here is that regardless of the interpretation, I believe I have shown that even amongst the most celebrated of Christian authors and influences we should not think them infallible or above the authority of scripture. The world may be a very different place if people had taken Sam’s teachings under the same scope.


  1. To revere anyone but Christ would border on idolatry and deification. This I think is spot on: “That sermon (The Weight of Glory) brought me back from nearly losing my faith. If I am not carful I feel myself wanting to assign the reverence that is due to God, to him. Intellectually this seems absurd, but experience proves to me otherwise.”

    I think your critique of CS Lewis is helpful. Even if CS Lewis lovers and loyalists may not welcome your critique or the fact that you dared to critique such a towering giant, I think CS Lewis himself can handle your critique.

    • “I think CS Lewis himself can handle your critique.”

      CS Lewis died on November 22, 1963.

      “Recently, my pastor among others is in Chicago for Samuel Lee’s birthday party.”

      SL cannot have a birthday party. He too is dead, in 2002. Why continually speak of dead people in the present tense, as if they could participate in any of this?

    • “…have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (just messin’ with you)

    • forestsfailyou

      My attempt to mock the idea went unnoticed.

    • It’s okay forests, exceptional comedic talents like you and I often go unnoticed…

  2. Darren Gruett

    Ben, to your point, I think C.S. Lewis would agree. Writing in Mere Christianity on the atonement he says, “Such is my own way of looking at what Christians call the Atonement. But remember this is only one more picture. Do not mistake it for the thing itself: and if it does not help you, drop it.” And if you read the introduction to that book you will get a strong sense of his own humility, which is one of the things that makes him so enjoyable to read. Like Forests here, I also love C.S. Lewis, but I do not always agree with what he says; and I am okay with that. And as you implied, I think Lewis himself would be okay with that too.