Talk:C. S. Lewis

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Hmmm.... C.S. Lewis as an anonymous Orthodox? Is this because he is used by Orthodox apologists as well as other apologists? I'm not so sure if he would be necessarily Orthodox because he was a Low-Church Anglician (maybe Central) and so the liturgics would probably bother him. But then again, he doesn't necessarily adher to a particular theory of atonement the way that the West does. He also has a sense of santicification as a process involving time and position (I'm thinking of his words: "The bad man repents but the perfect man repents perfectly"). Interesting thought... I wouldn't know how to write it but I hope somebody does =] -Fedya

Many people have raised the question in this way, which was the reason for the heading. He surely had many symoathies with Orthodox Christians, including a love of liturgy. I'm hoping that with time, someone can fill all of this in. N.B. we're not declaring him an anonymous Orthodox, just raising the question of his ties to the East. - Fr. John

Comment by Very Former Anglican

While I am a great fan of C.S. Lewis, I can in no way understand why he should be included in Orthodoxwiki. He was not Orthodox. He was not interested in Orthodoxy. He was Anglican and intensely interested in Anglicanism as well as in Christianity as far as he understood it. He had a typically Western approach to original sin, he seems to have adhered to a form of Cartesian duality (absolute evil pitted against absolute good, but each somehow "needing" the other to exist) - both of which Orthodoxy rejects. It would be a shame if we confused inquirers and they ended up in the Episcopal Church just as it implodes. E.W. Riggs

Hello E.W. - I don't think we need to worry about folks ending up in the Episcopal church. Of course he wasn't Orthodox, but my take on why C.S. Lewis is here is because he is much loved by many Orthodox Christians. Hopefully, in time, this article will highlight his relationship with Orthodoxy and what Orthodox people have said about him, explaining his relevance to Orthodox folks. About the dualism you mentioned, I do think that The Great Divorce shows pretty clearly that he held to a "privative theory of evil" which is basically universal among classicly Christian theologians. He does mention Orthodoxy a number of times in his books. Given his time and place, he didn't enter in very far, but he was evidently quite interested in what he saw. Maybe these passages would be good to include here, to highlight his relationship to the Orthodox Church. - Fr. John

An Anonymous Orthodox?

I appreciate the comments by User:Gavril_Berkowitz and I definitely think they're going in the right direction. Maybe this will help the folks who have voiced some concerns understand why this section is here and why Lewis is included in OrthodoxWiki. I'm mulling over the comments though, and I think they need some balance. The charicature of Roman Catholic teaching is too simple, the characterization of Protestants is too broad, ignoring differences both within and among Protestant churches. I'm also concerned that the comments on hell are not really correct. E.g. according to my understanding of both Lewis and Orthodoxy, hell (i.e. Gehennah, the final state of the damned) is much more than "a state of mind". Although used by some modern Greek theologians (e.g. The River of Fire) to portray a sharp division between Eastern and Western teachings on soteriology and eschatology, Apocatastasis should not simply be taken as classical Orthodox teaching (this was an eccentric view not taught by most of the Fathers. One notable exception is St. Isaac of Ninevah, who was not technically Orthodox anyway), and the idea of divine retribution is absent neither from Holy Scripture nor from the Fathers of the Church (John Chrysostom being a prime - and very mainstream - example). The thesis cited on Lewis' universalism has some problems of it's own that need to be addressed - I do not believe it is a reliable resource in a number of significant ways. I'll try to make some incisive edits to address my own concerns, but in any case I think we're off to a good start with this section. Any comments? Thanks, Fr. John

  • This is Gavvy. I would certainly appreciate you making my discussions of catholic and protestant theology more nuanced, Fr. John. That said, What I am saying about C. S. Lewis is true, and anyone would see it if you move back and forth from MacDonald to Lewis. Although the Orthodox do NOT say that hell is a state of mind, Lewis does explicitly in "The Great Divorce." A hell that is a human state of mind is MUCH MUCH worse than a hell that involves divine punishment, because at least with divine punishment, you have the divine dismantling your old being rather than just self-destructing on your own. God's fires are preferable to our fires. As for Apocatastasis ton panton, it is pretty common among the Greek fathers, Clement, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, Maximos, as well as among modern theologians, Lossky, Bulgakov, etc. God will have the last word. Finally, the Master's Thesis on Lewis is right on the mark, but no doubt could be corrected in places, but I honestly could not tell you where.
Hi Gavvy, it's good to hear from you. Just a couple notes for now: 1. Regarding The Great Divorce and Lewis' theology, there is a problem of genre. Just because something is stated there does not necessaily mean he held to it literally. 2. I'm wary of apocatastasis not only because it was condemned by the church in it's full form in the teachings of Origen, and not only because of it's modern revival since Hans Urs von Balthasar's work Dare we hope for the salvation of all?, and not because I delight in the thought of "eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord" (I Thes 1.9), but chiefly because I don't see how it squares with Holy Scripture. This is why Chrysostom and the less speculative theologians reject it, and I'm convicted to stand with them. I also think that a notion of Orthodoxy which excludes all sense of judgment can only be one-sided -- hence my suspicion of "The River of Fire" kind of stuff. Anyway, that's the thinking that motivated my comments. I'm sure many will disagree with me.
About the thesis, I'll have to read it more carefully, but it struck me as too narrow. The categories in which Lewis' theology was being evaluated were too rigidly informed by Protestant fundamentalism and not really organic to his own thought. I know that doesn't address the specific issues at hand, but hopefully it's a beginning. Fr. John
Gavvy again. I too reject a doctrine of apokatastasis, not only for the reason described by Meyendorff that it was rejected by the 5th EC (because it presupposed a limitation on human freedom to reject divine love) but also because it suggests that we could mount to the summit of infinite divine virtue within time, which is clearly impossible. Thus I regard apokatastasis as an infernal and wicked theory for these two reasons. But I, like St. Clement of Alexandria and Lewis do pray for God's justice and wrath. ;) St. Silouan: "Keep your mind in hell and despair not."
C.S. Lewis is pretty consistent throughout his writings, and Great Divorce is by no means an aberrational view of his. He describes the very same thing in "Problem of Pain," and thus, this understanding of hell is not at all limited to the genre of the fantastic. In his introduction to his Anthology of George MacDonald, he explicitly states that he intended to "spread MacDonald's theology," and to "release a debt of gratitude to MacDonald." Five minutes reading any of MacDonald's 50 books, whether theological, romantic, or fantastic, would teach you that MacDonald's central and only theological vision was that the atonement is properly understood as "Christus Victor" and that penal notions of hell and atonement are anathema. Lewis was 100% in agreement. It was like an fixation for MacDonald (as it can be for many other Orthodox converts from Calvinism such as Frankie Schaefer). Get Kalomiris in a room with MacDonald, Lewis and Schaefer, and they would be best chums, ranting against the Papists and the Calvinists.
Read the thesis again -- I think it is brilliant, although he doesn't quite connect Lewis's vision to Orthodoxy which can easily be done.
As for Scripture, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is a powerful one, and so is Paul's teaching that God is a consuming fire who will shake heaven and earth, with only the unshakeable remaining. Like Kalomiris, I reject penal hell because I cannot believe that human suffering has a value to God. Whether or not there is apokatastasis is an unimportant and boring question after this hurdle is jumped. Punish us, God!
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