How To DO Apologetics?

*#2 In the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – Pastor David Craig 

The Three Most Common Methods (Means or Ways) of Doing Apologetics

  1. CLASSICAL – Operates in a two or three-step process (philosophical, theistic, and evidential). Working from the vantage point of certain undeniable foundational principles, such as the laws of logic and self-existence, certain philosophical questions are addressed, such as truth, reality, meaning, and morality. Since belief in God as creator is essential for an individual to become a Christian (Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”), the primary goal is to help the unbeliever understand reality untainted by any false assumptions. The second step offers evidence for the existence of God, usually in the form of traditional theistic arguments and empirical data such as manuscript and archaeological evidence. 

(Notes adapted from House and Holden, Charts of Apologetics And Christian Evidences, Chart 8)

  1. EVIDENTIAL-Defends and supports Christianity as factual by applying historical evidence, including archaeological, bibliographical, and experiential evidence as well as rational evidence (philosophical reasoning with no need for empirical support, as when showing logical contradictions in statements). Truth claims of Christianity are believed to be reasonable and highly probable, though most evidentipalists believe there are no indisputable historical facts. Evidentialists use a one-step approach that demonstrates both God’s existence and which variety of theism is true.
  1. PRESUPPOSITIONAL– The presuppositional approach starts by assuming Christian truth about God and Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and reasons from Christianity. The presuppositionalist apologetic to the unbeliever begins by reasoning “from” Christianity through special revelation (Bible). The presuppositionalist assumes the content revealed in Scripture to be true and encourages the unbeliever to do the same since these assumed biblical truths offer the only possible foundation and explanation for life and godliness—a framework on which to make sense of the world and God the way they actually exist. Due to the effects of sin, the unbeliever’s presuppositions are deemed irrational and inadequate to understand or explain the basis for religion, morals, communication, even beauty. In some instances presuppositionalists provide the tools for one to make sense of reality and show that Christianity offers the only foundation and framework on which to make sense of the world and God.

Criticisms of The Three Views:

(1) CLASSICAL – Overemphasis on reason appears to make an infinite God subject to logic and finite human reason, thus devaluing Christianity. God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts therefore man should not try to intellectual comprehend Him (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The Classical Response to This Criticism: God is not subject to our logic or finite human reason; only man’s theories and propositions about Him need to be tested by the rules of thought. Though God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our finite reason, they are not contrary to reason (Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” ; 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.”

Primary Exponents of Classical Apologetics:

Augustine of Hippo (Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, 354 – 430 AD), also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.

Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. Major writings: On Being and Essence; The Principles of Nature; Summa contra gentiles; Summa theologiae.

C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) was a Irish writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

R.C. Sproul (February 13, 1939 – December 14, 2017) was an American Reformed theologian and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. He was the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries (named for the Ligonier Valley just outside Pittsburgh, where the ministry started as a study center for college and seminary students) and could be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally. Under Sproul’s direction, Ligonier Ministries produced the Ligonier Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which would eventually grow into the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, of which Sproul, alongside Norman Geisler, was one of the chief architects.Sproul has been described as “the greatest and most influential proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the last century.” Some of His Most Important writings are: *The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Classical Apologetics; *Reason To Believe; *Defending Your Faith; Knowing Scripture; Essential Truths of the Christian Faith; Pleasing God; Enjoying God; Willing to Believe; The Work of Christ; Now, That’s A Good Question!; Faith Alone; Getting the Gospel Right; If There’s A God Why Are There Atheists?; The Glory of Christ; Not A Chance; God’s Love; The Consequences of Ideas; Does God Exist? ; What is Repentance?

Norman L. Geisler (1932 – 2019) was an American Christian systematic theologian and philosopher. He was the co-founder of two non-denominational evangelical seminaries (Veritas International University and Southern Evangelical Seminary). He held a Ph.D. in philosophy from Loyola University and made scholarly contributions to the subjects of classical Christian apologetics, systematic theology, the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Biblical inerrancy, Bible difficulties, ethics, and more. He was the author, coauthor, or editor of over 90 booksand hundreds of articles. His most notable writings: *I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist; *Christian Apologetics; Christian Ethics; Apologetics in the New Age; The Big Book of Bible Difficulties; Introduction to Philosophy; Come Let Us Reason; Twelve Points That Show Christianity is True; Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.

William Lane Craig(born August 23, 1949) is an American analytic philosopher[5] and Christian theologian, apologist, and author.He is Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). His Notable Writings include: *Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics; The Kalām Cosmological Argument; *On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision; Hard Questions, Real Answers; The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus; Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Learning Logic.

J.P. Moreland (born March 9, 1948), is an American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California. His Major Writings consist of: *Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters; Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology; Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality; Body & Soul: Human Nature the Crisis in Ethics; The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith; Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique; Christianity and the Nature of Science; Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument; *Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul; The God Question; Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions; The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism; The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering The Disciplines of The Good Life; In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God; Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power; Does God Exist? A Debate with Kai Nielsen.

Tim Keller (born September 23, 1950) is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the Chairman and co-Founder of Redeemer City to City, which trains pastors for ministry in global cities. He is also the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York, and the author of The New York Times bestselling books *The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (2008),Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (2014),and *The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (2008).The prequel for the latter is *Making Sense of GOD: An Invitation to the Skeptical (2016).

(2) EVIDENTIAL– Empirical evidences are interpreted through presuppositions and the framework of one’s worldview and therefore should be offered after the philosophical considerations have been addressed.

The Evidential Response to This Criticism: Evidence is not necessarily presented as self-evident conclusive verification; rather it gives good reason and high probability for one to conclude that the truths of Christianity are consistent with the facts. Many philosophical arguments, such as those offered to demonstrate God’s existence (e.g., cosmological and theological arguments) present premises which must be supported by empirical evidence.

Primary Exponents of Evidential Apologetics:

William Paley (1743 – 1805) was an English clergyman, Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. Major writings: Natural Theology; and *Evidences of Christianity.

Edward John Carnell (1919 – 1967) was a prominent Christian theologian and apologist, was an ordained Baptist pastor, and served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Major Writings: *An Introduction to Christian Apologetics; The Case For Biblical Christianity; The Case for Orthodox Theology; Christian Commitment: An Apologetic; A Philosophy of the Christian Religion.

John Warwick Montgomery (born October 18, 1931) is a lawyer, professor, Lutheran theologian, and author living in France. He was born in Warsaw, New York, United States. Since 2014, he has been Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Wisconsin,and continues to work as a barrister specializing in religious freedom cases in international Human Rights law.Major Writings: Defending the Faith in a Messy World: A Christian Apologetics Primer; *Always Be Ready: A Primer on Defending the Christian Faith; *Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics; History and Christianity; Evidence for Faith; How Do We Know There Is a God?; Christianity for the Tough Minded; Where Is History Going?

Josh McDowell (born August 17, 1939) is an evangelical apologist and evangelist.He is the author or co-author of over 150 books. His book Evidence That Demands a Verdict was ranked 13th in Christianity Today‘s list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II. Major Writings: *More Than a Carpenter; *Evidence That Demands a Verdict; God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture; The Unshakable Truth; Evidence for The Resurrection.

Lee Strobel (born January 25, 1952) is an American Christian author and a former investigative journalist (Legal Editor of the Chicago Tribune). He has written several books, including four which received ECPA Christian Book Awards (1994, 1999, 2001, 2005)and a series which addresses challenges to the veracity of Christianity.He also hosted a television program called Faith Under Fire on PAX TVand runs a video apologetics web site. Strobel has been interviewed on numerous national television programs, including ABC’s 20/20, Fox News, and CNN. Notable Writings: *The Case for Christ; *The Case for a Creator; The Case for Faith; The Case for Miracles; The Case for Grace; The Case for Hope; God’s Outrageous Claims; In Defense of Jesus.

J. Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including *Cold-Case Christianity, *God’s Crime Scene, and *Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels. He has been featured as a cold case homicide expert on Fox 11 Los Angeles, truTV (formerly Court TV), and NBC.

(3) PRESUPPOSITIONAL– Presupposing the truth of Christian theism is arguing in a circle and lacks a basis to justify its assumptions as to why one should presuppose Christianity. The apostle Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20) since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that have been made” (nature). Therefore, the unbeliever’s problem is not one of not understanding the truth of God, but of suppression which leads to not receiving the truth.

The Presuppositional Response to This Criticism: The Presuppositional basis is not circular since its argument is transcendental, which demonstrates that proof is possible only because of God’s existence.

Primary Exponents of Presuppositional Apologetics: 

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) Abraham Kuijper, publicly known as Abraham Kuyper, was Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential neo-Calvinist theologian and also a journalist. His most influential writings: Lectures on Calvinism; *Common Grace; Pro Rege; The Work of The Holy Spirit.

Herman Bavinck (Born in1854, Hoogeveen, Drenthe – July 1921, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and churchman. He was a significant scholar in the Calvinist tradition, alongside Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield. His most influential writings: Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volumes); *Christian Worldview; Reformed Ethics; Our Reasonable Faith; Saved By Grace.

Cornelius Van Til (May 3, 1895 – April 17, 1987)  was a Dutch-American Christian philosopher and Reformed theologian, who is credited as being the originator of modern presuppositional apologetics – a Professor for many years at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His most influential writings: *Christian Apologetics; The Defense of the Faith; An Introduction to Systematic Theology; Christian Theistic Evidences; Common Grace And The Gospel; Why I Believe In God.

Gordon Clark (August 31, 1902 – April 9, 1985) was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years.  His most influential writings: Logic; Predestination; God and Evil; An Introduction to Christian Philosophy; Religion, Reason, and Revelation; *Christian View of Men and Things; The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God.

Greg Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an American Calvinist philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full-time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS).   His most influential writings: *Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith; Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; Van Til’s Apologetic.

John M. Frame (born April 8, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American Christian philosopher and Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics. His most influential writings: *Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief; Christianity Considered: A Guide For Skeptics and SeekersCornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought; Systematic Theology; The Doctrine of God; The Doctrine of the Christian Life; The Doctrine of the Word of God; The Doctrine of the Knowledge of GodA History of Western Philosophy and Theology; Theology in Three Dimensions; We Are All Philosophers; Nature’s Case for God; *No Other God; Salvation Belongs to the Lord.

RESOURCES COMPARING APOLOGETICS METHODOLOGY

Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005

Gordon R. Lewis. Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics. Chicago: Moody Press, 1977. (Unfortunately Out of Print)

Brian K. Morely. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015

Contributors: William Lane Craig (Classical), Gary R. Habermas (Evidentialist), John M. Frame (Presuppositional), Kelly James Clark (Reformed Epistemolgy), Paul D, Feinberg (Cumulative Case). Five Views of Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

EVIDENTIAL VERSUS PRESUPPOSITIONAL APOLOGETICS

These two systems of apologetics are mutually exclusive approaches, whereas the other systems are complementary approaches, often borrowing from each other’s methodology. Evidentialism reasons for or to Christian truths; presuppositionalism reasons from Christian truths.


EVIDENTIALPRESUPPOSITIONAL
Nature of ManDepravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), but not rendering mankind’s faculties  unresponsive to GodDepravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), it is intensive (rendering every human faculty unresponsive to God
Image of GodDamaged in manDamaged in man
Spiritual DeathLikened to “sickness,” “blindness,” and “impurity”Likened to a corpse
Unregenerate MindAble to perceive spiritual truthUnable to perceive spiritual truth
Unregenerate WillAble to receive salvation only through the Holy SpiritAble to receive salvation only through the Holy Spirit
Nature of LogicApplies to all reality, finite and infiniteApplies only to finite reality; infinite reality is beyond logic
Apologetics and EvnagelismSees a distinctionSees no distinction
Purpose of ApologeticsTo present evidence to the unbeliever and to persuade through logical evidenceTo defend the Christian faith, while recognizing no common ground with the unbeliever
Value of Apologetics to the UnbelieverTo give evidence and reasons for faithNone
Value of Apologetics to the BelieverTo confirm in the faith and render faith credible to the unbelieverTo confirm in the faith

*Another Great Apologist who is hard to categorize would be Ravi Zacharias:

Ravi Zacharias (March 26, 1946 – May 19, 2020) was an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist.Zacharias was the author of more than 30 books on Christianity,including *Can Man Live Without God?; Beyond Opinion; The End of Reason; The Real Face of Atheism; Deliver Us From Evil; Has Christianity Failed You?

*You can watch the Lecture by Pastor David Craig on YouTube and Subscribe to the Valley Baptist Baptist San Rafael Channel; there are also many sermons available as well. See you there!

What Is Apologetics?

*#1 in the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe by Pastor David Craig 

“When I find something in my faith difficult to believe, it often helps to consider how the alternative is *more* difficult to believe.” ~ Gavin Ortlund

What Is Apologetics? (Some Definitions)

“The discipline that offers an apology, or defense, of Christianity. Apologetics (from Gk. apologia, ‘defense’) both defends the Christian faith from its detractors and clarifies misunderstandings of it. In the early church, the apologists wrote to Roman elders who were persecuting the church and argued the case that Christians should not be punished or killed, because they were doing nothing wrong. They also clarified misunderstandings such as charges that Christians were atheists, cannibals, and committers of incest. Apologetics deals with arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of Scripture, evidence for the resurrection, the problem of evil, and more.” ~ Greg R. Allison, The Compact Dictionary Of Theological Terms, Kindle Loc. 269

“Apologetics, in its most basic form, is the practice of offering an appeal and a defense for the Christian faith. In other words, apologetics, through word and deed, answers both why a person can believe (defense) and why a person should believe (appeal). The goal of apologetics is to clear away the debris of doubt and skepticism in order to make a path for the gospel to be heard.” ~ Joshua D. Chawtraw and Mark D. Allen, Apologetics At The Cross, p. 17.

“Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity.” ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“Apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct ways. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g. the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. The apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purpose is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these.”  ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“That branch of Christian theology that has as its aim the reasoned advocacy of the Christian faith. It includes both positive arguments for the truth of Christianity and rebuttals of criticisms leveled at it.” ~ Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary Of Christian Theology, p. 14

“Apologetics is the branch of theology that offers a rational defense for the truthfulness of the divine origin and authority of Christianity, In the classic sense of the word, ‘apologetics’ derives its meaning from the Greek word apologia, which means ‘defense.’ A judicial term, it describes the way a lawyer deliberately and rationally presents a verbal defense of a particular claim. Or, more precisely, apologetics is to ‘speak away’ (apo = away, from; logia = speech, word) the charge brought against an individual (Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16).” ~ H. Wayne House & Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and Christian Evidences

“(Gr. apologetikos, ‘suitable for defense’) The endeavor to provide a reasoned account of the grounds for believing in the Christian faith.” ~ Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms 

“Apologetics provides well-reasoned evidences that empower nonbelievers to choose Christianity rather than any other religion. Apologetics can be used to show the unbeliever that all the other options in the smorgasbord of world religions are not really options at all because they are false. Apologetics can remove mental roadblocks that prevent nonbelievers from responding to the gospel. Apologetics not only provides a defense for the faith but also provides security to Christians. Believers can be sure their faith is not a blind leap into a dark chasm, but rather an intelligent decision founded on fact. Apologetics does not replace faith; it grounds our faith…Apologetics demonstrates why we believe and what we believe.” ~ Ron Rhodes, 5-Minute Apologetics Today, p. 12.

“Christian apologetics is simply the presentation of a case for biblical truth, most notably the central truth of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior. But a richer, more relational and more humble definition must include the central concern of apologetics: Christian apologetics lays before the watching world such a winsome embodiment of the Christian faith that for any and all who are willing to observe there will be an intellectually and emotionally credible witness to its fundamental truth. The success of any given apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts but whether it is faithful to Jesus.” ~ James Sire, A Little Primer On Humble Apologetics, Kindle, Loc. 197)

Two Aspects of Apologetics

Within the task of defending the faith there emerge at least two distinct aspects. (1) The destructive or defensive aspect The destructive or defensive aspect seeks to “dismantle” or explain away arguments against Christianity.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

[Paul addressing overseers/elders/pastors in the church] “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” ~ Titus 1:9-11

(2) The creative or offensive aspect offers evidence and proofs to support arguments for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and just before his ascension to heaven] “He presented himself to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” ~ Acts 1:3

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection] See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” ~ Luke 24;39

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” ~ Romans 1:19-20

The Ancient Use of Apologetics

In secular society, the use of apologetics as a defense against the attack occurred as early as the 5th century BC when Socrates presented his own defense before an Athenian court, which was later chronicled by his student Greek philosopher Plato in The Apology. During the 1st century AD, Josephus offered an apologetic on the ancient origin of the Jewish religion in his Against Apion (AD 93-95). In the early years of the church, Justin Martyr (100-167) and Tertullian (155-235) are recognized as apologists through their writings—First Apology and Second Apology by Martyr and Apologeticum by Tertullian. Among  other apologists were Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus. Their main task, as Christianity sought to gain acceptance as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, was to defend Christianity against attacks from within the Roman philosophical society and pagan religious culture. Irenaeus (AD 130-202) defended the faith (Against Heresies, AD 180) against Gnostic ideas that emanated from within the church.

The Biblical Use of Apologetics

The principal Scripture for describing and advocating apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

A few examples from the Scriptures (there are many more):

  1. Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 in order to demonstrate Yahweh as the Most High God;
  2. God giving Moses evidence that God would speak through him in Exodus 4;
  3. Stephen giving a defense of the faith before his persecutors in Acts 7;
  4. Paul arguing for his faith before kings, magistrates, and philosophers in Acts 17 and 22;
  5. Paul and Barnabas gave evidence for God and said that idolatry was worthless in Acts 14:6-20;
  6. Jesus defending His claims and challenges of the Pharisees and Sadducees ( Matthew 22:34-46; John 5).

How About You?

What are five of the most important “Whats” you believe and “Why” do you believe them?

Examples:

What is the meaning of my life?

What is the essence of God?

What is the essence of humanity?

What are the reasons I believe what I believe about anything?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why I am I a Christian and not… (an atheist, mormon, muslim, etc.)

Why do I believe there is a God?

Why should anyone believe what I believe? 

Next Step:

Write down your top 5 What’s and Why’s and come up with an apologetic for each!

*You can subscribe to the Valley Baptist Church San Rafael Channel on YouTube to watch the lecture for this video as well as sermons from Dr. David P. Craig.

Ten Key Ideas from C.S. Lewis’s Works

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(Adapted from C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction by James Como, Box 2)

These are central to Lewis’s  thinking: many of his arguments are based upon them and they were central to his life. Omitted are orthodox Christian ideas (e.g., the incarnation), as well as political ones (e.g., the danger of fetishizing equality: ‘I’m as good as you’):

  1. Joy (Sehnsucht): is a longing conveyed by some image or memory or event that does not originate in any of those but comes through them. It is from a place beyond the senses and kindles a hope that there is Heaven, that Heaven is our home, and that we will return there. It is painful because nothing in the world can satisfy it, no matter how hard we may try to do so; it is sweetly painful because we can intuit its origin and our destiny.
  2. Contemplation and Enjoyment (or At/Along), or knowing from the outside and from the inside, where a phenomenon (such as religious belief or being in love) may seem very different. We need both.
  3. Chronological snobbery: is the uncritical acceptance of our own intellectual climate, as though past beliefs or practices are useless simply because they came before us. A corollary is that our belief in progress is misplaced: we must ask what it is we are ‘progressing’ towards.
  4. Subjectivism is poisonous: because it leads to an exaltation of the Self, a form of idolatry, especially when applied to morality, as when something is deemed good because it feels good.
  5. Reason is objectively valid: and, though one’s logic may be flawed in any given case, is a sign of our non-material nature: atoms moving randomly in our brains is not thought. It is the ‘organ of truth’.
  6. Morality is objective: outside of any personal preference or perception and accessible to Reason. To be subjective respecting this Natural Law (the Tao) is to submit to those who have the power, especially the technological power, to enforce their preferences, leading to ‘the abolition of man’. It merits obedience.
  7. Imagination: especially when realized as metaphor, symbol, and myth, is the ‘organ of meaning’, antecedent to truth. It helps extend language without distorting or destroying it (‘verbicide’).
  8. Quiddity: is the ‘thingness’ of a thing, be it food, weather, or a person. We must pay attention to things as they are, name them appropriately, and respond ordinately to them.
  9. Personhood: is not at all the same as ‘personality’, the expression of which ought not to be one’s goal; rather we should apply the Law of Inattention, allowing us to pay attention to all sorts of signs outside of the Self, especially to other people. What am I feeling? matters less than What is that? After all, ‘feelings come and go, mostly they go’.
  10. Ultimate Reality: is not the plane of existence we occupy, which is but a ‘shadowland’, a sort of training camp for the realist thing. That solid place sends signs (e.g., Joy) and, because it is so much richer than our shadowland, must clothe those signs in words and objects that already have ordinary meaning to us (like erotic imagery symbolizing religious devotion). That is how sacramentalism works: a higher reality is transposed into a more limited key having ‘notes’ we recognize as ordinary.

About The Author: James T. Como holds a Ph.D. in Language, Literature, and Rhetoric from Columbia University and is now Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric and Public Communication at York College (CUNY). A founding member of the New York C. S. Lewis Society (1969), Dr. Como’s books include Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis, a study of Lewis as a rhetorician, and Remembering C. S. Lewis. These, along with his many articles on Lewis in journals including The Wilson Quarterly and The New Criterion, and on-air commentary for five biographical documentaries, have established Dr. Como as one of the most highly-regarded Lewis scholars in the world. The Ten Key Ideas above are from his outstanding Introduction to C.S. Lewis in the series of books “A Very Short Introduction” published by Oxford University Press.

*C.S. Lewis and 8 Reasons for Believing in Objective Morality

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The cornerstone of the moral argument is the existence of an objective moral standard. If there really is a standard of right and wrong that holds true regardless of our opinions and emotions, then the moral argument has the ability to convince. However, apart from the existence of such an objective standard, moral arguments for God’s existence (and Christian theism) quickly lose their persuasive power and morality as a whole falls to the realm of subjective preference. Although I could say a fair amount about what the world would be like if morality really was a matter of preference (consider The Purge), the purpose of this article is to provide reasons for believing in objective morality (or “moral realism,” as philosophers call it).

Because of his continued focus on the objective nature of morality throughout his writings, and due to his unique ability to communicate and defend this concept in a clear and compelling manner, I will rely heavily on the thought of C. S. Lewis below. As I’ve read through a number of Lewis’s books, I’ve identified eight arguments he raises in favor of objective morality. Below is my attempt to list these eight arguments and offer a few thoughts of my own concerning each.

1)    Quarreling between two or more individuals. [1] When quarreling occurs, individuals assume there is an objective standard of right and wrong, of which each person is aware and one has broken. Why quarrel if no objective standard exists? 

By definition, quarreling (or arguing) involves trying to show another person that he is in the wrong. And as Lewis indicates, there is no point in trying to do that unless there is some sort of agreement as to what right and wrong actually are, just like there is no sense in saying a football player has committed a foul if there is no agreement about the rules of football. [2]

2)    It’s obvious that an objective moral standard exists. [3] Throughout history, mankind has generally agreed that “the human idea of decent behavior [is] obvious to everyone.” [4] For example, it’s obvious (or self-evident) that torturing a child for fun is morally reprehensible. 

As the father of two children, a daughter who is five and a son who is three, I have noticed that even my young children recognize that certain things are obviously right or wrong. For example, while watching a show like PJ Masks, my children can easily point out the good characters as well as the bad ones – even without my help. In short, the overwhelming obviousness that certain acts are clearly right or wrong indicates that an objective moral standard exists.

3)    Mistreatment. [5] One might say he does not believe in objective morality, however, the moment he is mistreated he will react as if such a standard exists. When one denies the existence of an objective standard of behavior, the moment he is mistreated, “he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair!’ before you can say Jack Robinson.” [6] 

Sean McDowell relays an example of this when he shares a story involving J. P. Moreland taking the stereo of a University of Vermont student who denied the existence of objective morality in favor of moral relativism. As Moreland was sharing the gospel with the university student, the student responded by saying he (Moreland) couldn’t force his views on others because “everything is relative.” Following this claim, in an effort to reveal what the student really believed about moral issues, Moreland picked up the student’s stereo from his dorm room and began to walk down the hallway, when the student suddenly shouted, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that!” [7] 

Again, one might deny the existence of an objective standard of behavior through his words or actions, but he will always reveal what he really believes through his reactions when mistreated. (Note: Here at moralapologetics.com, we do not recommend you go around and mistreat others, as that wouldn’t be a moral way to do apologetics. See what I did there? Rather, we are simply bringing up the mistreatment issue as a way of exposing a deep flaw within moral relativism.)

4)    Measuring value systems. [8] When an individual states that one value system is better than another, or attempts to replace a particular value system with a better one, he assumes there is an objective standard of judgment. This objective standard of judgment, which is different from either value system, helps one conclude that one value system conforms more closely to the moral standard than another. Without some sort of objective measuring stick for value systems, there is no way to conclude that civilized morality, where humans treat one another with dignity and respect, is better than savage morality, where humans brutally murder others, even within their own tribe at times, for various reasons. 

To illustrate this point, Lewis says, “The reason why your idea of New York can be truer or less true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what either of us thinks. If when each of us said ‘New York’ each means merely ‘The town I am imagining in my own head,’ how could one of us have truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all.” [9] In the same way, if there is no objective moral standard, then there is no sense in saying that any one value system has ever been morally good or morally bad, or morally superior or inferior to other value systems. 

5)    Attempting to improve morally. [10] Certainly, countless individuals attempt to improve themselves morally on a daily basis. No sane person wakes up and declares, “My goal is to become more immoral today!” [11] If there is no absolute standard of good which exists, then talk of moral improvement is nonsensical and actual moral progress is impossible. If no ultimate standard of right and wrong exists, then one might change his actions, but he can never improve his morality.

If there is hope of moral improvement, then there must be some sort of absolute standard of good that exists above and outside the process of improvement. In other words, there must be a target for humans to aim their moral efforts at and also a ruler by which to measure moral progress. Without an objective moral standard of behavior, then “[t]here is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ – it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’” [12]  

6)    Reasoning over moral issues. [13] When men reason over moral issues, it is assumed there is an objective standard of right and wrong. If there is no objective standard, then reasoning over moral issues is on the same level as one arguing with his friends about the best flavor of ice cream at the local parlor (“I prefer this” and “I don’t like that”). In short, a world where morality is a matter of preference makes it impossible to have meaningful conversations over issues like adultery, sexuality, abortion, immigration, drugs, bullying, stealing, and so on.

7)    Feeling a sense of obligation over moral matters. [14] The words “ought” and “ought not” imply the existence of an objective moral law that mankind recognizes and feels obligated to follow. Virtually all humans would agree that one ought to try to save the life of a drowning child and that one ought not kill innocent people for sheer entertainment. It is also perfectly intelligible to believe that humans are morally obligated to possess (or acquire) traits such as compassion, mercifulness, generosity, and courage. [15]

8)    Making excuses for not behaving appropriately. [16] If one does not believe in an objective standard of behavior, then why should he become anxious to make excuses for how he behaved in a given circumstance? Why doesn’t he just go on with his life without defending himself? After all, a man doesn’t have to defend himself if there is no standard for him to fall short of or altogether break. Lewis maintains, “The truth is, we believe in decency so much – we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so – that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.” [17] 

Although the eight reasons provided above do not cover all of the reasons for believing in objective morality, it is a starting point nonetheless. If any of the reasons above for believing in objective morality are valid, then the moral argument for God’s existence (and Christian theism) has the ability to get off the ground. In fact, if there are any good reasons (in this article or beyond it) for believing in an objective moral standard, then I think God’s existence becomes the best possible explanation for morality since such a standard at the least requires a transcendent, good, and personal source – which sounds a lot like the God of Christian theism.

        FOOTNOTES

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 3.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid. In the appendix section of The Abolition of Man, Lewis provides a list that illustrates the points of agreement amongst various civilizations throughout history. See C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 83-101.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sean McDowell, Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006), 45-46.

[8] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 43, 73. Also see Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13.

[9] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13-14.

[10] C. S. Lewis, “Evil and God,” in God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014), 3-4.

[11] Even if someone’s goal is to become more immoral, he still needs an objective standard to measure the level of his badness.

[12] Ibid.

[13] C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 54.

[14] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 10.

[15] C. Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), 2-3.

[16] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 8.

[17] Ibid.

*About the Author: Stephen S. Jordan currently serves as a high school Bible teacher at Liberty Christian Academy. He is also a Bible teacher, curriculum developer, and curriculum editor at Liberty University Online Academy, as well as a PhD student at Liberty University. He and his wife, along with their two children and German shepherd, reside in Goode, Virginia. This article first appeared on January 18, 2019 at moral apologetics.com

 

C.S. Lewis On Wanting Heaven NOW!!!

Is It Wrong to Want Heaven Now? By C.S. Lewis

lewis C.S. writing in his study

We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.

(Lewis, C. S. A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 357). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from The Problem of Pain).

 Aim At Heaven

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 358). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from Mere Christianity).

WHY C.S. LEWIS NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE

By Aaron Cline Hanbury

The author’s death barely made headlines 50 years ago when he died on the same day as JFK and Aldous Huxley. But today, his writings are more relevant than ever.

Wikimedia Commons; AP

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of a bizarre day in history. Three men of significant importance each died on November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy, author Aldous Huxley, and author and scholar C.S. Lewis.

On that day, the developed world (appropriately) halted at the news of the assassination of the United States’ 35th president. The front page of The New York Times on Saturday morning, the day after the tragic shooting, read, “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as he Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn in on Plane,” and virtually every other news service around the world ran similar coverage and developed these stories for days and weeks following.

Huxley’s death, meanwhile, made the front page of The New York Times the day after Kennedy’s coverage began. The English-born writer spent his final hours in Los Angeles, high on LSD. His wife, Laura, administered the psychedelic drug during the writer’s final day battling cancer, honoring his wishes to prepare for death like the characters in his novels Eyeless in Gazaand Island. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a haunting futuristic world where a sovereign, global government harvests its tightly controlled social order in glass jars; the Times obituary writer declared that Huxley’s well-known book “set a model for writers of his generation.”

The news of Lewis’s death, though, didn’t appear in print until Nov. 25, and it appeared in the normal obituary section of The New York Times weekday paper. At an earlier point in his life, Lewis enjoyed vibrant community with family, friends, and colleagues displayed famously in his writers’ club, the Inklings—which included, among others, J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time Lewis died, however, many of those relationships had fizzled out, and only a handful people even knew about Lewis’s funeral in time to attend. In one of the new biographies of Lewis by Alister McGrath (the now-definitive C.S. Lewis: A Life), the writer lists eight attendees, and assumes others, at the funeral for Lewis. No immediate family members were present—his brother, Warnie, stayed in bed, too drunk and distraught to venture to the ceremony. Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham, represented the family at the understated memorial.

But amid all of the attention to these three men during the past year—new biographiesfilmsconferencesmagazinesarticles—the legacy of Lewis stands out in relation to both those of the 35th U.S. president and of the prescient Brave New World author.

As Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. puts it in Publishers Weekly, “While Huxley is now largely forgotten and Kennedy remains a symbol of lost promise, Lewis lives on through his novels, stories, essays, and autobiographical works.” While I think that oversimplifies Kennedy and underestimates Huxley, the underlying point is worth considering: In one of the great ironies of history, Lewis at his death received less attention than Huxley, and far less than Kennedy. But it may be true that Lewis’s ideas claim the most lasting influence, both on the Christian tradition and on the Western culture beyond.

***

Lewis helped Tolkien finish perhaps the best work of literature from the century, ‘The Lord of the Rings’; another biographer suggests the Harry Potter series is kind of homage to the Narnia stories.

Lewis, a native of Belfast, Ireland, taught English literature at Oxford and Cambridge during the middle of the 20th century. Beginning in his teenage years and up through his early career, he was an atheist—but an uncomfortable one. In 1931, he became convinced that the Christian faith was more than a series of rational deductions; that it offered him a narrative that not only answered intellectual questions, but also satisfied his spiritual longings—what he described as the “god-sized hole” in his life. From that point on, he dedicated a significant portion of his energies to this idea that Christianity transcends facts and experience—Lewis believed Christianity wedded facts and experience in a deeper logical and emotional reality.

Lewis’s writing flowed in three streams: scholarly works, defenses of the Christian faith, and fiction. His canon, in addition to hundreds of essays and short writings, consists of more than 30 books, including widely celebrated criticisms on English literature and widely read works of fiction, poetry, and children’s stories. Today, several of these titles are familiar even to those with only a cursory interest in literature—such as the Chronicles of Narnia (which includes 1950’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), 1956’s Till We Have Faces, 1952’s Mere Christianity, and 1942’s The Screwtape Letters.

Just about any list of the best Christian books in the English language, of course, will include at least one Lewis title. In fact, when Christianity Today magazine asked more than 100 Christian writers and leaders to rank the most influential religious books of the 20th century, they named Lewis’s Mere Christianity No. 1 by far—which explains why readers have purchased the around 18 million copies of the book. And Harper Collins, which distributed some 10 million in unit sales since it acquired the rights to most of Lewis’s titles in 2001, reports more than 150,000 copies of Mere Christianity sold in the past year.

But even those numbers seem small compared to the more than 100 million copies (in at least 30 different languages) of The Chronicles of Narnia series sold.

And Lewis’s stories seem just as comfortable in Hollywood as they are in a corner bookstore. In recent years, three stories of the Chronicles of Narnia appeared as major film adaptations, with a fourth in development. And other films based on his life and works have materialized, too—such as Shadowlands, which casts Anthony Hopkins as Lewis and tells the story of his marriage to Joy Davidman, and a forthcoming film version of The Great Divorce, currently in the development stage.

Lewis narratives both answer intellectual questions and satisfy spiritual longings; he demonstrates the importance of images and stories without forgetting the necessity of reasoned, coherent belief.

Lewis’s works also appear onstage: Shadowlands began as television film and later turned into a play, and the theater production of The Screwtape Letters will continue its current tour in California later this month.

Traces of Lewis even appear in the works of other writers. Most significantly, he helped Tolkien finish perhaps the best work of English literature from the century, The Lord of the Rings; McGrath calls Lewis the “chief midwife” to the stories. Another biographer suggests that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series includes seven volumes as a kind of homage to the Narnia stories. Rowling’s character Dudley sounds and acts like Lewis’s Eustace Scrubb (from the Chronicles of Narnia series), and in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Rowling said she found herself “thinking about the wardrobe route to Narnia when Harry is told he has to hurl himself at a barrier in Kings Cross Station.” Lewis’s work also shapes, axiomatically, the stories of Christian writers like N.D. Wilson (also the screenwriter for The Great Divorce adaptation) and Andrew Peterson, and has also influenced writers like Lloyd Alexander—who said, “In our times, every fantasy realm must be measured in comparison with Narnia.”

***

One of the few men who did attend Lewis’s funeral was the English theologian and philosopher Austin Farrer. In his eulogy that day, Farrer effectively described the combination of logic and emotion—of fact and imagination, of prose and poetry—that made Lewis’s writings resonate with many demographics of readers: Farrer said, “There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader at home.” In other words, readers found—and still find—that Lewis narratives both answer intellectual questions and satisfy spiritual longings; Lewis demonstrates the importance of images and stories for the life of faith, without forgetting the necessity of reasoned, coherent belief, as well.

But Lewis’s appeal clearly reaches further than his Christian audience and draws appreciation from adherents of other faiths and the non-religious. There’s a profound reason for that. As the flamboyant, avant garde theater critic Kenneth Tynan, a proud proponent of amorality, wrote in his diary after reading Lewis’s novels, “How thrilling he makes goodness seem—how tangible and radiant!” And after reading a work of nonfiction, he wrote, “C.S.L. works as potently as ever on my imagination.”

In a culture that views the world more as charcoal than black-and-white, Lewis’s vision of the world speaks to a whole new mind of the 21st century as well as his native 20th.

In honor of his achievements as a writer, officials of Westminster Abbey announced last month that they will honor Lewis in the prestigious Poets’ Corner alongside literary figures such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens. The memorial stone displays Lewis’ famous summary of his faith: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else.”

This vision for a Christian lens to the world permeates Lewis’s stories, because, for him, the best stories hinted at the deep structures of reality, helping humanity in the journey for truth and significance. Good stories point to an ultimate story. And as Farrer—but few else—might have predicted, Lewis appears more relevant today than ever.

Lewis’s writings still often show up in both religious and secular conversations. As recently as last week, writers for The Atlantic recalled Lewis while analyzing contemporary, mainstream works of fiction: One writer invoked Lewis while in a critique of Disney’s Frozen, and another used Lewis’s The Four Loves to make a positive case for the film Love Actually. We live in a culture that views the world more as charcoal than black-and-white—a culture that prefers the mixed-motive, quasi-heroes in 2010’s True Grit to the good-guy-bad-guy figures in 1969’s version; a culture that prefers the more experiential, sensitive atheism of Slavoj Zizek to the cold, laboratory atheism of Richard Dawkins. But Lewis’s vision of the world still resonates in the 21st century as well as it did in his native 20th.

***

Like all good stories, Lewis’s includes an antagonist of sorts, or at least an opposing moral force: Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy (perhaps more familiar to Americans as the series that includes The Golden Compass), an explicitly atheist alternative to the children’s literature of Lewis’s. In 2002, a headline in the Daily Telegraph read, “Pullman does for atheism what C.S. Lewis did for God.” Pullman decried Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia as “blatant religious propaganda.” and accused Lewis of sexism and racism, among other things.

But, as McGrath, author of C.S. Lewis: A Life, points out, Pullman’s statements about Lewis’s wide readership almost 40 years after his death only draw more attention to the Narnia author, and “affirms Lewis’s cultural significance.” In this way, “Lewis’s most strident critic, paradoxically, turns out to be one of the most important witnesses to his present-day influence and importance.”

Last month, a writer for The Guardian suggested that Huxley was actually the more “visionary” of the two writers who died on Nov. 22, 1963. He points out specifically how Huxley’s Brave New World hints at today’s social networking websites that exchange services for members’ “intimate details.” He writes: “So, even as we remember C.S. Lewis, let us spare a thought for the writer who perceived the future in which we would come to love our digital servitude.” Still, he admits that, compared to Lewis, “Aldous Huxley never attracted that kind of attention.”

And assessments of Kennedy’s ideas, in turn, remain mixed. His actions, certainly, caused massive repercussions on the nation: In part, his term shaped the future of presidential campaigns, as television became a normal aspect of elections campaigns. And his celebrity-type appeal added style, in addition to substance, to the list of essential characteristics of a United States president. But crises like the Bay of Pigs debacle, the Cold War, the convoluted situation in Vietnam, and racial discord around the country arguably mark his time in office more than his Camelot White House.

“Assessments of Kennedy’s presidency have spanned a wide spectrum,” according to Kennedy scholars at the University of Virginia. “Early studies, the most influential of which were written by New Frontiersmen close to Kennedy, were openly admiring. They built upon on the collective grief from Kennedy’s public slaying—the quintessential national trauma. Later, many historians focused on the seedier side of Kennedy family dealings and John Kennedy’s questionable personal morals. More recent works have tried to find a middle ground.” So, the legacy of Kennedy’s ideas remains ambiguous; today, he is perceived by many as an intriguing national figure who lost his opportunity to fulfill many promises.

Back 50 years ago, no one reading the news headlines from November 1963 would predict that the ideas of an English scholar and children’s writer would wield (arguably) greater influence on European and American cultures than Kennedy’s or Huxley’s. After all, Lewis’s funeral only included one family member, related by marriage.

Huxley once wrote that “the prophet must make a selection of the facts that are more significant, that will have the greatest effect on the greatest number of future human beings.” And Kennedy famously said that a “man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”

And that’s why, in 1963, Lewis left us a legacy with influence that reaches far beyond 1960s England: He wedded significant facts with ideas that live on.

*SOURCE: THE ATLANTIC @ http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/12/why-cs-lewis-never-goes-out-of-style/282351/

The Page From C.S. Lewis That Changed My Life: By Jared Wilson

C. S. Lewis wrote about how the writing of George MacDonald “baptized his imagination” for later receipt of the gospel of Jesus. The writing of Lewis himself did this for me. I consumed the Narnia stories in elementary school, the Space Trilogy in junior high, and most of Lewis’s non-fiction in high school. My experience is not rare, I know. For many Christians, the writing of C. S. Lewis serves as a gateway to both intellectual and imaginative Christianity. This is why he is the greatest Christian writer of the 20th century and one of the greatest of all time.

A burgeoning storyteller myself, I had an overactive imagination that spilled over into my sense of self and my understanding of the world around me. Childhood was magical because I wished it so. Everything in my environment seemed ripe with splendor and meaning. I was an odd kid. But I didn’t just enjoy Lewis’s Narnia—I felt it. I knew instinctively he had tapped into something truer and better about fairy tales and fantasy and also about the ordinary world that seemed on sabbatical from wonder, much less from the prevalent miracles of the Bible. But I didn’t know what.

When I graduated from high school in 1994, my Grammy gave me a paperback copy of C.S. Lewis’s “God in the Dock” and Other Essays. I devoured it. And when I came to my absolute favorite piece in the book, a little treatise on the importance of mythology called “Myth Became Fact,” the effect was similar to putting on corrective lenses for the first time. Clarity of vision descended. I am speaking of page 67 in my edition, specifically, where Lewis writes this: “We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology.” He has been explaining why the ancient myths continue to be so resonant; namely, because “myth transcends thought” (66). These stories are received on a deeper frequency than other transmissions.

I like theology and its systems. I like to think rationally and logically. (So did Lewis!) But there is an inscrutable logic in a statement like this:

“We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic . . . shall we refuse to be mythopathic?” (67)

Lewis’s point is this: Myths resonate because there is a residue of truth in them—not historic facts of course, but truth about reality. (In his novel Perelandra he writes that myth is “gleams of celestial beauty falling on a jungle of filth and imbecility.”) And in the biblical story of Jesus and his gospel we find the convergence of the radiance of the mythopoeic with the glorious radiance of fact! Finally the one true “myth,” the myth that is not fiction. Lewis writes:

For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher (67).

Can even the Christian scholar and philosopher deny that the facts of the gospel are received on a frequency deeper than just the intellect? We discern the facts of the gospel with our minds, of course, but we receive them with our hearts because the Spirit has freed our hearts to receive them as true—to receive Christ as The Truth, the one true myth that is incontrovertibly fact.

What Lewis helped me see in that page helped me to see period. Page 67 of “Myth Became Fact” helped me to make the difference between seeing along the beam of light and seeing into the beam of light (to borrow from a later essay in the volume, “Meditation in a Toolshed”). Lewis helps me see how wondrous our real God and Savior is, how expansive, how utterly and eternally glorious. These words in “Myth Become Fact” gave me permission to wonder at God and to deepen in enjoyment of the true story of his Son’s reversal of death, rescuing of the bride, razing of evil, ruining of the dragon, and reigning forevermore. He has helped me see that nothing is wasted under God’s sovereign authorship of the universe, not even our fictions.

Article adapted from: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/06/20/the-page-that-changed-my-life-jared-wilson/

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont, and the author of the books Your Jesus Is Too SafeGospel Wakefulness, and the study 7 Daily Sins.

THE DEBT I OWE C.S. LEWIS by Dr. Holly Ordway

The Chronicles of Narnia

I owe more to C.S. Lewis than I can ever express. On this day, Nov. 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of his death and the day that he is honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, I wish more than anything to say ‘thank you’ to this great man.

And so I decided to share a glimpse of how Lewis helped change my life. In my memoir Not God’s Type, I’d alluded to Lewis’s significance in my conversion to Christianity, but not gone into detail. In the revision, significantly expanded and revised, which will be published in 2014 by Ignatius Press (and tentatively retitled The Sword and the Cross) I write a great deal more about the role of Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles in my journey.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my forthcoming book.

At this point in my journey of faith, I had accepted the arguments for the existence of God; I had become a theist. But what about the idea of a personal God? And in particular, what about Jesus? I found myself struggling, resistant, terrified . . . and so we jump in as I wrestle with the meaning of the Incarnation:

THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE

I had rejected the idea of ‘talking to God’ in prayer – not from intellectual disagreement, but from a visceral reaction of fear and anger, and although the cause was new, the feeling of baffled rage was all too familiar. I had felt it when I was eight or nine years old, weeping over my long-division homework (and refusing to do it); in high school, my stomach in a knot as I stared at geometry proofs that meant nothing to me; as a college freshman, sick with frustration as I struggled with my chemistry problem sets. I knew that there was some meaning locked up in these figures, these equations and problems, but I was unable to see what the teacher (and the other students!) seemed to find so obvious, and my inability easily to understand made me both angry at myself and, eventually, dismissive of the subject.

The idea of a personal God was almost impossible for me to grasp to begin with, let alone the Christian claim that the Creator become a human person, flesh and blood like me, yet also fully God. The ‘watchful dragons’ (as Lewis calls them) of my rebellious self spoke up loud and clear, insisting, “It can’t possibly be true that the Creator of the universe would respond to you, or even be aware of your existence. Who do you think you are, anyway? And these Christians are obviously talking nonsense. How could it be that the First Cause of the universe would somehow become a man, an actual human being walking around, getting his hands dirty, getting killed. Ridiculous. Who can believe that?”

I had nothing to say.

These new philosophical ideas about God made rational sense of the world as I saw it, but they did not show me that the God of the philosophers would have anything to do with me as an individual – much less that His concern for human beings would extend to becoming incarnate, as the Christians said that He had. God’s morality might apply to me, yes, but like gravity, indiscriminately to all people; or like a law code, written down and handed over, with its authority coming from the Law-Giver, but at a distance. Surely He could not, would not, take notice of me: I was too small; He was too big. Surely He would not enter into His creation; it was grubby and messy and material, and He was spiritual and orderly and infinite.

I could understand the definition of the word ‘Incarnation’ but not grasp its meaning. It seemed unimaginable that God would come close enough to be touched, would become man.

Or was it? I began to recall glimpses of something I’d been intrigued by, yet had been unable to name, from an earlier, deeper vision.

What if the idea of the Incarnation did not have to be solved like a math problem . . . what if I could get hold of its meaning in a different way?

I picked up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: this time, not to analyze it for my dissertation, but to enter Narnia like a little girl again.

And I encountered Aslan.

First just as a name, a glimpse of hope – “Aslan is on the move” – and then as a hope fulfilled, the great Lion really present in Narnia, bringing an end to a hundred years of winter. Aslan was a force to be reckoned with: he led the Narnians into battle, and killed the White Witch himself; when he roared, “they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.” No tame lion, indeed.

And yet he was touchable, playful, personal. If I could have stepped through the wardrobe door and seen this character for myself, I don’t know if I’d have first run up and buried my hands and face in his shaggy mane, or fallen down before his great velveted paws with their terrible claws, afraid to look at him, but love and awe would have been mingled in both.

In Narnia, I found that the Incarnation was not a bizarre idea, out of place in the world. It infused the very atmosphere; I breathed it in and was strengthened by it. That God would join His creatures by becoming part of creation Himself seemed, here in Narnia, as fitting as the fact that winter’s end brought crocuses peeking brightly through half-melted snow; as right as the fact that sunlight warms chilled limbs and water quenches thirst.

In Narnia . . . but here, in real life? It might not be true that God was involved with His world; it might not be likely that Jesus was God incarnate . . . but it was no longer unimaginable.

From The Sword and the Cross – forthcoming, Ignatius Press, 2014

Deo gratias.

*ARTICLE ADAPTED FROM: http://www.hieropraxis.com/2013/11/my-debt-to-c-s-lewis/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type (2010; revised and expanded 2nd ed. forthcoming as The Sword and the Cross, 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

Half Century Since C.S. Lewis by David Mathis

C.S. Lewis on Stone with Flowers

He went quietly. It was very British.

While the Americans rocked and reeled, and the world’s attention turned to Dallas and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, one Clive Staples Lewis breathed his last in Oxford just a week shy of his 65th birthday. Strangely enough, science-fictionist Aldous Huxley passed the same day, and in one calendar square, three of the twentieth-century’s most influential figures were gone.

It was November 22, 1963 — 50 years ago today.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is known best for his series of seven short fiction books, the Chronicles of Narnia, which have sold over 100 million copies in 40 languages. With three of the stories already becoming major motion pictures, and the fourth in the making, Lewis is as popular today as he’s ever been. But even before he published Narnia in the early 1950s, he distinguished himself as a professor at Oxford and Cambridge, the world’s foremost expert in Medieval and Renaissance English literature, and one of the great lay thinkers and writers in two millennia of the Christian church.

Discovering Truth and Joy

Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898. He became an atheist in his teens, and stridently such in his twenties, before slowly warming to theism in his early thirties, and finally being fully converted to Christianity at age 33. And he would prove to be for many, as he was for his friend Owen Barfield, the “most thoroughly converted man I have ever known.”

What catches the eye about Lewis’s star in the constellation of Christian thinkers and writers is his utter commitment to the life of the mind and the life of the heart. He both thinks and feels with the best. Lewis insisted that rigorous thought and deep affections were not at odds, but mutually supportive. And as impressive as he was in arguing for it, he was even more convincing in his demonstration.

What eventually led Lewis to theism, and finally to Christianity, was Longing — an ache for Joy with a capital J. He had learned all too well that relentless rationality could not adequately explain the depth and complexity of human life, or the textures and hues of the world in which we find ourselves. From early on, an angst gnawed at him which one day he would express so memorably in his most well-known single 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.”

This World and the Other

Such is the heart of his genius, his spiritual genius. So few treat the world in all its detail and contour like he does, and yet so few tirelessly point us beyond this world, with all its concreteness and color and taste, with the aggression and ardor of C.S. Lewis.

And so for many his impact has been so personal. For me, it was a six-word sentence in Lewis — “we are far too easily pleased” — that popped the hood on a massive remodeling of my soul.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Does Jesus really find our desires not too strong, but too weak? I had long professed Christianity, but this tasted so different than what I knew. It tasted! This affirmation of happiness and pleasure and desire and delight was, to me, so new in the context of the Christian faith. And Lewis was the chef.

My notions about God and the Christian life were exposed as mere duty-driven, and my soul was thrilling at the possibility that Christianity might not mean muting my desires but being encouraged (even commanded!) to turn them up — up to God.

Feel the Weight of Glory

As a layman, Lewis didn’t preach weekly, but occasionally had his chance at a pulpit. His most remembered sermon is one he preached under the title “The Weight of Glory.”

When he breathed his last and quietly slipped from this life 50 years ago now, he took one big step toward becoming the kind of glorious creature in the coming new creation he speaks about in that sermon.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.

For a growing number of us, Lewis occupies a class to himself. Few, if any, have taught us so much about this world, and the next, save the Scriptures. If you’d like to take him seriously, and with the smile and warmth he requests, start with his Mere ChristianityThe Screwtape LettersThe Abolition of Man, the Chronicles of Narnia, or just about anything you can find with his name as author. His writings are pervasively thoughtful, engaging, provoking, and rewarding. He will not disappoint.


ARTICLE ADAPTED FROM http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/half-a-century-since-c-s-lewis. 11/22/2013. This article also appears in the Minneapolis StarTribune and Saint Paul Pioneer Press. For more on the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis’s death, see Justin Taylor’s and Joe Rigney’s brief comparison of Lewis and Kennedy, “The Two Jacks.” Rigney’s ebook on Narnia is discounted for the fiftieth anniversary. He was a seminar speaker at our recent National Conference celebrating Lewis’s life and work, from which the full audio and video are available, as well as John Piper’s 2010 biographical address on Lewis, “Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul.”

Topic: Christian Biography

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing.Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

Dr. Roger Nicole on The Apologetics of C.S. Lewis

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

The Apologetics of Joy by Linville

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. C.S. Lewis was very well prepared for this task because until late in his twenties he was a devotee of atheism without any reference to Jesus Christ and was twenty-nine years old before being converted and embracing a Christian world-and-life view. Thus, he was more knowledgeable than many Christian apologists who know the views that they dispute only from the outside. He also experienced personally the gravity of the problems that the atheist has to face and the way in which such problems may force a person of integrity to look beyond atheism for a suitable philosophical and religious outlook. C.S. Lewis wrote about his own experience in 1933 in an autobiographical volume entitled The Pilgrim’s Regress, in the manner of John Bunyan, and again in Surprised by Joy (1955).

His first contribution to apologetics was entitled The Problem of Pain, published in October 1940 as part of The Christian Challenge Series (it was reprinted ten times by 1943). He dealt there forthrightly with the question: “If God is almighty and supremely loving, why does He permit pain in this universe?” He showed how pain is inevitable for real persons wherever sin exists. Who could imagine what a frightful world it should be if sin could grow without restraint? C.S. Lewis proceeds in his analysis in an orderly and lucid manner, dealing with this difficult subject in a way that a lay person can readily understand. From time to time, he has striking comments that remain unforgettable, like the following: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell” (p. 41). From 1941–44, he delivered a series of thirty-three broadcast talks whose titles describe well their contents:

1941: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe (5 talks)
1942: What Christians Believe (5 talks)
1943: Christian Behaviors (12 talks)
1944: Beyond Personality; or, First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity (11 talks)

First published separately in three volumes, these lectures were gathered together under the titleMere Christianity and often republished. The term mere in this title means “pure,” as it did in old English. The emphasis is to deal with major views largely common to all denominations in Christendom.

In 1943, The Screwtape Letters appeared, and this is probably C.S. Lewis’ most popular writing. Here we have a course by correspondence in which a master demon, Screwtape, instructs Wormwood, a novice in the art of tempting human beings and preventing on their part a true allegiance to God and the Gospel. This gives an opportunity to look on the Christian claims from below, so to speak, not with some artificial adornments provided by self-deceitfulness or charity in considering others, but with a kind of cynical realism that penetrates into the actual motives that people ordinarily attempt to hide. C.S. Lewis can cast a critical evaluation of many moves and motives that are flourishing under the umbrella of genuine Christianity. With sharp discernment and superb control of language, gained perhaps in his scholarly studies in early English literature, his wit and discernment surface on every page as some
of the following quotations evidence:

“We have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is [God’s] invention, not ours. He made the pleasure: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one” (p. 41).

“A moderate religion is as good for us as no religion at all — and more amusing” (p. 43).

“It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one” (p. 56).

“A good many Christian political writers think that Christianity began going wrong and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now, this idea must be used by us to encourage again the conception of a historical Jesus to be found by clearing away later ‘accretions and perversions’ and then be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a ‘historical Jesus’ on liberal and ‘humanitarian’ lines; we are now putting forward a new ‘historical Jesus’ on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantage of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifest. In the first place they all tend to direct man’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each ‘historical Jesus’ is unhistorical” (p. 106).

If these few quotations arouse your appetite, get the book and you will find much more than this sample.

The volume entitled Miracles: A Preliminary Study appeared in 1947, very shortly after Dr. E.W.Barnes, Bishop of Birmingham, published The Rise of Christianity, in which he denied the factuality of all miracles recorded in the New Testament, including those concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The word preliminary in the title should not be mistaken for elementary, for it is a rather technical vindication of supernaturalism versus naturalism defined as a view that nothing exists except nature, that is, the gigantic interlocking of all particles of matter existing from times immemorial. Nature cannot explain the origin of rational thought, and even less provide a basis for morality and conscience.

We are led, therefore, to recognize a powerful and purposive reality beyond the material world, who is the creator and sustainer of all that exists. With this in view, it is not strange that there would be occasions in which interaction between this power and His world might occur where the laws that govern matter might not function as they ordinarily do.

C.S. Lewis then devotes an essential chapter to the “Grand Miracle” of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Then he discusses miracles of the old creation with “the Divine Man focusing for us what the God of Nature has already done on a larger scale” (p. 169). The miracles of the new creation are those in which a “reversal” is manifest, principally the resurrection, which is fundamental for the whole of Christianity.

A brief epilogue and two appendices conclude the book. Throughout we can appreciate the great qualities of C.S. Lewis, his earnestness, his meticulous care not to leave any gaps in his reasoning, his thorough commitment to Holy Scripture, and his marvelous style. Dealing with objections to the virgin birth of Christ, he says that some opponents of it “think they see in this miracle a slur upon sexual intercourse (though they might just as well see in the feeding of the five thousand an insult to bakers)” (p. 115).

That parenthesis is worth the price of the book!

Article Originally appeared @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-dock/

About the Author

Dr. Roger Nicole was professor emeritus of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla., and author of Standing Forth. A notable theologian of the twentieth century, he was very influential in the shaping of evangelical theology in America.