1. Micah Harris says:

    C.S Lewis is one of the most influential writers on my thinking, and one of my most beloved authors. He holds a special place in my heart. Yet, I also disagree with him on certain points. I’ve never understood why he went to some lengths to suggest that the story of Adam and Eve was really about a group of people at the dawn of the human race who rebelled against God. Based on what? Also, as I’ve learned more about him, it’s become apparent that his lifelong negative views on sex influenced his reading of scripture on it. He often said the right things, but his personal loathing for what he knew was a good thing (both by scripture and in his married life) still came through. As such a rational thinker, how could he say the enjoyment of God in eternity leaves no room for sexual enjoyment by making the analogy of a child not understanding how one doesn’t enjoy the “childish” pleasure of chocolate during the adult pleasure of sex, because the latter leaves no room for the former? Adults who enjoy sex still enjoy chocolate too! Lewis’ argument is faulty “either-or” thinking, because the pleasure of the higher doesn’t require, or even make desirable, the loss of the pleasure of the lower. For example, I enjoy both high brow art and low brow pop culture, Shakespeare and the MCU. Both have their particular delights. Here at least, Lewis’ negative feelings from his personal life were overriding his incredible intellect. But, of course, this is an example of how everyone is human and even the greatest thinkers can let their emotions, especially negative ones, influence their conclusions.

  2. C.S. Lewis influenced me in my early 20s, when I first read him, however once the delight of story-telling faded and I look at how judgemental the man was, it became apparent that his decisions are no so much Christian conviction as the confidence of an upper class, “public school” educated, male, sexually repressed, arrogant, cloistered English academic of the mid 20th century. Today, it’s difficult to admire him or his works. It’s not only that he decides who gets to go to heaven (Tirian yes, Susan, no), but his unrelenting class-consciousness, his double standards with respect to men and women, his focus on “honour” and “courage” in battles choreographed for sword- and spear-wielding heroes who “slay” their foes with the certain knowledge that they’re all right, and their victims all wrong. His battles are those of one who never had to face a fight: compare them to J.R.R. Tolkien’s evocation of the brutality of warfare, and it’s clear that he knew and abhorred war, while Lewis saw it as a convenient metaphor. It’s pretty clear from The Screwtape Letters that Lewis’ Christianity is derived more from Milton than the Bible, more motivated by a fear of hell than a love of the God whose mind he pretends to understand.

    • notleia says:

      He seemed to get better, towards the end, after he got married. But he deffo feels more like a relic of the Edwardian era (at the latest) than like someone who lived into the 1940s and 50s. He seemed like a pretty good observer of people, but he contextualized it through tropes and/or his Platonic ideals.

    • E. Stephen Burnett says:

      None of these criticisms relate, however, to Audie’s concerns about Lewis’s acceptance of something like “soft inclusivism.” In fact, most theologians would consider this belief “liberal.”

      • notleia says:

        He wasn’t a Calvinist. That pretty much sums it up. Fundagelicals seem to forget the man was an Anglican.

      • notleia says:

        Plus, the idea of inclusivism already existed before the concept of the modern happy-flappy liberal of the 1960s.

        • E. Stephen Burnett says:

          Of course this idea existed. But it’s simply sloppy (at best) to insist that salvation-through-faith-alone is exclusively a Calvinist concept. That’s a false claim. Now that you’ve been assured of this, will you continue to repeat this “fake news,” or adjust? 😉 #KnowingIsHalfTheBattle

  3. notleia says:

    Calvinists gonna Calvin, I guess. Though it’s a little disappointing that of all the things you could disagree with Lewis on, you pick the path already well-trodden.

    • E. Stephen Burnett says:

      Need to be direct: That’s just silly and careless labeling. The Christians who believe “you can only enter Christ’s kingdom by conscious repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus” are not called “Calvinists.” These people are called (wait for it) … “Christians.”

      • notleia says:

        Nah, there’s been some variety of thought on that since at least the Enlightenment. Would a being of perfect justice create creatures doomed to fail through no direct fault of their own?
        Plus, penal substitutionary atonement has not always been the foremost idea on How Redemption Works.

        • E. Stephen Burnett says:

          You’re talking past not only the article but my actual comment. My point is that there is nothing “Calvinist” about supposing that people who do not believe in Jesus will not spend eternity with Jesus. This has nothing to do with the discussion of substitutionary atonement or the ideas that are particular to Calvin or earlier/later teachers who shared the same thought. Sounds mainly like you’ve found a bogey to see/label in many unrelated areas. But if you keep seeing the same spot on your screen no matter what you read/others specifically say, your screen may need cleaning. 🙂

    • Audie Thacker says:

      I do not consider myself a Calvinist, though I will admit to being influence, and I think mostly for the good, by Lutherans and Calvinists, and especially when it comes to both law and gospel. And simply because a path is well-trodden doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t need to be trodden. There is enough theological soft-soap out there to make addressing the issue of back-down salvation worth considering and refuting.

      • notleia says:

        That’s pretty unexpected, that you don’t consider yourself a Calvinist, given what I remember of your prior articles. You hit those Calvinist dudebro-intellectual notes pretty well. Like, maybe not to the extent of small-batch craft beer, but maybe to the extent of shooting skeet.
        Burnett is right that it’s not only the Calvinists, but they’re typically the ones who feel it’s necessary to go around pontificating about John 14:6 even though no one asked. They also seem the most fond of the no true Scotsman games, but to be fair that’s authoritarians in general.

        • Audie Thacker says:

          Good theology is good theology, not matter what other labels may be put on it. My claims are biblical. Trying some kind of label-and-dismiss seems more like a deflection.

          • notleia says:

            You wanna poke at that with a stick? Good, ’cause I like poking ideas with sticks.
            And you, like me, seem to be a tactless sh*t, because you actually said to those nice, compassionate ladies down below, to their faces, the hardhearted things that hard-liners think but usually can’t say to nice, compassionate ladies.
            Do you think, then, that the rice Christians like Carolyn describe had a meaningful conversion if they said the words to the satisfaction of their erstwhile employers? Are they saved despite themselves? Does intention make the spell misfire if it’s not done correctly?
            But what does that mean for those of us who were raised in the fold and recited the magic words at five years old in order to gain the approval of their adults? It isn’t their fault that they don’t know d*ck about sh*t, but what do the promises of five-year-olds mean, because they do not know dck about sht?
            The age of accountability is not a biblical concept, but why do you think our forebears invented it? In an age where a quarter to a third of children died before adulthood, do you want to imagine your child who did no meaningful harm to be burning in hell?
            You know why people cling to ideas about good works? Because it seems at least vaguely fair. It bears a passing resemblance to justice. Ever since humans developed the idea of justice as separate from revenge, we have this particular sentiment for the idea of the punishment fitting the crime. What crimes have babies done to be burnt next to murderers?
            If God does not mete out fitting punishments, he is not just. Is it worth worshipping an unjust god?

            PS: I also have no faith in your definition of “biblical,” but it’s not actually your fault. That well done got poisoned awhile ago.

            • The Bible does claim he metes out fitting punishments, that he judges the intentions of man’s heart (i.e. it’s not our job), and that he is the one who saves and judges the eternal reward or punishment or (what seems to be) a mixture of the two, because it talks about passing through fire, and what is worthless gets burned while what’s pure remains. Meaning, its equitable. There’s reason to see about a billion and one problems with antinomianism, and universalism as well, and those two are practically inseparable, because that’s just how people end up working. You can actually be a kind person and say to someone’s face that you believe the things that are written as coming from the mouth of Jesus in the NT. Some people are jerks about it. Some people aren’t.

              By your arguments, if a book is misunderstood or misapplied, that makes it untrue, and a worthless guide. Many of your arguments are really very thin, and fall short of convincing.

              • notleia says:

                You’d have to remind me what chapter and verse all this supposed equitability comes from.

                But if a book is continuously misunderstood or misapplied, while everybody is convinced that their own way is the correct way, maybe some criticism is warranted. A guidebook that has people constantly making mistakes may not actually be that good of a guidebook.

              • Brennan McPherson says:

                Or, perhaps the main problem is that they’re not actually reading it. Statistics point to that being the case.

                There are some difficulties with certain topics, but even amidst the many denominations, the vast majority agree on an incredible amount.

              • notleia says:

                Not really, no, on the denominations. Like, maybe most denominations agree on 1) God exists and 2) that Jesus dude sure seems important, but there are well over a hundred thousand denominations.
                Obligatory comic: https://i.redd.it/fuadzrqw39qz.jpg

              • That’s counting non-denom churches. And even most of them agree on many of the fundamentals. I have many friends who are Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, AOG, non-denom, Methodist, reformed, Presbyterian, even from those denominations abroad (which means quite another thing altogether yet), etc. No one I know agrees with even one other person perfectly on theology, just like it is with philosophy, and morality, etc. It’s just people. So, go complain about people. It’s not an effective argument against using the Bible as a plumb line. Because all my friends, from that broad swath of denominations, agree with me on pretty much all the fundamentals. So. I call bunk. And if that doesn’t convince you, perhaps this will “change your mind”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHwfuFdYlRU

                Behold, the Lord of GROOVE.

              • notleia says:

                Maybe they’re friendly because they mostly agree with you on the fundamentals. That’s the stuff cognitive biases are made of, yanno.

              • Lol that proves my point. Talk about cognitive biases…

              • notleia says:

                *rolls eyes*

                But I forgot to point out that we’re playing in another level of the meta if this system is divine enough to transcend human boogerishness.
                It’s not like the Constitution, which is not supposedly divine and has mechanisms for change. Protestants will throw the jot-and-tittle line at you before metaphorically setting you on fire at the stake for suggesting changing the Bible (even though in real life interpretations and emphases change like everything else).
                Besides, I’d have to question what you count as “fundamentals.” Quakers don’t practice baptism or communion. Oneness Pentecostals think that the idea of the Trinity is heresy. IRRC, PCUSA ordains gays as well as women. Penal substititionary was not always the most popular and may lose out to Christus Victor again in the future.

            • Actually, gaining salvation through good works isn’t entirely fair. How does someone know they’ve done enough ‘good’ works to be safe? Is it so long as they have a balance sheet where their good works outnumber their bad ones? If so, how do we judge that? Based on the AMOUNT of works, or the weight and effect of those works? And does that mean that, say, serial killers could kill as many people as they wanted, so long as they saved more lives than they took?

              Another problem is that people constantly misjudge themselves and others. A lot of people think they’re doing good things when they’re not, or they don’t notice the bad things they do. So how does someone know when they’re truly safe?

              And if someone truly regrets their mistakes and wants to change, what do they do if they reach the last few years of their life and realize that there’s no time to make up for all the bad things they did? They have far less incentive to stop their bad behavior, repent and live a better life.

              There’s a lot of flaws and questions that can be raised by both paths of redemption(good works vs repentance and forgiveness). So I’m not trying to say one or the other is perfect in every scenario, (in terms of how every human might feel about it). But a lot of how people perceive that boils down to life experiences and preferences. A lot of people have reasons to believe genuine remorse, repentance and forgiveness(accompanied by a changed life) is more fair than good works, but then others do have reasons to value good works more, as you said.

              But then humans AREN’T fair and aren’t necessarily the best judges. Ironically, the people that value fairness and justice the most can be the worst at evaluating what people actually deserve.

              • notleia says:

                Bruh, I know the arguments, but doesn’t it feel more fair than “recite these magic words for a get-out-of-jail-free card”? Maybe a rich f*ckwad donated a bunch of money to do the equivalent of buying indulgences, but maybe some common poor might get something good out of it, like a library book or something.
                As opposed to something like some dckweed praying and then declaring that Jesus forgives him therefore everyone who he wronged should do so, too, regardless of whether he changes his behavior or not.

              • No, it doesn’t actually feel more fair, it’s just different. Whether or not people feel it’s fair depends on a million factors like their experiences and personality and whatnot. It’s like trying to argue whether or not death is fair. On one hand, we can say it’s fair because it’s the great equalizer, and everyone dies no matter if they’re rich, poor, good and bad. Everyone gets the same result and maybe in a sense death is built in justice for any wrong a person commits. But then other people would say that death is absurdely unfair because humans don’t like pain and maybe a lot of bad things happen as humans strive to avoid death. Furthermore, they could say death should only happen to bad people. But then who even gets to decide who’s good enough to live and die? Death Note already exposed a lot of problems with that mindset.

                Salvation’s not about the magic words, though. People just interpret it that way, which is a classic case of people missing the point. Obviously the person has to mean it and actually strive to build a relationship with God and change. It’s complicated, because on one hand people often expect that person to magically change and become perfect over night, (which IS unfair and unreasonable). But if someone doesn’t actually care about changing and isn’t striving to do so, maybe they WERE insincere, maybe they were just trying to use the ‘magic words’ as a get out of jail free card, and maybe they aren’t really saved after all. If that’s the case, God would know. As for young children, that’s complicated with either style of salvation, but the circumstances around them using the salvation prayer tend to be different than a corrupt adult looking for a get out of jail free card.

                Back when I was attending my home church regularly, there were instances where the person leading the salvation altar call thing expressed the idea that asking God into one’s own heart is a personal thing, so they didn’t give people exact words to mimic and let that be a personal prayer to God, so there’s that.

                Some of this actually depends on how someone defines sin, though. My definition of sin is very broad, but then I’m a little more free and open minded in terms of how that gets applied to salvation. I believe that Christians can sin, for instance. I was reading Bryan Davis’ book (Free Indeed), and while I disagree with many aspects of it, it was interesting to note that his definition of sin seemed to be more narrow (leaving someone more free to make mistakes. If I recall correctly, he doesn’t consider it a sin if a person accidentally does something wrong), but his definition of salvation was also more narrow. Like, he believes that if someone truly becomes saved, they won’t sin anymore.

              • notleia says:

                It seems pretty moot if it’s fair or unfair to die when people don’t have much of a choice about the matter.
                It seems that what we mean by “fairness” in regards to death is who has to go painfully or who gets to go peacefully, who goes too early or has missed opportunities, or those who linger too long.
                (Off topic link for funsies: http://www.endofshiftreport.com/2016/02/crowbarrens-chest-tubes-and-death-on-icu.html)
                I’m not claiming that the good works idea solves everything, but that it seems better than a lot of Protestant orthodoxy that almost scorns good works.

                It’s kinda funny, isn’t it, that a lot of people in the comments have ideas about fairness and mercy mixed in with their ideas about salvation that aren’t necessarily orthodox, when the point of Thacker’s article was to emphasize the orthodoxy over these squishy subjective feelings.

            • Audie Thacker says:

              Is it compassionate to let people believe false ideas? Simply because an idea seems nice doesn’t makes it true.

              Yes, judging us based on our works, good and bad, would be fair. It would be just. And it would end in all of us in Hell. That would be justice. That would be the wages we deserve.

              So, we should be grateful for God’s gift, eternal life, given to us through Christ. It is a gift we receive by faith, not something we earn by being good.

              • notleia says:

                So you fall back on hell threats, huh? Okay.

                As for letting people believe false ideas, I think that entirely depends on whether the false idea is causing demonstrable harm.

                After all, there are quite a few atheists who think that about letting even nice old ladies practice Christianity, too. And they lists as long as all our arms combined about why Christianity is harmful, too.

                Also too obligatory PTerry quote about atoms of justice and molecules of mercy. Sapiens by Harari talks about ideas like that, except he calls it something like intra personal mythos (recommend this book for existential crises).

              • Audie Thacker says:

                If hell is real, then it is something to consider. Hell is real, thus it is something to consider. But me mentioning hell before was not a threat, it was showing the reality of what we deserve, the wages of our sins. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality.

      • S Weaver says:

        If you find Lewis’s “back door into heave (sic)” too easy or permissive, you are really going to hate the parable about the workers who barely participate in the harvest, (very late and non-productive) but are paid a full day’s labor, and most especially the one about sheep Jesus has in other pastures who hear his voice and follow, but may not know his name to be Jesus. All of that is grace— bewildering and unpredictable, miraculously aware of the heart, and unaffected by our shallow judgment of people’s “outsides.”

        It seems for we who are justice-experts, unmerited belonging is a tough pill to swallow. I keep thinking about Jesus’s other story where people list all their right beliefs and the magnificent works they did in God’s name, only to hear God doesn’t know them. So apparently there’s a back door to heaven through which people can accidentally back out as well.

    • Brennan McPherson says:

      K. Catholics disagree with him. And there’s a lot more Catholics than Calvinists. So… you’re artificially inserting a particular class in order to be negative toward them, based on faulty reasoning that they’re the source of what you find distasteful here (when, in fact, they’re not the source, and the source far pre-dates them).

      • notleia says:

        Prob depends on the Catholic, but do we even get any Catholics around here?

        If you want, I can also trash-talk SBC Baptists, too, for variety. A lot of them are Calvinist, tho. Calvinism is more like an add-on module rather than a denomination in of itself.

  4. Anne says:

    As I’ve got older, I am less certain on this issue. I used to think that Lewis had a lovely thought but it was most definitely wrong. However, over time, I am less sure of that.

    My problem begins with a practical, rather than theoretical, issue. I’ve done a lot of intensive prayer counselling in my time and let me assure you that the human heart really is deceitful and wicked above all things. Many Christians think they worship Jesus of Nazareth, sometimes ardently so. But, when they finally open up their troubled thoughts in prayer ministry, it becomes apparent that their unconscious allegiance is to a godling that they don’t know and can’t identify. (That’s not something the ordinary counsellor suspects, but my youthful reading of fantasy has stood me in good stead and I can sometimes recognise the deities populating people’s nightmares and influencing their lives.)

    There’s a good reason I advise people to start tagging Jesus with ‘of Nazareth’ or pinpointing the genuine Saviour using some creed—because some people, unknowingly, are giving their devotion to another Jesus. This isn’t always the case: it isn’t always a false Jesus they’re complicit with. I’ve known people who are both allied and in conflict with Mithras, the so-called ‘Light of the World’.

    (On a side-note: The war of Jesus against the gods is not something we realise because the Scriptures are subtle. Jesus goes head-to-head with Asherah, but who notices? Unless you know her title was ‘She-who-walks-on-water’ it’s easy to miss. It’s also easy to overlook that His walk on the water took place on the same day as the miracle of the loaves and fishes: indicating a side-battle with Asherah’s consort, Tammuz, the so-called ‘Bread come down from Heaven’. Jesus went to war to retrieve titles and honours against, by my unfinished count, over seventy godlings, goddesses and deified heroes. I firmly believe most modern Christian fantasy is trying to achieve the same goal: win back titles and honours for God.)
    Now, my point is this: if it’s possible to unknowingly worship a false Jesus (and it is), is it possible to unknowingly worship the real Jesus?

    I don’t know. But I’m no longer willing to be definitive about it. Because if we have to know the true name of God to worship Him and put our trust in Him, then most of us never qualify. ‘Jesus’ is too close to ‘Zeus’ for the Jews, and ‘Joshua’ needs clarification. And the Father’s secret name is still mostly secret. (Yahweh means ‘He is who He is’ etc, and is not the name given to Moses.) I simply don’t think this is clear-cut anymore.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments and questions. I rather suspect the word most frequently spoken in heaven for the first thousand years of life there (other than praise) will be “Ohhhh . . .” It is pretty arrogant of us to think we have everything figured out.

    • Audie Thacker says:

      if it’s possible to unknowingly worship a false Jesus (and it is), is it possible to unknowingly worship the real Jesus?”


      If it were possible, then why would Jesus tell the church to preach the gospel to all the world?

      The Bible gives us no reason to hope in our own good works. Our righteous works are the same works the Bible likens to filthy rags.

      • Brennan McPherson says:

        I don’t think she’s arguing about works… seems like she’s arguing that God could have the right to show grace to those who don’t look like how you expect, because it seems clear he’s already doing that to some pretty depraved and confused people (all of us). And because we don’t see peoples’ hearts, it’s nigh impossible for us to tell who’s going to spend eternity with Christ or not.

        Of course, we believe God won’t contradict himself, but what exactly does that mean for us? There still seems to be shades of ambiguity here, regardless of how dogmatically you view the text. So long as you take the whole of the Bible, rather than cherry-picking, there’s gray here.

        Obviously, Christians are to be set apart, and to live a different sort of life. But we know this is a continuum, and sanctification does not = salvation. If there’s no life change, it’s a good indication to question whether the salvation is there, and in many cases we can be pretty sure (Hitler probably isn’t shootin’ pool with Jesus right now). But again… there’s gray.

  5. I came to agree with Lewis on this very point while a missionary in Thailand nearly forty years ago. It is almost treasonous in the minds of most Thai people to turn from Buddhism to Christianity. Many who did seemed to only want jobs at our mission hospital. We found some of those stole from the hospital (drugs to sell at the pharmacy in town, one even a staged payroll robbery at gunpoint.) Obviously, not really converted. On the other hand, many loving, self-sacrificing nurses and other workers respected the Bible and ideas of Christianity, but could not switch loyalties to “western religion.” Would they burn in hell? What about a child so severely abused by a “Christian” parent that they reject Christianity, but find healing in a life of service to other abused children? I know people in that category. My consternation found rest in 1 John 4:7 “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love is the central theme of the Bible. God isn’t just lov-ing. He is LOVE. I am convinced with Lewis that the heart matters more than confessing any specific spiritual formula.

    The sacrifice of Jesus is still the means by which we are all saved, whether we know it or not. But like Lewis’s Caloremene man, I believe there will be many who will be surprised to find themselves counted among the sheep. Jesus thought so too and told us what divides the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25.

    Meanwhile, I am introducing as many people as possible to the Amazing Father who stabilized my unstable childhood, my Wonderful Jesus who forgives the hurtful things I do and heals the pain of sins done to me, and the Holy Spirit who fills me with Love, Peace, and Joy (etc). When people listen to my testimony squint-eyed, I say, “Do you believe in LOVE? Then go live it.” I will let God sort out who he saves and who he doesn’t.
    –– C. L. Smith, author of The Stones of Gilgal biblical novel series

    • Audie Thacker says:

      So, how good does one have to be in order to qualify for a back-door salvation? What laws does one have to keep?

      • Audie, NO ONE is “good enough” for salvation by the standard of God’s perfect law of love. Anyone who is saved is saved by the grace of God. I’m just saying “The other sheep, not of this fold,” may be a much more diverse group than we previously thought. And God’s love for ALL his children is higher, deeper, broader, wider than any human can imagine–certainly big enough to save those those who don’t quite get the facts right, but respond to his Spirit of Love.

        • Audie Thacker says:

          You say that, but your own examples are based on people doing good works, or, if I may, people you consider to possibly be “good enough”.

  6. Rebecca Curran says:

    Finally someone brought The last Battle up to Bible standards and included Bible scripture pronouncing the faulty doctrine of Aslan and the Calormene. Thank you! What else can we use as our standard?

  7. Aidan Williams says:

    I can definitely see where this criticism comes from. And I respect its genuine nature. However, I believe it is misplaced. C.S. Lewis was a classical Christian, very much in line with the traditional Anglican and Catholic theology of the universality of God’s salvation. I wanted to just address a couple points you made and share why I feel they do not hold up, with respect of course. Firstly, Anglo-Catholic schools of thought would deny that any, as you put it, “backdoor way to heaven” is possible. The one and only mechanism, and therefore only door, is Jesus Christ. The Last Battle is, at the heart of its salvific messaging, a champion of the “Dare we Hope” theology advanced by Hans Urs von Balthasar. This school of thought does not proclaim that all who are not Christian will ultimately go to heaven. Rather, it claims that it is possible based on the nature of God and his redemption. Therefore, it is reasonable to pray for and hope for the salvation of any man. The evangelical worldview tends to be fundamentalist in terms of salvation, so I expect to do little convincing or view changing by sharing this. I merely wanted to clear up the lens upon which Lewis is taking. Secondly, in reference to the scriptures you quoted from Romans, it is an evangelical interpretation of those verses that suggest faith is confined to a literal and strict cognitive belief in the historical and ever living Jesus Christ. It is in no way a violation, and might in fact be endorsed by these scriptures, to say that one can have faith in the living God, and respond to His grace, without knowing the name of his savior, but recognizing the content of the person. Such was the case of the Calormene soldier who was saved by Aslan in the Last Battle. Then again, it can be argued that this is a slippery slope, and this is clearly where the “backdoor to heaven” criticism comes in. Because God is the divine judge of this, however, it is merely for us to hope and pray for their salvation, not to proclaim damnation where we do not know for certain. At this point, I have written an entire essay. To anyone with the patience to read this entire thing, thank you, and know that this comes from the sincere heart of a fellow believer. Peace Be with you.

What do you think?