Review of C. S. Lewis *Mere Theology*

As far as compendiums of CS Lewis’s thought go, this is easily among the best.  Vaus has extensive theological training and it shows.  This work is different from the rest of the (often needless) summaries of Lewis’s thought, usually reduced to a few chapters on Narnia.  In many ways it is like a systematic theology of CS Lewis.  Granted, we really do not need another book on CS Lewis (and surely we do not need another book review!!!); rather, we need men to write in the spirit of CS Lewis.  That said, there are still elements of Lewis’s thought that have not received their due reward (e.g., his violent and armed resistance to the New World Order in *That Hideous Strength!*).

Vaus loosely summarizes Lewis’s worldview around the tenets of the Nicene Creed.  And taking our cue from the Nicene Creed, we will start with Lewis’s *mere Christianity.*  Contra to the soft modernists at the CS Lewis message boards, Lewis’s *mere Christianity* was not a watered-down, shave-off-the-rough-edges Christianity.  Lewis said regarding the Church–you do not stop searching until you find the truest expression of Christianity.  That means, ultimately, you will have to say that other expressions are–to a degree–wrong.

Vaus, an Evangelical, has a rather startling chapter on prayer.  Most of it isn’t any different from other evangelical manuals on prayer.  Strangely, Vaus has a section on prayers to/for the dead–and for some bizarre reason refutes all of the Protestant objections to the practice!  Lewis had no problem with prayers to/for the dead, and is following the historic practice of the church in this regard.

Sex and Male/Female Relations
*The Space Trilogy* is one of Lewis’s least-read works.  THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH shows Jane Studdock having to undo her feminism and surrender to the reality that hierarchy is real, and in that hierarchy–particularly her husband–she will have to learn to surrender to her husband’s masculinity and relish in that reality.  This may be Vaus’s best chapter.

Following that fact, Lewis introduces us to monarchy as a real category.  (I’ve been attacked so often for being a monarchist it’s not funny.  I wouldn’t mind the criticisms of monarchy if they didn’t suck so badly.  There are good criticisms of monarchy out there; they’re just rarely offered.).   Accepting monarchy isn’t the big issue.  Vaus/Lewis suspects that our reticence to monarchy stems from a secret urge to egalitarianism.   But if hierarchy is a legitimate social and moral category, then why can’t monarchy be just as legitimate a political category?  In any case, Vaus quotes a beautiful and stirring passage from *That Hideous Strength* telling when Jane Studdock first looks upon the face of Dr Ransom–a man who is a true warrior-priest–and her world is unmade.  Reading between the lines, Lewis is telling us she looked upon the face of true, holy monarchy for the first time.  She saw in Ransom the ancient wisdom and holy strength of the kings of old.  You simply do not find this in democratically-elected officials.

The more theological chapters–dealing with the Trinity and Scripture–are okay, I guess.  After several years and several thousand double-columned pages reading the Church Fathers on the Trinity and Christ, I’m not too interested in what Vaus has to say on it.  No offense. And that’s because Lewis and Vaus commit theological howlers at times (e.g., saying Christ has one will; formally, that’s the heresy of monotheletism; page 81).There are some gems, though–where Vaus compares Lewis’s “Cosmic Dance” to Gregory of Naziansus.  That’s cool by me.

Conclusion:
The book is not without it’s problems.  But I don’t want to dwell on the problems.  Vaus does talk about Lewis’s view on Scripture, including his denial of inerrancy.    I was familiar with Lewis’s position before, but I think Vaus could have spent more time on the problems both with inerrancy and some of the traps its deniers fall into.

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One comment on “Review of C. S. Lewis *Mere Theology*

  1. […] God became man, knights and shining castles, etc.   Yet Lewis denied the inerrancy of Scripture, and while I was previously critical of his reasons for doing so–and admittedly they aren’t the best–I think I understand that Lewis did not want […]

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