God in the Dock: The Apologetics of C.S. Lewis
By Roger Nicole
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…
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