by Brenton Dickieson
Besides being a children’s author, essayist, fantasy writer, and literary critic, C.S. Lewis was also a Christian apologist. “Apologetics,” as the discipline is called, is the artistic science of logically defending belief. Lewis was doing apologetics on the BBC during WWII, explaining his faith in a series of talks that became Mere Christianity (1952). He wrote two other formal books of apologetics that form a sort of trilogy—The Problem of Pain (1940) and Miracles (1947; 1960)—as well as other books that were apologetic in nature, including The Screwtape Letters (1941), and his two conversion narratives: The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933) and Surprised by Joy (1955). Part of Lewis’ vocation, at least in his 30s and 40s, was to artfully and logically defend Christian faith.
While C.S. Lewis’ trilogy of apologetics books are well done, they have never been my favourite. I’ve always felt about apologetics much the way John Stackhouse felt, as he shares in his introduction to Humble Apologetics. He speaks of an apologist on a college campus who was able to win all the arguments but still lose the hearts of the listeners. A student commented after the event, “I don’t care if the son of a bitch is right, I still hate his guts” (xvi). I’ve never felt moved by intellectual arguments for God—and sometimes I’ve been turned off by them—and I’ve never met anyone converted purely by them.
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In my conversation with Antony Flew’s There Is a God in 2012, however, I found that I was able to admit that a couple of the classic arguments for the existence of God have won me over. Still, I have the tendency to avoid apologetics works and stick what I (rightly or wrongly) feel is the good stuff: the fiction. To me, fiction tells far more truth and tells it far better than formal philosophy.
For this reason, I was tempted to skip over a chapter on apologetics in a book I was reading. Jocelyn Gibb’s 1965 Light on C.S. Lewis is one of the earliest books to look on Lewis’ life and work from a number of difference angles. Made up of colleagues, friends, students, and early biographers, Light on C.S. Lewis includes a chapter called “The Christian Apologist” by Austin Farrer. Instead of a quick skim, as I intended, I was sucked in.
In this succinct little chapter, Farrer talks about Lewis’ apologetic project, going into great detail about The Problem of Pain. What really caught me, however, was his discussion about apologetics in general. Farrer describes what has been my frequent argument about apologetics…
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