I adore CS Lewis, have read everything he has written, beginning with stepping through the wardrobe and into Narnia long, long, ago.
I am also not particularly fond of Pastor Doug Wilson of Moscow fame, for a variety of reasons. I have however also read him extensively, so I going to link to his post called The Light From Behind the Sun.
Why? Well, because he speaks of reason and subjective reality, specifically the apologetics of CS Lewis when and where they were an appeal to reason or to the nature of Absolute Truth. I mention it because Wilson arrives at a conclusion that I believe is quite short sighted, an inaccurate portrayal of who CS Lewis really was and what his apologetics as a whole were actually saying. It is this same misconception that I believe afflicts our Western church, our perception of apologetics in general, and ultimately our faith.
It is a conclusion that proclaims just as Wilson has, “Unless reason is absolute, all is in ruins. “
Trust me, all is in ruins, but I digress……
It should come as no surprise that someone named insanitybytes is not going to be terrible impressed by the human dependence on reason, and even less impressed by the Christian argument that practically insists we place our faith in ourselves, and in our quite rational, reason based, intellectual arguments for God.
In fact, given that foundation for our faith, no wonder so many people just find us obnoxious and condescending.
In fact, I myself find that to be offensive, arrogant, perhaps even a bit blasphemous. Through no fault of our own, including our vastly flawed reasoning skills and our swollen, over inflated brains, the Lord chose us. He made Himself very tiny, curled up in woman, was born in a barn, lived and walked in our shoes serving others, was tortured, executed, and buried, and on the third day He rose….so that we might rise with Him, be brought into right relationship and seated in victory with Him at the right hand of the Father.
Like whoah, that’s not even rational! Love is actually, well, just kind of crazy. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. We just kind of stand there before that act of great sacrificial love, feeling wretched, amazed, and totally baffled. Grace and love are just something that defy all human perceptions of “reason,” they are truths far bigger then our capacity for what is “rational.”
We cannot reason and rationalize our way to God because God is so much bigger then our brains can see.
Enter the bible with its talking snakes and donkeys, burning bushes and disembodied hands. Well, those things are downright embarrassing, surely just a metaphor, and obviously they’ve all passed away since we are now living in a new age. Whew, thank goodness. Like today in our post modern world, we’d be quite terrified to get any such whimsy and woo on us! That would be… irrational, crazy, embarrassing. It might even generate some….uh, messy feelings.
It would also reveal the truth of where our faith really lives, which is clearly in our own selves, our own intelligence, our own subjective reality we have now projected onto God. for example, “I know my politics and worldview are evidence of objective truth, God endorsed of course, and clearly rational.” God is not full of surprises, He is actually completely aligned with my own subjective reality, but since He’s now along for the ride, I can just call what I believe, “Objective Truth.” My own God endorsed version of “reason.”
God actually doesn’t live there, He lives just on the other side. We see Him when we surrender our need for control, including our control over how we perceive reality, including our puffed up pride in our own intellect.
CS Lewis didn’t just write some wonderful books on theology, life, apologetics, he also wrote of talking beavers, fauns, perpetual winter, and Aslan, the mysterious and wonderful lion. CS Lewis understood that the human capacity for reason will only take us so far, that at some point our faith requires the irrational, the world of imagination, feelings, and love. Suspended reason, or if you prefer, surrendered reason.
Come unto me as a little child…. There is away that seems right to a man……Lean not unto your own understanding. Those are all truths woven through out the bible, the truth that seems to say, uh you guys sure seem to have a real propensity for going your own way and calling it “rational.”
Subjectivism is not poison, subjectivism is who we are. It is where we often live. We must subjectively receive our King like royal subjects. This politically influenced, reactionary stance that tries to declare feelings are sinful, love is shallow, and objective reality is ours, might win a few political battles and internet arguments, but it will cost us the whole spiritual war.
Atheists and even a few modern Christians, often like to present themselves as these reason based creatures, vastly more intelligent than all the other humans, not deluded, indoctrinated, or soft. Without fail, every darn one of them is actually entangled not in reason, but in their own emotional trap of irrationality. They rational-lies those traps.
For Christians to run about believing or saying, “unless reason is absolute, all is in ruins,” is a fool’s errand. We have a Lord who says, all is ruins. Surrender all and be gracefully broken. Receive my forgiveness and go forth and irrationally love one another.
Wilson says, “Lewis did not back away from this argument in the slightest,” He certainly did! He totally did when he was flattened by the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. Annihilated. He lost that debate, resoundingly. Why? Chivalry mostly, a great love for women, and the keen awareness that his faith called him to place the sacrificial love of being kind, far above the act of being right. The two did not have an “interaction,” he surrendered all to the wisdom of a woman and went on to clarify and sharpen his own views.
That’s galling to the pride! I mean, I could have picked off Elizabeth Anscombe’s complaints like they there where nothing more than shooting fish in a barrel and yet…CS Lewis chose not to. Why???
Because that is how one behaves when they are not pridefully engaged in a childish game of capture the flag, a game called, I am king of the hill in possession of Objective Truth and you are not. I am right and you are wrong.
It is the grace and humility of CS Lewis that calls me to God, just as it is Dean Koontz’s faith in goodness that calls me to God, or Michelangelo’s vision of God’s beauty. Show me God’s love, His grace, His beauty, His kindness, not your own arrogance and faith in your own alleged “Objective Truth”, because your logic is like dust, like ashes that will someday blow away, whereas love endures. Love believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I think the Apostle Paul would quite agree with me. He spoke extensively about how, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
On the other side of reason, when all is in ruins, that is where people often discover the Lord, right where He’s always been patiently waiting for you to stop leaning into your own understanding. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone and yet it is in that place, in the wine press, where saints are actually made. The least we can do having received such a priceless gift is to be kind to others.
CS Lewis was right, in a bazillion different ways He was right, but the joy, the mystery, the delight of our faith doesn’t stem from being “right,” it stems from the crazy, irrational calling to suspend our own desire and needs in favor of the well being of others. The kind of sacrificial love that says, I know you are totally insane but I choose to love you anyway, and to honor your perceptions of reality and your own path to the truth.