The late British author C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis (1898-1963), who
was known as Jack, is extremely popular with evangelicals today. Most
Christian bookstores feature the writings of Lewis without a word of
A Christianity Today reader's poll in 1998 rated Lewis the
most influential evangelical writer. The December 2005 edition of
Christianity Today features C.S. Lewis on the cover and almost every
article is devoted to the man, including the effusive cover story
entitled, "C.S. Lewis Superstar." In an article commemorating the 100th
anniversary of Lewis's birth, J.I. Packer called him "our patron saint"
and said that Lewis "has come to be the Aquinas, the Augustine, and the
Aesop of contemporary Evangelicalism" ("Still Surprised by Lewis,"
Christianity Today, Sept. 7, 1998).
Though Lewis died in 1963, sales of his books had risen to two
million a year by 1977 and have increased 125% since 2001.
In its April 23, 2001, issue, Christianity Today again praised
C.S. Lewis in an article titled "Myth Matters." Lewis, called "the 20th
century's greatest Christian apologist," wrote several mythical works,
such as The Chronicles of Narnia, which Christianity Today
recommends in the most glowing terms, claiming that "Christ came not to
put an end to myth but to take all that is most essential in the myth up
into himself and make it real." I don't know what to say to this except
that it is complete nonsense. In his Chronicles, Lewis depicts Jesus
Christ as a lion named Aslan who is slain on a stone table.
Christianity Today says, "In Aslan, Christ is made tangible,
knowable, real." As if we can know Jesus Christ best through a fable
that is vaguely and inaccurately based on biblical themes and
intermingled with paganism.
WAS C.S. LEWIS A STRONG BIBLE BELIEVER?
Was C.S. Lewis a strong Bible believer? By no means, as even
Christianity Today admits. "Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a
classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and
a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though
he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn't subscribe
to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory
and baptismal regeneration" ("C.S. Lewis Superstar," Christianity
Today, Dec. 2005).
Lewis believed in prayers for the dead. In Letters to Malcolm,
he wrote, “Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous,
so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case
against it would deter men. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers
would survive if those for the dead were forbidden” (p. 109). He
believed in purgatory. In Letters to Malcolm, he wrote” “I
believe in Purgatory. ... The right view returns magnificently in
Newman’s Dream. There if I remember rightly, the saved soul, at the very
foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear
for a moment longer ‘with its darkness to affront that light’. ... Our
souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?” (pp. 110-111). Lewis confessed his
sins regularly to a priest and was given the Catholic sacrament of last
rites on July 16, 1963 (Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C.S.
Lewis: A Biography, 1974, pp. 198, 301). Lewis denied the total
depravity of man and the substitutionary blood atonement of Christ. He
believed in theistic evolution and rejected the Bible as the infallible
Word of God. He taught that hell is a state of mind: “And every state of
mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the
dungeon of its own mind--is, in the end, Hell” (Lewis, The Great
Divorce, p. 65). D. Martin Lloyd-Jones warned that C.S. Lewis had a
defective view of salvation and was an opponent of the substitutionary
and penal view of the atonement (Christianity Today, Dec. 20,
1963). In a letter to the editor of Christianity Today, Feb. 28,
1964, Dr. W. Wesley Shrader, First Baptist Church, Lewisburg,
Pennsylvania, warned that “C.S. Lewis ... would never embrace the
(literal-infallible) view of the Bible” (F.B.F. News Bulletin,
Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, March 4, 1984).
Lewis lived for 30 years with Janie Moore, a woman 25 years his
senior to whom he was not married. The relationship with the married
woman began when Lewis was still a student at Oxford. Moore was
separated from her husband. Lewis confessed to his brother Arthur that
he was in love with Mrs. Moore, the mother of one of his friends who was
killed in World War I. The relationship was definitely sexual in nature.
See Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis,
pp. 82, 94. At age 58, Lewis married Joy Gresham, an American woman who
pursued a relationship with Lewis even while she was still married to
another man. According to two of Lewis's friends, Gresham's husband
divorced her on the grounds of desertion (Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter
Hooper, Light on C.S. Lewis), though it also true that he, in
turn, married his Joy's cousin.
In the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken, a personal
letter is reproduced on page 191 in which Lewis suggests to VanAuken
that upon his next visit to England that the two of them "must have some
good, long talks together and perhaps we shall both get high." We have
no way to know exactly what this means, but we do know that Lewis drank
beer, wine, and whiskey on a daily basis.
Lewis never gave up his unholy fascination with paganism. On a visit
to Greece with his wife in 1960, Lewis made the following strange,
“I had some ado to prevent Joy (and myself) from lapsing into
paganism in Attica! AT DAPHNI IT WAS HARD NOT TO PRAY TO APOLLO THE
HEALER. BUT SOMEHOW ONE DIDN’T FEEL IT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY WRONG--WOULD
HAVE ONLY BEEN ADDRESSING CHRIST SUB SPECIE APOLLONIUS” (C.S.
Lewis to Chad Walsh, May 23, 1960, cited from George Sayer, Jack: A
Life of C.S. Lewis, 1994, p. 378).
What a blasphemous statement! Christ is not worshipped under the
image of pagan gods. And we must remember that this was written at the
end of Lewis’ life, and long after his “conversion” to Christ.
Lewis claimed that followers of pagan religions can be saved without
personal faith in Jesus Christ: “But the truth is God has not told us
what His arrangements about the other people are. ... There are people
who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are
so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense
than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who
are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of
their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus
belong to Christ without knowing it. For example a Buddhist of good will
may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about
mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he
believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points. Many of the good
Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position” (C.S.
Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, pp.
64, 208, 209).
LEWIS NEVER GAVE A CLEAR BIBLICAL TESTIMONY
OF THE NEW BIRTH AND SAID THAT FAITH IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST IS
C.S. Lewis went to some length to describe his views of salvation in
Mere Christianity and in his spiritual autobiography,
Surprised by Joy. In neither book did he give a clear biblical
testimony of the new birth.
As for faith in the blood of Christ, Lewis said that it is not an
essential part of Christianity. He taught that it does not matter how
one defines the atonement, and he himself did not believe in the
substitutionary blood atonement. In Mere Christianity he made the
"You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the
Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to
have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You
may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true. IF ANY OF
THEM DO NOT APPEAL TO YOU, LEAVE IT ALONE AND GET ON WITH THE FORMULA
THAT DOES. And, whatever you do, do not start quarrelling with other
people because they use a different formula from years" (Mere
Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, p. 182).
This is rank heresy. Lewis wrongly claimed that it does not matter if
a person believes that he is washed in Christ's blood, that this is a
mere "formula" that can be accepted or rejected at one's pleasure. He
said that it is just as well to believe that "the Father has forgiven us
because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done." That is a
bloodless salvation through Christ's life rather than through His Cross,
which, according to the Bible is no salvation at all. The "blood" is
mentioned more than 90 times in the New Testament, and that is no
accident. "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood;
and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews
9:22). If Jesus had lived a perfect life in our place and died a
bloodless death in our place, we would not be saved.
Lewis said, "The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has
somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to
how it did this are another matter. ... Any theories we build up as to
how Christ's death did all of this are, in my view, quite secondary..."
(Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, pp. 54, 55,
This is unscriptural teaching. God has revealed exactly what Christ
did and what the atonement means. It is not a matter of theorizing or
believing one “formula” over against another. The Bible says our
salvation is a matter of a propitiation, a ransom, whereby our sins were
washed away by Christ’s bloody death, which was offered as a payment to
satisfy God’s holy Law.
Lewis never mentions the doctrine of propitiation, but propitiation
was a necessary part of our salvation and the propitiation was made by
blood. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in
his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that
are past, through the forbearance of God" (Romans
3:25). Propitiation means satisfaction; covering; the fulfillment
of a demand. It refers to God's estimation of Christ's sacrifice. God is
fully satisfied by what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. The penalty for
His broken law by man's sin has been fully satisfied (Romans
Isaiah 5:11). The Greek word translated "propitiation" in
Romans 3:25 is also translated "mercy seat" in
Hebrews 9:5. The mercy seat perfectly covered the law which was
contained in the Ark
25:17, 21). This symbolizes propitiation--Christ covering the
demands of God's law. That it is the blood of Christ which satisfied
this demand and put away our sins was depicted on the Day of Atonement
when blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat by the high priest (Leviticus
Through Christ's blood we have eternal redemption. "Neither by the
blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into
the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews
Through Christ's blood we can enter into the presence of God. "Having
therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of
Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19).
This is not a theory or a formula. It is the Word of God, and if one
does not like it or believe it, he cannot be saved.
In Mere Christianity, Lewis claims that the Christ-life is
spread to men through baptism, belief, and the Lord's Supper. This is a
false gospel of faith plus works. He says, "There are three things that
spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious
action which different Christians call by different names--Holy
Communion, the Mass, the Lord's Supper. ... I am not saying anything
about which of these things is the most essential. My Methodist friend
would like me to say more about belief and less (in proportion) about
the other two. But I am not going into that" (Mere Christianity,
p. 61). [Note that he includes the Catholic Mass in his list of the
various names by which holy communion are known, failing to acknowledge
to his readers that the Mass is an entirely different thing than the
simple Lord's Supper of the New Testament.]
It is not a Methodist we should listen to but the Bible itself, and
the Bible says that salvation is by the grace of Christ alone through
faith in Christ alone without works, thatworks are important but they
follow after salvation and are the product of salvation rather than the
means of it. The difference between saying that salvation is by faith
without works and that works follow and saying that salvation is by
faith with works or faith plus works is the difference between a true
gospel and a false one. "Now to him that worketh is the reward not
reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but
believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness" (Romans 4:3-4). "For
by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is
the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians
I have read several of C.S. Lewis's books and dozens of his articles
and several biographies about him, and I have never seen a clear
teaching on the new birth or a clear biblical testimony that he was born
again. This should be cause for the deepest concern.
WHY IS LEWIS SO POPULAR WITH EVANGELICALS
In light of his lack of clear scriptural salvation testimony, his
heresies, his worldliness, and the massive pagan influences in his work,
why are evangelicals today so enamored with C.S. Lewis? I believe the
following are some of the chief reasons:
First, New Evangelicals love
C.S. Lewis because they are characterized by a pride of intellect and
Lewis was definitely an intellectual. He had almost a photographic
memory and had a triple first at Oxford in Philosophy, Classics, and
English. He was one of the greatest experts of that day in English
literature and occupied the first Chair in Medieval and
Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. Since New
Evangelicals almost worship intellectualism (a spirit that the late
David Otis Fuller called "scholarolatry"), it is no surprise that they
would look upon the famous intellectual C.S. Lewis as a patron saint.
Second, New Evangelicals love
C.S. Lewis because of his ecumenical thinking and his refusal to
practice separation. This has been admitted by Christianity Today.
"Lewis's S concentration on the main doctrines of the church coincided
with evangelicals' concern to avoid ecclesiastical separatism" (Christianity
Today, Oct. 25, 1993). CT therefore admits that C.S. Lewis is
popular to Evangelicals today because, like them, he despised biblical
C.S. Lewis was, in fact, very ecumenical. The following is an
overview of his ecumenical philosophy and his influence on present-day
"Lewis was firmly ecumenical, though he distanced himself from
outright liberalism. In his preface to Mere Christianity, Lewis
states that his aim is to present 'an agreed, or common, or central or
mere Christianity.' So he aims to concentrate on the doctrines that he
believes are common to all forms of Christianity--including Roman
Catholicism. It is no surprise that he submitted parts of the book to
four clergymen for criticism--an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian,
and a Roman Catholic! He hopes that the book will make it clear why all
Christians 'ought to be reunited,' but warns that it should not be seen
as an alternative to the creeds of existing denominations. He likens the
'mere Christianity' that he describes in the book to a hall from which
various rooms lead off. These rooms are the various Christian
traditions. And just as when you enter a house you do not stay in the
hall but enter a room, so when you become a Christian you should join a
particular Christian tradition. Lewis believes that it is not too
important which room you enter. It will be right for some to enter the
door marked 'Roman Catholicism' as it will for others to enter other
doors. Whichever room you enter, says Lewis, the important thing is that
you be convinced that it is the right one for you. And, he says, 'When
you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen
"Mention should also be made of Lewis' views of the sacraments. The
sacraments 'spread the Christ life to us' (Mere Christianity,
book 2, chapter 5). In his Letters to Malcolm Lewis states that
he does not want to 'unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his
denomination, the concepts--for him traditional--by which he finds it
profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives
the bread and wine' of the Lord's Supper. What happens in the Lord's
Supper is a mystery, and so the Roman Catholic conception of the bread
and wine becoming the actual body and blood of Christ might be just as
valid as the Protestant view of the Lord's Supper as a memorial (Letters
to Malcolm, chapter 19).
"This enigma of C.S. Lewis was no more than a slight bemusement to me
until recently three things changed my bemusement into bewilderment.
"In March 1994 the Evangelicals and Catholics Together
movementproduced its first document. This was a programatic document
entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian
Mission in the Third Millennium. It was rightly said at the time
that this document represented 'a betrayal of the Reformation.' I saw no
connection between this and C.S. Lewis until a couple of years later
when the symposium Evangelicals and Catholics Together:
Working Towards a Common Mission was published. In his contribution
to the book, Charles Colson--the Evangelical 'prime mover' behind ECT--tells
us that C.S. Lewis was a major influence which led him to form the
movement (Billy Graham was another!). In fact Colson says that
Evangelicals and Catholics Together seeks to continue the legacy of C.S.
Lewis by focusing on the core beliefs of all true Christians (Common
Mission, p. 36). The enigma took on a more foreboding aspect.
"The enigma darkened further when just last year (after becoming
connected to the Internet at the end of 1996) I discovered, quite by
accident, that C.S. Lewis is just as popular amongst Roman Catholics as
he is amongst Evangelicals. Perhaps I should have known this already,
but it had never struck me before.
"The third shock came last autumn when I read that Christianity
Today--reputed to be the leading evangelical magazine in the
USA--had conducted a poll amongst its readers to discover whom they
considered the most influential theological writers of the twentieth
century. You will have already guessed that C.S. Lewis came out on top!
"After these three things it came as no surprise to me this year to
find that C.S. Lewis has exerted a major influence on the Alpha course,
and that it quotes or refers to him almost ad nauseum. Could not the
Alpha course be renamed the 'Mere Christianity' course? ...
"In conclusion, I offer the following reflection. If it is true to
say that 'you are what you eat,' then it is also true to say that
'a Christian is what he hears and reads' since this is how he
gets his spiritual food. Thus if Christians are brought up on a diet
of C.S. Lewis, it should not surprise us to find they are seeking 'to
continue the legacy of C.S. Lewis.' The apostle Paul said, 'A
little leaven leaveneth the whole lump'
(Galatians 5:9--the whole passage is
relevant to the present context); thus IF EVANGELICALS READ AND APPLAUD
SUCH BOOKS AS MERE CHRISTIANITY IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE IF WE FIND
THEM 'WORKING TOWARDS A COMMON MISSION' WITH THE ENEMIES OF THE GOSPEL.
THE YOUNG CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT HE READS, AND THOSE IN
POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY (PASTORS, TEACHERS, PARENTS) SHOULD BE VERY
CAREFUL WHAT THEY RECOMMEND OTHERS TO READ" (Dr. Tony Baxter, "The
Enigma of C.S. Lewis," CRN Journal, Winter 1998, Christian Research
Network, Colchester, United Kingdom, p. 30; Baxter works for the
Protestant Truth Society as a Wycliffe Preacher).
In April 1998, Mormon professor Robert Millet spoke at Wheaton
College on the topic of C.S. Lewis. In a recent issue of Christianity
Today, Millet, dean of Brigham Young University, is quoted as saying
that C.S. Lewis "is so well received by Latter-day Saints [Mormons]
because of his broad and inclusive vision of Christianity" (John W.
Kennedy, "Southern Baptists Take Up the Mormon Challenge,"
Christianity Today, June 15, 1998, p. 30).
Third, New Evangelicals love
C.S. Lewis because of their shared sympathy with Rome. Today’s
evangelicals have given us “Evangelicals and Rome Together” and even
those who do not go that far usually speak of Rome’s errors in soft,
congenial terms rather than labeling it the blasphemous, antichrist
institution that it is and that Protestants and Baptists of old plainly
called it. As we have seen, C.S. Lewis considered the Roman Catholic
Church one of the acceptable “rooms” in the house of Christianity and
longed for unity between Protestantism and Romanism. Lewis believed in
prayers to the dead and purgatory.
Some of Lewis’s closest friends were Roman Catholics. J.R. Tolkien of
Lord of the Rings fame is one example. Tolkien and Lewis were very close
and spent countless hours together. Lewis credited Tolkien with having a
large role in his “conversion.” Lewis was also heavily influenced by the
Roman Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton. When asked what Christian writers
had helped him, Lewis remarked in 1963, six months before he died, “The
contemporary book that has helped me the most is Chesterton’s The
Everlasting Man” (God in the Dock, edited by Walter Hooper,
1970, p. 260).
Lewis carried on a warm correspondence in Latin with Catholic priest
Don Giovanni Calabria of Italy over their shared "concern for the
reunification of the Christian churches" (The Narnian, Alan
Jacobs, pp. 249, 250). Calabria was beatified by Pope John Paul II in
In 1943, Lewis gave a talk on "Christian Apologetics" for a group of
priests in Wales (The Narnian, p. 229).
From the 1940s to the end of his life, Lewis's spiritual advisor was
a Catholic priest named Walter Adams (The Narnian, p. 224). It
was to this priest that Lewis confessed his sins.
Roman Catholics love C.S. Lewis as much as evangelicals. His books
are typically found in Catholic bookstores. Michael Coren, a Roman
Catholic, wrote a biography of Lewis entitled “C.S. Lewis: The Man Who
Created Narnia.” The Catholic news agency Zenit asked Coren, “What do
Catholics need to know about C.S. Lewis?” He replied: “They should know
he wasn’t a Catholic, but that doesn't mean he wouldn’t have become one
eventually. G. K. Chesterton became a Catholic in 1922 but had really
been one for 20 years. ... Lewis was born in Belfast, in sectarian
Northern Ireland, so he was raised anti-Catholic like most Protestant
children there. He was a man of his background but HIS VIEWS WERE VERY
CATHOLIC: HE BELIEVED IN PURGATORY, BELIEVED IN THE SACRAMENTS, WENT TO
CONFESSION” (“The Subtle Magic of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia: Michael Coren’s
Perspective as the New Movie Looms,” Zenit, Dec. 7, 2005).
Evangelicalism's love affair with C.S. Lewis is evidence of its deep
spiritual compromise and lack of sound doctrinal discernment.
"Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump?" (1 Corinthians 5:6)
"Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." (1
"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from
such turn away."
2 Timothy 3:5)
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and
offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."