Quick Thoughts, iv. A Warning to the Wise

Does Scripture give us the answers to all of life’s questions? No, of course it does not. But on the other hand, Scripture is sufficient for our lives. Its sufficiency lies not in that it is a handbook for buying homes or an apology to the charges of atheists, but it lies in that it is the Wellspring of Salvation and of True and Transforming Knowledge. It is only through the Word and through his Name that men are saved, and it is only through the Word that men have seen the Father. Therefore, if we are to look upon the Father, he must be revealed specially to us. All attempts to know the Father apart from the Word are futile and wicked, for, by such attempts, attempters declare that they in their finitude can comprehend the Infinite, that they who are feeble can comprehend the Almighty, and that they who are stupid can comprehend the Omniscient. It is not by piety that men seek to know God apart from and beyond his Holy Scriptures, but it is by feigned ability and gross arrogance. It is in the end the idolatry of intellect–the forbidden fruit and the golden calf of the curious. It is philosophy beyond Special Revelation that perhaps cast the great minds of C. S. Lewis and John Stott into heterodoxy; we therefore would be wise to be diligent in our intellectual pursuits.1

1 – The reference to C. S. Lewis’s supposed heterodoxy is founded chiefly in his The Last Battle where he expresses some clear inclusivist ideas. Whether or not we are to take this as his personal belief or just chalk it up to fiction is not clear. John Stott’s heterodoxy however is clear. Stott has clearly rejected the doctrine of a literal hell and believes that reprobate souls are annihilated rather than eternally tormented.



Categories: Quick Thoughts

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22 replies

  1. I have to ask: How was Lewis heterodox? What makes someone a heretic? I wrote about heresy hereand I'm curious if you would agree.

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  2. Though this can be chalked up to being fiction, the infamous scene in The Last Battle where the worshipper of Tash is accepted by Aslan smacks of inclusivism. I'll post it for the sake of those who have not read it:

    But the Glorious ONe bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou are welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then ture, as the Ape said, taht thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites. I take to me the services which thou has done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him … Beloved, said teh Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

    And I will have to read your post. Unfortunately, blogspot addresses are blocked while I am at work.

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  3. I wouldn't say that CS Lewis was even close to heterodoxy and certainly not Stott…that is a very serious assertion.

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  4. Lewis categorically denied several times that Narnia is allegory. There is not a 1:1 correspondence between Jesus and Aslan.

    You are mistaken when you think that everything in the books 'represents' something in this world. Things do that in The Pilgrim's Progress but I'm not writing in that way. I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia': I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'

    Quoted in Walter Hooper's, "C.S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide"

    Also, I think my questions are fair questions that should be answered? What is a heretic?

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  5. @Anonymous

    Stott denies the existence of a literal hell and affirms annihilationism. I would say without hesitancy that that is heterodox. It is a serious assertion, and we are dealing with a very serious matter.

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  6. @Josh

    I'm not avoiding your question. If you read what I wrote earlier, I cannot presently access your blog.

    Also, I understand that Lewis's works do not have 1:1 correlation. But the above passage seems to be a bit unsettling if Lewis would in fact deny that. I personally would not have put that in my own fiction, but I'm no C. S. Lewis either.

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  7. Oh, I know you aren't avoiding it. My blog post isn't necessary to read, it's just an aside. I'm just curious as to how you define a heretic.

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  8. That is an excellent question … I will think on it. Presently, I'm at: "I'll know one when I see one." Probably not a good answer.

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  9. With regards to heresy, I suppose that I think in layers, which I believe are biblical, but we'll leave that to scrutiny.

    1. The chief level of heresy in my mind is anything that defiles the Gospel. This is broad category. For instance, let's say theoretically that Lewis did affirm his belief of inclusivism, we would then call Lewis a heretic because inclusivism is heresy for it denies the biblical declaration that Christ is Way, etc. and no one comes to the Father except through him. Also, we can call someone like Joel Osteen a heretic because he teaches the heresy that the Gospel will make everything in this life dandy which contradicts the whole New Testament.

    2. The second level of heresy is any doctrine that is clear contradiction of what is clearly revealed in Scripture. Open Theism comes to mind, as does the theory of annihilationism and the denial of a literal hell.

    I've got more, but it's all dancing around the original question. Heresy is anything that clearly stands against the declaration of God in Scripture. Anyone who believes any heresy is a heretic. This throws many people into the category of heretic and could have included myself at times, maybe even now.:)

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  10. Well, as badly as I don't want to admit it, Lewis was a bit questionable.

    I just read in my "C. S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide" by Walter Hooper, this interesting piece of information:

    "There is an interesting piece of unravelling of the new synthetic religion near the end of the book [The Last Battle]…Many have wondered how Lewis jusitfied putting Emeth there, and the answer is that this is how Lewis imagined God might deal with the virtuous heathen. [quoting "Mere Christianity II, 5] 'Is it not frightfully unfair, that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is that God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.'" (444-445).

    Also Hooper says that Lewis was asked about the salvation of Emeth he would quote John 10:16.

    So I think Lewis left his answer open to the question "what happens to the man on the island that has never heard the Gospel?" Or perhaps one that makes all a little uncomfortable, "what happens to unborn babies, or what happens when infants die?"
    I think humbly, Lewis admits he just doesn't know. Perhaps in "The Last Battle," he is saying that it would take just as much grace for Emeth to get to heaven as it would for anyone–not what good works one may have. (okay, I may just be trying too hard:).

    I still love Lewis, even if there is an ambiguity to this issue. He claims throughout that he is no theologian. And by no means can we suggest Emeth going to the new Narnia as him stating directly what he believes. (as you said in your footnote, it is fiction).

    In short, (sorry my comment is so long) by the definition of your own as to what heresy is: a heretic, Lewis is not. He says that no one comes to the Father except through Christ. 🙂

    Just for fun, my favorite quote in LB is when Lucy says, "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

    As for John Stott, think of him what you will. 🙂

    I will say that we all have blind spots in our theology, but one day they will be remove–Christ will appear and we will be like Him.

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  11. "Heresy is anything that clearly stands against the declaration of God in Scripture."

    According to whose interpretation? Is Calvin a heretic if grace is infused and not imputed? Is Luther a heretic for his semi-Pelagian anthropology?

    "Anyone who believes any heresy is a heretic."

    What if it's not intentional? If you're mistaken about something, are you a heretic? Do heretics go to Heaven? If you believe any bit of heresy whatsoever, are you hell-bound?

    On point 1: Lewis didn't teach inclusivism, so you can't call it "his" theory. That's not very fair. You're taking one passage that isn't even strictly teaching that (there's a lot in the Bible that could be taken as inclusivism) and saying Lewis must mean this, even though he denies outright that Narnia is allegory. Also, is Luther a heretic for going against the unity of the Church? Is Zwingli a heretic to Luther because Zwingli held to a strictly memorial view of the Eucharist whereas Luther believed in a consubstantiation?

    On point 2: "Revealed in Scripture" is again something that's a little vague. Basically, this boils down to : Anyone is a heretic who doesn't agree with my understanding of Scripture.

    Where is the Church's role in this whole thing?

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  12. @Melissa Parnell

    Thanks for your input and research, Melissa. And I'm definitely going to start using that line of Lewis's when somebody questions something I say, namely that "I'm no theologian." The guy who wrote "Mere Christianity" is not a theologian? Ha! =P

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  13. @Josh McManaway

    I do not believe that I said anywhere that an heretic is hell-bound. As you pointed out quite well, my definition of an heretic is quite loose. Zwingli, whom you pointed our for his view of the ordinance, was quite loose on his definition as well and had no problem with drowning the "heretics" who rejected paedobaptism and a majesterial church. I do not think that I would go quite so far as he did, and I therefore do not feel quite so bad using the label.

    And apparently you missed the "clearly" in my statement, "Heresy is anything that clearly stands against the declaration of God in Scripture.” Whether grace is infused or imputed is not quite as clear as "Jesus is the way, the truth, and life."

    On point 1: Lewis didn’t teach inclusivism, so you can’t call it “his” theory. That’s not very fair.

    That's fine. I'm just saying the man well knew the implications of what he was writing when he was writing it. He wasn't an idiot.

    On point 2: “Revealed in Scripture” is again something that’s a little vague. Basically, this boils down to : Anyone is a heretic who doesn’t agree with my understanding of Scripture.

    No, not particularly. I'm sure the orthodox church labels inclusivism (whether Lewis believed it or not) as heresy and annihilationism as heresy.

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  14. "I do not believe that I said anywhere that an heretic is hell-bound."

    I know you didn't, that's why I asked. I'm trying to narrow down what makes a heretic and the practical implications of heresy.

    And "clearly" is relative. What may be blatantly clear to me may not be to someone else. For instance, when Jesus says "This is my body", I see that as being very clear – others do not. Someone's right – are the rest heretics?

    Lewis denied the interpretation you're putting into his texts. Perhaps things aren't "clear".

    I didn't bring up Zwingli to decry what he did – rather to try and bring "heresy" into practical, historical terms. Between Luther and Zwingli, on the issue of the Eucharist, who is the heretic and why? That's really my concern.

    I'm not sure I understand your last point. Are you saying that you're not getting your definition of heretic from your own reading of Scripture? And which "orthodox" (you used the little O, so I'm not sure) church are you talking about? If you mean little "o" orthodox, then I'm still confused – are there any churches who don't consider themselves orthodox?

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  15. Lewis denied the interpretation you’re putting into his texts. Perhaps things aren’t “clear”.

    I would like to read that.

    Also, being that there is no longer a physical, catholic church that has authority over all "Christians," labeling someone a heretic who is outside one's denomination or congregation has little practical implications. My use of the term "heterodox" to label the two great minds of Lewis and Stott was not so I could simply "condemn" them because I was looking for an opportunity to, but because I wanted to demonstrate that even great minds and godly men are not exempt from error. I meant nothing more than that, and I think the context in which it was said makes that fairly clear. And being that "heterodox" means nothing more than "opposing that which is orthodox," I don't think my use was much of a stretch. And for the record, I personally love a lot of the writings of Lewis and Stott.

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  16. Also, being that there is no longer a physical, catholic church that has authority over all “Christians".

    There is definitely still a physical, Catholic Church – and her authority isn't contingent upon whether someone recognizes it. Jesus is King even if atheists deny Him – likewise, His Kingdom is His Kingdom…(though I don't want to get into ecclesiology at the moment).

    On Lewis' quote, you've already read it – his express denial that Narnia is allegory. It's not like Pilgrim's Progress where there is a literal 1:1 correspondence between the two worlds. We have to respect the genre of a literary work.

    I think I'm not explaining where my emphasis is – you keep saying "heterodox" and "orthodox", but I want to know: according to whom? You say Scripture, but I'm saying, again, according to whom? This is in no way meant to be a jab, but I think that someone who is a Southern Baptist appealing to "orthodoxy" is a little odd – orthodoxy (as is historically believed and practiced by the Church) disagrees with you on the nature and number of the sacraments, the nature of the Church, etc. If you're agreeing with "Orthodoxy" on some things, but not others, where does that leave you?

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  17. There is definitely still a physical, Catholic Church.

    If you're speaking of the Roman Church, I believe Providence has graciously fixed that.

    I think IÂ’m not explaining where my emphasis is – you keep saying “heterodox” and “orthodox”, but I want to know: according to whom?

    According to God, obviously. I'm not quite sure why you are trying to make it out that Scripture is some obscure and unclear document. There are things in Scripture that are quite clear and that have been held by the Church since its inception, and that, my friend, is orthodoxy.

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  18. I would agree with Lewis, he wasn't a theologian, per se. I don't think that Mere Christianity could be labeled as a systematic theology. Don't forgot that was actually a series of radio boardcasting that eventually got put into book form. Plus, I heard Travers speak those words. 🙂

    Although you *had* to bust on one of my favorite authors, I do realize he was not infallible. I am thankful for the grace God gave to Lewis and Stott because grace to them has been grace to me. (all i have ever read by John Stott was "The Cross of Christ" and it was very good, for the most part).

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  19. @Melissa Parnell
    Well, I suppose if a theologian is one who compiles a systematic theology, I must agree with you. And you did notice that I waited till Travers left to say what I thought.:) JK. I love Lewis, and, as I wrote in another comment, I wasn't busting on him just to bust on him. There's method in the madness.

    @All
    To further the fairness (if that's possible), I reworded my main entry to alleviate the degree of the accusation brought on Lewis, though I believe my footnote was sufficient and fair enough.

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  20. I know Matt. I hope you could read my playful banter.

    It was funny, before you even posted this, I told Jonathan I didn't want Lewis to be an inclusivist. When I saw your twitter tweet (i guess, that's what you call it) I thought the Lord was dealing with me to settle it once and for all! haha:) It was good for me to think (I know this may surprise you, being the scholar, theologian that I am, but it doesn't happen much). 🙂

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  21. If youÂ’re speaking of the Roman Church, I believe Providence has graciously fixed that.

    Lets hope Providence continues to do so. He renews us "day by day" as St. Paul says, to be sure He is forever giving His Church the graces she needs. But, again, I'm not really worried about ecclesiology.

    Saying "According to God, obviously" only obscures our question even more. Are you claiming to know the mind of God infallibly? And there are roughly 30,000+ "Bible only" Churches out there today, all claiming to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, all reading the same Bible, all teaching mutually contradictory things. So, again, according to whom? The SDA's think you're a heretic for worshipping on Sunday, some (most?) Southern Baptists think I'm a heretic because I believe Jesus' words "This is my body" and "If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you" (although orthodoxy is in favor of that interpretation).

    I'm not trying to make the Scriptures anything, I'm just trying to see them for what they are. Even St. Peter laments the "simple" twisting the Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:16. As a Protestant, I wondered why so many splinters existed in the body if there's one Bible, and then "one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4).

    Heresy is a very serious issue, I think. St. Paul says that heresy keeps us from the Kingdom (Gal 5:20 – ????????). I was trying to bring in a matter that we both probably know something about – Luther and Zwingli. Both used the same Bible, both came to wildly different conclusions concerning the Eucharist. So, using the Bible, how do I know who's right? I'm not being snide, this is a question I ponder a lot. The nature of hermeneutics is really of interest to me.

    Thanks for this dialogue.

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  22. Honestly, Josh, heresy was a semantics issue for me, so I will probably use the term less since it obviously has implications to some that I'm not intending it to have. I thank you for making me aware of that.

    When I think of orthodoxy, I think of the Triune God, the Divinity of the Son & Spirit, the exclusivity of Salvation through Jesus Christ, etc. I have often wondered about the "fundamentals" of the Faith, though I would scarcely label myself a fundamentalist. I lament that the church is divided over the mode of baptism (though I believe Scripture's teaching is clear), the nature of the communion, etc. when those things seem secondary to me. I despise particularly that some Baptists (and perhaps other denominations) withhold membership from regenerate souls simply because they do not line up exactly doctrinally especially with regards to baptism. Isn't the church the environment where we are to learn about doctrine not a club of like-minded people?

    As for hermeneutics, I really like Dr. Hogg's definition that was something like, "Read the Bible and look for patterns and look for weird things. The patterns are there for a reason and the weird things are weird for a reason. And when you find something weird, keep reading and you'll usually find why it's there." He said it much better, but I think it's brilliant.

    Thank you as well. Blessings.

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