A reader had kindly sent me a book by a prominent theologian explaining the doctrine of the Christian church to which she belongs. Starting to read, I came upon the author’s definition of Christianity, with which I disagreed. I was thinking of blogging about it, but didn’t want to get into such a controversial area, especially as I lack sufficient knowledge to deal with it adequately.
At the same time, I have had a copy of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity sitting on my book shelf for years, but had not read it. It occurred to me that with Lewis’s emphasis on the basics of Christianity rather than the doctrines of a particular denomination, he might be helpful to me. So I began reading the book yesterday afternoon. Right in the preface Lewis says something that fit exactly with my own experience and was extremely helpful to me. I immediately adopted it as my own approach for any future writings on Christianity at VFR.
The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian “denominations.” You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic. This omission is intentional (even in the list I have just given the order is alphabetical). There is no mystery about my own position. I am a very ordinary layman of the Church of England, not especially “high,” nor especially “low,” nor especially anything else. But in this book I am not trying to convert anyone to my own position. Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son. Finally, I got the impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial matters than in the defence of what Baxter calls “mere” Christianity. That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.
You often write of synchronicity. Years ago in the first phase of my Christian life, like many others I went through a C.S. Lewis phase, collecting and reading several of his works including Mere Christianity. I was edified by them but eventually moved on and I had not picked any of them up for at least ten years or so. Sometime last week while scanning my shelves for something to read I lighted on my old copy of The Screwtape Letters . I just finished it last night and I enjoyed it once again. And lo and behold, here you come quoting Lewis.LA replies:
The Abolition of Man is a seminal conservative book, perhaps the one that had the most influence on me. Also, it’s nice and short. However, you need to get past the opening part which, discussing two imaginary representative intellectual figures named Gaius and Titius, is a bit obscure. Someone should publish a revised version of the book without that distracting and difficult opening which may drive away some readers.November 19
Jacob M. writes:
Gaius and Titius weren’t imaginary representative intellectual figures; they were real pedagogic authors for whom Lewis invented pseudonyms because he was too nice to criticize them by name. In the introduction Lewis discusses their book, a textbook for schoolchildren which he called The Green Book, whose modernist approach to the English language and relativistic philosophy were the very things that touched off his writing The Abolition of Man. Readers later surmised the book was The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing by Alex King and Martin Ketley.LA replies:
I didn’t know that that the real Gaius and Titius had been identified.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 18, 2012 02:17 PM | Send