C. S. Lewis on “Christian Apologetics” -- By: Mark Hamilton
ATJ 35 (2003) p. 83
C. S. Lewis on “Christian Apologetics”
Mark Hamilton (MA, MA, DMin from ATS) is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ashland University.
In 1945 C.S. Lewis delivered a speech to a group of Anglican Church pastors and youth leaders in Wales on the topic of Christian Apologetics and this lecture is printed in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970) 89-103 under the title of “Christian Apologetics.” Many of the points Lewis makes in his lecture to this audience are quite timeless. Church leaders and pastors who work on the frontlines of Christian ministry today would be wise to heed his directives for practical apologetics.
Lewis begins by telling them that they must know what it is that is being defended, and that clear boundary lines must be drawn as to what is within the definition of Christian doctrine defined as “the faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the Creeds, expounded by the Fathers” (90). Without boundaries it would be impossible to defend the Faith for no one would know what they are defending. Apologists should make a clear distinction between this historical faith and their own opinions. One must even face up to those doctrines that one is uncomfortable with because it is not about what we like but about what is true (Lewis himself disliked the doctrine of eternal hell, but considered it to be a part of Christian truth). The modern audience must be convinced that the apologist is defending Christianity not because it is liked or good, but rather because it is objective fact, because it is true (91). This has radical implications for our postmodern relativistic age that rejects all claims to truth.
In the Apologist’s private studying, Lewis believes there are two areas to keep up on: the “recent movements in theology,” and whether there is influence by all the “winds of doctrine” (91). Lewis is greatly concerned that the contemporary church not be compromised by these new theological movements. The Apologist studies and reviews the standard of permanent Christianity through reading “old books”, assuming these to be Christian classics, so he might possess the tools to recognize and confront the error of the new theological trends. This is so the apologist is not stirred by the winds of fashion and keeps clear the “standard by which we must test all contemporary thought” (92). What are those new recent movements in theology and how are we challenging them? Do we understand the traditional faith well enough to defend it and to distinguish it from those recent movements as they arise?
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