Monday, May 9, 2016
At our last C. S. Lewis Society men's meeting, we reviewed Part I, chapters 22 and 23 and Part II,chapter 1 of God in the Dock.
I, 22, is "Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger." In 1958, Dr. Pittenger was Chairman of the Theological Commission of the World Council of Churches. He wrote an article in Christian Century taking Lewis to task over various issues, especially in his books The Problem of Pain and Miracles. Lewis' response is humble, humourous, and rather a rebuke to Pittenger.
We kept noticing that Lewis expresses frustration with Pittenger (P) because P is often not clear in his writing of what he means. Lewis tries to answer him as best he can.
As for The Problem of Pain, two points addressed. Lewis admits his statement about the Incarnation in one place was a bit "crude," but he states that he corrected it in another edition and his statements in Mere Christianity should be an antidote. The second point is Lewis attempting to understand what P says about the "God-Man", trying to decide whether he agrees with P or not.
When it comes to P's criticism's about Miracles, Lewis up-front says that he has to deny them all. Lewis' comments about one of these issues needs a little background.
At that time, it was common among critical New Testament scholars to believe that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written in the first century, but John's gospel was written much later. They believed this because they assumed that there was an evolution in the Church's understanding of the divinity of Jesus, and since John's statements about Jesus are so explicit, then they must represent a later development. In other words, John's gospel could not have been written by John in the first century, because he seems so sure about Jesus' divinity - more sure than the authors of the Synoptics seems to be. P has apparently complained of Lewis not siding with the current opinions on the gospels.
Lewis is, of course, aware of this "scholarly" opinion. He simply disagrees with it. The Synoptics themselves contain stories about Jesus that contain inescapable claims by him of deity. He cites Jesus' claim to forgive sin and his confessions at his trial. We have here the same Jesus of John's gospel.
After a humourous response to P's complaint about Lewis not caring about animals, he concludes with a final judgment on P's failure to recognize the audience to whom Lewis is writing. He is writing to the uneducated, and apparently P doesn't even think about these people.
We have here an important autobiographical insight into Lewis' rational for his writing style; very worthwhile reading.
Part I, ch. 23 can simply be summarized thus: Lewis helps the Bishop of Woolwich say what he meant to say or should have said, and takes the wind out of his claim of "novelty" or that the whole thing is an "issue" needing to be addressed.
Part II, ch. 1, is very interesting. There are several things going on here. Lewis is trying to balance out a recent call - primarily by Oxford undergrads - for national repentance. That is, England needs to admit her own faults for decisions that have lead to World War II.
He is not against calls to national repentance. However, he cannot help but notice that such calls can lead to a failure to recognize the reality of the issues related to the individuals involved:
a) the students themselves are accusing people in the Government of wrong - some of them Christian brothers, by the way - without having to examine the wrongs of their own lives;
b) their accusations against these people are uncharitable and a show of disrespect for their elders;
c) they were not even alive when some of these decisions were made, so if they want to blame themselves for something, they need to look at the sins of their own generation - but then they aren't really counting themselves in anyway.
It was obvious that these young people were only too glad to bring accusations against their elders, and that enjoyment lead Lewis to suspect the whole affair. The movement reminded us of calls for repentance or confession of sin for this or that organization today, which are lead more by political sentiments than a careful evaluation of the actual circumstances involved.
We also recognized that a nation only repents when the majority of the individuals in that nation repent. The best thing we can do for our country or other organization is ourselves to honestly repent and, with humility and charity, encourage others to do so as we are able. If the Church officially calls a nation to repent, it must do so carefully, and in the right spirit. There should be nothing about it to enjoy - no "gotcha" moment.
Image source: https://universityhistory.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/looking-back-degree-day1950s-bw.jpg?w=820&h=312&crop=1