An Excerpt from
ReGrace: What the Shocking Beliefs
of the Great Christians Can Teach Us Today
[ AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The intention of this chapter (and the book) is not to degrade or criticize Lewis. It’s rather to show that despite his brilliance, he may not have gotten everything right. Because evangelical Christians, as a whole, regard Lewis to be the greatest apologist (defender) of the Christian faith in modern history, these beliefs of his will surprise (and perhaps even shock) many evangelicals because they might be regarded as unbiblical by some evangelical standards.
God undoubtedly used Lewis despite whatever he may have believed that was inaccurate or questionable. Therefore, let’s extend grace to our fellow Christians when we find ourselves disagreeing with them. The book explores how to disagree in a Christ-like manner. ]
[Despite] his amazing contribution to the Christian faith, here are seven shocking beliefs that [C.S.] Lewis held.
1. Lewis believed in praying for the dead.
Here’s a quote:
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 me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden.
2. Lewis believed in purgatory.
Springing out of his belief of praying for the dead was his belief in purgatorial cleansing. According to Roman Catholic dogma, purgatory is the final purification of the elect after death. In A Grief Observed, Lewis talked about his deceased wife, Joy, connecting her to suffering and cleansing in purgatory. Lewis believed in salvation by grace, but he thought complete transformation was dependent upon one’s choice. Thus he felt that transformation can even occur after death, and some Christians need to be cleansed in order to be fit for heaven and enjoy it.
For Lewis, purgatory was designed to create complete sanctification, not retribution or punishment. So Lewis saw purgatory as a work of grace.
Here are some revealing quotes from Lewis:
To pray [for the dead] presupposes that progress and difficulty are still possible. In fact, you are bringing in something like Purgatory.
Well, I suppose that I am. Though even in Heaven some perpetual increase of beatitude, reached by a continually more ecstatic self-surrender, without the possibility of failure but not perhaps without its own ardours and exertions—for delight also has its severities and steep ascents, as lovers know—might be supposed. But I won’t press, or guess, that side for the moment. I believe in Purgatory.
3. Lewis believed that it was possible for some unbelievers to find salvation after they have left this world.
While Lewis didn’t subscribe to universalism or ultimate reconciliation, he did believe that salvation after death was a possibility for some.
His view was that some people may seek and find Christ without knowing Him by name. However, he was very clear that this was not “salvation by sincerity” or “goodness” but rather a Spirit-driven desire for God.
For Lewis, Christianity is not the only revelation of God’s way, but it is the complete and perfect revelation. Lewis, therefore, didn’t hold to the idea that all roads lead equally to God. In addition, Lewis believed that time may not work the same way after death as it does in life. Thus all those who lived before Christ and after might be subject to the grace of repentance.
Interestingly, Lewis’s distant mentor, George MacDonald, believed in ultimate reconciliation (meaning, hell will be empty because God will win everyone to Himself in the end). Lewis’s regard for MacDonald was incomparable. He said of MacDonald, “I dare not say that he is never in error; but to speak plainly I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.”
That’s quite a statement to make about someone you don’t fully agree with doctrinally.
4. Lewis believed that it was acceptable for Christians to drink alcohol.
In contrast, many evangelicals today believe that all Christians should abstain from alcohol. Here’s a direct quote by Lewis on this point:
Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. . . . It is a mistake to think that Christians ought to be teetotalers; [Islam], not Christianity, is the teetotal religion.
5. Lewis believed that the book of Job wasn’t historical and that the Bible contained errors.
This view will be shocking to some evangelicals, especially the conservative wing, since Lewis is widely regarded as an evangelical icon.
The Book of Job appears to me unhistorical because it begins about a man quite unconnected with all history or even legend, with no genealogy, living in a country of which the Bible elsewhere has hardly anything to say; because, in fact, the author quite obviously writes as a story-teller not as a chronicler.
The human qualities of the raw materials [of the Bible] show through. Naïvety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God.
6. Lewis didn’t believe that all parts of the Bible were the Word of God.
In his Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis made these interesting comments:
Speaking of judgment and hatred in the Psalms. [Lewis calls them, “the vindictive Psalms, the cursings”; they are also known as “the imprecatory Psalms.”] Yet there must be some Christian use to be made of them; if, at least we [Christians] still believe (as I do) that all Holy Scripture is in some sense—though not all parts of it in the same sense—the word of God.
7. Lewis believed that the creation account in Genesis may have been derived from pagan sources.
Here’s a quote:
I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical.