For those who may not know, Thomas Hudgins is the lead translator for the Spanish edition of David Alan Black’s intorductory Greek grammar, Aprenda a Leer el Griego del Nuevo Testamento, which we expect to start shipping around mid-January 2015. If I can find the time, I’m going to comment on some posts of his regarding teaching textual criticism.
Michael Patton, who often steps into controversial issues (which I do not mean as a criticism), asks why people love C. S. Lewis, but hate Rob Bell. His conclusion is that this is because Bell’s ideas that push the boundaries characterize his ministry, unlike those of C. S. Lewis.
I must admit that I’ve read only a few lines of Rob Bell, while I’ve read just about everything related to Christianity that C. S. Lewis ever wrote. In addition, I’m not a universalist, though I don’t automatically call universalists heretics.
But I ‘m going to suggest a different reason why people perceive these two men so differently. Rob Bell is contemporary. He may say many things other than what he said in his most recent book, but he has managed to become the poster boy for certain controversies. I’m not sure that his ministry is characterized by this one topic; it’s the publicity about him that bears that character.
C. S. Lewis got started defending Christianity, and that certainly did make it easier for him to get accepted regarding other ideas. But he gets a pass on many doctrines that in others are regarded as heretical. In my view, other thinkers should get similarly gracious treatment.
(Note: I ignore here issues of writing quality. In the little bit I’ve read, I’ve come to doubt I could tolerate reading an entire book by Rob Bell, whereas I really enjoy Lewis’s prose. But I haven’t read enough of Bell to make that a firm opinion of his writing.)
There’s an article in the Touchstone archives by Bishop Wright which I find very interesting, largely because it expresses some of my own feelings regarding Lewis.
C. S. Lewis is, of course, a brilliant writer. I enjoy reading even those things with which I disagree, and not just because I like to be challenged. He simply uses the language brilliantly. I would also say that the book Mere Christianity played a role in my Christian life both when I was a student, and then when I was returning to church. At the same time, I don’t use a great deal of the apologetics that Lewis used in supporting my own faith in discussions with others. The trilemna, for example, doesn’t work for me as an argument for the divinity of Jesus. It does help clarify things, I believe, at a certain point, but it is not, in itself, convincing.
I have also observed what Wright notes as well, that C. S. Lewis, though often embraced by conservative evangelicals, was not one himself. I would note that even from my more liberal perspective, I find Lewis’s view of inspiration to be a bit beyond where I want to go. Nonetheless, I think I can understand the value of Lewis to evangelicals in that he makes some fairly viable statements on some of the essentials, and he provides us with expressions of many other ideas that are valuable in themselves.
All in all, thanks to Bishop Wright for helping clarify some of my own thinking about one of my favorite authors. (Wright himself is another, though he tends to be a little less delightful in style!)