Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chrous vs. Stanza - Difference between C.S. Lewis and Rob Bell

I appreciate Michael Patton's explanation here because I have always had problems with C.S. Lewis's theology while loving some of his books. His denial of substitutionary atonement and the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy is a problem for me, but to hear Michael differentiate between what was C.S. Lewis' chorus from his stanzas is helpful for me. while I don't know how he can emphasize the Gospel while denying some things like substitutionary atonement.  I complete believe that Scripture and Gospel mission is denied by C.S. Lewis' inclusivism or "wider-grace" view of salvation apart from the knowledge of Christ.  As a pastor these views would probably make me deny a person the opportunity to teach in a local church community.  

Michael describes C.S. Lewis' aberrant theology in the following quote:
... he had some non-”evangelical” leanings. Besides not believing in inerrancy, he also believed in the theory of evolution, denied substitutionary atonement in favor of a “ransom to Satan” view, bordered on a Pelagian idea of human freedom, seemed to advocate baptismal regeneration, and regularly prayed for the dead. To top it all off, he held out hope for the destiny of the unevangelized, believing that Christ might save them outside of direct knowledge of him (inclusivism).
Should we accept Michael's analysis that the difference between C.S. Lewis and Rob Bell is one of focus or emphasis in that one publicly focuses on defending Christianity and the other focuses on question Christianity.   He states that he fully embraces and endorses the ministry of C.S. Lewis, but he does not endorse or embrace the ministry of Rob Bell.  Here is his reasoning for his support for C.S. Lewis and rejection of Rob Bell's work:
You see, while C.S. Lewis has a great deal of theological foibles, his ministry is defined by a defense of the essence of the Gospel. The essence of who Christ is and what he did are ardently defended by Lewis, saturating every page of his book. His purpose was clear: to defend the reality of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. . . .   However, with Rob Bell, the essence of who Christ is and what he did seem to be secondary. One has to look for them as they weed through his defense of non-traditional Christianity. Whereas Lewis’ ultimate purpose is to define and defend “mere” Christianity, Bell’s “mere” Christianity is but a footnote to a redefined Christianity. 
Again, should we make a distinction between a chorus and stanza as one of emphasis?  Here is his this framework in one paragraph that I am questioning:
Another way to put this is to say that in the ministry of C.S. Lewis the central truths of the Christian faith are the chorus of his song with an occasional problem in the stanza. However, with Bell, the chorus of his song is filled with challenges to tradition Christianity and if you listen really close to the stanza, you might get an occasional line of orthodoxy.
I believe that one's theology and worldview is holistic, complete, or comprehensive and wrong beliefs will affect and change Biblical beliefs one holds to over time.  Of course God uses people with imperfect theology - God uses crooked sticks to draw a straight line.    The question is it better to have people read more orthodox or Biblical books.   We must remember that it takes discernment to read anything by a man or woman.  So for growth, I believe that this paradigm is helpful to see the core of anyone's worldview and theology.  I think it is generally helpful to read people who have a Gospel centered focus, but know that some of the Stanzas may be a point of departure from the truth of Gospel and Scriptural emphasis and truth.   In the end I would have people read C.S. Lewis (but not Rob Bell - except for a understanding of false teaching), and could teach from one of his books because I could frame it well, and it would help people understand the central tenants of Christianity.

Read Michael Patton's article at: 

What do you think?  How would you handle a book or someone who may have some problematic doctrines or beliefs that you consider unscriptural or unhelpful?   Where do you draw the line of what books, videos, etc. that you would use in training others in the Christian faith?


  1. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd

  2. Some tough issues here! I see a similar phenomenon in my own appreciation for Tim Keller (a Gospel-centered stalwart who has sadly compromised with evolution) and my utter lack of appreciation for the work of Pete Enns (who has not only compromised with evolution, but also seems to have also fallen off the horse cart of orthodoxy). One might also mention Warfield, who embraced evolution. For him and Keller - and perhaps C.S. Lewis - those errors haven't become the defining feature of their work. With Bell and Enns, the errors seem to have taken over like a cancer and become a corrupting theme. Interestingly, both are completely blind to this and believe they are perfectly orthodox and Biblical.

    Every believer will have some false beliefs and blind spots, just as I am told every human body has benign cancer cells in it. However, when an educated believer allows the errors to become malignant he needs correction, discipline and pastoral care. The only hope for Bell and Enns is to repent of their bold heterodoxy. Until they do that, orthodox believers ought to sharply rebuke them for their own good.