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CS Lewis’ Mistake?

October 30th, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 17 Comments

CS Lewis abandoned childhood faith to become an atheist, at 13 or 15 (Wikipedia contradicts itself, will be fixed later). He remained an atheist until age 31, at which point he converted to Christianity and became known as “The Apostle to the Skeptics”. (I’m not saying “converted back”, as childhood faith and adult faith does look rather different.)

While there is great value and truth to be found in CS Lewis’ works, I think he made one critical error: he thought in terms of labels.

Labels divide, and often identity is found in the label rather than in the “truth”. It is a completely understandable error though, the dangers of modernistic thinking were not as well known during his time. Additionally, biblical scholarship has progressed significantly since then…

Now I’m going to sound like the creationists that argue “CS Lewis would have been a young earth creationist had he only known of the ‘progress’ we have recently made in our ‘scientific’ understanding of creationism”. Hehe, funny stuff that, but anyway… (There is no way CS Lewis would ever have been a creationist, sorry…)

I think, had CS Lewis lived today, he would have drawn on contemporary biblical scholarship and post-modernistic thinking, and it could have helped his case a lot.

It should go without saying that all of this is merely my opinion. Please think for yourselves, guys (and gals), thanks. Hopefully you can recognise truth when you see it – I am certain I will utter some truth, and some falsehoods. It is up to you to “beproef alle dinge en behou die goeie” (what’s that in English? doesn’t have Afrikaans) – and do bear in mind that that is hyperbole as well:

Jumping From Conclusions

Sorry about the bad layout… the last frame says “Told yer so.” Click on the comic to visit the original.

Categories: Religion and Science
Tags: · · ·

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Oct 31, 2007 at 8:00 am

    1 Thess. 5:21: Test everything. Hold on to the good. (NIV).

    Here’s a question for you. Do you really think CS Lewis thought with labels, or that he just used labels as a tool, something to work with, something to illustrate his points. (I guess we’re heading towards the “false” trichotomy here…)

    As an aside, I sometimes find the post-modernist rejection of labels to be a little smug. There’s quite a difference between saying that objects can’t always be pushed into ticky-tacky boxes, and saying there is no use for such boxes.

  • 2 Hugo // Oct 31, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Ah, thanks!

    CS Lewis, like *everyone*, including post-modernists, make use of labels, and think with labels. We can’t avoid it, it is how we communicate. However, it is also dangerous… we’re getting to that. And I wasn’t even thinking of the “false” trichotomy. (BTW, NT Wright also criticises the trichotomy, and claims it is damaging.)

    I agree that post-modernists need to remain humble. They need to realise how dependent they really are on labels, as much as labels suck.

  • 3 Steve // Oct 31, 2007 at 9:35 am

    You seem to have misunderstood my question. I was trying to ask whether you think that CS Lewis was unaware that his labels were not exact.

    Your post seems to indicate this (you call it a “critical error”).

    The alternative possibility I suggest is that he was well aware of the shortcoming of labels, but had to use something in his writing.

  • 4 Hugo // Oct 31, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Ah, thanks for persevering. I understand now, I think.

    Yes, CS Lewis would certainly have been aware that words do not really carry any meaning. (They are merely used as pointers to meaning. Words are defined by the way words are used.)

    He was certainly aware of that. But we are all fallable. I suggest had he taken it a little further, it may have helped his case. I agree “a critical error” is rather strongly stated.

    I should get around to pointing out where I differ from the good professor within the week.

    In the mean time, keep it up! Be bold! Be critical! Yes, that includes you, you lurker! Drop your pride, accept you may also make mistakes, and give us your opinion! That is the best way to learn…

  • 5 Negate // Nov 1, 2007 at 12:55 am

    Don’t think their is any problems with labels, but more with how they are being used. No one person can be summed up in one label. Then you get the general error, where if some or most people act a certain way under a label it is assumed that all people under the label act that way.

    Don’t think there is enough space on my body for all the labels that i must wear if i wanted to be interpreted for who i am.

    When someone is not taken seriously, you get away with labeling the opposition and passing your prejudice as a joke or insult.

    Aren’t we all guilty of thinking in labels?

  • 6 Charl Botha // Nov 4, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    You’re all so web 1.0.

    Tags is where it’s at, not labels.

  • 7 Hugo // Nov 4, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Sharp, and so true! (Tell that to Google…, btw.)

    So how would you guys like to tag me then? 😉

  • 8 Linda // Dec 2, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis’ books, but I have recently had similar questions about his inability to think outside of his “religious” thought.

    Someone above asked:

    Aren’t we all guilty of thinking in labels?

    Yes, I think we are… Is it possible to get away from it? I’ve tried but have not succeeded, so I have decided to just accept it for now.

    The question for me is: Do the labels have control over us, or do we have control over the labels?

  • 9 lousirr // Dec 2, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Blessed is Linda!
    For she has seen.
    The Truth.
    A glimmer
    of hope!

    Run with it!
    For that?
    is life
    is freedom.
    The Meh.

  • 10 lousirr // Dec 4, 2007 at 7:28 am


    Sorry, just had to do that.

  • 11 Linda // Dec 4, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Gosh, Hugo! You scare me sometimes with your radical randomness (or random radicalness). 🙂 People think you’re crazy, but I understand where you’re coming from, so does that make me crazy???

  • 12 lousirr // Dec 4, 2007 at 8:19 am

    What do you think?
    Wash, rinse, repeat?
    Hehe, I suppose
    it may be

  • 13 Willa // Mar 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I googled CS Lewis and landed with you lot! Kinda interesting. You hit onto a VERY important word: label – labelling. All of you made thought provoking observations. I liked what I saw up top ‘say what you like but BE FRIENDLY’. Oh, how I liked that. I hate nastiness, sharp tonge cutters like scalpels,hatehatehate. Gatvol daarvoor.

    This thing of labelling. Is it not so VERY easy to label. Too easy. If you think for yourself and keep on thinking for yourself sooner or later you catch yourself – labelling. Hehehe. But its GOOD to be BEWARE of LABELLING (or is it spelt with one L – help?)

    In Astrology (interesting science I’m sure. Having some point) they say that some planetary configurations bring about more label inclined individuals than others. I found that to be true…

    But I’m a believer first and foremost in Jesus Christ Super Star, our inexplicable and stupendously wonderful Morning Star – Earendil.

    Love u’all

  • 14 Hugo // Mar 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    *cringe* @ ancient blog posts of mine. 😉 I’m not sure I even want to *try* to describe the thoughts I had around the more contentious aspects of this post.

  • 15 Willa // Mar 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Hugo,
    I’m not sure i understand what you mean. But if you do not ‘even want to *try* to describe the thoughts I had around the more contentious aspects of this post.” there is nothing more to be said between us, is there. Sorry about that, though

  • 16 Hugo // Mar 26, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Ah Willa, I don’t mean I don’t want to chat, I’m rather just showing my standard reaction to my old posts. 😉 I’d be happy to chat and figure out my current opinions.

    Labelling is spelt right, yes.

    Astrology: I certainly don’t call that a science. (Subscribing to Karl Popper’s philosophy of science, Astrology isn’t falsifiable, doesn’t make predictions that says “if you test it in such-and-such a way, and you don’t get such-and-such a result, then the astrology hypothesis has proven wrong”.)

    What more would you like to discuss?

  • 17 // Mar 26, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Okiedokie 🙂 So you say Astrology is no science and you define what science is supposed to be. Be that as it may, I can still see the patterning in people’s shared birth star charts. Have a couple of amazing books on star charts, written by a man (American – name of Grant Lewi) who believed in no Creator as i do, but knowledgeable about the patterns & configurations devised by Astrology. He said it was a science. And claimed that spiritual stuff was a lot of nonsense. I don’t care what he said about my spiritual beliefs. But he certainly had some amazing things to show.

    In any case, my star chart ‘predicted’ that i need to name things before i could even look at them. That was true, so i modified myself a little, to be less ‘labellious’ (hehe). I am a Leo with Moon in Aries and Pisces Rising. The other planets’ positions at the day time and place of my birth, in the little town of Christiana in South Africa, made a lot of sense. My Leo/Aries Sun/Moon partnership caused my tendency to be especially intense in a competitive way, getting very passionate and worked up in an argument one moment, extremely tiresome to most peoples. The next moment I’d forgot all about the argument and be as sweet as ‘n honey-bun :). I couldn’t succeed in modifying that and there are still not a lot of people who are comfortable with me just being myself.

    That is the long story to explain myself to you, because you are obviously very clued up on CS Lewis, a most important person in the life of my literary hero JRRTolkien!

    Thanks for the chat!

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