I have suggested that C. S. Lewis was a truly great evangelist and apologist, though a reluctant one in a profound sense. I want to conclude my sundry thoughts about why Lewis is so important to us by a few quotations from Lewis himself.In an essay title "Man or Rabbit," written in 1946, Lewis says:
Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that's true, or it isn't. And if it isn't, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal "sell" on record. Isn't it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?
Think about this one for a moment. Though I think the modern atheists, called by themselves the Four Horsemen (e.g. Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) pose a threat to the faith of non-thinking people, or to people who are predisposed against Christ for whatever the reason, Lewis suggests that it is there job to "expose . . . this gigantic humbug" if that is what they think it really is. (They obviously do believe this if you read their work.) But note, he says this to make a powerful point. We who do believe must serve this "tremendous secret" with "full" effort and all our human energy. I think Lewis would welcome these four men onto the stage of modern debate and then seek to show listeners why their arguments may appear to be important but in fact they deny both the hunger of the human heart and the logic of clear thinking. But isn't there a real danger that we respond to the Four Horsemen by recommending that Christianity is good regardless of whether or not it is really true? This is the way I have heard some people argue against these four unbelievers. Lewis wrote an essay in 1945 titled, "Christian Apologetics." In it he says:
One of the great difficulties is to keep before the audience's mind the question of truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true but because it is good. And in the discussion they will at every moment try to escape from the issue "True–or False" into stuff about a good society, or morals, or the incomes of Bishops, or the Spanish Inquisition, or France, or Poland–or anything whatever. You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point. Only thus will you be able to undermine . . . their belief that a certain amount of "religion" is desirable but one mustn't carry it too far. One must keep on pointing our that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.
So defending the faith requires us to use our intellects. For far too many this is a novel idea. We must see the challenge of the modern atheists, the so-called four horsemen, as a wonderful opportunity for presenting the truth of the faith, not simply lame arguments about the utility of our faith in our private lives. We must show that our faith makes sense of life as we really know it. It is rooted in claims that explain things cogently and in the kind of facts that make real sense of human history. Lewis, in the same essay, concludes:
I think we must attack wherever we meet it the nonsensical idea that mutually exclusive propositions about God can both be true.
Many Christians, in attempting to explain or defend the faith, fall into this very trap. The clear headed thinking of C. S. Lewis will help them avoid this ugly ditch.