Any Lewis Fans in the Crowd?

Filed under:Authors,Cool — posted by Anwyn on December 5, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

I’ve long loved C.S. Lewis, though as I get older I gradually see that he is not the be-all, end-all fountain of Christian wisdom I may have believed while I was growing up. A book written by one of my college professors, Dr. John Beversluis, is being updated and will be reissued next year, and I await it eagerly. It purports to show that Lewis failed in his attempted rational defense of Christianity. Lewis’s premise was that nobody should accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him it doesn’t make sense. Beversluis’s book promises to show that it doesn’t.

Victor Reppert at Dangerous Idea notes the upcoming release and both reasonably anticipates arguing Beversluis’s points and also reminds us that if Beversluis isn’t 100 percent right, at least he’s “a good antidote” to anybody who’s willing to wrap themselves in wholesale Lewis. But he’s wrong about Beversluis as “consummate Lewis-basher.”

How do I know without reading the book? And why do I so eagerly await a book that purports to show that one of my childhood heroes failed in the object of his writings? Simply this: in college I took a class from John Beversluis, on C.S. Lewis. He did not use his own book as a teaching tool in the course (I didn’t know the book existed until last month), I didn’t know he was an agnostic rather than a Christian until many weeks into the course, and I think it was in private conversation that he revealed this, rather than in class. In other words, he set out to teach a course on C.S. Lewis, and Lewis was what he taught–not Beversluis. In this academic climate, that’s somewhat remarkable, and in addition, it makes me far more receptive to what he has to say about Lewis–now that I’m aware of the book, now that Dr. Beversluis is retired–than I would have been as a wide-eyed undergrad.

Update: Speaking of wide-eyed undergrads, I wrote like one last night when I attributed the opinion of Beversluis as “Lewis-basher” to Victor Reppert. He was observing that many people think of Beversluis that way, not that he himself does. He observes below in the comments that he doesn’t share that opinion of Beversluis but that passages in Beversluis’s book can come across that way. Apologies and welcome, Victor.


  1. I first read Lewis when my uncle gave me a box set of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” back in the mid-70s.

    The books were enthralling, even if I didn’t “get” the Christian subtext as a young Jewish lad.

    Have you seen Shadowlands, the film starring Anthony Hopkins as Lewis? His speech, wherein he tearfully recounts his relationship with G-d in the aftermath of a great personal tragedy is beautifully done, and the portrayal of a late-in-life romance for the dedicated bachelor-scholar was deeply moving, even for non-romance film guys like me.

    Comment by Mike Lief — December 6, 2006 @ 10:58 am

  2. Big Lewis fan, although surprisingly I never got into Narnia. Once you’ve had Tolkien, you never go back.

    I’m still pretty much in the be-all, end-all camp regarding his other stuff.


    Comment by See-Dubya — December 6, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  3. Heretic.

    Ooh, it’s on!!

    No, actually I’m interested to see what Dr. B has to say but don’t expect him to radically alter my views. That said, though, by myself I’ve come upon a couple of places where I don’t think Lewis was clinging to the strongest plank on the boat. I don’t think it’s bad for me to take stock every now and then. ;) As for Narnia, I started with both Narnia and Tolkien at roughly the same age and so got them both embedded in my wee little consciousness before I had a chance to develop much of a critical faculty … so I still love Narnia. It’s The Great Divorce that makes me cry nowadays, though.

    Mike, I saw Shadowlands as part of the course, actually, but I could do to watch it again with more grown-up eyes. :)

    Comment by Anwyn — December 6, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  4. I didn’t say that he is the consummate Lewis-basher. I said that there are passages in his book that come across as if he were a consummate Lewis-basher. Just to mention two, at one point he calls Lewis’s thinking “considerably worse than fuzzy,” and at another accuses him of “irresponsible writing.” I think he was writing a book to bring out a critical perspective on Lewis that had been lacking in previous writings, and ended up saying things that were taken both by Lewis fans and Lewis enemies to show that Lewis was a second-rate thinker. I think that his revised edition will show this was a misunderstanding of his position, although I will have to admit that it is a misunderstanding which I shared. He will still argue that Lewis’s apologetics don’t work, but I am anticipating that the book will be a good deal more balanced than his first effort.

    Comment by Victor Reppert — December 6, 2006 @ 4:10 pm

  5. I shared that misunderstanding until I read his review of A. N. Wilson’s biography, that is.

    Comment by Victor Reppert — December 6, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  6. Victor, so glad to have you here–I didn’t know how linnks would show up at Blogger. Anyway–you’re right, you weren’t saying that, and mea culpa–I was a bit tired when I wrote last night. I’ll update the post. Based on taking his class, I think Beversluis liked Lewis and admired his efforts but couldn’t help finding them wanting. And as a philosopher he certainly doesn’t hesitate to criticize sloppy reasoning. I remember getting to the end of a tortuous paragraph in one of my own papers and actually typing “This is hopelessly circular reasoning …” When it came back, B. had marked “Yes.”

    Comment by Anwyn — December 6, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

  7. This is a link to the IVP website where you can get to the “book excerpts” section for my C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea. There you will be able to read my response to some of the issues Dr. Beversluis raises.

    Comment by Victor Reppert — December 7, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

  8. Thanks, Victor, I’d like to check that out after I read Dr. Beversluis.

    Comment by Anwyn — December 8, 2006 @ 9:15 am

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