Was C. S. Lewis a Calvinist?

I think I missed this when it first came around. In the video above, Doug Wilson argues that C. S. Lewis was a Calvinist, and he makes the case from various selections from Lewis’ writings. I’m no Lewis scholar, but this sounds really novel and unlikely to me. I wonder if any Lewis-philes would offer an alternate perspective on this.

UPDATE: John Piper just weighed-in saying that Lewis was not a Calvinist but now is.

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

12 Responses to Was C. S. Lewis a Calvinist?

  1. David McKay September 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    G’day Denny. There’s a cheap, not terribly good book available at Amazon which argues the opposite.

    See Calvin and C S Lewis: solving the riddle of the Reformation

  2. John Brown September 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    The Great Divorce and The Last Battle pretty much eliminate him from consideration as a Calvinist.

  3. Ryan B September 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    I’ve long thought that, practically speaking, Lewis is very Calvinistic. He certainly reacted against a cold, hyper-rationalistic Calvinism, but experientially was very Calvinistic.

    I believe that he’s a pretty fair inerrantist, too. Again, his remarks “against” inerrancy show that his opponent is a strawman version of the idea. Aside from criticising some of the psalms as “barbaric,” he argues against the historicity of Jonah, for example, on the basis of genre, not errancy. He afirms that much of the Scripture is true without being hyper-rationalistically propositional, which is basically what inerrantists also say!

  4. James Harold Thomas September 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    I remember talking to Rev. Lipscomb about my reservations with Lewis since he wasn’t a Calvinist, even though what Lewis said still made a lot of sense. True to form, Lipscomb told me to read the ending of “Surprised by Joy”. Lewis, talking of his own conversion said “The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?”

  5. James Harold Thomas September 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I think I need to clarify. Lipscomb was not saying that Lewis was a Calvinist, but that he did understand something of God’s sovereignty in salvation. He also said to keep reading Lewis, but with discernment, of course.

  6. Dave Miller September 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    That last line (Piper’s) is brilliant.

  7. Steve Martin September 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    If Heaven is anything like John Calvin’s Geneva, then I will politely decline.

  8. Paul Jacobs September 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    I guess you could say that he was a Calvanist, maybe after the tradition of Wesley. Anyone ever read Screwtape Letters?

  9. MONDO GONZALES September 26, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    From Collected Letters Vol. 2, page 447. To Brother George Every SSM in 1940.

    “The real difference is all this business about Calvinism, and Grace & Nature. I sincerely believe this to be a pure red herring. You & Bethell are quite mistaken in thinking I have a Calvinistic background: indeed for the first 20 years of my life I was too ill instructed to be in any such danger.”

    The writer to Lewis was assuming that because Lewis was making such a distinction between the good virtues found in man as being given by grace or else inherently given by “nature”, Lewis must have been Calvinistic in his thinking. Lewis clearly disavows this “Calvinistic” background by stating that “the difference I am drawing between moral and non moral good comes rather from secular ethics.”

    Plus… if you read his theology in the Screwtape Letters you will see that he clearly believes one can lose their salvation or be “regained by our Father below”. This is one of the foundational themes of the Screwtape Letters, but see specifically Letter #2.

  10. Brian C September 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Doug Wilson is also the guy that says that the KJV of the Bible comes from a “better family of manuscripts”

    , which no major evangelical NT scholar would agree with.

    • Denny Burk September 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Yeah, he’s really wrong about that. Really wrong.

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