Sunday, March 29, 2009

Francis Schaeffer And C.S. Lewis: A Comparison Of Legacies

I have always been at a loss as to why C.S. Lewis achieved such hero status as to be considered the most important and influential Christian of the 20th Century. Before you read any further, be assured that this is not a hit piece aimed at Lewis. I enjoy what I have read of his writings; I have given his books as Christmas presents. Yet I have never understood the enormity of devotion to his work or his person. I do realize that there have been those who turned to Christ through his works, such as Charles Colson. Yet has his impact for the Gospel been as great as it has been advertised?

Francis Schaeffer's legacy I can appreciate. First, his influence through books and speeches caused many a seminarian to abandon humanistic theories and return to a Biblical world view. Second, he almost alone jump started the Protestant pro-life movement in the U.S., resulting in the saving of millions of unborn children and rescuing the Protestant Church from a dangerous, sinful apathy. Third, his influence laid the groundwork for the involvement of Evangelicals in the political process. He convinced many a Christian that hiding their heads in the sand was not a viable option. His books such as "How Should We Then Live?" and "A Christian Manifesto" not only demonstrated how our freedoms were the product of a Christian base but that forces were at work eroding that base and there was a need for Christians to withstand these forces in the public arena. The various areas of life thus impacted are beyond measure. The pro-life movement and the fight against euthanasia would not have had the impact they have had without him. Reagan would not have been elected without the support of the Moral Majority, whose founder, Jerry Falwell, had been influenced by Schaeffer. The world would have been much different without a Reagan as President. Various ministries such as Colson's Prison Fellowship came into being through Schaeffer's personal influence on leaders such as Colson. The Christian struggle against international sex trafficking and initiatives to fight the spread of Aids in Africa evolved from Schaeffer's articulation of his well thought out world view. Fourthly, he laid the groundwork for Colson and others to teach the Church how to engage the world with a Christian world view. Can Lewis's impact on the Church match Schaeffer's?

On the back cover of past editions of Lewis's works there appeared the claim that went something like this: Lewis makes becoming a Christian acceptable to those whose intellects would otherwise prevent them from doing so. This creates a problem, but I am not sure this problem originates with Lewis himself or with his followers. Having grown up in a University town and having more than twenty years contact with Campus Ministries engaged in Apologetics-Style evangelism, I have seen the effect of such evangelism on many who have joined the Church. People have accepted Christ in their heads without personal repentance. No, I am not arguing against Apologetics. I recognize that it has a place in evangelism and in training disciples. As stated earlier, I don't know where the problem originates, with Lewis or those who claim to be influenced by him. Yet I believe the problem to be of such magnitude that much personal evangelism has been a wasted effort because of the apologetics that I have seen practiced since the mid-eighties.

Anyway, I have expressed my puzzlement over the adulation Lewis receives, which is something I have rarely done. If you disagree with me, or if Lewis has had a positive impact on your Christian walk, let me know.

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