Lewis and Warren: An Apologetics Legacy
November 22, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of one of America’s most popular presidents. On this day in 1963, young and dynamic President John F. Kennedy, was in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, TX. Three shots rang out, and young Jack Kennedy was dead. It was 11:30 a.m. in Dallas.
At the The Kilns near Oxford, England, where Clive Staples Lewis lived, it was 5:30 p.m., and at the same time Kennedy was shot, C. S. Lewis, also known as Jack by family and friends, collapsed at the foot of his bed, and he too died immediately.
The magnitude of the assassination of a U.S. president is such that most Americans alive when it occurs remember their location when they received the news. I was in Biology class at Parkersburg (WV) High School when the news came of the tragic death of our President. Though I was young, I knew something about him. As a kind of charismatic personality, he had impressed both young and old.
At the time, I knew nothing of C. S. Lewis—did not even know he existed. However, within ten years, all of that changed, and the writings of C.S. Lewis came to influence my life, far beyond any degree to which President Kennedy has. As a young man, 24 years of age, doing graduate studies in Apologetics under the professorship of Dr. Thomas B. Warren at Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, I was introduced to C. S. Lewis. The first thing I remember reading from the pen of Lewis, an atheist who became a believer in God, was a book of a mere 56 pages titled, The Case for Christianity. Professor Warren assigned me a research project and a paper, “C. S. Lewis and the Moral Argument,” based on Lewis’ The Case for Christianity. To say the research for, and the writing of, that paper impacted my life is an understatement.
The Case for Christianity was first published in England under the title Broadcast Talks. It consists of the first two series of radio talks delivered by Lewis for BBC radio during World War II. The talks each had an estimated audience of 600,000 people, began in 1941, and were published in 1942. They serve as the basis for Lewis’ master work of apologetics, Mere Christianity, published in 1952, which is still recognized by many as the most popular book of its kind in the English language. It has never gone out of print. In his essay, We Can Know That God Is, first published in 1976 and republished by the Warren Center in 2010, the late Professor Warren significantly refers to Lewis in his (Warren’s) reply to Princeton University Professor W. T. Stace, an atheist. Warren respected the work of C. S. Lewis, especially Lewis’ treatment of the moral argument for the existence of God.
The first apologetics work by C. S. Lewis was The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism, published in 1933. Fewer than 700 copies were sold out of 1500 that were printed. But it was, in a real sense, the beginning of three decades of an enormous list of books on apologetics, discipleship, and Christian-principled children’s books authored by Lewis. His fame soared to new heights in the 1950s when he launched a series of seven books for children in The Chronicles of Narnia series that included titles like: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy.
In the First Annual Spring Apologetics Lectures titled Thinking-Living-Dying: Early Apologists Speak to the 21st Century, published in 2011 by the Warren Center, distinguished patristics scholar, Everett Ferguson said, “perhaps the most cogent defense of miracles is C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (1953), of which a fellow student at Harvard, an unbeliever in miracles, said that it almost convinced him.” Another interesting connection between Thomas B. Warren and C. S. Lewis involves the monumental debate on the existence of God between Dr. Warren and Dr. Antony Flew in 1976. I have no doubt this is the most far-reaching debate in the 20th century on the question of God. Antony G. N. Flew was called by Associated Press in December 2004 “a leading champion of atheism.” Therefore, the philosophical world was staggered when it was announced that Flew had given up atheism. In a 2007 book, There Is A God, the late Dr. Flew says, “. . . [I]t may well be that no one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial to discovery.” Flew’s paper, “Theology and Falsification,” became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the 20th century. Remarkably, the paper was first presented at a 1950 meeting of the Oxford University Socratic Club, chaired by none other than C. S. Lewis! It was the first and only paper Professor Flew ever read to the Socratic Club, which was a lively forum for debates between atheists and Christian theists. In his book Flew has a valuable section “Locking Horns with Lewis” in which he confesses that though he once considered his historic paper to be a “total victory” over God and religion, he came to believe, not only in the existence of God, but also “the case for the Christian revelation is a very strong one.”
As the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis is remembered, Lewis will be commemorated with a memorial plaque in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner, which honors authors and other cultural figures who have shaped English society. Amazing! Why? Because, as Albert Mohler has summed up: “Looking at Europe and Great Britain, it is clear that the Modern Age has alienated an entire civilization from its Christian roots. . . . Sociologists now speak openly of the death of Christian Britain—and the evidence of Christian decline is abundant.”
The hour is late. However, Warren Christian Apologetics Center is committed to shocking the world to the highest academic levels by challenging the growing global influence of atheistic thought. We refuse to let the world forget the apologetics work of men such as Lewis and Warren, because the question of God is nothing less than the most powerful and urgent question humanity will ever confront!
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