Friday, December 18, 2009

C.S. Lewis as Christian Apologist - The Rationality of Belief?

Welcome to my series on John Beversluis's book C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion. In this post I cover Chapter 1 "C.S. Lewis as Christian Apologist".

"I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it." (Mere Christianity, p. 123)

1. The Rationality of Belief

C.S. Lewis's defense of Christianity is notable, at least initially, for its attempt to be rational. Lewis was writing from the perspective of a former atheist. He was converted not because of faith, but because of the unpleasant weight of evidence. This is clear from his own description of his conversion:

"That which I had greatly feared had at last come upon me...I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."
So he disagrees with those other Christian writers who begin their apologetics or proselytisation by extolling the virtues of faith. He thinks faith is important, but that its importance comes after one has accepted the rational arguments for belief.

It is this willingness to be clearheaded, to confront logic and evidence head on, that has made Lewis such an attractive apologist. Not for him are the vague and poetic pronouncements on Divine Grace, he wants to be able to convince his readers with sound, sensible argument.

2. Faith A and Faith B
Although willing to luxuriate in the argumentative form, Lewis did not think reason was everything. This is apparent from his distinction between two types of faith.

Faith-A was intellectual and philosophical in form. It involved assenting to a series of propositions (e.g. "God exists", "God is creator, first cause, and necessary being", "Jesus was resurrected" and so on). Faith-B was religious in form. It was not simply the assent to a bunch of propositions, but rather involved an act of will: the placing of trust in God.

Lewis admitted that reason could only get you to Faith-A. He thinks that there are knockdown arguments for the existence of God, in the sense that God is first cause or necessary being. He does not think such arguments can get you the God of Christian theology.

That said, he seems to embrace probabilistic arguments for Faith-B. In other words, he thinks you might be able to show the Christian God to be more probable than the god of other faiths. However, Beversluis thinks it hard to pin him down on this matter. There are inconsistent passages spread throughout Lewis's many writings.

One question that arises is the following: if logic and evidence can only get you to Faith-A, why bother? Lewis makes a pragmatic argument in response. He thinks shoring-up the rationality of Faith-A paves the way for Faith-B.

3. Getting to Faith-A
In his apologetic writings, Lewis uses three main arguments in favour of the God of Faith-A. They are:
  • The Argument From Desire: there must be an object of the profound existential longing or desire that we all experience. That object is God.
  • The Moral Argument: God is the best explanation for the reality and objectivity of morality.
  • The Argument from Reason: the rationality of logic and evidence is only possible on the presupposition of God.
These arguments, along with others focusing more directly on Christianity, will be covered in future posts.


  1. I've read, though not finished, Beversluis' book. And he shows that despite Lewis' claim of being converted through evidence, his most important argument (the argument from desire) is, at its core, an emotional argument.

  2. That's why I said "at least initially". Maybe I should have said "prima facie" or "superficially". I'll be covering the argument from desire soon enough.

    I think a more damaging point is that by the time Lewis has finished wrestling with the argument from evil (or the problem of pain as he calls it), he has abandoned the rationality of faith. At least, that's how I interpret it.

  3. I recommend you to read an article in my blog ( It contains a formal logical proof, based on scientific premises, that proves the existence of an Intelligent and Perfect Creator of this universe (i.e. the Prime Cause of this universe (the cause of Big Bang)); and it also proves that His instructions are found in Torah, and that His purpose of humankind is for us to practise those Instructions in Torah.

    It is possible to arrive to that conclusion without any faith.