C. S. Lewis and the Christian Worldview, by Michael L. Peterson

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In 1947, Time Magazine called him "one of the most influential speakers of Christianity in the English-speaking world". More than 50 years later, in 2000, Christianity Today recognized him as the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century – and continues to be one of Amazon's best-selling authors.

This is how Michael Peterson introduces the subject of this exemplary intellectual biography. C. S. Lewis will likely appear on the bookshelves of most Church Times readers – Narnia, Screwtape, and Malcolm may be well-known names. But his fantasy fiction and popular theology was inspired and shaped by a philosophical journey that led from atheism to his embrace of Orthodox Christianity. As he himself said: "Imagination is the organ of meaning", but "reason is the natural organ of truth".

However, Lewis was not systematic in his articulation of the philosophy that influenced his progress towards the Christian worldview. Here, Peterson tries to provide such a systematic treatment, with typical Lewis accessibility.

This is a literary-philosophical "biography" because Lewis & # 39; diverse and extensive publications can only be understood in the light of his personal history. Peterson skilfully negotiates the balance between the biography that illuminates Lewis' intellectual odyssey and the explanation.

Peterson defines a worldview as "a comprehensive and coherent set of beliefs about the deepest issues – the nature of reality, humanity, morality, and meaning." Since his college days, Lewis had been looking for a worldview that could live up to his commitment to reason, imagination, experience, and everyday life. Atheism, idealism, and theism all contributed to the advancement of his thought until he gave in to Christianity's explanatory claims as "the most despondent and reluctant convert in England."

He recognized an intense lifelong desire for something beyond this world, and this "argument from desire", paired with arguments from morality and reason, is carefully explained before Peterson addresses specific philosophical challenges to religious belief and the particular teachings of Christianity turns to.

Everett Collection / AlamyC. S. Lewis, c. Early 1960s

The relationship between science and religion, what it means to be human, and the problem of pain are addressed by Lewis in a way that is both logical and conscientiously honest. Trinity, incarnation, redemption, prayer, providence and life after death are defended against well-known philosophical challenges, whereby both reason and imagination are characteristically addressed.

In addressing these issues, Peterson constantly emphasizes Lewis' confidence in the probability or "inference of the best explanation" as the basis for agreeing to an Orthodox Christian worldview. For many believers, there is no substitute for certainty, but for Lewis, the likelihood provided sufficient explanations for a profession of "mere" (i.e., pure) Christianity.

The particular article in the title of the book is problematic. Peterson firmly believes that it is not essentially about Lewis’s personal Christian worldview, but rather about his discovery of the Christian worldview. But is there such a thing? For Lewis, the credible principles of Orthodox Christianity convey such a definitive worldview, albeit through a variety of denominational manifestations. It is controversial whether this corresponds to the development of the worldview of Christianity over 2000 years.

Nonetheless, it is an impressive achievement to have Lewis' personal and special Christian worldview so clearly and convincingly explained and explained.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Saxbee is a former Bishop of Lincoln.

C. S. Lewis and the Christian Weltanschauung
Michael L. Peterson
OUP £ 19.99
(978-0-19-020111-1)
Church Times bookstore £ 18

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