Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Open Letter to "The New Yorker" by Robert Velarde

[My student and author, Robert Velarde, has written an insightful response to a recent article in The New Yorker about C.S. Lewis. This is a model of what a good apologetic letter to the editor can be.]

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the recent article "Prisoner of Narnia" by Adam Gopnik. As a C.S. Lewis scholar, I appreciated many of his insights.

One particular area of disagreement, however, involves this statement regarding his conversion to Christianity: "Converted to faith as the means of joy, however, Lewis never stops to ask very hard why this faith rather than some other." Although Mr. Gopnik does briefly mention an argument set forth by Lewis regarding Christ being who he claimed to be (i.e., God), it is not true that Lewis did not think "very hard" about the truth of Christianity as opposed to other religious and non-religious options.

In his book Miracles, for instance, Lewis makes a case against naturalism(the material world is all that exists) and for supernaturalism. In thatbook Lewis observes that the explanation for reason provided bynaturalism--that reason is a product of chance and time--is not viable. On the basis of naturalism, there is no reason to trust reason. (A contemporary defense of this argument is found in C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea by Victor Reppert.) Lewis also argued against pantheism, referring in Mere Christianity to its explanation of evil as illusory as "damned nonsense."

Lewis also utilized a form of logic known in philosophy as "abductive reasoning" in order to arrive at his conclusions regarding Christianity. Abductive reasoning, used in much scientific endeavor, appeals to the best explanation. This line of reasoning is clear in Lewis' argument from longing or desire. In Mere Christianity he writes, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

In short, Lewis did indeed think "very hard" about the intellectual optionsopen to him. He became a Christian, at least in part, because he believed Christianity offered the best explanation for reality, not because ofpersonal preference or because he failed to carefully consider alternatives.

As a minor correction, the article refers to the Lewis book A Grief Observed incorrectly as A Grief Portrayed.

Robert Velarde,
author, The Lion, the Witch, and the Bible: Good and Evil in the Classic Tales of C.S. Lewis (NavPress, 2005)


Victor Reppert said...

This is a nice response to Gopnik's bull****. I covered the same thing on my blog.


Unfortunately, one unfortunate by-product of the new Narnia movie is that the C. S. Lewis nonsense machine is once again kicking into high gear.

ben said...

I would also add that CS Lewis' letters to Sheldon Vanauken indicate he had considered the other major religions.

Its too bad that this cog of the CS Lewis nonsense machine happened to be such a good writer.