Being “Cautious” of Mere Christianity

Kevin DeYoung over at TGC has a post up about why we should be cautious of C.S. Lewis. The reason: Lewis wasn’t an evangelical (the shock! the horror!) The reason he wasn’t an evangelical: he didn’t hold to penal substitution as THE model for the atonement; and he might have been an inclusivist. The reason for the post is that several days ago, DeYoung collated a list of the most influential books for Reformed evangelicals (based on submissions from comments). Mere Christianity made the list, and he said that that was okay, but only with several “cautions”. So today’s post was the cautions.

A few observations:

1. No book is perfect. It is fine to offer cautions, concerns, dislikes and disagreements with a book. But to single out one and not have cautions for the others simply because they are part of the “acceptable” literature (i.e., reformed, evangelical, calvinist) is unfair. One of the books on his list was Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (It came in at number 2!). There are several (okay, more than several) cautions that could and should be offered for that book. But it gets a free pass.

2. Being evangelical does not mean holding penal substitution as THE only model for the atonement. Kevin DeYoung suggests that Lewis’ model of the atonement is more like the Christus Victor model, as if that is a bad thing. Evangelicals hold to a wide-ranging understanding of the atonement. To be evangelical does not mean having to embrace only one. (For the record: I tend to a more Kaleidoscope view of the atonement and if I had to choose a close second it would be a Christus Victor view).

3. We need to be careful with throwing around a charge of inclusivism. The term Inclusivism is like the term semi-Pelagianism: people like to use the term as a weapon, but most of the time they don’t understand the term, and they don’t fully understand the argument that the supposed “inclusivist” is making. That being said, evangelicals affirm two Scripture verses that would seem to point to an inclusivist theology: John 3:16 — Jesus died for the WHOLE world; and Roman 14:11 (see also Philippians 2:10) — one day EVERY knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus as Lord. What that looks like and how that will play out is beyond our understanding (and should be).

Anyway, check out the post. Add your voice to the conversation going on over there.

  • Christopher Benson

    I saw your link on Kevin DeYoung’s post, “The Most Influential Books for Reformed Evangelicals.” Your comments here resonate with me. In my opinion, DeYoung’s in-grouping and out-grouping is very parochial – and divisive. See my blog post on this subject, “Why Reformed Evangelicals Need to Revamp Their Library”: http://bensonian.org/2011/01/29/why-reformed-evangelicals-need-to-revamp-their-library/