Monday, February 25, 2013

Christian Faith and American Gun Control

           Consider the following scenario:  a man breaks into the house of another man, a Christian.  The Christian whose house is broken into is afraid, and gets the gun that he keeps in his house.  After shouting at the intruder, he takes aim and shoots him, killing him so that the intruder is pronounced dead on arrival when the police cart off the intruder’s body to the hospital.  A number of people in America and elsewhere would applaud the man with the gun for protecting his family, and would possibly argue that this is why gun control in America is problematic.  But what would the historic Christian Faith say?
            We know what St. Basil would say.  In his canonical epistle to Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, he said, “He that wilfully commits murder and afterwards repents shall for twenty years remain without communicating in the Holy Mysteries.  Four years he must mourn outside the door of the church and beg that prayer be offered for him by the communicants that go in.  Then for five years he shall be admitted among the hearers [who hear the Liturgy without receiving Holy Communion].  For seven years he shall be among those who prostrate [in church, without receiving Communion].  For four years he shall stand with the communicants but shall not partake of the Holy Communion.  When these years are completed [i.e. 20 years] he shall partake of the Holy Communion.”  Or, if one defines the act of shooting the intruder as involuntary homicide (i.e. the Christians householder did not actually mean to kill the intruder), then St. Basil has this to say:  “The involuntary murderer for two years shall be a mourner; for three years a hearer; four years a prostrator; one year stander; and then [after 10 years] shall receive be permitted to receive Holy Communion”.  In other words, in the opinion of St. Basil, the difference between voluntarily killing someone and involuntarily killing him is that the voluntary homicide is penanced by going 20 years without Holy Communion, and the one guilty of involuntary manslaughter only 10 years.  This was not too out of line with the patristic thought of his age:  the Council of Ancyra, meeting about 314 A.D., penanced voluntary homicides by making them prostrators (i.e. going without Holy Communion) until the end of their life, receiving the sacrament only on their death bed.  Involuntary homicide was penanced by the Council by saying that the offender should go without receiving Holy Communion for five years.
            From this one can see that the Fathers of that time took violence and the shedding of blood very seriously.  Admittedly in those early days there was a spectrum of opinion.  Some Fathers said that Christians could not shed blood ever, for any reason, including serving as soldiers in time of war.  Others later said that Christians could serve as soldiers and shed blood in the commission of their military duty—although even then they were subject to penance and abstinence from Holy Communion for a time.
Thus, for example, Arnobius, in his tract Against the Gentiles, wrote “We have learned from Christ’s teaching that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with the blood of another”.  The North African writer Tertullian wrote in his Apology “According to our teaching, it is more permissible to be killed than to kill.”   Even St. Augustine, who acknowledged the possibility of Christians being soldiers, wrote “As to killing others in order to defend one’s own life, I do not approve of this unless one happens to be a soldier acting not for himself but in defense of others, if he act according to the commission given to him.”  The consensus is clear:  historic Orthodox Christianity considered shedding blood to be an evil—sometimes a necessary evil, but always an evil.  It was never consistent with and expressive of the Christian Faith, and when it occurred it needed to be dealt with and healed by repentance and canonical abstinence from Holy Communion for a time as expressing this repentance.
Back to the original scenario:  what to do if an intruder invades one’s home.   For some people in America, the question is clear and admits of no moral ambiguity:  shoot the intruder with a clear conscience and with no regret.  Mr. Alex Jones, for example, boasts that he has more than 55 guns in his home and will sleep comfortably knowing that he can defend his family with them.  But voices as diverse as Tertullian and St. Augustine (who shared a North African provenance, but little else) give a different counsel:  “It is more permissible to be killed than to kill.”  “As to killing others in order to defend one’s own life, I do not approve of this.”  Admittedly they didn’t say much about killing to defend the life of others such as one’s wife and children.  But it seems clear enough that for them the homicide was fraught with moral ambiguity nonetheless. 
If America did not claim a Christian heritage and spiritual lineage, its enthusiasm for guns would present nothing exceptional.  Fallen man is a violent animal, and there is nothing surprising in his using violence against his fellows, either in criminal acts or in self-defense against such criminal acts.  From the days of Cain and Abel, violence is what we do, and all history has been lived out in the shadow of that primordial homicide.  We have, as a race, never lived as if we were our brother’s keeper.  The dilemma and puzzle comes with a Christian America.  The Christian Faith, as expressed by the Fathers, is committed to non-violence.  How is such a commitment consistent with a culture that delights in guns and in the serene willingness to use them against others?  As disciples of Jesus and citizens of the age to come, our fundamental charter is not the American Constitution with any of its amendments; it is the Kingdom of God and its Beatitudes.  To substitute the former for the latter as the supreme factor in our decision making is to render to Caesar the things which belong to God.  For secular Americans there can be no moral ambivalence in shooting an intruder to death.  But for Christian Americans the ambivalence remains.  The question is not primarily political, but spiritual.  And let us be clear:  when America and the whole world will have vanished in fire at the Second Coming of the Lord (2 Pt. 3:10), the spiritual dimensions of the question will stand revealed.  Our Lord does not care ultimately about America’s Second Amendment.  He cares about the people He created and loves.  As His children and disciples, this must be our primary concern too.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Schlock Sells: A Review of Rob Bell’s Best-seller “Love Wins”

            I read the best-selling book by Rob Bell because a parishioner asked me to do so (its publication, I’m told, produced a great stir among evangelicals).  It was the podvig I expected it to be, though a short-lived one:  I finished the volume of 198 pages in about 45 minutes.  I am not a speed-reader; it is that light.
            Rob Bell, I discovered through Google (I don’t get out much) is the founder of the 10,000 member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan.  After the services members of his congregation distribute bumper stickers (what else?) with the words “Love Wins” on them.  In 2012 Bell left the care of Mars Hill Bible Church to the other pastors there and began different work.  As well as speaking at the Viper Room night club in Los Angeles, he hosts small conferences for Christian leaders, at $500 per person for two 12-hour talks, with “just the right breaks for food and surfing”.  (They are held in California, after all.)  In 2011 Time Magazine included Bell in its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.  Bell is a talented and prolific communicator.  Previous books include Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith and Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality.  A photo on the back cover of his latest book Love Wins (subtitled A book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived) shows him miked up and speaking on a stage to what was undoubtedly a large crowd.
            The first thing I noticed when I started reading was the regular absence of paragraphs.  I provide a sample, if I may, from page 1, with every sentence/ word of the following taking up a separate line:

“Someone attached a piece of paper [to a quote from Gandhi].  On the piece of paper was written: ‘Reality check:  He’s in hell.’  Really?  Gandhi’s in hell?  He is?  We have confirmation of this?  Somebody knows this?  Without a doubt?  And that somebody decided to take on the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?”                                                                                         

            I could go on, but you get the idea, and largely the whole book is written in that vein.  It is not so much like reading theology as it is like scanning free verse, as if E.E. Cummings (make that “e.e. cummings”) had started offering theological meditations.  It reminded me irresistibly of the stuff I had read when I cracked open my last fortune cookie.  I found the prolonged use of what is essentially verbal flourish and rhetoric perplexing until I looked again at the back cover.  Then it came to me:  he was not writing theology; he was giving a talk, playing to the audience, in a kind of religious stand-up.  He was not functioning as a teacher, but a carnival barker.  But Bell does have some theological points to make, even if they are offered in a form that is more like theological cotton candy than like true meat.  It is to these points that I now turn.
            Bell’s book, it appears, is aimed at a particular audience—namely, secular people who are put off by the worst excesses of American Protestant fundamentalism, by people who insist that they know Gandhi is in hell because he was not a Christian when he died.  As far as these fundamentalists are concerned, everyone is going to hell unless they can be persuaded to “say the sinner’s prayer” and ask Jesus into their hearts.  Jesus came and died on the cross as a sacrifice precisely to allow this to happen, so that people could go to heaven when they died.  Bell is right to object to this caricature of the historic Christian Faith.  He is not the first to do so, for thoughtful evangelical Protestants (to say nothing of Roman Catholics and us Orthodox) have been doing so for quite a while.  Bell’s problem is that he sets up a straw man so that he can have the pleasure of demolishing it with rhetorical questions and with many a verbal flourish.  It is easy enough to do, and it wins him points from secular people (one imagines that accounts at least in part for the book’s best-seller status).  But when it comes to interacting deeply and creatively with the theological material itself, he utterly finds himself at a loss.  Reviews from his evangelical peers prove this:  Christianity Today’s Mark Galli writes that his answers may sabotage his goals, and he gives the book two stars out of five.  Derek Tidball of the Evangelical Alliance (a coalition of British evangelical churches) writes that it is “full of confusing half-truths”.
            As Orthodox, we can find much to applaud in the book, though none of it is new.  We welcome the idea that one’s inner fundamental spiritual orientation, either to the light or to darkness, is crucial to one’s eternal welfare.  We welcome the stress on the Kingdom of God as including the age to come, though it is not exactly a news-flash to any familiar with the Creed (“I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come”).  We welcome the idea that hell—the Greek gehenna, named for the Jerusalem garbage dump in the valley of hinnom—is not an arbitrary torture applied by God, but is rooted in the dark fire defiantly nurtured in the heart by those rejecting Him. 
            Less worthy of applause is Bell’s inept handling of both Scripture and Church history.  Bell has been much criticized for the universalism apparent in his book (as well as for his reluctance to just come out and say exactly what he means).  Though he stops just short of saying that eventually all will be saved, he leads us to draw this conclusion.  In particular he wants to suggest that eternity isn’t exactly eternal, and that the punishment of the damned in hell (or as it turns out, the not so damned) will come to an end.  He does this by trying to take refuge in the Hebrew and Greek.   Bell alleges that the Greek aionion (used in in Mt. 25:46, where Christ says that the wicked “will go away into eternal [aionion] punishment”) doesn’t mean “‘punishment forever’, as in never going to end…Forever is not really a category the biblical writers used…Jesus isn’t talking about forever as we think of forever.  Jesus may be talking about something else”.  Just what that “something else” is, Bell does not say.  But it is clear that the “something else” for him leaves room for the final salvation of all.  His evasion is futile, for the same Greek word aionion is also used in the passage to describe the fate of those “going away into eternal life”.  By anybody’s figuring, the punishment of wicked must last as long as the life the righteous, since the identical adjective is used to describe it.  Bell’s equivocations aside, the Biblical writers do indeed sometimes use the category of forever.  Consider Ps. 90:2:  “From everlasting to everlasting [Hebrew olam], You are God”.
Bell also plays fast and loose with the Greek word for “punishment” in Mt. 25:46.  Bell writes, “the word kolazo is a term from horticulture.  It refers to the pruning and trimming of the branches of a plant so it can flourish…the phrase [eternal punishment] can mean ‘a period of pruning’ or ‘a time of trimming,’ or an intense experience of correction.”  As a quick look at any Greek lexicon reveals, this is nonsense, for the noun kolasis used in Mt. 25:46 refers to punishment, injury, torture.  While it is true that the Liddell-Scott lexicon cites the fourth century B.C. writer Theophrastos as using the term to describe “a drastic method of checking the growth of the almond-tree”, the later and overwhelming usage of the term denotes punishment and injury, such as the maiming of slaves.   Our Lord said that the punishment involves “departing into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41), and this proves that something more than “a period of pruning” is meant.  Bell is playing fast and loose with the facts, trying to dazzle his audience with a false show of learning. 
This same disregard for facts is apparent in Bell’s handling of Church history.  Bell writes “beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody…In the third century the church fathers Clement of Alexandria and Origen affirmed God’s reconciliation with all people.  In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa and Eusebius believed this as well.  In their day, Jerome claimed that ‘most people’, Basil said,  the ‘mass of men’…believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God.”  Once again, the distortion takes one’s breath away.  First of all, Clement of Alexandria and his successor Origen were hardly “church fathers”—indeed, Origen’s speculations and universalism made him a source of almost endless controversy and conciliar denunciation.  His admirer St. Gregory of Nyssa admittedly espoused universalism, but his was certainly a minority voice.  The fact is that the Church has simply not followed this lead.  One would like to examine what Bell considers the sources of his assertions about the Fathers.  No citations are given.
It seems that Bell’s arguments for universalism amount to this:  that God wants all to be saved, and it is inconceivable to Bell that God would eventually not get what He wants.  The idea is that eventually God’s love will wear down the resistance of the damned and they will come to repent and be saved after all.  Bell acknowledges that this repentance “can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced”, and that “it always leaves room for the other to decide”.   He speaks of the tensions between divine love and human free will as “tensions we are free to leave fully intact”, and thus refuses to answer the question (as St. Gregory of Nyssa did).  But he seems to suggest that in the end, God will have what He wants because He’s God, “because love wins”.  His argument, when shorn of its rhetorical flourishes, is simply this:  everyone will be saved, because otherwise love would not win, and that would mean the defeat of the loving sovereignty of God. 
C.S. Lewis answered this argument long ago, in his book The Problem of Pain:  “It is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence.  And so it does.  In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat.  What you call defeat, I call miracle:  for to make things which are not Itself, and thus become capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing of all the feats we attribute to the Deity”.  Here we see a deeper and more subtle handling of questions of heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.  Unlike thinkers like Lewis, Bell fails to grapple with the underlying issues raised by universalism, either philosophically, Biblically, or historically.  Instead he succumbs to the temptation to score cheap debating points on stage.
Bell is to be congratulated for his desire to deal thoughtfully with these issues so as to make sense of the nuanced and varied material, and to commend them to the modern secularist.  It is more the pity that he did not succeed in this laudable desire.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meditation on "Les Mis": the Stars of Javert

              Assuming that you are not just now awaking from a coma, you have probably seen or at least heard of the 2012 production of the classic musical Les Miserables, known to its many fans simply as “Les Mis”.  It was of course justly famous even before Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and many others brought it again to the public attention, since the original was written by Victor Hugo in 1862.  But their brilliant performances have once again put this perennial favourite into the media spotlight.
Since this is not a movie review, I will say little of its qualities as a movie.  Instead, I would like to focus all my attention on a speech made by Javert, the police inspector who relentlessly pursues the escaped criminal Valjean throughout the length of the years and throughout the length of the film.  He makes an impassioned soliloquy in a song called “Stars”.  In it, the inspector declares his determination to chase and apprehend Valjean the escaped criminal, since Valjean is “a fugitive running, fallen from God, fall from grace”.  Javert is sure that he thereby does the work of God, for though Valjean “knows his way in the dark”, Javert’s way “is the way of the Lord, and those that follow the path of the righteous shall have their reward”.   
It is an impressive moment.  Inspired by the righteousness of his holy quest, he looks up to the stars shining above him, stars which seem to light the way forward.  For him these stars are not simply physical lights in the sky; they are the heavenly host, standing watch over God’s righteous order on earth and guaranteeing that justice will ultimately be done.  Seeing the stars, Javert cries out, “Stars in multitude, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness with order and light!  You are the sentinels, silent and sure, keeping watch in the night!  You know your place in the sky; you hold your course and your aim!”  The stars never veer from their appointed order or path.  Like unfallen angels they continue to do God’s will.  But what if they ever were to fail in their obedience and veer from the path?  “If you fall as Lucifer fell, you fall in flames!  And so it must be and so it is written on the doorway to Paradise, that those who falter and those who fall must pay the price.”  If angels fall and become demons, the doorway into Paradise is forever blocked for them.  Sin and repentance have no place among the angels or the stars.
It is easy to despise Javert as simply a cold-hearted prig, a self-righteous Pharisee.  But his vision is a noble one, and is not so easily dismissed.  The Scriptures are clear that justice does undergird all the cosmos.  It is as the Psalmist sang to God:  “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne” (Ps. 89:14).  If justice is not done on earth and if the wicked are not judged, “all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (Ps. 82:5).  In our modern culture (at least up north here in Canada), we rarely see true justice done; few “maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute” or “rescue the weak and the needy”.  Criminals prosper or receive absurdly light sentences when caught, so that we “walk about in darkness” (Ps. 82:3f).  It seems to many that the rights of criminals are often of greater weight than the right or the plight of their victims.  Too often, justice does not go forth, and even the vision of justice is scarcely comprehended.  A folk song of the 60’s once celebrated not only “the bell of freedom”, and “ the song of love between my brothers and my sisters”, but also and first of all “the hammer of justice”.  Sad to relate, that hammer has all but fallen from our hands today.  Javert’s vision draws its strength from comprehending the importance of that hammer of justice, and from his conviction that we should strive to do God’s will on earth as the stars do it in the heavens.  No theology worth the name can lose sight of the importance of justice, or cease exhorting us to align our lives with the unchanging standards in the skies.
The problem with Javert’s vision and theology is not that he fails to appreciate justice, but that he fails to see that men are not like the heavenly host.  Angels are rooted in eternity, and see with unfailing clarity the eternal issues and consequences of their actions.   They live in the unstained light of God’s Presence, and in that light, there is no room for ambiguity, doubt, hesitation.  Choices made in that light are eternal choices, and irrevocable.  That is why there is no possibility of repentance for them, for repentance presupposes a measure of moral twilight and ambiguity.  Like the prodigal son, we human beings can “come to our senses” (Lk. 15:17) and rethink things from another perspective.  We can reconsider, we can change the mind—indeed, that is what repentance, metanoia, literally means.  It is otherwise with the angels.  They cannot “come to their senses”, for they never leave them, and so have no cause to rethink or change the mind.  Choices once made are made forever.  That is why Christ became man to save men, but not angelic to save angels.  “He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendants of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16).  He does not give help to fallen angels, for fallen angels are beyond helping.
Javert was noble and right in understanding that justice is foundational.  He was not right in failing to understand that men can repent as angels cannot.  A man can veer far from the path, and defy the order and ordinances of God.  He can walk into the dark, and falter, and fall—and then can come to his senses.  The moral order over which the angels stand sentinel remains, and the penitent man can be restored to that order if he so chooses.  Lucifer may indeed fall in flames when he falters, but it is otherwise with men, humble creatures of dust and ashes.  The same Psalter which celebrates the eternal justice of God, also celebrates His eternal mercy:  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Ps. 103:12f).  Over the doorway to Paradise it is not written that those who fall must pay price.  Over that doorway are written other words, the words of the Saviour:  “Come to Me, all that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).  Under the shining sentinel stars, there are many who labour and are heavy-laden, who are les miserables.  Christ has come to accept their repentance, and to give them rest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In Praise of C.S. Lewis

 Lately I have read a book on C.S. Lewis, The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, edited by Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward and published (as the title indicates) by Cambridge University Press.  It consists of a variety of essays by a variety of authors, and they deal with such varied topics as Lewis the Scholar (examining him as literary critic, literary theorist, intellectual historian), Lewis the Thinker (examining his views on Scripture, theology, gender, power, violence) and Lewis the Writer (examining his various famous literary works, such as the Ransom Trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia and his poetry).  This list of chapters, culled from the index, is not exhaustive; the book is very thorough and, as one would expect from the University of Cambridge Press, very scholarly.  Nonetheless, some of the reviews of Lewis’ thought reminded me of something Lewis himself wrote regarding a review of Sir Walter Scott’s work—namely that reading the review was “like reading a review by a jackal on a book written by a lion”. 
       In particular I took exception to the comments offered on Lewis’ views on gender and on violence.  The examination of Lewis’ views on gender, written by Ann Loades, made me wonder if her main topic was not Lewis but feminism, since she began with a lengthy recital of the church’s progress towards and a defense of the ordination of women, and it was not until about two pages in that she got around to really looking at Lewis.   It appears that her aim was not so much explaining Lewis’ thought as refuting it, and that her irritation with his views got the better of her.  Her long section on “Lewis on the Ordination of Women” reads like the opposing voice in a debate.  The footnotes to her essay provide a wealth of access to feminist writings, including She Who Is: the Mystery of God in Feminist Discourse.  A riveting read perhaps, but one with little relevance to her assigned topic of C.S. Lewis.
       It was similar with the chapter on Lewis’ views on violence.  The bias of the editors may perhaps be reflected in their choice of reviewer—namely Stanley Hauerwas, a noted pacifistic writer from the Anabaptist tradition.  (One blog describes him as “contemporary theology’s most well-known and provocative voice for pacifism”.)  A section of his review entitled, “Why Lewis Was Not a Pacifist” is followed by another entitled, “Why Lewis Should Have Been a Pacifist”.  Once again, we see not an examination of Lewis’ thought so much as its attempted refutation.  It’s bit thick actually, given that the volume purchased was The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, and not Cambridge Argues with C.S. Lewis.  I bought the book because I wanted to read about Lewis’ theology, not that of Hauerwas.   It would be as if one bought a book bearing the title The Essential Stanley Hauerwas, and opened it to find that it was filled with arguments as to why Hauerwas should have been an Orthodox admirer of Byzantium. 
       It is, I suppose, one of the drawbacks of mortality that one can no longer write an answer to one’s critics after one is dead.  Too bad, because Ms. Loades and Mr. Hauerwas desperately need answering, and Lewis could have done it with grace, elegance and deadly effectiveness.  But what goes around, comes around.  If the works of Loades and Hauerwas are still read by countless readers half a century after their repose, no doubt someone will write a refutation of their thought, perhaps under the dubious title, The Oxford Companion to Ann Loades and Stanley Hauerwas.  If so, I am sorry that I will not be around to read it.
       My concern here is not to defend the lion from such critics, but to suggest why the works and example of C.S. Lewis still have relevance for us today.  It is true that much of what he wrote and spoke to live audiences is dated.  In his Broadcast Talks, given over the BBC in war-time, and later published as part of Mere Christianity, he addressed the common man of his time.  The common man of wartime England was very different from the common man of the 21st century England (or North America), and doubtless if Lewis repeated the exercise today, he would make different assumptions about how much the common man knew about Christianity and alter his approach accordingly.  That is the problem with being up to date—it also results in being very quickly dated, and no one knew this better than C.S. Lewis.  But much—I would say most—of his work remains valuable and of enduring validity.
       In particular, I would like to focus on three characteristics of Lewis' apologetics in which he continues to offer us an instructive example and in which he has set the bar very high.
       First, in his apologetics, Lewis concentrated on what all the various Christian traditions had in common—what he called (borrowing the phrase from Baxter) “mere Christianity”, the massive core tradition shared by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Evangelical Protestants and Orthodox.  (We Orthodox were not quite invisible to Lewis at Oxford; he knew and appreciated Orthodoxy through his friendship with Nicholas Zernov.)   It is always tempting to major in minors, and to argue in-house topics before the watching world.  Such arguing may be useful in advancing inter-Christian unity and dialogue, but it makes for lousy apologetics.  The world does not need to be treated to our arguments with the West about the Filioque.  If a worldling comes to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who sends His Spirit upon His people, then we may take him for coffee and talk about the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone.  But not until.  Like Lewis, we should stick to the basic Gospel in our kerygma to those not yet converted.
       Second, Lewis was not shy about telling the common man that he must repent and believe the Gospel and become a part of the Church.  He observed that in past days, everyone assumed that all citizens were Christians, whether they were in fact or not.  Now that hostility to Christianity had become more widespread (in Lewis’ time, and how much more in ours), the fog had lifted from the two opposing camps and real fighting (i.e. argument) could begin.  As he wrote in his essay on Christian Apologetics, “A century ago our task was to edify those who had been brought up in the Faith:  our present task is chiefly to convert and instruct infidels.”  Lewis reminds us that our “present task” is chiefly evangelism.
       Thirdly, Lewis excelled at using reason in his proclamation of the Gospel.  He did not disparage the use of emotional appeal, but he refused to discount the value of reason as well.  Especially today, when the mass of people are trained to react to slogans, and have trouble following any sustained argument longer than can be contained in a news-hour sound bite, the appeal to reason is all the more important. 
       C.S. Lewis is long gone.  His books remain, to be valued by appreciative believers or targeted and pilloried by the unappreciative in turn.  Lewis himself would be the first to insist that he was not the issue.  The issue is not the apologist who now lies in a grave in Oxford, but the Saviour who lives and reigns at the right hand of God.  I would cheerfully praise C.S. Lewis.  And imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.  Let us praise him by following in the apologetic path he has blazed, not necessarily slavishly following his every conclusion, but boldly proclaiming the Lord whom he loved.