Good Philosophy Must Exist

Article ID: JAR6316 | By: Robert Velarde

Not long after the advent of World War II, C. S. Lewis delivered a message wherein he said, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”1 But was C. S. Lewis, the popular writer of works such as Mere Christianity and the Narnia series, a philosopher? Not professionally, as Lewis specialized in medieval and Renaissance literature. In the sense that Lewis loved wisdom, and thought and wrote about philosophical issues, however, he was indeed a philosopher. In fact, many of his writings, both fiction and nonfiction, address three key areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

Consequently, the editors of C. S. Lewis as Philosopher have brought together fifteen essays by several contributors, emphasizing the philosophy of Lewis in relation to truth, goodness, and beauty. The result is a rich and varied tapestry of writing that provides distinctly philosophical insights on The Abolition of Man, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity, the Chronicles of Narnia, and many other works by Lewis.

In particular, Victor Reppert revisits Lewis’s argument from reason in an essay titled, “Defending the Dangerous Idea,” while David Horner updates an earlier paper, “Aut Deus Aut Malus Homo” (Either God or a Bad Man), which evaluates Lewis’s popular argument from Christ with specific responses to Lewis critic John Beversluis. In “To Reign in Hell or to Serve in Heaven,” Matthew Lee addresses Lewis’s perspective on hell as set forth in The Problem of Pain. Russell W. Howell explores “Lewis’s Miracles and Mathematical Elegance,” and Gregory Bassham addresses Narnia and other relevant works by Lewis in an essay on “Lewis and Tolkien on the Power of Imagination.” Many other essays round out this ambitious volume.

Several years ago this reviewer served as teaching assistant to Dr. Vernon Grounds, chancellor of Denver Seminary, for a graduate course on “The Philosophy of C. S. Lewis.” By the end of the semester, one thing was clear—the writings of C. S. Lewis proved a wonderful source of philosophical insight, but from a distinctly Christian worldview. As Tom Morris writes in the foreword, “Lewis brought a philosophical cast of mind to everything he did” (p. 10).

Lewis is often marginalized academically in relation to philosophy and his ideas dismissed off hand, as though he were a mere gnat circling the ivory towers of great philosophers. But as the contributors to C. S. Lewis as Philosopher demonstrate, Lewis has much to offer philosophy. As such, the book is a great addition to a growing body of literature about the intellectual and often philosophical pursuits of a “mere” Christian willing to use his mind for the glory of God.

—Robert Velarde

Robert Velarde is author of Conversations with C. S. Lewis (InterVarsity Press), The Heart of Narnia (NavPress), and Inside The Screwtape Letters (Baker). He studied philosophy of religion at Denver Seminary and is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary.

1 C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Orlando, FL: Macmillan, 1980, rev. and exp. ed.), 28.