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Frederica Mathewes-Green on C.S. Lewis

The man. The myth.

Frederica Mathewes-Green on C.S. Lewis

Postby matdonna » 23 Oct 2008, 21:28

Yes, I should be writing, but I thought I'd pop in with this. Haven't listened to it yet myself, but I was sure you would all want to know.....(dropping back into lurk.)


http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/podup/frederica/why_cs_lewis_is_so_irritating
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Postby postodave » 30 Oct 2008, 12:37

That was annoying! She makes a good point following Lewis but the style is so rambling. However I did not know about the dialogue she mentions by Peter Kreeft where Lewis, Kennedy and Huxley meet in the anteroom of the afterlife. Does anyone know about that.
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Postby Karen » 30 Oct 2008, 13:19

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Postby postodave » 30 Oct 2008, 16:25

Thanks Karen

Did you find the N. T. Wright one interesting. I'm making progress with Wright by the way. Having read NTPG I'm into part 2 of Jesus and the Victory of God. Of course I'm reading it much more quickly than it deserves; and maybe as a result of that I find some parts implausible without being sure why.
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Postby Karen » 30 Oct 2008, 16:40

postodave wrote:Did you find the N. T. Wright one interesting.


Yes - I'd already read it. :)

I'm making progress with Wright by the way. Having read NTPG I'm into part 2 of Jesus and the Victory of God. Of course I'm reading it much more quickly than it deserves; and maybe as a result of that I find some parts implausible without being sure why.


I'm a little leery of his 'exile and return' motif. He interprets parts of the gospels under this rubric, and while I understand what he's saying, I'm not sure I buy it. But I've found his overall focus on being covenant people, on bodily resurrection, and on being participants in the unfolding Kingdom to be very inspiring.
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Postby rusmeister » 30 Oct 2008, 18:08

I've reached a stage where, while I still love and agree with Lewis on so much, his incredible weakness (from an Orthodox standpoint in particular) - his 'mere Christianity' - has become more and more apparent. I find that in order to take what Lewis says with any authority at all, I must keep very clear the fact that he held the Church to be ultimately unimportant, and this is simply incompatible with Orthodoxy - although I imagine it is compatible with much of protestantism, which sees the Church as something that has no practical effect, being invisible and wielding no authority over the people who claim to be a part of it. I don't want to argure that here, but given that Mrs Mathewes-Green is a fairly influential Orthodox writer, I would have hoped that she would have mentioned that.
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Postby postodave » 30 Oct 2008, 18:53

Hi Rus

You may have something to add to the debate on 'The Doctrine of the Church'. I keep finding myself in this weird position of having to defend EO when I really set out to defend classical protestantism. You can correct me on this if you like but this lady seems to me to make the false claim that Origin was condemned for his universalism. He certainly was belatedly condemned but not for that specifically.

Hi Karen

Yes; it was his interpretation of the prodigal son that I thought was stretching things a bit. The point is that in disgrace or not the son choses his exile and it is only in a fairly indirect sense that Israel did that. My own not very scholarly guess would be that often while contemporary events and Israel's history influenced the form of Jesus's teaching there is still more content that is timeless and general than Wright will allow for.
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Postby Karen » 30 Oct 2008, 19:07

postodave wrote:while contemporary events and Israel's history influenced the form of Jesus's teaching there is still more content that is timeless and general than Wright will allow for.


That's an excellent way of putting it. Wright is very concerned to place Jesus (and Paul) in the context of 2nd Temple Judaism in order to understand the time and place from which they spoke. And that approach certainly has a lot of value. But he does carry it too far at times; Jesus was, after all, God incarnate, and as such His message is for all times and places. Not that Wright would disagree with that, but he does sometimes get carried away with his own analogies.
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Postby Adam Linton » 30 Oct 2008, 22:12

Karen wrote:Not that Wright would disagree with that, but he does sometimes get carried away with his own analogies.


As do we all!

I tend to agree, Karen, with your overall assesment of N. T. Wright: mine, as well, is a genuine, substantial--but still qualified appreciation.
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Postby Adam Linton » 30 Oct 2008, 22:27

rusmeister wrote:I've reached a stage where, while I still love and agree with Lewis on so much, his incredible weakness (from an Orthodox standpoint in particular) - his 'mere Christianity' - has become more and more apparent. I find that in order to take what Lewis says with any authority at all, I must keep very clear the fact that he held the Church to be ultimately unimportant, and this is simply incompatible with Orthodoxy - although I imagine it is compatible with much of protestantism, which sees the Church as something that has no practical effect, being invisible and wielding no authority over the people who claim to be a part of it. I don't want to argure that here, but given that Mrs Mathewes-Green is a fairly influential Orthodox writer, I would have hoped that she would have mentioned that.


I have heard from other Eastern Orthodox folks, as well, this same critique of Lewis. And it certainly seems to me to be a critique (even if offered in affection for/respect of Lewis) entirely consistent with Orthodox theological commitments.

A brief word on Protestant ecclesiology (which I'll forgive you in advance, Rus, if you say that this is an oxymoron!):

From the most classic Protestant perspectives (by this I mean the historic Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican traditions), it is not so much to say that the church is "unimportant"--but rather to assert that its importance is qualified. It's contingent, not absolute.

Another way of putting it would be to say that the Church's only authentic "centrality" abides in the lively, ongoing awareness of her "peripherality." (By the way, this last language, I take from a book that I'm now reading--so far, very good, and much to be recommended: Douglas Farrow's Ascension & Ecclesia.)

Obviously, all this is unlikely to be expressive of your position, Rus. I don't intend to convince so much as to offer a somewhat more fine-tuned presentation of the place from which Lewis was coming.
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Postby rusmeister » 31 Oct 2008, 03:02

Adam Linton wrote:
I have heard from other Eastern Orthodox folks, as well, this same critique of Lewis. And it certainly seems to me to be a critique (even if offered in affection for/respect of Lewis) entirely consistent with Orthodox theological commitments.

A brief word on Protestant ecclesiology (which I'll forgive you in advance, Rus, if you say that this is an oxymoron!):

From the most classic Protestant perspectives (by this I mean the historic Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican traditions), it is not so much to say that the church is "unimportant"--but rather to assert that its importance is qualified. It's contingent, not absolute.

Another way of putting it would be to say that the Church's only authentic "centrality" abides in the lively, ongoing awareness of her "peripherality." (By the way, this last language, I take from a book that I'm now reading--so far, very good, and much to be recommended: Douglas Farrow's Ascension & Ecclesia.)

Obviously, all this is unlikely to be expressive of your position, Rus. I don't intend to convince so much as to offer a somewhat more fine-tuned presentation of the place from which Lewis was coming.


Thanks, Adam!
I do want to reiterate that Lewis, in most of what he says and writes, lines up with Orthodoxy, so he is very popular with Orthodox Christians - there is no need to anathematize him and throw his books away should you ever become Orthodox! But removing the Church from the Christian equation still cripples his understanding of it - or, for the sake of your understanding of what that word means I could say "treating it as quite peripheral" - something that is rather explicit in the intro to MC.
This
a) made it possible for Christians of nearly all stripes to accept him and love him - he doesn't openly contradict anyone on this question and
b) makes the Church unimportant.

the Church's only authentic "centrality" abides in the lively, ongoing awareness of her "peripherality."

To me this comes across as "The only importance of the Church is in the awareness of its unimportance", which is to say that the Church is unimportant.
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Postby rusmeister » 31 Oct 2008, 03:13

postodave wrote:Hi Rus

You may have something to add to the debate on 'The Doctrine of the Church'. I keep finding myself in this weird position of having to defend EO when I really set out to defend classical protestantism. You can correct me on this if you like but this lady seems to me to make the false claim that Origin was condemned for his universalism. He certainly was belatedly condemned but not for that specifically.


I noticed that Mitch had moved the debate elsewhere.
Then-Bishop Kallistos laid out good reasons in his book, "The Orthodox Church" why he referred to it as such and not as Eastern Orthodoxy or some other name. (Those reasons are why I call it simply 'The Orthodox Church', or OC.)
I think it's good for you to defend it! :smile:
What I got on Origen - the general anathemas of the Ecumenical Council: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.ix.html

Justinian cuts more directly to the point:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.x.html

There are specific charges against Origen (anathemas) for universalism there.
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Postby Adam Linton » 31 Oct 2008, 04:09

rusmeister wrote: I do want to reiterate that Lewis, in most of what he says and writes, lines up with Orthodoxy, so he is very popular with Orthodox Christians - there is no need to anathematize him and throw his books away should you ever become Orthodox!


I sincerely hope that I don't offend you, Rus, but since it's reasonably well known (even here in the Wardrobe)--to put it delicately (just by way of reference for the sake of mutual candor, as I have no wish or need to pursue--in this forum--the detailed arguments, personal story details, etc.):

I've read and kept Lewis books before becoming Orthodox, in the twenty-two years that I was Orthodox, and also in the twelve years plus, since then, that I have no longer been so.

This biographical bit may help explain both our notable disagreements--but also, if I may say so, the seriousness with which I take your posts--and also the sense of affection and connection when reading them, even when I disagree.

All the best.
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Postby rusmeister » 31 Oct 2008, 10:33

Adam Linton wrote:
rusmeister wrote: I do want to reiterate that Lewis, in most of what he says and writes, lines up with Orthodoxy, so he is very popular with Orthodox Christians - there is no need to anathematize him and throw his books away should you ever become Orthodox!


I sincerely hope that I don't offend you, Rus, but since it's reasonably well known (even here in the Wardrobe)--to put it delicately (just by way of reference for the sake of mutual candor, as I have no wish or need to pursue--in this forum--the detailed arguments, personal story details, etc.):

I've read and kept Lewis books before becoming Orthodox, in the twenty-two years that I was Orthodox, and also in the twelve years plus, since then, that I have no longer been so.

This biographical bit may help explain both our notable disagreements--but also, if I may say so, the seriousness with which I take your posts--and also the sense of affection and connection when reading them, even when I disagree.

All the best.


Again, thanks!

No, I didn't know you had been Orthodox. Of course it would be of interest to know whether you were 'cradle' or 'convert', and the other personal questions - but I understand that you wouldn't want to debate anything around that.

Anyway, back to our show!
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Postby postodave » 01 Nov 2008, 00:03

Hi Rus

You might find this interesting
http://geneva.rutgers.edu/src/faq/restoration.txt
I think it's by Michael Morbey who is the best informed Calvinist commentator on Orthodoxy I am aware of.
Meanwhile I am in this 'Doctrine of the Church' discussion with Mitch where I have to keep saying things like, 'Rus didn't say that' or 'You've misunderstood Rus.' which I think he has but if you want to show up and say, 'no I really did say that no one outside the Orthodox Church can have a relationship with God' then that would shut me up. But you didn't actually say that did you?
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