Tag Archives: Classics

C. S. Lewis on pagan philosophy as a road to Christian faith

Greek philosophers enjoying a good metaphysical throwdown

Greek philosophers enjoying a good dialectical throwdown

In our last post from the “tradition chapter” draft of my forthcoming Medieval Wisdom: An Exploration with C S  Lewis, we saw that Lewis and the medievals shared a deep appreciation for the wisdom of the pagan philosophers. Was this some antiquarian hobby for Lewis, like collecting old stamps? Here we dig deeper: what possible use could the old philosophers still have for us today?

It is hard to overstate how much Lewis valued pagan knowledge. He had been told as a boy that “Christianity was 100% correct and every other religion, including the pagan myths of ancient Greece and Rome, was 100% wrong.” But because he had already encountered the wisdom of the philosophers, he found that this insistence on the opposition of Christianity to paganism drove him away from, rather than toward, the Christian faith. As it turned out, he abandoned his childhood faith “largely under the influence of classical education.”[1]

It was to this experience of valuing philosophy highly and then being told that Christianity must supplant it that Lewis owed his “firm conviction that the only possible basis for Christian apologetics is a proper respect for paganism.” Continue reading

C S Lewis the philosopher and the medieval passion for theology

Lewis - READ posterAs promised, here’s the first of a series of clips from my book-in-progress, Getting Medieval with C. S. Lewis. This and all subsequent clips are absolutely DRAFTS of material that will undergo many changes before the book comes out. If you would like to point out errors or push back on arguments, please feel free! Also, if you would like to tell me I’m brilliant and everybody in the world should read my book, feel free to tell me that too!

The following is from the introductory section of the chapter on the medieval passion for applying their reason to understanding the things of God – that is, their passion for doing theology.

C. S. Lewis was not a professional philosopher (though that was his first love and career intention, before he got redirected into literature), but he was well prepared by his early and exceptionally thorough tutelage in the Classics and dialectic under Kirkpatrick to pursue philosophical study with passion – not as the mastering of abstractions, but as the key to the good life. From those early studies through his “Greats” philosophy study at Oxford to his first teaching job there, which was also in philosophy, Lewis chose to “follow the guidance of reason and perform numerous spiritual exercises, such as reading, meditating on literary images, prayer, chapel attendance and so on, in a genuine attempt to live according to what he thought was true; as he said, ‘I [was] trying to find out truth.’”[1] Continue reading