In 1947, C.S. Lewis published his most philosophical and theological book, Miracles, in which he delivers his primary argument for the existence of God. For the layman reader, his main argument appears solid but to the academic philosopher, Lewis' argument for the distinction between naturalism and supernaturalism as proof for God’s actuality is questionable. Little did he realize, his case for the existence of God would cause him significant grief.
In February of 1948, Elizabeth Anscombe, the soon-to-be professor of philosophy at Cambridge University, challenged Lewis’ arguments at a meeting of the Socratic Club. Lewis immediately replied to her challenge, sparking a lively debate. When it was over, the audience could not agree on who won the debate, but Lewis felt thoroughly thrashed, admitting that his arguments for God’s existence had been shattered. He grieved over the effect his loss would have on the minds of the uneducated. And though he wanted to remount a response, he felt insecure in his ability to stand against Anscombe’s logic.
(Years later, Professor Anscombe was saddened when she heard about Lewis’ response to the debate. She had no idea that he had taken it so seriously. In fact, she thought she had lost the debate.)
Lewis was humiliated and, in turn, humbled. He no longer felt like the great defender of Christianity that many of his fans ascribed to him. His school of philosophy was being replaced by “logical positivism” which asserted that all statements were scientifically unverifiable and thus, meaningless. After his defeat, Lewis said, “I can never write another book of that sort.” And he would not for ten years. But in 1958, Lewis published Reflections in the Psalms, his first religious work since Miracles. Here is one of my favorite passages:
"When the curtain rises in these myths there are always some 'properties' already on the stage and some sort of drama is proceeding. You may say they answer the question 'How did the play begin?' . . . That is the sort of question the myths are in fact answering. But the very different question: 'How does a play originate? Does it write itself? Do the actors make it up as they go along? Or is there someone—not on the stage, not like the people on the stage—someone we don’t see, who invented it all and caused it to be?' This is rarely asked or answered."
Lewis adapted his religious writing to a much more Socratic form. Though he never again published straightforward philosophy, Lewis still posed philosophical questions with a more disarming method. Gentle manners replaced his aggressive apologetics. It seems the sting of humility refashioned the artist and transformed his art.
Question: When did a moment of humility transform your life in a positive way?
Reflections on the Psalms (1958)
As a poet, C.S. Lewis was compelled to write Reflections on the Psalms because he believed that most people, reading the psalms as theology, were missing their beauty. He said, “We shall miss in them and think what is not,” if they are not read as poetry. Lewis wrote, “The most valuable thing the psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance.” Lewis wrote Reflections to remind the Church that the psalms are God’s love letter to a broken humanity.
Interesting Fact: Lewis considered Psalm 18 and 19 perfect poems.