What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven?

Not if John W. Robbins has anything to say about it.

Comments (74)

It reads like parody or satire, and the tragedy is that it is neither. Alas, that is typical of certain strains of evangelical/fundamentalist discourse.

Ditto Maximos.

I consider John Robbins a friend and quite a good scholar. His critique of Ayn Rand, for example, is one of the most minute and devastating critiques in print, not just of her, but of anyone. He is a also a fine economist -- a thoughtful and vigorous defender of the free market (which likely won't endear him much to you, Max -- wink).

I heard John give this lecture on Lewis in person. I utterly disagree with him on this point because, in order to be a Christian, in order to go to heaven, one need have faith in Christ, which Lewis clearly did. The path to heaven is precisely that Christ-oriented faith, which it seems one can have even if one does not theologize about it with full precision. One can have faith in Christ and not, say, endorse Biblical inerrancy or limited atonement. Even as a Protestant, I'd say that salvation comes from faith in Christ, not from adhering to the Reformation solas. To say that Lewis is not a Reformed scholar is obviously true. To conclude therefore that he is likely not in heaven is not nearly so obvious. I conclude in quite the opposite direction. Who is right, only God knows. I'm happy to leave it in his hands, confident that the Judge of all the universe will do right.

As for the distasteful arrogance that attaches to declaring who is or is not in heaven, that arrogance is evident far beyond fundamentalist, or even Protestant, circles. I simply note in passing the anathemas of the Council of Trent.


Will it shock you to know that I have written endorsements for books both by our friend Frank Beckwith and by John Robbins? Either I have stumbled again upon the wisdom of Erasmian ecumenism, or I have no standards worth having. It's an open question.

And no, neither of them bought me lunch for doing so.


Dr. Bauman,

Your personal sympathies (as well as your admirable attempt at ecumenism) isn't in question.

Although, I find it quite surprising (especially since you even happened to differ with Robbins on the matter) that you differ with Maximos assessment and, in particular, that this is not "typical of certain strains of evangelical/fundamentalist discourse".

Obviously, these remarks do not apply to you and those who think similarly.

(Also, fyi, Maximos isn't Catholic; although, praying & hoping along with the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, maybe one day the point becomes moot in the One and Great Council that will finally heal our 954 year-old schism.)

Stupid C. S. Lewis. Didn't he know we are justified before God, not by faith in Christ alone, but by intellectual assent to Reformed dogma?

Actually, I wasn't saying any of the things you thought I was. So, for my obvious ambiguities I apologize.

I don't differ at all from Max's assessment. I agree with it. He's quite right to characterize that sort of writing and arguing the way that he did. I was simply pointing out that the distasteful and arrogant things he denigrates are (in my view) rather widespread. By mentioning Trent's anathemas in this regard, I wasn't assuming Max was Catholic. I know he's not. I was simply giving one example from circles outside Protestantism.

I hope I'm clearer. If not, mea culpa.

Well, there is precedent for such anathemas, but that's under another thread entirely. (*wink*)

Another thread, indeed!

I don't have any opinion on whether C.S. Lewis is in heaven. However, the late Dr. Robbins took doctrine seriously, for whatever his flaws.

Is there anyone whose doctrine the catholic church considers out of bounds? The famous Joint Decree on Justification was signed with modernist Lutheran churches and celebrated by the pope with a joint service with female ministers, if I recall correctly.

Frank, I don't know if this was you or Rob Koons, but on Right Reason one of my blog colleagues who converted to RC said something like, "I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, not by believing a particular doctrine of justification." Now, whoever that was got some negative comments from Protestants who said he was straw-manning. But the thing is, there really do seem to be some of us Protestants who believe that you are saved, inter alia, by having exactly the right doctrine of justification, and if you get that wrong, you're sunk. Robbins looks to be exemplifying that quite clearly in this article. It's rather like saying that one stays on the ground by believing in gravity.

But the thing is, there really do seem to be some of us Protestants who believe that you are saved, inter alia, by having exactly the right doctrine of justification, and if you get that wrong, you're sunk.

Trent says likewise.

It's rather like saying that one stays on the ground by believing in gravity.

Gravity happens whether you believe in it or not.

I'm not up for re-fighting the Reformation, as has been done here on a number of occasions, but merely want to note that things can become even sillier in some fundamentalist circles, where one's faith will be impugned over differences in eschatology, for example. Disbelieve in the dispensensationalist doctrine of an imminent apocalypse, to be preceded by the rapture of all those who have confessed the correct doctrinal formulae, which apocalypse is to be followed by a millenial kingdom in which Jesus will personally smite all the enemies of Israel, and you are damned. You see, this is the "literal" truth of God's Word, and if you reject this theory, and their theory of literal interpretation thereby, you're subverting the integrity of the very words of Christ, and without them, no one can be saved.

Trent says likewise.

Trent is saying something different. Trent would say that you are saved or damned by being a part of the true church, and by believing any number of (presumed) heresies you are separating yourself from the Church's stated bounds - like jumping off the ark. I can understand this position, even if I disagree.

But in the case of Protestantism, we proclaim that one is justified before God by faith in Christ ALONE. One might say that by having a false theology of justification can be dangerous, because it could lead someone to trust in their works and neglect that faith which is their only hope. But for a protestant to actually say that the theology itself is grounds for salvation or damnation is, ironically, a denial of that very theology of justification! "Justification by faith in the doctrine of justification by faith alone" is NOT the same thing as "justification by faith alone".

Gravity happens whether you believe in it or not.

Lydia's point exactly.

Gravity happens whether you believe in it or not.

Yes, that's my point. It's a somewhat poor analogy. But my point was that we don't have to have everything right about _how_ we are saved by Jesus' death on the cross in order to _be_ saved by Jesus' death on the cross.

It's an interesting sociological point that a person of Robbins's persuasion very probably believes that young children can have saving faith in Jesus Christ. I don't mean infants, but children of, say, six or seven years of age. Yet obviously they aren't theologians. He must believe tacitly that Lewis was damned for being an intelligent adult and believing incorrectly (incorrectly on Robbins's view) about these theological matters where a young child who believed in Christ would not be held responsible for not having all his theological ducks in a row.

Folks like Robbins do an excellent, though unwitting, job of tempting folks like me to Catholicism.

Who is this Robbins guy?

Why did Chist leave the people who sincerely wanted to be saved through Him so confused, misguided, and damned for so many centuries? And why did He appear to think that He was saving us when, in fact, salvation became possible for us only in the 16th century, with the teachings of the Luther, Calvin, and others who would be needed to reform the mess that He would leave behind? And why does it appear that even Luther and Calvin did not agree about everything, leaving us even more confused, misguided, and possibly damned? If Robbins is right, maybe even Robbins is not saved.

I've always -- I guess naively -- thought that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Good thing there are people around to straighten out my thoughts about this matter.

C. S. Lewis...would not have been allowed to join the Evangelical Theological Society.

I don't mean to pile on Robbins here, but even without the qualifying footnote, does anyone (besides Robbins) really believe that? Wait, don't answer that question please. I'm afraid I'll hear 'yes.'

As Screwtape himself pointed out, there are several common kinds of Pharisee. There are those who are "all rules and relics and rosaries"... and then there are Mr. Robbins' kind. The former type seems to have largely died out, but the latter type is certainly thick on the ground these days.

I just found out this evening that Dr. Robbins died in August: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/inmemoriam.php

I agree with Mike Bauman that Robbins' critique of Ayn Rand was devastating. He also did a yeoman's work in republishing some of the finest thinking of Gordon Clark, a Reformed philosopher. Interestingly enough, Clark's work on philosophy of education is not dissimilar to what one finds in JP II's Fides et Ratio.

I'm not familiar with Robbins' work, but I can't imagine that writing a devastating critique of Ayn Rand would be all that difficult.

Perhaps it's not hard to write a devastating critique of Ayn Rand. But, if so, it makes you wonder why it hasn't been done more often. Where can I read yours?

I've yet to write a critique of Ayn Rand, devastating or otherwise, mainly because I don't think it's worth the effort. Several of my friends became Objectivists and Ayn Rand obsessives in high school and would constantly cite her as authority on any subject. After much cajoling they finally got me to read Atlas Shrugged. It was a fun read, though some of it (such as the scene where the heroes, in a fit of post-coital openness, profess their total and undying commitment to self-interest) was kind of creepy. I made it about 900 pages in, until I got to the part where they arrived at the heroes secret lair/libertarian paradise, where no one ever did anything for free and thus everything cost a quarter. At that point I could no longer maintain my suspension of disbelief. I put the book down and never picked it up again (and too bad too, as I apparently missed a 50 page speech by one of the characters, delivered, as I understand it, over the telephone).

Mind you, all of this was before I knew anything about the biography of Rand or the cult-like devotion she inspired in her followers. But I had seen enough just in the reaction of my friends (none of whom had any contact so far as I know with the formal Objectivist organization aside from reading her books) that I wasn't too terribly surprised when I found out about it. Thankfully, within the year my friends had gotten over the Objectivism thing.

Actually, one might look at C. S. Lewis - especially "That Hideous Strength".

Coincidentally, we Catholics heard the following scripture at this past Sunday's Mass of Christ the King:

'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

How does one reconcile the doctrine of sola fide with this passage? Isn't Christ saying here that faith is not enough; that we must also help the poor and needy?

M. Bauman said: "As for the distasteful arrogance that attaches to declaring who is or is not in heaven, that arrogance is evident far beyond fundamentalist, or even Protestant, circles. I simply note in passing the anathemas of the Council of Trent."

An "anathema" is not a declaration that someone is going to Hell. The Church, to my knowledge, does not make declarations about who is in Hell.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia on "anathema':

"Anathema remains a major excommunication which is to be promulgated with great solemnity. A formula for this ceremony was drawn up by Pope Zachary (741-52) in the chapter Debent duodecim sacerdotes, Cause xi, quest. iii. The Roman Pontifical reproduces it in the chapter Ordo excommunicandi et absolvendi, distinguishing three sorts of excommunication: minor excommunication, formerly incurred by a person holding communication with anyone under the ban of excommunication; major excommunication, pronounced by the Pope in reading a sentence; and anathema, or the penalty incurred by crimes of the gravest order, and solemnly promulgated by the Pope. In passing this sentence, the pontiff is vested in amice, stole, and a violet cope, wearing his mitre, and assisted by twelve priests clad in their surplices and holding lighted candles. He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, amid pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: "Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N-- himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment."

In other words, so long as one holds to the accursed belief or practice, the anathema remains in force, and it includes that the accursed person be "condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate."

The notion of anathema has changed over the centuries. You'll have to decide if you want the earlier or the modern meaning. As I recall, the modern catechism doesn't use the word. But that's easy to check.

Oyarsa is right: Lewis's case in That Hideous Strength is convincingly contrary to the view of Rand, though it is unintentionally so. That is, I don't recall that he had her and her views in mind when he wrote it. But between Lewis in THS, and Robbins' explicit destruction of objectivism in his Without a Prayer, the latter is better. It is a stick-by-stick dismantling of Rand's views from its epistemology onwards. But don't take my or Frank's word for it. Give it a read yourself and see what you think.

Wouldn't Catholics have to, at the least, question whether CS Lewis was a Christian and in heaven?

He knew about the Catholic Church and had sufficient brains to analyze its claim. His rejection of it as the true church might well be culpable, from what I understand of Catholic teaching.

TRP asks:
"Why did Chist leave the people who sincerely wanted to be saved through Him so confused, misguided, and damned for so many centuries?

I reply:
people of God have sometimes been stunningly wrong on a wide and 
embarrassingly diverse array of issues, occasionally
 for centuries. That uncomfortable fact about us goes all the way back to the ancient Jews, who
 sometimes wallowed in error for centuries at a time. When
 someone argues that God would not let his people dwell
 in persistent and important error, the plain answer is that, in fact, He has
 actually done so.

I recall, for example, that when Erasmus published a
 corrected version of the Vulgate on the facing pages 
of his Greek New Testament in 1516, he was able to 
correct errors that had stood for centuries, all the
 way back to Jerome. In John 1, where Jerome 
translated "logos" as "verbum," he made a significant 
translational (and theological) error, which Erasmus 
corrected with the word "sermo" -- a far better and more 
accurate translation. "Verbum" is a particle of 
speech, a word in a sentence. "Sermo," by contrast, is an eloquent 
utterance, or discourse. Christ is God's redemptive 
utterance to a fallen race, not a word in a sentence. A moment's reflection reveals how profound is the difference between the two. Those Roman Catholic scholars who opposed Erasmus repeatedly asked him if God
 would have left his church in error for centuries on 
this point, all the while just waiting for Erasmus to come along and 
bring the light -- as if that ad hominem question proved that 
"logos" ought to be translated "verbum" in John 1. I am not saying that this error is the most significant error possible -- of course it is not -- only that it was a persistent one, (one of many persistent errors) and that God permitted it.

In other words, even under the providence of God, error is sometimes 
persistent and enduring among God's people. Protestant and EO Christians assert, rightly or wrongly, that such enduring error is indeed the case with the RCC on numerous points, some large, some small. God's people 
sometimes live in error for centuries. And if the Protestants and EOs are wrong about the views of Rome on some issues (and therefore wrong about their own), then God is allowing those traditions to dwell in error for centuries. The fact that
 one group of Christians or another held a view for centuries cannot be invoked to
 prove that they were right. Pointing to 
the persistence of a view does nothing to prove
 the truth or falsehood of that view. The issue is
 not what people believed or did not believe for centuries. The issue 
is whether or not what they believed is true.

Put differently, one significant issue is how Jesus' and Paul's words are most accurately interpreted in their own historical, theological, and cultural context, which we are sometimes better able to do now than scholars were in centuries past. The centuries of research and reflection that have occurred since days of the ancient church fathers were not an utter waste of time. We actually have learned many important things since then. We have made significant progress in our understanding of the ancient Jews and of Jesus. We now know some things better than we did in the past. Take David Instone-Brewer's excellent work on divorce and remarriage in ancient Palestine, for example, by which we better understand Jesus' teachings on the issue in their proper context. The same is true of the Biblical theology movement, and especially the work of scholars like Oscar Cullmann, who identified many of the ways the scholastic reading of Scripture was ill-informed and therefore misleading. That's the case not because I say so, but because their work is truly first rate in its own right. To refute it you must do better and more accurate work, not simply appeal to this tradition's or that tradition's persistent views. After all, a church's interpretation might itself be the issue, not the resolution of the issue.

Truth is not determined by consensus or by 
universality. Truth is determined by agreement with 
reality. Perhaps Christianity itself is fundamentally wrong. I am convinced it is not. But, if so, the fact that we Christians have believed it for 2000 years, and thought all the while that God was leading us to do so, amounts to nothing.

Neil wisely asks:
"Wouldn't Catholics have to, at the least, question whether CS Lewis was a Christian and in heaven?"

Yes, they would. By all means, let them question. But the move from questioning to declaring confidently that he is or isn't seems to me beyond the pale. I am reluctant to assert that any church has the current Heaven roster.

Here's the skinny:

Both Robbins and Lewis are in purgatory laughing at us about how we're assessing them. As for Ayn Rand, I understand that she is due for a new purchase of asbestos water skis. But it's only a rumor.

By the way, if you really don't want to be offended, don't watch this video:

"for a protestant to actually say that the theology [of justification] itself is grounds for salvation or damnation is, ironically, a denial of that very theology of justification."

Fr. Patrick Reardon made this exact point in 'Touchstone' some years ago in response to something Michael Horton wrote. If your salvation depends on your holding the correct theology of justification, then your justification is no longer by 'faith alone.' It becomes justification by correct theology.

This is, I assume, at the root of why Horton and other Calvinists of his stripe can deny that the non-Reformed can be 'Evangelicals,' as was brought up on the post from a few days ago.

I'm still laughing my head off at Blackadder's characterization of Atlas Shrugged. And every word of it is accurate, too, as far as I remember.

It is accurate, according to the account given to me by a fellow undergrad who was greatly enamored of the book, and was keen to proselytize on its behalf. She also once quipped, after I told her that I was listening to recordings of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, that only the Moonlight, Pathetique, and Appassionata sonatas were worth anything, and that the remainder of them were deathly dull and prosaic. How does one respond to such an utterance? The adagio of the Hammerklavier is worthless, the delicate opening bars of the final movement of that great piece, likewise? One could continue in this vein.

Since that moment, I have had an indissoluble association between Objectivism, libertarianism, and irredeemable philistinism.

Dr. Bauman,

You said above that:

In John 1, where Jerome 
translated "logos" as "verbum," he made a significant 
translational (and theological) error, which Erasmus 
corrected with the word "sermo" -- a far better and more 
accurate translation.

In making this point I wonder how You, Erasmus or anyone has come to know that John 1 is indeed revealed Truth and belongs as Sacred Scripture in the first place? If Jerome erred then at what point do we conclude that the errors end? And who decides? C'mon Dr. Bauman, you are a brilliant man-far brighter than me- yet you make many wonderful points without ever considering the "elephant in the living room" of your reasoning. IOW, Who is to say? You, me, Calvin, The Pope, Luther, Erasmus, a Council etc... The issue always will come back to proper authority in the Body of Christ- The Church.


The notion of anathema has changed over the centuries.

Not quite.

Anthema goes all the way back to Scripture itself:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed {anathema}. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed {anathema}. (Gal 1:8-9)

In particular, in Matthew 18:17:

17 And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

In order to communicate the severity of disobedience to the Church, Christ used the strongest language possible:

The Greek word used for those who will not hear the church in Mt 18:17 is parakouo. This means to “disobey”; it is from this word we get parakoe which is the same word used for Adam's disobedience in Rom 5:19. This is quite significant since there's another word which could have been used instead for disobedience of the church and this is the Greek word: apeitheia.

Even further, Jesus compared those who disobey the Church with two of the worst groups of people that the Jews despised at the time. He says he who rejects the Church is to be treated as a heathen or a publican (other translations say a gentile or a tax collector). Hence, "Excommunication". This means that if one does not accept the teaching or the proclamation of the Church, this person ought to be 'excommunicated'.

Choice of these specific terms suggests a policy of non-association with those who are disciplined by Church leaders (cf 1 Cor 5: 9-13, 2 Cor 6:14-15 in reference to the man guilty of incense).

The consequences mean that if one does not accept the teachings or the proclamation of the Church, he is to be excommunicated (i.e., separated from communion with the Church and the Sacraments); therefore, if one is excommunicated, there is indeed a “spiritual death” since one is outside the divine life that flows through the sacraments and the Church.

I'm sorry, but I'm not certain what exactly you are asking me. So, if I have misunderstood you, please do let me know and I'll try again.

If you are asking me how we know that in John 1 "sermo" is a better translation into Latin of the Greek word "logos' than is the word "verbum," then I'd say that, over the course of 20 centuries of linguistic study, we have gained an increasingly precise understanding of those words, both in and out of the Bible. We've seen those words used in countless instances in countless ancient texts. We've actually learned better and better over the centuries how the ancients employed their words. Sometimes our understanding of the use of words by first century Christians (and by others) is more accurate than the understanding of those same words and texts by some church fathers. In that sense, it's a matter of scholarship, not ecclesiastical authority. Knowledge of a language does not require a church's pronouncements. A church's interpretation of a text is sometimes the issue, not the resolution of the issue.

If you are asking me how we know which books are or are not properly part of the canon, I will be glad to answer you in my next comment, but that answer is perhaps a five-page answer, much longer than most postings are expected to be on a site like WWWtW. So, I won't post it unless I'm sure it's what you are asking me.

Best, Pat

Right. I know the word is of ancient origin and usage, and I know the ways it was used in Scripture. But my point is whether or not the word is used by the church now the way it was used in the first century, and if it has been used in a consistent way across the centuries inside the church. I'm saying that the answer to both questions is "no." On that issue, we disagree. But please know that disagreement is not disrespect.


Although Pat has not asked you to comment on the question of how Protestants can know which books should be a part of the canon, I would like to hear your two cents. This is a question that I have been wrestling with (for quite some time) and have yet to find a satisfactory resolution.


I'd be glad to do so. Perhaps we should do so offline. The case is rather lengthy. If you click on my name below, it will lead to my website and form there you can get my email. Contact me there, and I'll send you the full written explanation to which I referred concerning the canon.

Dr. Bauman,

But Catholics won't consider the obvious position, namely that it is in fact quite likely that Lewis is in hell from the Catholic perspective.

It is a shame my friend John Robbins isn't around to defend himself. I say that, even though Robbins accused me of being a Romish scholastic. He was just three years older then me. He was 59 when he died.
Robbins was an insightful defender/promoter of the philosophy and theology of Gordon Clark. He also had good insights into the thinking of Herman Hoeksema. His critique of Ayn Rand was devastating.
Robbins held that one [like in C. S. Lewis in his opinion]could not consistantly believe heresy concerning justification and have saving faith.

MB: "From the Catholic Encyclopedia on "anathema'..."

Even the version of anathema that you cite does not amount to a declaration that someone is going to hell or is in hell; it is a conditional: "we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church". One can never know what happens in the last moments of life, as a person is dying; it is quite possible that an infinitely merciful God would give anyone who is in a state of mortal sin one last chance to repent. I think that this is why the Church has never given anything more than a conditional declaration about someone's place of residence after death. (Of course, the response to this last chance at repentance might be: "I'm not going to heaven if it's filled with papists!".) One can understand the motives of the authors of that quaint 8th-century ceremony of excommunication; the purpose of the censure, after all, is medicinal: it is intended to cajole the person censured into coming back into full communion with the Church.

MB: "I reply: The 
people of God have sometimes been stunningly wrong on a wide and 
embarrassingly diverse array of issues, occasionally
 for centuries."

That may be true, but there was no Reformed Christianity until more than a thousand and a half years after Christ. If Reformed Christianity is necessary for salvation, then we're still left wondering why Christ left such a mess, and why it took Him so long to send someone to clean it up.

"It is a shame my friend John Robbins isn't around to defend himself." I'm sure Lewis's friends felt the same way when they read Robbins. There's a reason why they call it "rest in peace."

But Catholics won't consider the obvious position, namely that it is in fact quite likely that Lewis is in hell from the Catholic perspective.

But if Catholics won't consider it, then perhaps that's not the Catholic perspective.

Q: But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved?

A: If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God's will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation.

Catechism of Pius X, article 9, q.29

Is it amusing that there is a Catholic on this thread who is opining that Lewis is in hell because he wasn't a Catholic and that Robbins was opining that Lewis is in hell because he wasn't Reformed and evangelical? The via media gets you in trouble coming and going.

Hey, at least the Catholic has Purgatory to fall back on. Maybe God will explain to all of us Protestants that y'all were right if we find ourselves (surprise!) in Purgatory. :-)


The following are de fide pronouncements of three popes:

“There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

What you quoted was fine. But it must be interpreted in the light of these infallible declarations. This is undiluted Catholicism, and it is not "nice".

Robbins was also an insightful critique of Cornelius VanTil. He saw the deviation from sola fides among some who said the stood in the tradition of VanTil long before the rest of us did.

George R,

Yes, I was expecting Unam Sanctum et al, to make an appearance.

But it must be interpreted in the light of these infallible declarations. This is undiluted Catholicism, and it is not "nice".

I assume you don't mean to imply that Pius X's catechism is "diluted" Catholicism. One can only presume that Pius X and his theologians knew all about Unam Sanctam, et al. I have no desire to circumvent any difficulties or "unpleasantness" presented by any Catholic dogma whatsoever--and there are many more. I do find it disturbing, however, when individuals presume to speak definitively where the Church has not (I'm not accusing you of this, mind you). In this case, how apparent difficulties in certain de fide pronouncements are to be reconciled with other common teachings which, although not pronounced de fide in a dogmatic formulation, are no less a part of the Catholic faith, as witnessed by their perennial inclusion in catechisms. Some Catholics think more highly of their abilities in the theological realm than they ought, or do what amounts to fundamentalist theology by slapping down passages like Unam Sanctam in the context of any conversation on ecumenism, as if that answers all questions (again, I do not accuse you of this, and neither do I accuse anyone of this categorically who merely refers to Unam Sanctam et al, as I have done many times myself).

Maybe God will explain to all of us Protestants that y'all were right if we find ourselves (surprise!) in Purgatory. :-)

Indeed, since even if a Protestant is otherwise a saint in every aspect, he or she will still have to go through Purgatory if only to be shown that he was wrong about it! But it would be a brief stint, I'm sure. A hour or so, tops.

George R (just thought I'd add this to clear away possible confusion),

When ever I catch a Catholic who I think should know better being too flip with universalist assumptions and a too-easy ecumenism, I like to slap that bit from Unam Sanctam down myself (and mention, to boot, that Ludwig Ott has proclaimed it the only infallible part of Unam Sanctam). In fact, I've taken the trouble of memorizing it just for the occasion. But I do it for balance and humility, not as a conversation-stopper. C.S. Lewis wrestled deeply with this problem, the problem of salvation, universalism, the difficult passages in the gospels, and what he wrote he did not write flippantly or naively. If he was wrong, he was wrong in the right direction, I think.

Good points all around, Byronic.

Several commenters here have said, in effect, "Robbins is full of it. We are justified by faith, not by assent to a particular theology."

Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute! Just what does the word "faith" mean here? Do the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have faith in Jesus? They say they do.

Clearly, to have real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have to be faithful to what He actually taught, both through His own recorded words and through the recorded words of the Apostles. And if He taught a specific and detailed theology, then you have to believe it (at the very least the part of it you have been made aware of) in order to have saving faith. It would be absurd to say "I have faith in Jesus even though I don't know exactly what He taught and I don't regard it as all that important to find out."

The Mormons and JWs deny the body of Christ's teaching at many points, so they don't have saving faith. They have a misplaced faith.

Therefore what Robbins teaches is not absurd on the face of it, as some have at least implied. It all comes down to what Christ actually taught, and which theological system is most faithful to Him. One certainly does have to believe certain points of theology to be saved. Otherwise we arrive at universalism, which I don't think the commenters here would endorse.

Other commenters have said, in effect, "All it takes is faith in the Apostles' Creed to get into Heaven." That's a somewhat different issue, although, again, if Christ taught a lot more than the content of the Apostles' Creed, then placing your trust it's sufficiency is a big risk.

(Full disclosure: I'm a Calvinist, so I'm approximately on Robbins' side on this issue, even if I cannot endorse his specific conclusion about Lewis for lack of having given the question the serious study it merits.)

One certainly does have to believe certain points of theology to be saved.

Perhaps you'd rather say that one should believe in certain Christian dogmas. The bare, unqualified term 'theology' can be a bit broad in a discussion like this. Lewis, as an orthodox broad-Church Anglican, would have likely subscribed to Lancelot Andrewes formula, "one Bible, two Testaments, three Creeds, four Councils, and the first five centuries." I doubt he ever mentioned this anywhere in his writings--at least I certainly don't recall it. But it seems his broad-Church Anglicanism would have amounted to something like this, and it's consonant with his approach to Christianity. So, for an Anglican that's more of a dogmatic commitment, an essentially catholic view that faith springs from the Church (not necessarily Papist Rome) and belongs to the Church as the Body of Christ.

Faith in Christ is compatible with multiple theories of justification, just as it's compatible with theological errors of various sorts -- including the ones commonly held by Calvinists, by Arminians, by Catholics, by Methodists, and by Presbyterians, etc.

Faith in Christ does not have to be even close to error-free in order to be either real or effective. Heavens, little children can (and do) have saving faith, and they are sometimes notoriously heretical, and with amazing frequency. Children are shockingly mistaken about theories of justification and about the Trinity, for example, though that does not suspend their eternal life. Further, Reformed theologians, like you and me, carry around with us the burdens of misinformed faith, though it does not seem to keep us out of the company of the elect.

A friend of mine observed that Dr. John Robbins looked at the written record and found those who deviated from evangelical orthodoxy on the doctrine of Sola Fide. Dr. John H. Gerstner looked at the written record to find Church Fathers who had agreed however inconsistantly with Sola Fide. Thus Dr. Robbins found C. S. Lewis wanting; and Dr. Gerstner welcomed St. Thomas Aquinas to the fold.

Oh, man, now I'm really confused. :-) Does this mean St. Thomas _is_ in heaven with Dr. Robbins but C.S.L. isn't? Or are they all there together having a good laugh?

I too am confused.

Is the objection to Robbins his claim that C.S. Lewis isn't in heaven, or that Christians shouldn't opine on whether a given person is in heaven, or that one's doctrine is never sufficient to preclude heaven (thus permitting apparently JWs and Mormons to go to heaven)?

I get the impression that in the opinion of many Catholics one should never say that unbelief is culpable, which borders on universalism.

Lewis rode his Aslan to Oblivion -- heaven & hell are, therefore, moot.

Let the superstitions of Good & Evil finally die and give Athiests their Right to Rule!

Christianity is oh so yesterday...

I get the impression that in the opinion of many Catholics one should never say that unbelief is culpable, which borders on universalism.

On the contrary, we proud Papists continue to believe that Protestants still go to Hell.

I am not an expert on C. S. Lewis but have had enough exposure to him to know that he was not always consistant. I bet I could take Jack Gerstner's approach and find statements that showed he believed in the classical evangelical doctrine of sola fide.
I know that John Robbins could take his approach and show that St. Thomas Aquinas rejected sola fide.
I prefer the approach of Dr. Gerstner which may explain in part why I am an Anglican not a Presbyterian.

Or are they all there together having a good laugh?

If they are all in heaven together, they are most certainly having a good laugh.

I get the impression that in the opinion of many Catholics one should never say that unbelief is culpable, which borders on universalism.

What we all should say is that unbelief as such is possibly culpable, but we have no information on any particular instance of culpability. A man is convicted by his conscience. A Catholic makes confession when his conscience convicts him of sin (and he has the duty submit his conscience for formation according to the teaching of the Church). The priest in the confessional accepts the conviction of the penitent's conscience that he has sinned. The priest does not know of the penitent's culpability by any special means. The Church, in her ignorance of particular cases of culpability (save perhaps Judas Iscariot, about whom Christ said it was better for him that he never have been born) places her hope for the salvation of all in the vast and inestimable mercy of God, while insisting that damnation is a real, live possibility for everyone.

It is true, of course, that many Catholics these days have universalist, even unitarian opinions. But the Catholic Church doesn't teach easy universalism and the average Christian of any stripe can't articulate his faith without contradicting a dogma even of his own sect. And CSL knew that a mere claim of sincerity ("I'm a sincere seeker") does not equal sincerity. See, The Great Divorce, the conversation between the two ministers.

I am not an expert on C. S. Lewis but have had enough exposure to him to know that he was not always consistant. I bet I could take Jack Gerstner's approach and find statements that showed he believed in the classical evangelical doctrine of sola fide.

I think Lewis had a good idea of when he was on perennially safe ground and when he was speculating. He argued his opinions, but he also qualified himself pretty well. He said, for instance (in one of his letters), that he had no knowledge of how God might save a non-believer. He clearly thought that God might, and probably did. But to think such a thing doesn't make one unorthodox by any reasonable standard, Catholic or Protestant. And the Orthodox have a saying: "We know where the Church is. But we do not know where it is not."


And CSL knew that a mere claim of sincerity ("I'm a sincere seeker") does not equal sincerity.

What are your thoughts on C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle wherein the young Calormene who ended up being saved in the end due to his piety, among other things, though he, himself, was originally not a believer in Aslan (he believed in Tash), the allegorical figure for Christ?

It reminded me of St. Paul's Romans 2:14-15; that his salvation in the end was perhaps due to his striving to do God's will as it is known to him through the dictates of conscience, which is in line with what Lumen Gentium was saying about non-Catholics, too.

As St. Paul says in Romans 2:14-15: 14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them


The Calormene's name is "Emeth," which, is it happens, is Hebrew for "truth." Emeth was a true seeker--what he sought was God, and for Lewis, Truth is nothing less than God in His Being, God in Himself. This is Lewis' Platonism coming through. He makes Aslan to say, addressing Emeth, "I take to me the services which thou hast done to him [meaning Tash]. For he and I are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him." All good acts, done in the pursuit of virtue and Truth, must fly to God. Christ accepts them as service done to him, and I think Lewis would have in mind the parable of the sheep and the goats, in Mt 25.

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Lewis has referred to this passage in a number of places in his published writings and letters. For instance:

The "sheep" in the parable had no idea either of the God hidden in the prisoner whom they visited or of the God hidden in themselves when they made the visit. (I take the whole parable to be about the judgment of the heathen. For it begins by saying, in the Greek, that the Lord will summon all the "nations" before Him--presumably, the Gentiles, the Goyim.)

The Four Loves, 6


I was saying nothing in that sermon about the destiny of the "virtuous unbeliever." The parable of the sheep and the goats suggests that they have a very pleasant surprise coming to them. But in the main, we are not told God's plans about them in any detail.

Letter To Miss Patricia Johnson, 8 Dec 1941

But depending on how one exegetes that passage from Romans, it could also fit. I don't know if CSL ever referred to it in this context, but surely he knew it. If you see Lewis as fundamentally a Platonising theologian, you'll understand his way of reading Christianity. It's all there in The Great Divorce and Til We Have Faces as well. He found his way to Christianity via this sort of Platonic search for Truth, the longing for beauty and the infinite, sehnsucht, etc. Lewis felt that longing in the best pagan writers, their love of virtue, contemplation, seeking the Eternal Ideas, that sort of thing. He follows some of the early fathers, Justin Martyr, I think, among others, who see in some Greek pagans (esp. Plotinus, I'd suppose) a sort of proto-Christianity, a pagan protoevangelium. Emeth's salvation represents this part of Lewis' speculative theology.


Thanks for that wonderful & informative comment about CS Lewis!

Concerning the latter, indeed, your assessment as regards the early fathers and, in particular, Justin Martyr is correct as in his first apology, St. Justin wrote:

"Those who lived in accordance with the Logos are Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them."


Indeed on Justin Martyr. Augustine, according to my best recollection (De civitate dei), at least thinks that some of the Platonists are worthy of being read on account of their superior conception of the deity vis-a-vis general Mediterranean paganism. The Platonists were thinkers that Augustine could work with. And then of course you have the classic statement of J.H. Newman in the Apologia:

I understood . . . that the exterior world, physical and historical, was but the manifestation to our senses of realities greater than itself. Nature was a parable, Scripture was an allegory; pagan literature, philosophy, and mythology, properly understood, were but a preparation for the Gospel. The Greek poets and sages were in a sense prophets.

Now, surely CSL knew this piece of writing well, although a citation doesn't come immediately to mind.

I am reviving a long dead discussion just to say the following: if you think John Robbins a Pharisee for defending the notion that saving faith is accompanied with proper knowledge of who it is that is saving you and what his work is all about, then be prepared to think of Paul Bunyan as a Pharisee also.

Here is a damning excerpt from the Pilgrim's Progress on Ignorance (and for those who do not know or need a reminder, Ignorance was cast down into hell, for his faith was misplaced):

Ign. Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.

Chr. How think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself and of what thou doest, as plainly rendersthee to be one that did never see a necessity of Christ's personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How then dost thou say, "I believe in Christ?"

Ign. I believe well enough for all that.

Chr. How dost thou believe?

Ign. I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his law; or thus, Christ makes my duties that are religious acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.

Chr. Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith:

1.Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the Word.

2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.

3.This faith makes not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy actions' sake, which is false.

4.Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty; for true justifying faith puts the soul (as sensible of its lost condition by the law) upon flying for refuge unto Christ's righteousness – which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he makes for justification thy obedience accepted with God; but his personal obedience to the law in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands. This righteousness, I say, true faith accepts; under the skirt of which, the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.

So there we are. Paul Bunyan the Pharisee. Paul Bunyan the Arrogant. Paul Bunyan how dare he be consistent in theology and by logic draw and share a conclusion not to hate on you but to illuminate truth to you before it is too late. Paul Bunyan how dare he love his neighbour by telling him the truth of saving faith, rather than love him by turning a blind eye to a misplaced faith.

...Any one who believes that man's will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall...

But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer - for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,

"Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not-that is the difference between me and them."

That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, "I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?" If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, "My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." Do I hear one Christian man saying, "I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me"? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say-

"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o'erflow;
'Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go."

From Spurgeon's Sermon, Free Will - A Slave (another so called Pharisee and arrogant man if we follow the logic of some on this board).

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.