You heard that right.
|Is Lewis in fact the Big Other elephant in the|
postmodern atheologian's linguistically-
The veneration that Lewis has garnered among conservative evangelical and Roman Catholic readers, especially, is certainly inestimable. There's an apocryphal story, which I'm unable to confirm as of press time, that when Christianity Today was compiling its famous "Books of the Century" feature and the results of the first poll of contributors was tallied, Lewis' collected works occupied the first 63 slots of the top 100, leaving a paltry 37 slots for the likes of Bonhoeffer, Solzhenitsyn, Weil and Camus. The editors wisely sent the ballots back out, to broaden the sample a bit.
But if Lewis is much beloved among millions of Christians and other literature loves -- as well as some former employees of the Walt Disney Company -- his reputation among Barthians and other "serious" theologians is, well, a little more (harumph) ... sketchy. Whatever. All the Jack haters can enroll all their kids in "Experiment House," for all I care. I rather like the old guy, warts and all.
Nonetheless, as I shall contend here, the folks who should be troubled by Lewis are not so much the dialectical theologians as much as our friends, the critical theorists and their co-conspirators within the academy and the on the blogosphere. Heads up. We don't throw y'all a bone so often over here at DET, so enjoy it while it lasts.
I was... I mean, um, a friend was recently reading an essay by Lewis in his volume of essays, Christian Reflections (Eerdmans, 1967), titled simply "Historicism."
|God's image is strikingly absent here.|
No. 61 (Rust and Blue) by Mark Rothko.
From the Museum of Contemporary Art,
But that is not the interesting part. What really caught my ... my friend's attention was this passage, which sets up a contrast between the historian proper, who engages in the legitimate attempt to discern coherent causal sequences, and the dreaded historicist:
The mark of the Historicist [capitalized in the original, to ominous effect], on the other hand, is that he tries to get from historical premises conclusions which are more than historical; conclusions metaphysical or theological or (to coin a word) atheo-logical (pp. 100-101, emphasis mine).
Wait, what? Is Lewis claiming here to have invented the term "atheology"? Not knowing the etymology of this word, so freighted as it is in contemporary academic discourse, I naturally would have assumed some profoundly opaque thinker such as Heidegger or Lacan would have originated it -- not this frumpy, mid-20th century literary scholar known for his popular Christian apologetics and children's fantasies. And, to make matters worse, a Platonic realist to boot!
So what? you're asking. If one were to sidle up to, say, a Barthian with the bold claim: "I am an atheist"or "atheologian (atheologist?)," she's going to be, like, "Meh. Tell me about the god you don't believe in. I probably don't believe in that god either." (This is one reason, by the way, that Barthians are rarely invited to cocktail parties.) So the kind of writer who tends to lurk around a website like Die Evangelischen Theologen is likely to shrug off the whole business: "Whatever (yawning). We have the Nicht-Gott and all that, and we all have copies of The Viking Portable Nietzsche on our bedside tables. Smile! Jesus loves you, nonetheless, though I can't prove it. Get over yourself." (Perhaps no respectable Barthian actually talks this way. Hmm. Perhaps this is why I never get invited to cocktail parties.)
Rather, as an (often bemused) outside observer, I worry more about the atheologians/atheolgists and critical theorists out there. It seems to me their honor, their claims to anomalousness are on the line here. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? The spirit of Aslan, indeed, bloweth where it listeth.
|We all own this book. But how|
many of us have actually read it?
It's simply in the interest of Christian charity -- or if you prefer, basic human decency -- that I call attention to this incongruity, in the hopes that an expert from the critical theory camp will set the record straight. Is this danger for real, or am I simply erring here? Please do respond ASAP, either in the comments below or perhaps on your own blog, so my world of thought will not collapse and my head implode. Paging John Caputo! Paging Slavoz Žižek! Paging Peter Rollins!