Lewis on the Bible

Lewis commented on the Bible throughout his life as a Christian. You’d expect such, given his engagement with theology and literature, let alone observation of human experience and culture. He certainly did so in a sweeping way (and often creative way), whether it be the various loves, the megaphone of pain, the devil and temptation, etc. What I plan to present are some specific biblical references where Lewis cites and provides a bit of commentary. 

First, let’s start with framing. In an essay titled “Answers to Questions about Christianity” that you can find in God in the Dock, he gives a general scope of the Bible. He says, 

The Bible can be divided into two parts – the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament contains fabulous elements. The New Testament consists mostly of teaching, not of narrative at all: but where it is narrative, it is, in my opinion, historical. As to the fabulous element in the Old Testament, I very much doubt if you would be wise to chuck it out. What you get is something coming gradually into focus. First you get, scattered through the heathen religions all over the world – but still quite vague and mythical – the idea of a god who is killed and broken and then comes to life again. No one knows where he is supposed to have lived and died; he’s not historical. Then you get the Old Testament. Religious ideas get a bit more focused. Everything is now connected with a particular nation. And it comes still more into focus as it goes on. Jonah and the Whale, Noah and his Ark, are fabulous; but the Court history of King David is probably as reliable as the Court history of Louis XIV. Then, in the New Testament the thing really happens. The dying god really appears – as a historical Person, living in a definite place and time. If we could sort out all the fabulous elements in the earlier stages and separate them from the historical ones, I think we might lose an essential part of the whole process.  

Lewis approaches Scripture as the ultimate story–the true story–of God reaching into the world and allowing us to glimpse more and more of his love, grace, fury, and compassion, until finally, we see the “dying god” actually walking in the dirt, breathing the air, in human likeness, as Philippians 2 tells us. As we’ll see in the references that begin our series and throughout, Lewis is not as particular in theological specifics, though he by no means liberates himself to move any old way. Rather, the story, the relationship, the profound truth of God incarnate is central (and, as any theologian knows, so much theology is wound up in this sentence already).

In Reflections on the Psalms, he explains that for the Christian, the Bible is holy and inspired, referencing Romans 3:2, “the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” Of course, it is written by men, but inspired by God. In all the retellings of the oral stories, Lewis says these are with, “aid from the Father of Lights,” that these are, “guided by God.” “Thus, he says, “something originally merely natural—the kind of myth that is found among most nations—will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself it would not have served.” 

As we trek through Lewis’s comments on Scripture, we’ll see brief commentaries from the Fall all the way to the second coming of Jesus. Ahh, and through it all, we’ll see this overriding imaginative view that is captured in “The Weight of Glory”. Lewis tells us that, “if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

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