Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic (part 6)

C.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century in response to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger.

the people of Coronation StreetWhen I began, Christianity came before the great mass of my unbelieving fellow-countrymen either in the highly emotional form offered by revivalists or in the unintelligible language of highly cultured clergymen. Most men were reached by neither. My task was therefore simply that of a translator — one turning Christian doctrine, or what he believed to be such, into the vernacular, into language that unscholarly people would attend to and could understand. For this purpose a style more guarded, more nuancé, finelier shaded, more rich in fruitful ambiguities — in fact, a style more like Dr Pittenger’s own — would have been worse than useless. It would not only have failed to enlighten the common reader’s understanding; it would have aroused his suspicion. He would have thought, poor soul, that I was facing both ways, sitting on the fence, offering at one moment what I withdrew the next, and generally trying to trick him. I may have made theological errors. My manner may have been defective. Others may do better hereafter. I am ready, if I am young enough, to learn. Dr Pittenger would be a more helpful critic if he advised a cure as well as asserting many diseases. How does he himself do such work? What methods, and with what success, does he employ when he is trying to convert the great mass of storekeepers, lawyers, realtors, morticians, policemen and artisans who surround him in his own city?
    One thing at least is sure. If the real theologians had tackled this laborious work of translation about a hundred years ago, when they began to lose touch with the people (for whom Christ died), there would have been no place for me.

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 183.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting.  So helpful to me, because I love great words and excellence and profound insights.  But it is not long before I lose my listener who is hungry for good food, not for the merely decorative garnishes.