Monday, January 14, 2013

Reading between the lines

powerlinesC.S. Lewis wrote an essay titled “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” as a result of a conversation he had one evening after dinner at the home of The Rt. Rev. Kenneth Carey who was Principal of Westcott House at Cambridge. While Carey was out of the room, Lewis picked up a book from the table. He read “The Sign at Cana” in Alec Vidler’s Windsor Sermons (S.C.M. Press, 1958). Carey recalls that when he asked he what he thought about it, Lewis “expressed himself very freely about the sermon and said that he thought that it was quite incredible that we should have had to wait nearly 2000 years to be told by a theologian called Vidler that what the Church has always regarded as a miracle was, in fact, a parable.”

In his essay, Lewis says that men like Vidler (biblical critics) “ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.”

C.S. Lewis on Biblical Criticism – Part 1
C.S. Lewis, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” (an essay Lewis read at Westcott House, Cambridge, on May 11, 1959). First published in Christian Reflections (1981), later published as Fern-seed and Elephants (1998). This text is taken from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) 353.

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