The Evangelical Innovators C. S. Lewis Warned Us About


In 1943, C. S. Lewis published The Abolition of Man in an try to warn the planet about the Innovators, educators who have been corrupting the minds of young children, turning them into “men with out chests.” If Lewis have been to create once again in 2019, he would discover a formidable set of new Innovators to warn us about.

Lewis starts The Abolition of Man by commenting on an English textbook, written by two misguided authors whom he calls Gaius and Titius:

In their second chapter Gains and Titius quote the nicely-recognized story of Coleridge at the waterfall. You recall that there have been two vacationers present: that a single known as it ‘sublime’ and the other ‘pretty’ and that Coleridge mentally endorsed the initial judgement and rejected the second with disgust. Gaius and Titius comment as follows: ‘When the man stated This is sublime, he appeared to be creating a remark about the waterfall… Really … he was not creating a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his personal feelings. What he was saying was definitely I have feelings connected in my thoughts with the word “Sublime”, or shortly, I have sublime feelings.

As Lewis observes, Gaius and Titius have decreased all statements of worth to “statements about the emotional state of the speaker.”

Gaius and Titius’ point of view fails to reckon with what we could possibly contact the grain of the universe, the all-natural order, or as Lewis calls it, “the Tao.” It fails to account for the way the planet definitely is: the truth that some waterfalls actually are sublime apart from any assertion or human opinion about them. This reality-denying individualism (recognized in technical circles as “emotivism”) is the calling card of the Innovators.

Lewis warns exactly where this way of considering, oblivious to the produced planet, will lead: nihilism.

The sensible outcome of education in the spirit of “The Green Book” need to be the destruction of the society which accepts it…. The Tao hence is the basis of all worth systems. If it is rejected, all worth is rejected. If any worth is retained, it is retained. No new worth method can be erected except on the basis of the Tao. All such efforts will merely be fragments from the Tao itself … If he had definitely began from scratch, from ideal outdoors the human tradition of worth, no jugglery could have sophisticated him an inch towards the conception that a man really should die for the neighborhood or function for posterity.

Apart from the Tao, all that is left is one’s personal preferences and these preferences are only as meaningful as the energy of the individual to enforce them. Anything becomes utterly arbitrary, so that speak about justice, goodness, and beauty is meaningless. These ideas quantity to no extra than opinion enforced by strength or numbers.

In abandoning the Tao, “it is not that [the Innovators] are terrible males. They are not males at all. … They have stepped into the void … they are artifacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man!”

A equivalent abandonment of the produced order is operating its way by way of American Christianity in our personal century, masquerading itself as Christian truth. This time the Innovators are not emotivists like Gaius and Titius, lowering each and every worth statement to an opinion, but they are liberal individualists, lowering actual flesh-and-blood human beings into isolated abstractions. These Innovators of the third millennium are the preachers of the atomic person, the man who thinks for himself and is accountable to no a single. We can discover these Nietzchean Ubermen in the excesses of libertarianism and in the fiction of Ayn Rand. Far extra worrisome, even though, is that we can discover these self-produced males praised in the pulpits of lots of a respectable Christian church.

Exactly where the Christian gospel insists “you are not your personal you have been purchased at a price tag,” these Innovators and their libertarian gospel say, “you are your personal what ever you have purchased is yours.” Exactly where Scripture speaks about salvation as getting united in Christ and becoming Christ’s physique on earth, the libertarian gospel speaks of salvation as inviting Jesus into your heart (that is, Jesus getting into your person physique, not you and all Christians collectively getting into his). Despite the fact that this type of pathology runs against the grain of the universe, against the scriptural witness, and even against the weight of Christian believed across two millenia, nonetheless somehow that does not quit Christian ministers from clinging to it.

Final summer season, John MacArthur and some other prominent Christian leaders drafted and signed a clumsy document recognized as The Statement on Social Justice. Even though the drafters claim that the statement is motivated by “[a deep concern] that values borrowed from secular culture are at the moment undermining Scripture,” each and every single error amongst the statement’s pronouncements comes from the drafter’s personal confusion of the gospel of liberal individualism with Holy Writ.

Yes, John MacArthur and the other signers of the Statement on Social Justice are the Innovators that C. S. Lewis warned us about.

The Statement, which aspires to address the “onslaught of unsafe and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead men and women away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ,” is itself culpable of seriously distorting Christian teaching. There is a frustrating insistence on individualism in its paragraphs.

By individualism, I right here and above imply the sense that all that matters morally is the heart and intention of the person. That is, a point of view that zooms so totally in on the person so as to obscure, and even deny, any bigger realities. I feel right here of the benighted souls (and I myself have been a single) who feel it attainable to fly a Confederate flag merely for pride of Southern culture. The moral framework important to justify this action is a single that focuses solely on the person and his or her heart towards African Americans. As just a single instance of its shortcomings, this framework denies granting any significance, except in a secondary sense, to the historical re-adoption of the flag in the Civil Rights era as a symbol of Southern defiance against federally-mandated integration.

The reality-bending individualism of the Statement on Social Justice is on complete show when its drafters claim that though it is attainable for households, groups, and nations to “sin collectively” or be “predisposed to unique sins,” “subsequent generations share the collective guilt of their ancestors only if they approve and embrace (or try to justify) these sins.” Right here they have decreased morality to the believed-life of a solitary person.

Like the drafters’ account of the gospel, which is merely about affirming Christ as the Lord who has atoned for the world’s sins (a great start out even though it is a thing which “even the demons think, and shudder,”) their account of ethical action is about ideal belief and fails to acknowledge the way we are implicated in a single another’s lives. Accurate, “the kid will not share the guilt of the parent” (Ezekiel 18:20) but to look at the matter settled by that verse is to miss the biblical image of what it is to be a human getting.

There is no sense in the drafters’ pronouncements that I could possibly bear duty for my family members, young children, or ancestors, other than not to “approve and embrace” their sins. This is far afield from the biblical image, which insists that in a single man all sinned and will die (1 Corinthians 15:22) that I am my brother’s keeper (Genesis four) that if my brother sins I have a duty to confront him (Matthew 18) that my physique is a member of Christ and that my sexual immorality can unite the physique of Christ and other members of that physique with a prostitute (1 Corinthians six).

In the drafters’ worry of the social nature of the gospel, they mis-study Scripture and fail to see the complete glory of the gospel. They, and other followers of the libertarian gospel, miss the reality on show in the physique of Christ, the truth that John Donne captured so elegantly: “No man is an island complete of itself … any man’s death diminishes me, for the reason that I am involved in mankind.”

This worry of our corporate nature, this radical individualism is not just a failure to realize who we are as human beings it also manifests itself in a failure to realize how we know and discover to think points. The libertarian gospel paints a image of humankind as atoms and monads, completely separate from almost everything about them, brains on sticks that can merely either “approve and embrace … sins” or reject them. Their ‘repentance’ is a single of the thoughts, so that they can earnestly claim that “implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to reside justly in the planet … are not definitional elements of the gospel.”

The drafters and the proponents of this caricatured gospel fail to look at the abolition of man that has been carried out by way of the individualism they champion. In their isolation, they have lost sight of that partnership “between these who are living, these who are dead, and these who are however to be born,” as Edmund Burke puts it. They have lost their spot in the good communion of humankind.

This is a different way of having at the identical point as Donne’s poem, and, in portion, what Christians imply when they profess belief in the “communion of saints.” Christ unites in his personal physique that which is separated by time and distance. And it is also a recognition of what is so evidently accurate of reality: we are not our personal we come from someplace and are indebted to a history, apart from which we can not even articulate who we are. We initial discover to speak and explanation by way of other people who cared for us when we could not care for ourselves. The really nature of human beings demands this.

Rather than attempt to “be our personal man,” as the individualists would have it, only taking duty for the sins and failures which we straight and explicitly embraced, to be totally human is to take duty for points, actions, and men and women outdoors our instant expertise and, in turn, to be dependent upon the duty and care of other people. This is to embrace the biblical image of human nature and to reside out the totally human life of Christ. It is the antidote to this individualism run amok.

To enter into and embrace the duty and dependence of human neighborhood is to recognize, with awe, that Christ took on flesh, not as a totally-formed, independent adult, but as a child inside Mary’s womb. To embrace this Tao, this all-natural order, is to acknowledge our dependence on these about us and these ahead of us, these who bore us, as nicely as our debt to these who will come immediately after us.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we have been united in Christ, brought into God’s selected men and women of Israel as wild branches are grafted into an olive tree. We are not our personal. We are members of Christ’s a single physique, sharing in the unity of the Spirit a single physique, a single Spirit, a single hope, a single Lord, a single faith, a single baptism, a single God and Father of all, who is more than all and by way of all and in all (Ephesians four:three-six).

Sharing as we do in this a single physique, it is then our small business to be our brothers’ keeper, lest in denying our brother we deny the a single physique we are a portion of. Our small business is to step into our accurate nature as human beings and manifest the reality of the planet in our fellowship. We need to turn into participators in that reality, not the Innovators that Lewis warned us about.

John Schweiker Shelton is a congressional staffer with a master’s degree from Duke in theological ethics and political theory. He is also a proud Virginian and alumnus of Thomas Jefferson’s university. You can adhere to him on Twitter @jayshelt for odd musings about theology, philosophy, and fantasy literature.

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