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Christian Particularism in Narnia: Part 2
May 8, 2013 Kurt Jaros

Christian Particularism in Narnia: Part 2

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In my previous post I explained the differences between exclusivism and inclusivism (both of which are under the tent of particularism).  I then described one event from Lewis’s The Last Battle that serves as a symbol of inclusivism.  In her article “What Has Aslan to do with Tash? C.S. Lewis and Natural Theology” Christina Hitchcock presents a Barthian critique of Lewis’s view of natural theology.[1]  In this post I will present some problems with Hitchcock’s critique.

Hitchcock believes Lewis has problems with his view of myth (story) as revelation.  She invokes Karl Barth here, citing the stark distinction between “religion” and revelation.  “Religion” is humanity’s searching for meaning whereas revelation is God coming to humanity.  At the surface this might appear compatible with Lewis’s thinking, were it not the fact that Barth defined “religion” as, “the realm of man’s attempts to justify and sanctify himself before a capricious and arbitrary picture of God.”

Furthermore, Hitchcock writes, “Barth acknowledges that human culture and human thinking seem always to be related to some belief or knowledge of the supernatural, of something other than ourselves.”[2]  But, this is futile because “something much more is required.”  What is required is that “only in Christ that we encounter the true God and so it is only in Christ that we receive real revelation.”

Much of this critique comes from a different sort of background than Lewis’s.  Consider how Barth thought the doctrine of sola gratia logically led to the conclusion that “the image of God in which [man] was created is obliterated entirely.”[3]  He also ardently held to sola scriptura, and thought it necessarily meant general revelation ought to be rejected.[4]  Therefore, Barth thought that natural theology, an activity that man could supposedly do based on nature and general revelation, set itself up against God’s grace and ought to be rejected.[5]

This sort of negative, human theological view, I find, incorrectly interprets the message of the Scriptures and it is unattractive.  Consider how Hitchcock writes about “human culture and human thinking” (quoted above).  This seems at best vague and at worst incoherent.  This is because the only things humans can do, even in light of divine revelation, is “human thinking.”  Perhaps Hitchcock meant something like, ‘human thinking devoid of divine revelation or true premises.’  But if that is the case, then those in support of natural theology are asserting that humans are thinking in light of divine, general revelation which means Hitchcock (and Barth) are missing the point.

For instance, why ought we to think that “religion” (human thinking of the divine, devoid of divine revelation) brings about a “capricious and arbitrary picture of God”?  Isn’t Lewis’s (and others’) point about general revelation precisely that the God of Christianity has made himself known in a variety of ways to all people?  And thus, the picture of God in general revelation isn’t one that is arbitrary, but in some ways accurate, in some ways hazy, and in others false.  This is what natural theology claims to do: it brings some knowledge of God (such as God as Creator) to all people.

Ultimately, I think the objections to natural theology do not depend upon general versus special revelation; rather, they boil down to the doctrine of Original Sin, specifically the issue within Original Sin of Inability.  Hitchcock shows her hand twice on this.  In one instance she writes of Lewis’s “capitulation to natural theology” and in another she writes, “To separate truth and meaning from the very person of Christ is to fall into the trap of natural theology—the idea that man can know and understand God apart from God himself” (emphasis mine).  Again, Hitchcock fails to adequately explain what she means. How can any person both “know and understand God” without ‘knowing and understanding God himself’?  Those that support natural theology say that those that do know and understand God are knowing and understanding the real, true God (even if the image or picture is hazy at times, or most times).

So, why is this relevant to Lewis and Christian Particularism? The short answer is because if there is no intrinsic value natural theology, then the lost won’t be able to understand natural theology or its evidence, which affects (at least in part) their salvation (process).  And if that is true, then it seems that the case for inclusivism is damaged.


[1] Christina Hitchcock, “What Has Aslan to do with Tash? C.S. Lewis and Natural Theology,” in Inklings Forever, Vol. 5, Taylor University, 2006 http://library.taylor.edu/dotAsset/14d8073e-93e2-487d-9089-c9412df7424a.pdf

[2] Hitchcock.

[3] Brunner, “The Issue Between Karl Barth and Myself” in Natural Theology, trans. Peter Fraenkel, (London: The Centenary Press, 1946), 20.

[4] Brunner, 20.

[5] Herbert Hartwell, The Theology of Karl Barth, (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1964), 48.

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