I was once a Christian, and on my way out of the club, I remember reading passages from one of my favorite Christian authors, CS Lewis:
“But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. … There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position”
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, pp. 64, 208, 209
CS Lewis was one of my favorites. He was a classicist (a scholar and a fan of the ancient Greeks and Latins) before he converted — he loved the ancients. But his new religion taught him that all the ancients who had not heard of Jesus or heard and rejected would burning forever in a lake of fire (Revelations 20:14-15). But Lewis would have none of that. His mind helped him come up with a liberal theology where nonbelievers could be saved — as you can see by the quote above.
Many Christians consider CS Lewis’ pluralist views on salvation to be heretical, but if there is a God, maybe these writings ironically illustrate that “God’s secret influence” were leading CS Lewis away from the mistaken notions of the ‘orthodox’ Christianity that surrounded him.
In Lewis’ Chronicals of Narnia there is a similar pluralistic story where Temeth, fervent servant of the false god Tash, meets the true God, Aslan, and realizes that he has erred and will surely die. But Aslan welcomes him and explains,
“I take to me the services which thou hast done to [Tash], for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.”
–C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle”, New York: Collier, 1956, pp. 164-165
Of course, as a nontheist, God-stories don’t move me much. But looking behind these stories, I am moved to find CS Lewis transcending his own “Christian” identity label. Fundamentalists are right to see his thought as heresy. Praise Tash!
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