Creationist Gleanings from C.S. Lewis
I reluctantly believed for a number of years that C.S. Lewis, apostle and teacher to modern skeptics whom I greatly cherish, had made a kind of uneasy truce with modern evolutionism. My opinion was based on passages in Mere Christianity1 and The Problem of Pain.2 where he drew upon evolutionist theories to illustrate his own explanations of Christian beliefs. It is certainly evident that the scope of Lewis's Christian writings is far wider than the specific area of origins by God's creation. Christians and unbelievers inquiring about the Christian faith find in Lewis the sorely needed definition and defense of "mere Christianity" of what has been part of Christianity at all times and in all its branches, and which sets Christianity proper apart from unbelief. C.S. Lewis deserves a special word of gratitude for his intransigence towards "modernism" posing as Christianity. The following statement made in answer to Sherwood E. Wirt of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about six months before Lewis's death is typical:
Mr. Wirt: What is your opinion of the kind of writing being done within the Christian church today?
Lewis: A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution.3
It always seemed to me that one as committed to the truth of the Gospel as C.S. Lewis could not have been neutral on the issue of creation ex nihilo versus evolutionism, but would have welcomed the vindication of the doctrine of creation we are observing today, as did Malcolm Muggeridge in no uncertain terms.4 That vindication, however, was for the most part still in the future during Lewis's life; we must remember that when he died in 1963. The Genesis Flood the creationist classic which first put modern creation science before the general and academic public, had been in print for barely two years. Nevertheless there are certain Lewis writings indicating that he was indeed on the creationist side. I shall make reference to some of these writings, advising the reader that my sampling is not intended to be exhaustive.
Lewis debunks the modern arrogant unbelief based upon "evolution and comparative religion and all the guess-work which masquerades as 'science' "as early as in his largely autobiographical The Pilgrim's Regress.5 the first book published after his conversion. He himself made it clear that he had evolutionism in mind when he put the following words in the mouth of his foolish old "Mr. Enlightenment":
Hypothesis establishes itself by a cumulative process, or, to use proper language, if you make the same guess often enough it ceases to be a guess and becomes a Scientific Fact.6
How appropriate these sarcastic words are now, fifty years later, about evolutionist dogma'. (I use the word "dogma" deliberately in the sense Lewis once said that common everyday people use it "in a bad sense to mean 'unproved assertion delivered in an arrogant manner'. 7 Common everyday people have a good deal of common sense !))
Lewis's essay "Two Lectures," originally published in February 1945, can only be called a bit of creationist apologetics. It contrasts an urbane lecture about "Evolution, development, the slow struggle upwards and onwards from crude and inchoate beginnings towards ever-increasing perfection and elaboration that appears to be the very formula of the whole Universe"8 with a Dream Lecturer pointing Out that "(t)he acorn comes from a full-grown oak. the Rocket comes, not from a still crude engine, but from something much more perfect than itself and much more complex, the mind of a man, and a man of genius. The march of all things is from higher to lower...9 Lewis reaches the conclusion that
'Developmentalism' is made to look plausible by a kind of trick.. . . And since the egg-bird-egg sequence leads us to no plausible beginnings, is it not reasonable to look for the real origin somewhere outside sequence altogether? You have to go outside the sequence of engines, into the world of men, to find the real originator of the Rocket. Is it not equally reasonable to look outside Nature for the real Originator of the natural order?10
Perhaps Lewis's most explicit anti-evolutionist writing is found in his essay, "The Funeral of a Great Myth." It was published for the first time four years after Lewis's death (not surprising in view of the then still prevailing climate of evolutionist dogmatism) in the collection Christian Rellections.11 While the bulk of the article deals with the mythological implications of evolutionism in a manner devastating to the makers and believers of such myths, Lewis also questions the scientific validity of evolutionism. He makes it very clear that even to the biologist, evolution is a hypothesis; and he speculates about the grounds for accepting the hypothesis as largely metaphysical and the fulfillment of an "imaginative need."12 Lewis correctly predicts that the evolutionist hypothesis, even strictly on scientific evidences, "may be shown, by later biologists, to be a less satisfactory hypothesis than was hoped fifty years ago."13 He also States that "probably every age gets, within certain limits, the science it desires."14 In this Statement he anticipated the later admissions of philosophers of science, for instance Imre Lakatos, that there is no pure objectivity in scientific research.15
Throughout Lewis's writings runs the idea that in the course of their continued existence all things or persons only become more and more themselves, "Even on the biological level," he writes in The Great Divorce, "life is not like a pool but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection."16 While the notion of a "tree" of biological development is all too familiar to us through the popular evolutionist "tree" model (now amended to a "bush" by the "punctuated equilibrium" model proposed by S.J. Gould and Niles Eldredge) Lewis's emphasis was upon differentiation, and certainly not upon the notion of one species, kind or individual changing into another. Such trans-species change from boy into dragon or from Talking Beast to common wild beast as in Lewis's beautiful Narnia stories is always supernatural and ominous, revealing latent evil in his characters. Such changes are also always downward The same idea of greater and stronger individual separateness and perfected unique identity is also found in the life of the heroine Orual in Till We Have Faces, or in a conversation between good Cecil and Margaret Dimble in That Hideous Strength. Such increasing individual identity which becomes ultimately fixed as a result of God's creative design and the individual's choice runs counter to random naturalistic emergent evolutionism in every fundamental and operational respect,
No overview of this matter would be complete without reference to Lewis's portraits of lost and evil men in his science fiction trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, From the cold contempt and unscrupulous exploitation of feebleminded Harry by Devine and Weston in Planet, to Filostrato's experiment with a guillotined man's head and Wither's trancelike senility in a demon-made void in Strength there is a wealth of prophetic realism about the end result of the emergent evolutionist world view for its practitioners-victims. Most horrible of them all is Weston turned "UnMan" in Perelandra. He is "a convinced believer in emergent evolution. All is one."17 Weston believes that "pure spirit . is the goal towards which the whole cosmic process is moving. Call it a Force. A great, inscrutable Force, pouring up into us from the dark bases of being your Devil and your God are both pictures of the same Force."18 Anyone acquainted with the emergent evolutionist philosophy of the maverick Catholic priest Teilhard de Chardin cannot help wondering whether Lewis modeled his Weston upon Teilhard.
We may conclude from all these excerpts that Lewis was unalterably opposed to emergent evolutionism as a philosophy or myth; that he maintained a good deal of dry skepticism about the biological hypothesis of evolutionism as not necessarily scientifically true; and that he would have gladly welcomed the rise of creation science in our own generation.
(Titles below are by C.S. Lewis unless otherwise indicated.)
1. cf. 'Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Twenty-Ninth Paperback Printing 1 979), 1 84ff.
2 cf. The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Thirteenth Paperback Printing 19721, 77ff.
3 In God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 260.
4 "Muggeridge on Evolution," in Creation Social Science and Humanities Quarterly. Vol.111, No. 4 (Summer 1981), 17,
5 The Pilgrim's Regress (Grand Rapids, Ml: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1933, Reprinted November 1971), 36, 37 (headlines).
6 Ibid, 37.
7 God in the Dock, 97.
8 Ibid, 208.
9 Ibid, 209.
10 Ibid. 210, 211,
11 Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1967)82-93. Also see Preface by Walter Hooper, p. xiii, for publication date.
12 Ibid, 85.
13 Ibid. 83.
14 Ibid, 85.
15 cs. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, editors, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1 970), pp. 74.92, 99.
16 The Great Divorce (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1946, Sixteenth Printing 1970), vi.
17 Perelandra (New York: The Macmillan Company, Tenth Paperback Printing 1970) 90
18 Ibid 92 93