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C.S. Lewis Puts Reason ‘Out There’

September 22, 2008

In so far as thought is merely human, merely a characteristic of one particular biological species, it does not explain our knowledge.  Where thought is strictly rational it must be, in some odd sense, not ours, but cosmic or super-cosmic.  It must be something not shut up inside our heads but already ‘out there’ – in the universe or behind the universe: either as objective as material Nature or more objective still.  Unless all that we take to be knowledge is an illusion, we must hold that in thinking we are not reading rationality into an irrational universe but responding to a rationality with which the universe has always been saturated. (“De Futilitate” in Christian Reflections, p. 65)

Lewis does such a great job of displaying the contradiction of enlightenment thought. He makes nature sound so much better.  I was told a while back that Lewis says many things that mesh with what Van Til sought to do with his focus on presuppositions.  I definitely agree, with this exception:  where Van Til considered the standard mainly in terms of special revelation Lewis spoke of it as naturally implanted in man and assumed by the particularly human faculty of reason.  

He was a realist reader of old books – very much Medieval.  This can be seen in his utilization of imagination and his love of myth.  Without a proper view of nature one cannot have a proper love of myth. Detrimental to the Christian faith is this understanding of myth since, “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history.” (Lewis, “Myth Became Fact” in God in the Dock, p. 66) Myth allows one to come down from abstraction, speaking or thinking in the realm of facts, and experience those facts.  “It is only while receiving the myth as a story that you experience the principle concretely.” (Ibid) The enlightenment bend toward solipsism is a rebellion against nature and therefore lacks imagination and appreciation for myth.  Only in the Christian story is nature perfected, not destroyed. Only with Christ does the myth become fact. “For this is the marriage of heaven and earth:  Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.” (Ibid., 67)

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