December 28, 2023 | Jerry Bergman

New Book Presents C.S. Lewis as Warrior Against Evolutionary Naturalism

C.S. Lewis: The most effective
anti-evolutionist of the last century

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

— Among the most controversial books I have ever written
were two books on C.S. Lewis as an anti-evolutionist.* —

*Evolution defined as molecules to man by purely natural means.[1]

The first book on Lewis, titled C.S. Lewis, Anti-Darwinist, has sold well. It is in 322 major libraries and is sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Christianbook.com, the major online Christian book store.[2]

The second one, C.S. Lewis’ War Against Scientism and Naturalism, has just been released, so is not yet in any library. This well-documented side of Lewis surprises people partly because, of the over 300 books published about Lewis in English, my two books on Lewis are the only books written documenting the fact that he was an anti-evolutionist.

For various reasons, the idea that Lewis was an evolutionist has caught on, partly due to some statements that he has made in the past which have become orthodox, leading many theistic evolutionists to tout him as championing their theistic evolution beliefs.

The Importance of Lewis

As of this writing, Lewis is the best-selling Christian author of all time. His 29 BBC lectures given during World War II reached an audience estimated at 600,000.[3] Lewis has “succeeded as few others in causing Christianity to be discussed seriously and publicly.”[4]  In addition, a survey of 101 church leaders found that Lewis’s book Mere Christianity was [among] the top ten most influential books they have ever read.”[5]

C.S. Lewis was a professor for almost 40 years, from 1925 until his premature death at age 64 in 1963. He was Professor of Medieval and Early Modern English Literature, first at Oxford University, then at Cambridge University. He left Oxford because “his refusal to hide his Christian faith under a bushel hurt his chances for promotion.”[6]

In short, “C.S. Lewis . . . believed in argument, in disputation, and in the dialectic of Reason because he believed that the main business of life was a bold hunt for truth.”  He feared that evolution would lead to the “rejection of absolute standards and traditional, objective values.”[7]

Opposition to the First Book

One well-known Christian who endorsed my first book on Lewis emailed me, informing me that he has received some feedback condemning him for endorsing my book. Thus, although very supportive of my work, he requested that I not use his endorsement for my newest book on C.S. Lewis.

Knowing full well my first Lewis book was not perfect—no book written by a human is—I decided that, while working on my new sequel book, I would search the internet for feedback on my first book. I found nothing but a few examples of useless name-calling, Although Amazon had 19 ratings of my first Lewis book and most ratings were very positive.

The one very negative review assumed I argued for a position that I did not support. Another review stated, as evidence I was wrong, wrote: “on the one hand Lewis would like you to believe that he is against evolution — then again, regarding Christianity, in his ‘magnum opus’ on the topic, he would write something like ‘[Christianity] It is not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution—a biological or super-biological fact.’ — there you have it, whether Darwinist or not, evolution is the name.” I was lost at her point here. Another review opined,

This book draws out some important observations about C.S. Lewis’s developing thoughts on the issue of Darwinism, and for anyone interested in Lewis, there is a real contribution here. I am ultimately glad I read it.… That said, though the case is in a few places overstated, the general thesis here is worth reading and considering, and I greatly appreciate this first attempt to synthesize Lewis’ various statements on an important subject to which he speaks in passing fairly often but rarely wrote about directly. I hope this book is a starting place that provokes better-written and more thorough work on the subject by others in the future.[8]

Evolutionist and atheist Jerry Coyne visiting the grave of a man he admired greatly, John T. Scopes. See my article about the Scopes Trial from 6 Dec 2023.

Evolutionist Gets It

Even militant evolutionist Jerry Coyne acknowledged that C.S. Lewis rejected evolution, writing:

I wondered what a man as smart as Lewis would make of the theory of evolution ….. Sadly, his views on evolution are even worse than his views on Christianity. Though Lewis died in 1963, when we already had tons of evidence for evolution, Lewis was a doubter, holding the following views:

He had no objection in principle to common ancestry, but was skeptical about it—exactly the view that Michael Behe holds.

He was especially skeptical about human evolution, not seeing how natural selection could create the reasoning human mind.

He saw materialistic natural selection, the “unguided version,” as incapable of creating novelty; it could “knock out existing functions” but not create new ones. This of course is a stock argument of creationists.

In his book Miracles, Lewis claimed that human reason could not have been produced by materialistic natural selection, for if selection is a “blind” process, how can we regard reason as giving us the ability to uncover the truth? This is very similar to the arguments of Sophisticated Theologians™ like Alvin Plantinga, and is a specious argument. I explained why in Faith Versus Fact.

Lewis also claimed that if humans evolved in a Darwinian way, we would have no reason to prefer morality over immorality, as there would be “no such thing as right or wrong.” Real atheists would have to admit that, he said.

As Lewis got older (and as the study of evolution advanced), he became even less accepting of evolution, proclaiming that the dogmatism of evolutionary biologists convinced him that evolution was the “central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives.” It’s almost as if he thought evolution was a tool of Satan (in whom Lewis believed).

Finally, Lewis was an anti-accommodationist, critical of those who tried to reconcile evolution with theism. That’s the only thing he got right![9]

I was surprised that, if militant evolutionist Jerry Coyne could accurately understand C.S. Lewis’s views, why some Christians still aggressively argue he was an evolutionist? My article on C.S. Lewis’s objections to Darwinism[10] was posted on the Creation Ministries International website.[11] The objections of one creationist were soon printed![12]

The arguments that Lewis was an evolutionist from Christian websites, especially from BioLogos, are common. One example:

For Christians who question the idea that evolutionary science and God as creator are in conflict, these beliefs can easily and faithfully be held together. C.S. Lewis, and others are examples of respected evangelical scholars who have openly affirmed evolution and hold a high view of biblical authority.”[13]

The evidence in my new book shows otherwise: Lewis opposed Darwinism.

Lewis Opposed Evolution Early On

As early as 1927, after quoting a nineteenth-century scientist, Lewis wrote in a letter to his father about evolution, dated March 30th, in which he stated that to accept Darwinism, “you need more faith in science than in … theology.”[14]

Toward the end of his long career Lewis came to the conclusion that the modern theory of evolutionary naturalism, often called Darwinism in honor of the man who was one of the most important modern popularizers of evolution, was one of the most destructive ideas ever foisted on civilization.

More Evidence

One of many conversations that show his problem with Darwinism was, when asked who he would like to meet if he had a choice of anyone who had ever lived, Lewis said Adam. The response by a colleague,

Oxford Professor Helen Gardner told Lewis, if there really were, someone we could name as “the first man,” he would be a Neanderthal ape-like figure, whose conversation she could not conceive of finding interesting. A stony silence fell on the dinner table. Then Lewis said gruffly, “I see we have a Darwinian in our midst.” Helen Gardner was never invited to this event again.[15]

C.S. Lewis letter to Bernard Acworth

Another quote by Lewis that reflects his conclusions about evolution also explains why he shied away from openly endorsing an anti-evolution stand. It was simply because he

 feared that among his growing band of disciples some might take umbrage at his association with anti-Darwinists: [explaining] ‘When a man has become a popular Apologist …  he must watch his step. Everyone is on the lookout for things that might discredit him.’ Privately, however, he found [anti-evolutionist Bernard] Acworth’s arguments against evolution increasingly compelling—and the pretensions of many biologists repellant.[16]

Later, Lewis

confessed that his belief in the unimportance of evolution was shaken while reading one of his friend’s manuscripts,[stating]  ‘I wish I were younger,’ …. ‘what inclines me now to think that you may be right in regarding it [evolution] as the central lie in the web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders.[17]

A poem he wrote provides much insight about his reasons for questioning evolution. This poem is quoted on the cover of my new book.

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair:
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us,
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us, nobody knows to where.[18]

In summary, Lewis was one of the most prolific Christian writers of the last century, and he wrote a great deal about his concerns of evolutionary naturalism. Attempting to understand his views in this area was a Herculean task that I have begun which I pray will lead other scholars to further explore.

References

[1] Bergman, Jerry. C.S. Lewis: Anti-Darwinist: A Careful Examination of the Development of His Views on Darwinism. Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2017; Bergman, Jerry. C.S. Lewis’ War Against Scientism and Naturalism. Cantaro Press, Ontario, Canada, 2023.

[2] https://www.christianbook.com/darwinist-careful-examination-development-views-darwinism/jerry-bergman/9781532607738/pd/607735.

[3] Reid, Daniel G. Dictionary of Christianity in America. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, p. 645, 1990..

[4]Deasy, Philip. “God, Space, and C. S. Lewis.” Commonweal 68(16):421-425, p. 421, 25 July 1958.

[5] Crowell, Faye Ann. The Theme of the Harmful Effects of Science in the Works of C.S. Lewis. M.A. Thesis, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, p. 4, 1971.

[6] Murphy, Brian. C.S. Lewis (Starmont Reader’s Guide, 14). Starmont House, Mercer Island, WA, p. 11, 1983.

[7] Murphy, 1983, p. 11.

[8] https://www.amazon.com/productreviews/1532607733/ref=acr_dp_hist_3?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=three_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar.

[9] Coyne, Jerry. “C.S. Lewis: Evolution denialist?” https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2016/09/17/c-s-lewis-evolutiondenialist/#:~:text=Insofar%20as%20natural%20selection%20were,and%20in%20part%20a%20creationist, 2016.

[10] “C.S. Lewis: Creationist and Anti-evolutionist.” Journal of Creation 23(3):110-115, 2009.

[11] https://dl0.creation.com/articles/p070/c07086/j23_3_110-115.pdf.

[12] Journal of Creation 29(1); https://dl0.creation.com/articles/p100/c10056/j29_1_58-60.pdf, 2015.

[13] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/; emphasis in original.

[14] Lewis, C.S. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 1: Family Letters, 1905-1931. HarperOne (formerly HarperSanFrancisco), San Francisco, CA, p. 680, 2004.

[15] Wilson, A.N. C.S. Lewis: A Biography. Norton, New York, NY, p. 210, 1990.

[16] Numbers, Ronald. The Creationists. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, p. 175, 2006.

[17] Numbers, 2006, p. 175.

[18] Whilk, Nat (pseudonym for C.S. Lewis). “Evolution Hymn.” The Cambridge Review 78:227, 1957.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,800 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 60 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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Comments

  • TheRedPhilosopher says:

    C.S. Lewis was a great defender of the Faith to be sure but I recently learned that he was an Old-Earth Creationist. Is that true and does he talk about the age of the Earth, the Universe, and Creation in his more popular writings?

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