To implement the "C.S. Lewis rule" I vote for creating a tag
cs-lewis-theology with the following tag definition:
A theological position of C.S. Lewis's "mere Christianity" which roughly represents teachings that mainstream Christian denominations hold in common. This needs to be substantiated by C.S. Lewis writings or secondary writings. See this answer for details.
How the tag works for "C.S. Lewis rule"
- As Peter Turner astutely titled this question, the tag's informal meaning is "How would C.S. Lewis answer?"
- The tag's purpose is to answer generic Christian questions but yet limit the scope within a long-standing common Bible exegetical tradition that was upheld by most early ecumenical councils. This is roughly the tradition that the 3 mainstream Christian branches hold in common. See OP for details.
- The tag functions like a denominational tag such as
eastern-orthodox. See the "Basis for C.S. Lewis's theological position" below for details.
- For objectivity test, see the section below. When there are questions that can NOT be answered from either C.S. Lewis's writings or secondary writings (i.e. C.S. Lewis is silent / studiously avoid addressing them) they can be closed as "opinion based" or require other denominational tags. For example: questions on baptism of the Holy Spirit or pedo vs. adult baptism.
- Some Christian philosophy questions can be answered using this tag if it can be shown that C.S. Lewis holds this position. This will be extremely useful for apologetics.
- When C.S. Lewis speculates (usually in a way consistent with tradition), the answer can stand, but should helpfully notes that this is a pious conjecture that none of the 3 mainstream denominations teach or leave open. For example, this applies to C.S. Lewis's famous conjecture "The gates of hell are locked from the inside."
cs-lewis tag should remain for questions about his person, non-theological questions about his writings, etc.
How the tag works for compare / contrast
- This tag when used in conjunction with another denomination tag like
catholicism can also serve to compare and contrast C.S. Lewis's view with that of a particular denomination. Example Q about C.S. Lewis's view of heaven & hell which has been demonstrated as stable across his writings (thus can be objectively stated), which can then be objectively compared/contrasted with a denomination's position on heaven/hell.
- A typical answer in this tag usage would consist of 3 sections:
- C.S. Lewis's position
- The denomination's position
- Where C.S. Lewis speculate on what the denomination doesn't say
- Where C.S. Lewis's speculation (usually in fiction) borderline straying from a denomination's position. For example, he seems to leave open the possibility of an annihilationist hell by either making hell very, very small (in The Great Divorce) or possible annihilation of the wicked when the world is destroyed (in The Last Battle)
Given the large scholarship of C.S. Lewis (and more books keep coming out such as this 2018 overview of C.S. Lewis as a philosopher on par with Descartes, Kant, Socrates, Augustine, etc. published in the Blackwell Great Mind series) I think this criteria has an objective basis since I'm sure every important area of his theology and Christian philosophy has been covered by a blog article, an undergraduate senior paper, a Master's thesis, a doctoral dissertation, a journal article, or a book. I literally have seen an example of each !
Basis for C.S. Lewis's theological position
Just out of my memory, the bedrock criteria that C.S. Lewis himself was using for his "mere Christianity" stance is as follows:
- Is it new? Then it's suspect. On the other hand, if a teaching has pedigree and if most Christians have believed it in the past hundreds of years, the teaching passes muster.
- Although evangelicals tend to consider C.S. Lewis as their patron saint, if they look deeper C.S. Lewis does NOT believe in sola scriptura or in a fundamentalist inerrancy theory of Scripture. He instead goes for "rule of faith" as the source of authority of the teaching, although he might not use that term, so in line with the Church of England position of Quadrilateral. (BTW, it's a potentially good C.SE question to learn C.S. Lewis's specific view on "rule of faith").
How to find C.S. Lewis's position
C.S. Lewis is very much aware of the distinction between the teaching and the expression of it, and he wrote in a variety of genres to express those teachings: children fiction, science fiction, mythical allegory, spiritual autobiography, philosophical conversion allegory, epistles, topical non-fiction books (on evil, on miracles, on education, on love), parable on purgatory, grief journal, very informal systematic theology, bible book commentary, history of literature, academic monograph, dozens of essays, hundreds of letters, etc.
Thus scholars have regularly needed to dig into multiple genres in order to define better C.S. Lewis's position such as his Christian Philosophy of Time.
By using a variety of mediums he could communicate the essence of a teaching in a way that is easy for a mere Christian to grasp, and NEVER technical like in a formal philosophy / theology book. In this way, the "mere"-ness of each teaching shines forth and in this way he avoids being dragged into a controversial expression that commits him to a particular denomination's theology. Thus, he studiously avoided specific theories of baptism, sacraments, eschatology, atonement, ecclesiology, election, etc. while choosing his own expression of the teaching that all Christians can agree with.