Unapologetic Christianity from Chris Sinkinson: Wardrobe apologetics

Read almost any book on the defence of the Christian faith and, somewhere, you are sure to find quotations from C.S. Lewis.

The impact of this Christian scholar on popular apologetics is profound. One reason why Lewis is so quotable is that he had such a broad range of literary abilities. He wrote text books, science fiction, fantasy, allegory, poetry, letters and, of course, apologetics. With remarkable turns of phrase and metaphor he makes complicated ideas seem simple, and controversial arguments persuasive.

Lewis the populariser

It is true that as a creative thinker he sometimes developed ideas that wandered into realms of speculation — though in most cases these seem to be suggestions along the way. Certainly, Lewis was no systematic theologian explaining the biblical basis for Christian doctrine. Rather, he was an academic who could popularise and defend important ideas. Many people came to enjoy the work of Lewis through The Chronicles of Narnia and they remain his best-selling work. He died in 1963 and, while some of his work will show signs of aging over time, there is something forever fresh about the stories of a lion, a witch and a wardrobe.

However, 2012 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of his most popular apologetic book, Mere Christianity. In 1941 Lewis began broadcasting a series of talks for BBC Radio which would continue until 1944. Though already published in shorter forms, his radio talks were combined into a single volume and published in 1952 as Mere Christianity. The title was borrowed from the Puritan, Richard Baxter, who described himself as ‘a Christian, a meer Christian’ (sic). Far from being a term of abuse, it describes the essential or ‘pure’ doctrines of the faith upon which, Lewis felt, our Christian witness should be focused.

Compelling case

As a book, Mere Christianity develops a compelling case for the faith and follows a pattern which can be found throughout Lewis’s work. Firstly, he identifies a profound reason to believe in the supernatural. The existence of a moral law found the world over provides evidence for the existence of something outside of the natural world. Even though people may disagree on what counts as moral behaviour, there remains a universal conviction that there is such a thing as morality. Some of the first words young children use are to voice the complaint: ‘That’s not fair!’ Somehow we seem to be born with a sense of right and wrong. This moral law is a signpost to the existence of a moral lawgiver who created our universe.

Longings in life

This kind of argument forms a pattern in Lewis’s work. He identifies longings or beliefs that are already an important part of life and uses these as signposts to help us see a loving, holy, creator God to whom they point. The Chronicles of Narnia capture the sense that we have a longing for a world beyond this. Rather than dismissing such a longing as just wishful thinking, could it be an implication of God having placed eternity in our heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11)? When the children hear the name of Aslan they experience emotions which they can’t explain: ‘Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer’.

The success of Lewis’s apologetics is the combination of two powerful weapons. In one hand there was a razor sharp logic. But in the other there was a vivid imagination. The persuasive arguments of Mere Christianity and the enchanting stories of Narnia belong together as a great example of apologetics in action. Lewis could captivate heart and mind. It reminds us today that we must pay attention not only to what we are saying but how we say it.

Chris Sinkinson is pastor of Alderholt Chapel, in the New Forest, and lectures at Moorlands College.