This article is from
Creation 8(4):41, September 1986

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

C.S. Lewis and evolution—A critical review

By David Watson

Wikipedia Commons c-s-lewis
More than 50 years after his passing, the works of Clive Staples Lewis are still impacting the world, particularly those with a Christian message such as Chronicles of Narnia.

Like the Taj Mahal, British author C.S. Lewis is greater than all the photographs and eulogies. Great, but not infallible.

The author of more than 30 books, Lewis’s variations on Christian themes range from science fiction to witty satire with a moral purpose. His books and radio talks had particular appeal for people with religious uncertainties, and for those wishing to see familiar beliefs stated in a fresh way. By the time of his death in 1963, his work had won wide acclaim.

But the quotation below shows, I think, how even his brilliant mind could be confused when trying to reconcile the theory of evolution and the truth of Scripture. I trust my criticism will not be unfair.

In his essay on Dogma and the Universe we find this passage:

“When a Central African convert and a Harley Street specialist both affirm that Christ rose from the dead, there is, no doubt, a very great difference between their thoughts. To one, the simple picture of a dead body getting up is sufficient; the other may think of a whole series of biochemical and even physical processes beginning to work backwards. The Doctor knows that, in his experience, they never have worked backwards; but the African knows that dead bodies don’t get up and walk. Both are faced with miracle, and both know it. If both think miracle impossible, the only difference is that the Doctor will expound the impossibility in much greater detail, will give an elaborate gloss on the simple statement that dead men don’t walk about. If both believe, all the Doctor says will merely analyse and explicate the words ‘He rose’. When the author of Genesis says that God made man in His own image, he may have pictured a vaguely corporeal God making man as a child makes a figure out of plasticine. A modern Christian philosopher may think of a process lasting from the first creation of matter to the final appearance on this planet of an organism fit to receive spiritual as well as biological life. But both mean essentially the same thing. Both are denying the same thing—the doctrine that matter by some blind power inherent in itself has produced spirituality.”

First, what is the context? Lewis is trying to answer the question: ‘How can an unchanging system (Christianity) survive the continual increase of knowledge?’ He answers by six analogies, of which five are (to my mind) valid, but the sixth is false.

Here we give only the last two. I shall call them A and B. Now notice: in A, both the Doctor and the African believe in an instantaneous miracle, that is, something above and beyond the common experience of mankind. In B we have the ‘author of Genesis’ (like the African) believing in an instant miracle, but the ‘modern Christian philosopher’ (unlike the Doctor) believes in process which (so scientism contends) is going on before our eyes according to fixed natural ‘law’ of evolution; a process therefore which cannot by any twist of language be called miraculous. So the philosopher and the ancient author do not at all mean the same thing.

The analogies are not parallel. The philosopher has in fact abandoned belief in the instant-miracle of Creation, for, as Lewis himself says in an earlier chapter, the essence of a miracle is SPEED.

Nobody doubts that water can be turned into wine over a period of years; nobody doubts that storm winds and waves will die down, given time; nobody doubts that fig trees will wither and die, eventually. But the Gospels call us to believe in One who made all these things happen instantly; and the ‘continual increase of knowledge’ has added nothing to our understanding of how He did it.

If this be true of miracles in the New Testament, why not of Old Testament miracles too?

It is remarkable, but often overlooked, that in Exodus 20 the Creation account is linked not to the First Commandment stating WHO is the true God (here the modern philosopher has no problem), but to the Fourth Commandment stating HOW He made the universe … to which many Christian philosophers will not assent.

In defence of Lewis it may be said that he was writing in the 1940s, when it would have been intellectual suicide for a professor of English to disregard Darwin.

Faced with the ‘assured results’ of modern geology, he felt he must settle for theistic evolution. However, he clearly perceived the error of those who, yielding to the specious claims of uniformitarian biology, would separate Luke 1 and 2 from chapter 3 on onwards, classing the early chapters as ‘myth’ and those later as ‘history’. I like to think that, had he lived another 20 years, and made a thorough study of the equally fallacious claims of uniformitarian geology, Lewis would have acknowledged his own similar error in trying to divide Genesis into different literary genres—when the vast majority of Hebrew scholars, ancient and modern, agree that ‘the author’ regarded the whole book as ‘toledoth’ or history.

Helpful Resources

Evolution's Fatal Fruit
by Tom DeRosa
US $10.00
Soft cover
Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
US $14.00
Universe by Design
by Danny Faulkner
US $15.00

Readers’ comments

Julie M.
The part where you start talking about time and miracles like the water turned to wine and the fig tree really drove it home. It was such a powerful point! Well said. When we know God personally and read scripture, it is much easier to say "That's not like our God." or "That's the way He works!" (That is not to say, of course, that C.S. Lewis didn't.) As for him, I don't know why such a wise man took that stance; to me, it's still unclear that he actually did. But you're right--earthly idols are still human and fallible!
Zachary R.
It has been awhile since reading God in the Dock, so I will need to refresh myself soon. Lewis intended to expose the fallacy of materialism (the shadow) compared to the enduring and permanent nature of Christian doctrine (the substance). He was encouraging us to continue to seek knowledge, confident that new information will not threaten our faith. We can easily strain at his analogies because he admitted the limitations of analogies in his own writings.
Tony F.
C S Lewis was, in his writings, a great help to me in my early christian life on a par with CMI in my latter days.

I too would hope that Lewis would have changed his views over time especially with the present creation science available.
Thomas J.
The author rightly notes that Lewis is too often lionized by many evangelicals. Indeed he was used of God to encourage many to at least consider the claims of Christ. Yet he had the same reluctance to challenge those he considered trained specialists, whether textual critics, theologians, or scientists. He was ever the deferential layman. Many of us are scarcely different. None of us are eager to enter a wearying and divisive fray amid the deteriorating condition of a culture sliding into moral chaos while religious tyranny is lapping at our shores. If the Father has yet more multitudes to give to His Son, He may grant the generations to patiently build a fuller and wider confidence in the historicity of His Word from the very first verse. May God grant us daily patience and a persistent faith in His simple and direct veracity.

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