Atrocities and Accommodations

Douglas Wilson posted on his blog “Why C.S. Lewis Would Not Have Liked Me Very Much” (9/15/2017).  Wilson writes:

“Those who have been around here for a while know that I am a C.S. Lewis junkie. I have read and reread him, and have been edified by him in ways beyond reckoning. If I were to calculate the impact that various writers have had on me—and there have been many who have—he would always come in first, and by a large margin.

Even where you find my caveats—as in his early accommodations with evolution, or in the atrocious things he says about some of the psalms—I find myself simultaneously appalled and edified. For example, in Reflections on the Psalms, he says this:

‘Still more in the Psalmists’ tendency to chew over and over the cud of some injury, to dwell in a kind of self-torture on every circumstance that aggravates it, most of us can recognise something we have met in ourselves. We are, after all, blood brothers to these ferocious, self-pitying, barbaric men’ (C.S. Lewis, Reflections, p. 26)” (Douglas Wilson, Why C.S. Lewis Would Not Have Liked Me Very Much).

Since these “ferocious, self-pitying, barbaric men” were borne along or moved by God the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter 1:21), then C.S. Lewis spit the cud of calumny into the face of God the Holy Spirit.

To paraphrase and adapt a telling Doug Wilson comment from the distant past:

“A true gospel-grounded righteous judgment of C.S. Lewis as unregenerate based on all his facinorous accommodations and ferocious atrocities is to discredit oneself in the responsible Reformed world.”

Wilson quoted this additional piece of slanderous Lewisian spittle-fleck on the Psalms:

“The ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God” (C.S. Lewis, Reflections, p. 33).

And 2 Timothy 3:16 may or may not have served Lewis “as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as” God-breathed-ness (Greek: theopneustos).  Lewis exudes the dual sentiments of

“Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou!” (cf. Isaiah 65:5)


“Foh! snuff, put the branch to the nose and say, contemptible!” (cf. Ezekiel 8:17)

Why C.S. Lewis would not (or perhaps did not) consistently and explicitly attribute this alleged ferocity, self-pity, and barbarism to Jesus Christ for all His “hard sayings,” or even to the martyrs of Revelation 6:9-11 is an interesting question. At any rate, it is clear that Lewis was gripped with a severe contempt for the Breath of God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16)

Doug wrote:

“Psalm 109 is cited by Lewis as being one that is particularly bad. But if it were that bad, then why didn’t Peter seem to recognize it? I believe that Lewis fell prey here to a common mistake, that of assuming the New Testament writers more or less ‘share’ our world, as distinct from the ancients, when actually they were much closer to the ancients than they were to us” (Douglas Wilson, Why C.S. Lewis Would Not Have Liked Me Very Much).

I thought Lewis had written some less than commendatory things about something he called “chronological snobbery.”  Anyway, I think at least one thing Lewis “fell prey” to was an abysmal understanding of theopneustos (see 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21).

Would C.S. Lewis say or has he said (whether implicitly or explicitly) that those in Revelation 6:9-11 are exhibiting some sort of psychologically deranged and obsessive rumination that is self-torturing and self-absorbed?

Let us grant for the sake of argument that they were chewing “over and over” the cud of some injury (the injury of being slain). Slain for what, though? Slain for the

“Word of God, and for the witness which they had” (Revelation 6:9).

Self-pity is bad enough — it is a form of pride. Self-absorption seems related to this. Lewis adds two slanderous epithets, “ferocious” and “barbaric.”

Here is R.L. Dabney — a prophet of Wilson’s own — deftly and deeply driving this dagger into the darkened hearts of those pretentious “apostles of a lovelier Christianity” and pious petitioners for a pseudo-psalter that conforms to their charitable and civilized sensibilities (I thought these Dabney quotes fit Lewis like a glove).

“This age has witnessed a whole spawn of religionists, very rife and rampant in some sections of the church, who pretentiously declared themselves the apostles of a lovelier Christianity than that of the Psalmist of Israel. His ethics were entirely too vindictive and barbarous for them, forsooth; and they, with their Peace Societies, and new lights, would teach the world a milder and more beneficent code” (R.L. Dabney, Discussions, Volume One, p. 709).


“The consequence of this erroneous admission of actual discrepancy between the morality of the Old Testament and the New is, that expositors have fatigued themselves with many vain inventions to explain away the imprecatory language of the Psalms. The generality of this feeling is betrayed by the frequency of these attempts. A curious betrayal of this skeptical impression exists to this day, in the book of Psalms, in the hands of our own Presbyterian people. Instead of a metrical version of Psalm cix., as it stands in the inspired lyrics, there is a human composition upon the beauty of forgiveness” (R.L. Dabney, Discussions, Volume One, p. 710).

Now, I would not say that “I am quite the R.L. Dabney junkie.” However, comma, I would say that he is among my favorite 19th century heretics, with these two paragraphs given as cases in point.