Literature, God, and Creation

I found this quote in C. S. Lewis book Miracles. Remember that Lewis began life as an atheist, then became a Christian while he was a tenured professor of early literature at the best universities in England, Oxford and Cambridge. Read it a minute and let it sink in:

“I do not maintain that God’s creation of Nature can be proved as rigorously as God’s existence, but it seems to me overwhelmingly probable, so probable that no one who approached the question with an open mind would very seriously entertain any other hypothesis. In fact one seldom meets people who have grasped the existence of a supernatural God and yet deny that He is the creator. All the evidence we have points in that direction, and difficulties spring up on every side if we try to believe otherwise. No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that ‘In the beginning God made the Heaven and Earth.’ I say ‘radical’ improvement, because the story in Genesis–as St. Jerome said long ago–is told in the manner ‘of a popular poet,’ or as we should say, in the form of a folk tale. But if you compare it with the creation legends of other peoples–with all these delightful absurdities in which giants to be cut up and floods to be dried up are made to exist before Creation–the depth and originality of this Hebrew folk tale will soon be apparent. The idea of creation in the rigorous sense of the word there is fully grasped.”

Now part of me cringes at the idea of calling Genesis a folk tale, but we must look at the larger significance of Lewis’ statement here. Here we have one of the best scholars in the field of literature, who had also studied philosophy, telling us that the story in Genesis is radically different than all other creation literature from other cultures. In our day, the popular sentiment is that the Genesis account of creation is one more in a long line of other ancient myths, to be discounted along with Paul Bunyan and Babe the giant ox. Well don’t argue with me, argue with Lewis. The first lesson of Lewis’ statement here is that we cannot simply wave away God and His creation with a wave of the hand, as we would wave away a bad waiter in an otherwise good restaurant. Lewis does not give us that option, for if he knew anything, he knew the ancient literature, that was his job. And he didn’t have the benefits of television to waste away his time. Instead, he spent the hours reading, so at a minimum he knew of what he spoke. He speaks of the Genesis account as deep and original, which it is indeed.

Secondly, Lewis says that he seldom has met anyone who admits that God exists and then has trouble with God being creator. For if we really admit to ourselves what we know deep inside, that God does exist, then all these other issues will eventually resolve themselves. And we have here one of the greatest minds in the 20th century telling us that God’s existence is rigorously provable. And we know that this is so……I periodically mention a few of them here on this blog.

Third, notice Lewis’ statement about approaching God and His creation with an open mind.  I know this is hard to do, but won’t you give it a shot?  I challenge you to simply approach the bible with an open mind, and read it for what it claims to be, a statement from God to us.

And for those of our conservative brothers who still cringe at the use of the word “folk tale” alongside Genesis, we must admit that the first two chapters of that book are not technical accounts. They are indeed summaries. Perhaps “popular poet” is closer to the truth.  I don’t like that part of Lewis statement any more than you do. But at the very least we must recognize the importance of his larger statement, for Lewis was a top-tier scholar of ancient literature telling us that the Bible is very different than all other ancient myths.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Bible, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink.

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