Meditations with C. S. Lewis: Why We’re Losing the Culture War

C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

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I do not mean, of course, that he [a schoolboy reading a modern textbook] will make any conscious inference from what he reads to a general philosophical theory that all values are subjective and trivial.  The very power of Gaius and Titius [the book’s secular-humanist authors] depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is “doing” his “English prep” and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake.
–The Abolition of Man

If we are looking for reasons why Christians are struggling in the culture war that is still raging across the Western cultural landscape, we need look no further than the average church’s approach to education–its understanding of what that education is and how it applies it to children.  Lewis, in critiquing what he called simply “The Green Book” by “Gaius and Titius,” observed a dynamic that has since come to dominate the average evangelical church:  the almost complete disconnect between what we want our children to know and what we actually allow them to be taught.

On the one hand, we have the false assumption of the “value-free” education allegedly offered in government schools.  Christians send their children through a  system where a secular-humanist, often atheist, philosophy of life operates from the ground up.  Religion is forcibly expelled from the classroom as irrelevant or even harmful.  In some situations, students are actively punished for pursuing it.  In others, students are taught that religion is optional, something that you can’t–you shouldn’t–bring into school.  Add to that the assumption that the topics we deal with in school are what is “essential” for life, and and we shouldn’t be surprised at the result.

Worse, much of this takes place on a subconscious level.  As Lewis noted above, very few anti-religious teachers will come out and say that “only idiots believe in God” (though some do).  Instead, they simply teach from the perspective that such would be the inevitable conclusion.  Others, even sincere believers, must teach the lesson plans they have been given, lessons that are often steeped in anti-religious, anti-Christian thinking.  They are not allowed to ask the “wrong” questions in the classroom that might lead to “unscientific” conclusions.*

Lewis points out the result:

It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origins forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.

That moment often occurs at universities and colleges that are even more hostile and offensive towards faith than the lower schools. There, the apparently near universal consensus against Christianity as Truth, not to mention the specific attacks of professors and other students, can become too much to bear.  Sincere Christian believers are cowed into cultural submission–in the world and of it–while others reject their faith altogether.

And what do most Christian churches bring out to counteract this onslaught?  An hour or so a week listening to generic sermons and, if people are exceptionally lucky, another hour in Sunday School or youth group.  Most Christians have not been trained well enough to even recognize the existence of the controversy at all let alone its effect on their children (or themselves).  Does the average church even address the issues that our children are bombarded with on a daily basis to any depth?  Not likely.  Instead, we get warmed over versions of the “milk” of the scriptures, while the “meat” that is so desperately needed goes untouched.  When someone’s faith crumbles, we are comforted with yet another rehashing of the Prodigal Son.

Those are, of course, good and appropriate topics, but if we are to make a stand in this culture, we must fight the Enemy on his own ground.  We need to step into philosophy, science, and social studies and present our children and our culture with a consistently Christian worldview, biblically based and reasonably argued.  More importantly, we must do this at home and in our own churches.  It won’t do to sit back and wait for someone else to come in from the outside and do it for us.  We cannot continue to let the Enemy have it all his own way.  It will be uncomfortable; it will be controversial; it is also absolutely necessary.**

After all, our God is the creator of mind, the author of reason, and the originator of education.  Why should we abdicate any of them?

Looking for a good place to start?  There’s no better place than our own Don Williams’ book, Inklings of Reality.

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*Meaning any conclusion that challenges the secular status quo.

**Progress is being made, such as the rise of the classical Christian school movement, but until we bring this to the level of the churches, our gains will be minimal.

Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.

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About Brian

I am a history professor and author living with my family in the Virginia Mountains. It's hard to improve on a life like this!

Posted on September 2, 2012, in Brian Melton, C. S. Lewis, Meditations and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Just wanted to let you all know that we nominated you for the one lovely blog award.
    http://tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/one-lovely-blog/

  2. It’s good to get a kick in the pants every so often, to be reminded of the fallen state of the society we live in, to move us into action. Let’s us not lose hope or faith in God’s power to save because He is still on the throne. A mass revival may not be just around the corner but there is a remnant and we are part of it. Let us seek his face that he may not be ashamed of the gospel. We need to pray for our schools and universities that God would raise up young people who would defend the name of the Lord.

    • Indeed! I think it is a change of mindset for many of us. We’ve been taught for so long that we live in a Christian nation, where Christianity is the norm. As that has changed, our expectations of it have to change too–and how we react to it. most of us, myself included, are still trying to figure out just what it means! 🙂

  3. Whenever you guys post anything about the modern education systems, I remember how incredibly grateful I am to my parents for homeschooling me all through grade school.

    • I went through the government system through seventh grade. I have to say I really wish my parents had known about the classical school movement–of course it probably wasn’t really around back then anyway. :T We are making a point of it with our daughter, though.

  4. The sad fact is, I have more freedom in the classroom in the Communist country I live in (international school) than I had when I taught in America . . . in a Christian school. I shudder to think of the lack of educational freedoms I would endure as a public school teacher in America.

  5. Being both a product of, and having substituted in the public school system, I think that (at least in some areas) teachers have more leeway than what you picture here (although in other areas of the country you are entirely correct). However, I agree that our culture has developed a view that religion is, at best, unimportant and the public school system both reflects and encourages this viewpoint.

    • It’s definitely hard to summarize an entire country’s education system in 700 words! 🙂

      I think a lot of teacher flexibility depends on on the tenor of the community and of the students in particular. Teachers with students who come from a background that is tolerant to religion will allow more than those who aren’t. A disturbing trend is where a single student or parent can object to something and have its discussion banned throughout an entire school system–a tactic used increasingly by followers of the new atheists.

      • This I completely agree with. Although, honestly, I think it has more to do with the disposition of the parents than the students themselves a lot of the time. At least in my experience. Students rarely care enough to object to something. Which says something completely different and equally as discouraging about our education system.

  6. I like that in your post you have not called for a reformation of the education system (won’t happen), nor an abandonment of it (the “easy way out”), but a strengthening of the church and its members to withstand opposition in the subtle modes of thought and ideas that are now our main battleground.

    Ironically, I think the measures we’ve taken to fill our pews have actually emptied them. Christianity has become a culture, and one culture is easily given up for another, especially for young people trying to figure out who they want to be. Funny…. what people want and need is Jesus. A father, friend, lord, and savior is not so easily switched out for another.

    • Thanks! I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we, as American Christians, aren’t used to living in a non-Christian society (something the vast majority of historical Christians knew all too well).

      In a society that is permeated by Christian ideals–even one that fails to meet them–the church can seemingly farm out responsibilities to the larger culture. Why should kids be educated by the church when there are perfectly good schools down the street that will do it for them?

      I don’t think we have the luxury any more. Individual churches will need to be more complete, more relevant, as it was always intended to be, or they will cease to exist.

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