Book Review: God in the Dock

Book by C.S. Lewis

Review by Stephen Rodgers

Although it has been more than two decades since I first opened my copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I can still remember the excitement I had in following the adventures of Peter, Lucy, the Professor, Aslan and the rest. “Give me just a little time,” the book seemed to say to me. “Give me just part of an evening, and I will show you a world of wonder.”

In God in the Dock, Lewis has wandered far afield from his fictional accounts of the world of Narnia. Rather the book is a collection of 48 short essays and 12 letters, divided into four major sections that deal with a multitude of issues and questions that confronted both the Christians and skeptics of his time.

Lewis is at his best in his role of “apostle to the skeptics” in this book. His trademark grandfatherly style simply builds reasonableness upon reasonableness, rather than coming out guns blazing in some sort of theological polemic. While he characterized himself as merely “a layman writing to other laymen,” Lewis’ brilliance and intellectual prowess is evident throughout the book. Although the truths he espouses are always presented with clarity and simplicity, the reader cannot help but note that the author is writing in the scholarly tradition. When Lewis humbly remarks in one essay that he “knows a little about this subject” (referring to literature of the ancient world), the reader is advised to take a large step back to avoid the crushing weight of sources and citations that Lewis brings to bear. Fail to do so, and you just might lose a toe or two.

While it should at least be noted that as a member of the Church of England, Lewis’ theology would be considered less rigorous than that of other writers in the Reformed tradition, the simple yet fundamental ideas that Lewis treats in this book do not contradict, oppose, or undermine any Biblical truths. Rather, in his exploration of such topics as “Evil and God,” “Miracles,” “Myth Became Fact,” and “Work and Prayer” Lewis consistently, patiently, and implacably lays out thoughtful and persuasive rationales that fall directly in line with Scripture.

In the essay that the book is named for, Lewis lays out the fundamental truth that carries through the entire work: the depravity of modern man in approaching God as something that must be validated by human terms and experience. In direct, simple, and unrelenting fashion Lewis exposes this “reversal of conscience” and directs the reader to understand the consequences of such a sin, letting them know in no uncertain terms, as we have so often heard, that “life is not about you.”

It is remarkable that more than twenty years later, Lewis’ writings still evoke in me that same sense of wonder and joy that I experienced as a child. Even though I have grown up, and my interests have matured (somewhat at least), it is of no small comfort to know that Lewis’ work stands the test of time, still able to edify in the pursuit of loving my God with all my mind.

Although it has been more than two decades since I first opened my copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I can still remember the excitement I had in following the adventures of Peter, Lucy, the Professor, Aslan and the rest. “Give me just a little time,” the book seemed to say to me. “Give me just part of an evening, and I will show you a world of wonder.”
In God in the Dock, Lewis has wandered far afield from his fictional accounts of the world of Narnia. Rather the book is a collection of 48 short essays and 12 letters, divided into four major sections that deal with a multitude of issues and questions that confronted both the Christians and skeptics of his time.
Lewis is at his best in his role of “apostle to the skeptics” in this book. His trademark grandfatherly style simply builds reasonableness upon reasonableness, rather than coming out guns blazing in some sort of theological polemic. While he characterized himself as merely “a layman writing to other laymen,” Lewis’ brilliance and intellectual prowess is evident throughout the book. Although the truths he espouses are always presented with clarity and simplicity, the reader cannot help but note that the author is writing in the scholarly tradition. When Lewis humbly remarks in one essay that he “knows a little about this subject” (referring to literature of the ancient world), the reader is advised to take a large step back to avoid the crushing weight of sources and citations that Lewis brings to bear. Fail to do so, and you just might lose a toe or two.
While it should at least be noted that as a member of the Church of England, Lewis’ theology would be considered less rigorous than that of other writers in the Reformed tradition, the simple yet fundamental ideas that Lewis treats in this book do not contradict, oppose, or undermine any Biblical truths. Rather, in his exploration of such topics as “Evil and God,” “Miracles,” “Myth Became Fact,” and “Work and Prayer” Lewis consistently, patiently, and implacably lays out thoughtful and persuasive rationales that fall directly in line with Scripture.
In the essay that the book is named for, Lewis lays out the fundamental truth that carries through the entire work: the depravity of modern man in approaching God as something that must be validated by human terms and experience. In direct, simple, and unrelenting fashion Lewis exposes this “reversal of conscience” and directs the reader to understand the consequences of such a sin, letting them know in no uncertain terms, as we have so often heard, that “life is not about you.”
It is remarkable that more than twenty years later, Lewis’ writings still evoke in me that same sense of wonder and joy that I experienced as a child. Even though I have grown up, and my interests have matured (somewhat at least), it is of no small comfort to know that Lewis’ work stands the test of time, still able to edify in the pursuit of loving my God with all my mind.
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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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