Was C.S. Lewis a Calvinist?

Listen to the Podcast: CS Lewis debating John Piper over Calvinism

In the most recent “Ask Pastor John” podcast with Dr. John Piper he answers the question, “What Arminians have influenced you the most.”  He was gracious in his reply but he did erroneously allude to the belief that CS Lewis was not to be included among the list of Arminians who have had influence on him because of a recent presentation at one of his conferences that apparently attempted to prove CS Lewis was Calvinistic.


I almost fell out of my chair…literally.

Those of you who know my story are aware that reading CS Lewis (along with AW Tozer) is what helped to lead me to reexamine my interpretative methods and eventually recant Calvinism.  I have read every word of CS Lewis, some of them multiple times.  I have a theological “man crush” (look it up, its a real thing) on this guy, and while I may be uncertain about some scholars stance on this issue I have absolutely no doubt about CS Lewis.

I’ll be brief here because it will not take long to prove my point.  Here are a few quotes from CS Lewis that may help shed some light on this:

“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power.  Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of  free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.” – CS Lewis, The Trouble with X

And from the Screwtape letters…

“You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.” -CS Lewis

Lewis also says this in “The Problem of Pain.”

“If God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear — and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity — when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of God is worth simply nothing — may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.”

Enough said…

And, NO there is no evidence that CS Lewis later recanted these views, in case someone is wondering.

John-piper-bloodlines-trailer-380x200Piper also suggests that “Arminians” are more philosophical and less exegetical in their approach to interpretation.  This is simply untrue and Dr. Piper never provides any support to back up this accusation.  I discuss some of these issues more in-depth in THIS PODCAST: “Influenced by the “enemy?”.


Listen to the Podcast: CS Lewis debating John Piper over Calvinism

Dr. Roger Olson, a notable Arminian scholar, also rebuts Piper’s statements HERE.

13 thoughts on “Was C.S. Lewis a Calvinist?

  1. Indeed, in light of such specific and clear quotes from Lewis, why would brother John Piper try to insinuate Lewis was a Calvinist? Granted I didn’t hear the lecture John heard but unless CS Lewis repudiated these earlier quotes, such a claim is unfounded and even ludicrous.


    1. Because quotes taken from one time in a person’s life only show their theology at that specific time. Other quotes can show that theology has changed. I wouldn’t say Lewis became a Calvinist but he became Calvinistic. He certainly abandoned his full Arminian stance that he took earlier in his Christian walk. You cannot prove anything by taking a few quotes from a person who’s theology spanned decades.


      1. Manley,

        Can you provide quotes or links that indicate this “change” in Lewis’ views? In my experience, people tend to read their view into quotes (as is often the case with scripture).

        Knowing how much even J. Arminius himself sounded like an adherent to Calvinistic doctrines makes me skeptical of these types of assertions about other likeminded scholars. IMHO, modern day Calvinists are so accustomed to “Arminians” sounding shallow theologically that when they come across one who isn’t they mistaken them for one of their own.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. C.S. Lewis was not a theologian. I love “Mere Christianity” as a philosophical argument for faith, but when I give it to people I always remind them that he is not a theologian. To look to him as a place to gain theological understanding is a mistake.


    1. Spurgeon wasn’t a “theologian” either, yet few Calvinists would hesitate to quote him in support of their soteriology. What makes a man a theologian? Education? Agreement with your theology? If what a person says is true to the text (to the best of your discernment) then it’s theological regardless of the credentials of the one who said it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Lewis is neither, and his conclusions fall on both sides not because he is confused, but because he thinks that it is mostly a non-issue.

    According to Lewis God exists beyond space and time. This is a fact that neither Calvinists nor Arminians will dispute and neither would I. Lewis poses the argument then that if God created time then time has no effect outside of our existence, and the two views are based on time, therefore they are meaningless in the big picture.


  4. Leighton, God also used C.S. Lewis to help me in my journey out of Calvinism. I appreciate this post as well as your entire blog. You have been important in helping me understand Romans, esp. the corporate view of election. And I have a crush on C.S. Lewis too. 🙂 Blessings.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Leighton, if you have a theological man crush on C S Lewis, I think it’s only right that you should let him introduce you to his theological father, George MacDonald, who would no doubt be as protective as any father over who his son is dating 🙂


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