Friends, I sent this as a reply to Dan’s post yesterday evening and not seeing it yet come in from SpareOom, thought maybe I should send it as a stand-alone post. Forgive me if this will be a duplicate.
Dan, careful, serious biblical exposition was not something Lewis had been formally educated in although the essay “Why I am not a Pacifist” is pretty good biblical exposition of the single verse of turning the other cheek. I think it is unfair to look for expertise in an area in which any author has no education nor ever made a claim to such. Lewis certainly is disappointing to me in some of what he writes in Reflections on the Psalms. But I wish Piper had nuanced his comment with a bit more fairness and charity.
What I believe Lewis meant about being a Calvinist with respect to his virtues was that he seems to have believed that the teaching about total depravity left no room whatsoever for any “natural virtue.” I have just finished reading Robert R. Reilly’s America on Trial
in which Reilly strongly criticizes the Reformation for doing away with the idea of natural law under the influence of Ockham and nominalism. He praises Richard Hooker for saving the Aristotle-Aquinas antecedents to natural law for the Anglican church and from Hooker to Locke and the founders of American democracy. He seems to be making the same mistake about the reformation in general that Lewis made about Calvin.
While Lewis may have been right to think doubtfully of the authentic virtue of any of his natural virtues, Luther, Calvin and the other mainline reformers have ample witness to their inclusion of natural law and common grace which benefits or can potentially benefit all people everywhere and in every time provided they heed to it. Lewis certainly does not know Calvin if by “total depravity” he thought Calvin was therefore excluding natural law or common grace. I refer here to Torrance Kirby’s article titled “Richard Hooker’s Discourse on Natural Law in the context of the Magisterial Reformation.” This can easily be found online with a search.
What the Reformers did not believe (and neither do Anglicans or Roman Catholics) was that any human being could be saved on his or her own merits and by his or her own good works. All of these emphatically reject the Pelagian heresy. As corrupted as the Roman church was at the time (15th-16th centuries), it is no wonder that the Reformers felt obligated to emphasize salvation by grace alone through faith alone, denying that we in any way can earn our salvation or merit God’s grace.
Ultimately, Christ alone saves us: He is the fountain and source of all goodness and whatever goodness we may experience in whatever form, Christian or not, comes from Him.
I wish Lewis had been a bit more careful with his handling of the Psalms in his book. But I certainly cannot fault him for the absence of a skill which he never claimed to have.