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Joshi on C. S. Lewis

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  • John Rateliff
    Last week while looking for something else I ran across a book I d not heard of before: GOD S DEFENDERS: WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG by Lovecraft
    Message 1 of 6 , Mar 27 11:21 AM
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      Last week while looking for something else I ran across a book I'd not heard of before: GOD'S DEFENDERS: WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi (Prometheus Books, 2003), which devotes a chapter to C. S. Lewis (and another half-chapter to G.K. Chesterton). Has anyone else seen this? I've now read about half the essays (the ones on CSL, GCK and T. S. Eliot, Jerry Falwell, and Wm F. Buckley; I'm reading the one on Wm James now) and was a bit surprised that he's harder on Chesterton than on Lewis -- he attacks Lewis's ideas with typical (for Joshi) ferocity but at least takes them seriously enough to rebut; GKC he seems to find just smoke and noise.  I think this is probably the most negative piece I've ever seen on Lewis, and I'm surprised not to have heard about it before now, almost a decade later. 

      Two small queries for the group: Joshi at one point refers to Lewis's "devout friends", giving Barfield and JRRT as examples. Tolkien, yes, but I wdn't have characterized Owen Barfield that way. Also, when distinguishing between CSL's "distinguished works of literary criticism" (which he admires) and his Xian apologetics (which he disparages), he lists THE FOUR LOVES among the former, not the latter -- wd you agree w. that classification?


      Not a book Lewis fans wd enjoy reading, but one Lewis scholars shd probably know about.

      --John R.

    • Darrell A. Martin
      On 3/27/2012 1:21 PM, John Rateliff wrote: ... John: What little I know about Barfield agrees with your characterization. As for The Four Loves , in my
      Message 2 of 6 , Mar 27 12:11 PM
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        On 3/27/2012 1:21 PM, John Rateliff wrote:
        ...
        > Two small queries for the group: Joshi at one point refers to Lewis's
        > "devout friends", giving Barfield and JRRT as examples. Tolkien, yes,
        > but I wdn't have characterized Owen Barfield that way. Also, when
        > distinguishing between CSL's "distinguished works of literary criticism"
        > (which he admires) and his Xian apologetics (which he disparages), he
        > lists THE FOUR LOVES among the former, not the latter -- wd you agree w.
        > that classification?
        >
        > Not a book Lewis fans wd enjoy reading, but one Lewis scholars shd
        > probably know about.
        >
        > --John R.

        John:

        What little I know about Barfield agrees with your characterization.

        As for "The Four Loves", in my opinion it is a profound piece of
        theology packed into a very small package. The Introduction begins,
        "'God is love,' says St. John. When I first tried to write this book I
        thought that his maxim would provide me with a very plain highroad
        through the whole subject." That is merely the beginning of a discussion
        in which mankind's relationship to God is central to the topic.

        Whether it is literary criticism at all is the question I would ask. I
        suppose it could be called that, but that would broaden the definition
        past the point of utility, for me. That Lewis the popular theologian and
        apologist could not divorce himself, in his writing style, from Lewis
        the literary critic is hardly surprising or relevant. The protagonists
        of Barfield's "This Ever Diverse Pair" seem much more distinct.

        One might suspect that Joshi finds himself *liking* "The Four Loves,"
        and is thoroughly miffed at himself for that shortcoming. So, he
        redefines the book into a category he does like, and -- cognitive
        dissonance resolved -- whistles merrily on his way.

        Darrell
      • Alana Joli Abbott
        ... My understanding from courses partly on Barfield in college is that he was quite serious (if not devout) about being an Anthroposophist (following Rudolf
        Message 3 of 6 , Mar 27 12:48 PM
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          John:

          What little I know about Barfield agrees with your characterization.

          My understanding from courses partly on Barfield in college is that he was quite serious (if not devout) about being an Anthroposophist (following Rudolf Steiner's school of interpreting Christianity). Others who have done more study in that area may correct me, however.

          -Alana


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          Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
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        • David Bratman
          I read Joshi s _God s Defenders_ along with David Berlinski s _The Devil s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions._ Somehow I d gotten the
          Message 4 of 6 , Mar 27 4:47 PM
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            I read Joshi's _God's Defenders_ along with David Berlinski's _The Devil's
            Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions._ Somehow I'd gotten the
            impression that Berlinski cut through some of the scientific problems in the
            current religion/atheism debate, but he doesn't. Berlinski is a philosopher,
            not a scientist; he knows nothing about science, and like everybody on both
            sides of this debate, is aggressively and belligerently ignorant about what
            he doesn't know. He starts out by punching straw men and ends up espousing
            incomprehensible nonsense.

            Joshi is actually more learned than most of the professional atheists out
            there, though like most of them he has an unexplained desire to run around
            kicking what he sees as people's crutches out from under them. His
            explanation for religious belief? "People are stupid." Accordingly he has,
            it seemed to me, some trouble pinning Lewis, who wasn't stupid, to the mat,
            and his knowledge of Lewis's total oeuvre is not as secure as he thinks; but
            it's great fun watching him demolish twaddle from the likes of T.S. Eliot
            and William F. Buckley, smart enough guys on their own grounds whose only
            mistakes were thinking they knew something about religion and then
            publishing it. I don't recall, at this distance in time, specifically what
            he says about Chesterton.

            _The Four Loves_ certainly isn't literary criticism. I'd classify it as a
            moral study, akin to the apologetics though not specifically religiously
            disputational as the earlier apologetics is. _Reflections on the Psalms_,
            though more explicitly religious than _The Four Loves_, classifies similarly
            otherwise.




            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "John Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>
            To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 11:21 AM
            Subject: [mythsoc] Joshi on C. S. Lewis


            Last week while looking for something else I ran across a book I'd not heard
            of before: GOD'S DEFENDERS: WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG by
            Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi (Prometheus Books, 2003), which devotes a
            chapter to C. S. Lewis (and another half-chapter to G.K. Chesterton). Has
            anyone else seen this? I've now read about half the essays (the ones on CSL,
            GCK and T. S. Eliot, Jerry Falwell, and Wm F. Buckley; I'm reading the one
            on Wm James now) and was a bit surprised that he's harder on Chesterton than
            on Lewis -- he attacks Lewis's ideas with typical (for Joshi) ferocity but
            at least takes them seriously enough to rebut; GKC he seems to find just
            smoke and noise. I think this is probably the most negative piece I've ever
            seen on Lewis, and I'm surprised not to have heard about it before now,
            almost a decade later.

            Two small queries for the group: Joshi at one point refers to Lewis's
            "devout friends", giving Barfield and JRRT as examples. Tolkien, yes, but I
            wdn't have characterized Owen Barfield that way. Also, when distinguishing
            between CSL's "distinguished works of literary criticism" (which he admires)
            and his Xian apologetics (which he disparages), he lists THE FOUR LOVES
            among the former, not the latter -- wd you agree w. that classification?


            Not a book Lewis fans wd enjoy reading, but one Lewis scholars shd probably
            know about.

            --John R.
          • WendellWag@aol.com
            I read this book a few years ago when it was loaned to me by a friend who was no fan of any religious writer and who wanted to know what I thought of the
            Message 5 of 6 , Mar 27 5:57 PM
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              I read this book a few years ago when it was loaned to me by a friend who was no fan of any religious writer and who wanted to know what I thought of the book.  After reading it, I told him that, first, in many of the chapters, Joshi was going after religious writers who don't have any serious intellectual following and whom it's easy to show don't make anything like a good case for the existence of God or any other religious belief.  Joshi seemed to like making sure that most of the writers he attacks have arguments that are easy to dismiss.  It seems to make him feel better when he can knock off the low-hanging fruit before going on to the more difficult writers that he should have concentrated on.
               
              I wasn't terribly convinced by anything that Joshi said about the writers that I  thought that he should have considered solid debating partners.  In particular, I told my friend (yes, really) that I thought that Joshi's section on Chesterton was particularly weak.  I thought that Joshi's comments on Chesterton were typical of the shallow criticism of him by people who dismiss Chesterton too quickly.  It's easy to read a little of Chesterton and stumble on his occasionally inaccurate facts, his sometimes incomplete arguments, and his not quite convincing analogies.  There is so much that's useful in Chesterton though that it's worthwhile to pass those problems by for what's good in his writings.  I told my friend that Chesterton is the best example of a writer that's it's important to really try to understand fully and not dismiss because of his faults, since so much is right about what he says.
               
              Wendell Wagner
               
              In a message dated 3/27/2012 2:21:51 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, sacnoth@... writes:
               

              Last week while looking for something else I ran across a book I'd not heard of before: GOD'S DEFENDERS: WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi (Prometheus Books, 2003), which devotes a chapter to C. S. Lewis (and another half-chapter to G.K. Chesterton). Has anyone else seen this? I've now read about half the essays (the ones on CSL, GCK and T. S. Eliot, Jerry Falwell, and Wm F. Buckley; I'm reading the one on Wm James now) and was a bit surprised that he's harder on Chesterton than on Lewis -- he attacks Lewis's ideas with typical (for Joshi) ferocity but at least takes them seriously enough to rebut; GKC he seems to find just smoke and noise.  I think this is probably the most negative piece I've ever seen on Lewis, and I'm surprised not to have heard about it before now, almost a decade later. 


              Two small queries for the group: Joshi at one point refers to Lewis's "devout friends", giving Barfiel d and JRRT as examples. Tolkien, yes, but I wdn't have characterized Owen Barfield that way. Also, when distinguishing between CSL's "distinguished works of literary criticism" (which he admires) and his Xian apologetics (which he disparages), he lists THE FOUR LOVES among the former, not the latter -- wd you agree w. that classification?


              Not a book Lewis fans wd enjoy reading, but one Lewis scholars shd probably know about.

              --John R.

            • dale nelson
              Owen Barfield believed in the human mystery, the human being as a spiritual entity, which might be enough to exasperate STJ. Dale Nelson
              Message 6 of 6 , Mar 28 3:13 PM
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                Owen Barfield believed in the human mystery, the human being as a spiritual entity, which might be enough to exasperate STJ.

                Dale Nelson


                From: John Rateliff <sacnoth@...>
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 1:21 PM
                Subject: [mythsoc] Joshi on C. S. Lewis

                 
                Last week while looking for something else I ran across a book I'd not heard of before: GOD'S DEFENDERS: WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi (Prometheus Books, 2003), which devotes a chapter to C. S. Lewis (and another half-chapter to G.K. Chesterton). Has anyone else seen this? I've now read about half the essays (the ones on CSL, GCK and T. S. Eliot, Jerry Falwell, and Wm F. Buckley; I'm reading the one on Wm James now) and was a bit surprised that he's harder on Chesterton than on Lewis -- he attacks Lewis's ideas with typical (for Joshi) ferocity but at least takes them seriously enough to rebut; GKC he seems to find just smoke and noise.  I think this is probably the most negative piece I've ever seen on Lewis, and I'm surprised not to have heard about it before now, almost a decade later. 

                Two small queries for the group: Joshi at one point refers to Lewis's "devout friends", giving Barfield and JRRT as examples. Tolkien, yes, but I wdn't have characterized Owen Barfield that way. Also, when distinguishing between CSL's "distinguished works of literary criticism" (which he admires) and his Xian apologetics (which he disparages), he lists THE FOUR LOVES among the former, not the latter -- wd you agree w. that classification?


                Not a book Lewis fans wd enjoy reading, but one Lewis scholars shd probably know about.

                --John R.



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