A Calvinist’s Appreciation of Lewis and Tozer



   I’m a Calvinist. Not only that, but I appreciate the writings of C.S. Lewis and (especially) A.W. Tozer. But I also know very well that neither author completely shares my views on soteriology. And that’s O.K.

     What saddens me most, though, is when those from both sides of the soteriology debate focus too much on the differences and not enough on the unity we share among brothers. Now don’t get me wrong here. We should never seek to be “united” with those who hold to heretical teaching. No one should seek unity merely for unity’s sake. I’m referring to unity among brothers who are held together by the common bond of faith in Jesus Christ. Brothers who agree that Christ is the only way to the Father and believe that His death and resurrection is the only means of salvation, that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

     As a Calvinist, a rock-solid focus on Christ and the Scriptures is very important to me. It is the bedrock of all I believe. And may I say, that is precisely why I like reading Lewis and Tozer, because even if we don’t see eye to eye on one issue, I find in their writings a common love for Christ and His Word.

     For instance, in his famous book Mere Christianity, Lewis leaves no doubt as to who Christ is:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

     And with regard to Lewis’ view on keeping a Christ-centered heart through all of life, he writes:

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

     A.W. Tozer was a prophetic voice in modern days, especially to the church. He penned some of the most powerful words written in his day. Of Christ’s redemption he wrote:

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.”
― A.W. Tozer, Preparing for Jesus’ Return: Daily Live the Blessed Hope

     One of my all-time favorite quotes by Tozer, however, is one we can stand to learn from today regarding unity.

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

     The Apostle Paul admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 –

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

     Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of the theological tradition that I hold to and I honor the theological heroes of the faith throughout Church history that have preached these doctrines. I love studying them and reading their books. But John Calvin didn’t die for me. Jonathan Edwards wasn’t raised for me. I wasn’t baptized in the name of Augustine. There is only one who holds that honor. That one is Jesus Christ!

I’m pretty sure Lewis and Tozer would agree.

Trinity is a non-denominational school, and is proud that thinkers from a variety of conservative orthodox evangelical persuasions are part of the Trinity family. For that reason, we encourage in-house debate on theological issues such as those mentioned in articles like this one. Feel free to comment. 

This student article was written, in part, as a response to the article, “Was C.S. Lewis a Calvinist?

4 thoughts on “A Calvinist’s Appreciation of Lewis and Tozer”

  1. Braxton Hunter

    Great article, Rob! One of my driving commitments in theological/biblical study is to remain open to changing my position on secondary doctrinal issues if I see evidence I’m wrong. A related one that your article brings to mind, is the great benefit of studying material produced by those who do not always share my every position. Much, maybe the majority, of my technical commentaries and systematic theology books are written by Calvinist scholars. They have influenced me greatly. Where I cannot follow them, I rely on the old admonition, “Eat the chicken – spit out the bones!” Lol! Again, great article!

    Braxton Hunter, PhD.

  2. Keith Sherlin

    Very good article. If we understand the graded doctrinal scale (or as some call it the theological triage) we are then able to properly discern between the “A” level truths and the “B” and/or “C” level truths. Dr. Charles Ryrie, who just went home to the Lord this year, used to remind us that there is something wrong with us if we separate over secondary issues when we. are unified in the essentials. He often said there is not enough of us as is who believe in the fundamentals for us to divide from one another over secondary matters.
    Keith Sherlin

    1. Well said, Keith. And that’s not to say that the soteriology debate and our views on the issue isn’t important. Some of the facets of the debate are very important. Some even dealing with how we view God, evangelism, etc. Important stuff that, if we get really wrong, will definitely have consequences in our overall theology. However, there was a reason why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified.” It’s because that’s the central issue that all of us NEED to get right. And it is that that binds us together.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top

Request more information and receive a sample webinar

With just a little information, our academic advisors can put together a program plan that accomplishes your educational goals at a price within your budget. Find out how much an academic grant can save you by filling out this no-obligation form.