It was CS Lewis.
Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis is the one who poisoned my theology against the theology of my roots, and so uprooted me. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists (typically, usually, generally) enjoy our good buddy CS. Somehow, it goes utterly unnoticed that the beloved author (Mere Christianity, Narnia, Screwtape Letters, et al.) is not someone that would be terribly popular among such folk. Lewis did not the believe the Bible was inerrant or infallible; he took little of the Old Testament literally (especially Genesis); he rejected Penal Substitutionary Atonement; he accepted an old earth and old universe; he accepted evolution; and he leaned towards a sort of soft universalism. Worse yet, he swore from time to time AND HE DRANK ALCOHOL.
AND THEY LET ME READ HIM.
So from my childhood onwards I dosed myself with Lewis, never realizing my beloved apologist and fantasist would lead me out and away from the fold. Of course, when I read him, I somehow took many of his plain statements to somehow NOT mean what he was plainly stating. I never noticed his endorsements of all of those things that were anathema to me. And, Lewis, you old cheat, led me to all the heretical saints that destroyed my past notions.
After Lewis’ seeds lay dormant, quietly forming dissent in my soul, I found another mental mentor: Ben Witherington III. Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world. He still holds to many views I think evange-fundies would like–except he appears to lean Democrat AND HE DOESN’T BELIEVE IN THE RAPTURE. I had read several of his books on the Gospels and enjoyed every jot and tittle. Perusing Amazon I found a book of his that sparked my interest: The Problem with Evangelical Theology.
OH NO, you say? Too late! I bought it, unknowing that in a few weeks I would see all my theology seem rotten to the core. All I believed and taught, my very theological and philosophical foundation–crushed to the bitter ground. Oh, most of it disturbed me not at all: the refutation of Calvin’s Predestination and his vile-petalled TULIP rubric (as I read those pages, I practically grinned; “Chew on that, Calvin, you old French prat!), an examination of Wesleyan prevenient grace doctrine and its idea of perfection within a mortal’s lifetime, but then…
Then BWIII moves to my treasured Pentecostalism and Dispensationalist theology (with just a hint of Dominionism). AND HE DISMANTLED THE RAPTURE BEFORE MY EYES, COG BY COB, BRICK BY BRICK. It took a few years for my mind begin to shift away from my old beliefs. Study, reading and re-reading and re-reading. No; I had read LaHaye, Impe, Thomas Ice, et al. I had the sources! The notes (OH GOD, THE NOTES) of my countless man hours of research and cataloguing, timelining, and plotting. HOW? But I could not refute him.
I picked up other books by BWIII. Then I read his commentary on the book of REVELATION. All remaining doubts about his arguments were picked up, taking into a shed, and put DOWN.
Where do I go from here? I thought.
So, my fundy brethren, beware the wiles of Lewis; he may turn your disciples against you. They may believe something beautiful and hopeful instead of vengeful and full of leering I TOLD YOU SOs. They may actually believe God wants to save the world and us, not just a burn the world to a cinder along with all those filthy sinners and reward everyone else with a bus ticket to eternal I-WAS-RIGHT-LAND.
Maybe they can begin to come humbly to the face of the universe.
Maybe they can look to the heavens, and say, “I don’t know,” but say it smiling.
It was CS Lewis.