C.S. Lewis said that he was no theologian, but somehow whenever he commented on the subject, his reflections bear wit and wisdom, and thus they bear repeating.
Such is the case with a quote that comes from Lewis’s Fern-Seed and Elephants. In addressing a number of Cambridge students, hear Lewis wise counsel on the subject of historical-criticism in biblical studies. Speaking on the historical reality of Jonah, he writes,
Scholars, as scholars, speak on [the miraculous] with no more authority than anyone else. The canon ‘If miraculous [then] unhistorical’ is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it… Whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading… These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t even see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight” (C. S. Lewis, Fern-Seed and Elephants (Glasgow: Fontana, 1975) 109, 111; quoted in by T. D. Alexander in “Jonah and Genre,” Tyndale Bulletin 36 (1985) 35-59; quoted by O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, p. 252, fn. 71.)
Though ad hominem and laced with British sarcasm, Lewis’ point is dead on. Why bother listening to the speculative criticism of biblical scholars, when they waffle on the extant text sitting before them.
May we be those who spend our time in the text, and little time behind the text. May we search the Scriptures for the delightful purpose of behold the majestic oaks and taste the abundant fruit of God’s holy Word; and may we forsake the fruitless and impossible task of determining how the forest grew.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss