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C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason Paperback – October 19, 2003

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An alternative title for this book might be Gunfight at the I'm-OK Corral, a Shoot-out: Darwin and the Materialists versus C. S. Lewis and the Theists. And for philosopher Reppert, it might be a toss-up over whether Darwin or Lewis had the more dangerous idea. Although Lewis hasn't been much respected as a professional philosopher, Reppert defends so calling him by noting that many of the greatest moral teachers, including Christ and Socrates, wouldn't of late have been considered professional philosophers, either. Reppert discusses Darwin, with his notion about how the natural world is the source and be-all of the universe, but he gives the decision to Lewis and his argument that the naturalist-materialist point of view of Darwin and others negates itself: "If we explain reason naturalistically, we shall end up explaining it away." Reppert stops short of defending the claim that arguments from reason close the case against naturalism, but he does make a well-grounded apology on behalf of Lewis' dangerous idea. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Reppert provides his readers a fresh, clear, and able exposition and defense of what he calls C. S. Lewis's dangerous idea: that a purely naturalistic account of the world cannot explain the reality of human rationality. A fine work. Well-written, the book glows with Reppert's engaging style and ability as an incisive thinker. This book represents a real advance in apologetics generally and Lewis scholarship specifically, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in either. (R. Keith Loftin, Christian Scholar's Review, Winter 2009)

. . .a fine work. Well-written, the book flows with engaging style. . .a real advance in apologetics generally and Lewis scholarship specifically. (R. Keith Loftin in Christian Scholar's Review, volume 37)

"Victor Reppert's book is a delight on two counts. First, it is a sophisticated and well-informed discussion of C. S. Lewis and his apologetic arguments, demolishing some well-known myths and demonstrating that Lewis had important and serious things to say as a philosopher. Second, and perhaps even more important, Reppert honors Lewis by developing and defending one of Lewis's central arguments against naturalism in a way that is both rigorous and readable, paying attention both to the objections raised against Lewis by Elisabeth Anscombe and to contemporary philosophical debates. This makes the book an important and original contribution to Christian apologetics in its own right." (C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University)

"According to the standard account, chapter three of C. S. Lewis's Miracles, his argument against naturalism, is a philosophical embarrassment, a beguiling house of cards that collapses at the merest breath of rigorous critique. Victor Reppert, in C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, certainly proves the standard account wrong. But he does more than that: he deepens and extends Lewis's argument against naturalism and makes an intellectually exciting and persuasive case of his own. Reppert's book is philosophical revisionism at its finest." (Peter J. Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, authors of Handbook of Christian Apologetics)

"One mark of a great apologist is that the apologist's central arguments are reappropriated and refined profitably by later thinkers. One mark of an outstanding Christian philosopher is the ability to do such work in a manner that meets the contemporary demands of philosophical argument. Victor Reppert has accomplished this in this clear, cogent and pertinent defense of the argument from reason. Consider it one more nail in the coffin of naturalism." (Douglas Groothuis, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary, and author of Truth Decay (IVP))

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830827323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830827329
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful By S. Pollock on December 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
The title of Dr. Reppert's "C.S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea" was inspired by Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."

Darwin's dangerous idea, according to Dennett (a philosopher of the materialist school) is that all things, in the final analysis, can be explained not by teleological principles of meaning and intelligence, but by mechanistic processes. Also, materialists hold that the physical world (which comprises all things) is causally closed. The existence of everything thing and the occurrence of every event is due to a prior physical cause. Mental states (which extreme materialists deny exist at all) are considered to be determined by the physical processes of the brain. Thus, materialism holds that we acquire knowledge of the world and of ourselves through science (all things in existence being governed by the laws of physics).

C. S. Lewis' "dangerous idea" is that scientists draw their conclusions from evidence through rational inference. But can materialism account for human reason itself? Lewis and Reppert argue convincingly that it cannot.

In the first two chapters, Reppert refutes what he calls the "Anscombe Legend." This refers to a public exchange at Oxford that Lewis had with Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. Many of Lewis' critics such as A. N. Wilson, Humphrey Carpenter, and John Beversluis have written that Anscombe so devastatingly refuted Lewis' argument from reason published in his "Miracles" that he abandoned Christian apologetics for good and was reduced to writing children's stories.

Reppert argues that even if this were true (which it isn't) it would tell us nothing about the value of either of their theories.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Jason Pratt on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good concise introduction and overview to the theistic Argument from Reason, set in context of its most famous 20th century defender, C. S. Lewis.
Dr. Reppert begins by covering the history of Lewis' use of the argument, with particular emphasis on how Lewis developed it (in the 2nd edition of _Miracles: A Preliminary Study_) in response to criticisms. (Some of the first chapters are an apology, not so much for the AfR, as for Lewis being a useful philosophical resource for scholars other than popular apologists.)
Having developed, in parallel, a variety of standard critical (and uncritical!) responses to Lewis' AfR, Dr. Reppert then traces the idea through its more modern developments by recent philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and William Hasker, although Reppert provides a generous spread of other commenters as well, both pro and con. From these developments, Reppert derives and presents six 'Best Explanation' variations of the AfR (along with some other varieties which don't receive his critical approval); and then (somewhat like Lewis himself) proceeds to field some expected initial ripostes.
One interesting feature, is Dr. Reppert's relatively widespread use of publicly available internet articles published. Visitors and members of the Secular Web (aka, for instance, may be pleased to see some of this site's materials made use of in CSLDI (not always in an oppositional manner, either.)
Ironically, I think the Argument from Reason (especially Lewis' version, with some tweaks not strictly covered by Dr. Reppert) ends up being a lot more dangerous than the results of this book would indicate.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Seth Aaron Lowry on June 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Although oft neglected in many philosophical circles, the writings of C.S. Lewis still have something to teach us about reason, human nature, and human existence. Reppert defends Lewis' argument against naturalism which simply states that mankind's reasoning abilities cannot be trusted if they are a product of Darwinian evolution; In other words, if the human brain is nothing more than a complex conglomeration of atoms and energy, then we have no reason to trust our reasoning abilities because it is the product of nothing more than a chaotic collision of atoms. Furthermore, since natural selection is completely blind in it's selective process evolution does not necessarily favor an advanced reasoning capacity. Natural selection could have just as easily favored a mutation that makes us perceive the world contrary to the way it is if this facilitated the survival of human beings. Since we cannot trust reason itself under the naturalist/Darwinian paradigm then the scientific enterprise becomes totally superfluous and meaningless.
Although short, only 132 pages, I must admit Reppert's arguments are quite through and engaging. The only possible defense the Darwinist has against this argument is to say that advanced reasoning abilities favor man's survival and would thus be selected by nature. Yet, this argument doesn't necessarily have to be true and only begs the question since assumes what it is attempting to establish. In a discussion I recently had with an individual who studied psyhcolinguistics, I employed this argument against a materialist argument in favor of mind equating with brain. When I discussed Lewis' argument the individual I was talking with conceeded the point that relying on reason in the naturalist paradigm was tenuous and could not be relied upon.
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