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Theism and Humanism : The Book that Influenced C. S. Lewis [Paperback]

Arthur James Balfour , C. S. Lewis , Arthur J. Balfour , Michael W. Perry
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Book Description

December 2000 1587420058 978-1587420054 2
In 1962, Christian Century asked the well-known Christian writer, C. S. Lewis, to name the books that had most influenced his thought. Among those that Lewis listed was Arthur J. Balfour's Theism and Humanism (1915). This was no passing whim. Almost twenty years earlier, in 1944, Lewis had lamented in "Is Theology Poetry" that Theism was "a book too little read."

Many others shared Lewis' enthusiasm. When Balfour gave the original lectures on which the book was based, some 2,000 people crowded into Bute Hall at the University of Glasgow on a weekday winter afternoons to cheer and laugh. Even more telling, they kept coming back, week after week for all ten speeches. Even the staid Times of London commented on the "wildly enthusiastic" audiences and noted the diversity of those attending, from citizens and students to professors.

Unfortunately, until now the book hasn't been that easy to find. Copies have only been available on the used market and were thus rare and relatively expensive. This newly typeset edition and enhanced makes the book inexpensive and widely available.

Balfour was a talented writer and perhaps the most intelligent British Prime Minister of the twentieth century. During World War One he replaced Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty and went on to become Foreign Secretary. In the latter office he was responsible for the 1917 Balfour Declaration committing Great Britain to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It is no exaggeration to say that Israel owes its existence to Balfour.

Theism and Humanism is based on a 1914 Gifford Lecture that Balfour gave at the University of Glasgow. All the original text is included along with over 50 pages of additional material. There are 11 sketches of Balfour adapted from political cartoons in Punch magazine. There are four appendices taken from his other writings, including the marvelous "A Catechism for Naturalism" (which sent the arch-agnostic Thomas Huxley, better known as "Darwin's Bulldog," into a fit of rage). There's also a glossary of people and terms mentioned in the book and a detailed index. Finally, this new edition includes brief quotes from Balfour's other writings to highlight what he is saying. The second edition improves on the first by adding to each chapter in the original, the extensive coverage that The Times of London gave to Balfour's original speech. It also includes three letters by C. S. Lewis on themes closely related to Balfour's book.

Balfour's topic is naturalism, the belief that all that exists are natural processes. He challenges those who believe in it to come up with a rationale for what they hold dearest--human reason, human rights, and the importance of art--based solely on naturalism. He believes that cannot be done and summarizes his book in these words:

"My desire has been to show that all we think best in human culture, whether associated with beauty, goodness, or knowledge, requires God for its support, that Humanism without Theism loses more than half its value."

If you like philosophy and provocative ideas, this book is perfect for you. The Cambridge-educated Balfour was very knowledgeable about science. (He was the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1904 and his brother was a talented scientist.) That makes this book a useful complement to the Oxford-educated Lewis whose specialty was literature.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Inkling Books; 2 edition (December 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587420058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587420054
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Relevant Than Ever January 27, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is another sign of deteriorating academic standards when recent bestselling books by celebrity atheists are praised for their cleverness by self-styled intellectuals of a generation which has very little grasp of intellectual rigour. Balfour was educated in a tradition which would never have tolerated the sloppiness or the ignorance of basic facts and principles which characterise the works of most of today's fashionable unbelievers. He was forced to be ruthlessly exact in his thinking by the fact that his opponents were men of the calibre of Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw, who would have jumped on any weakness - and who probably would have been appalled by the lack of intellectual discipline in their successors today. With a clarity of mind that is all too rare these days, Balfour goes back to first principles, and, starting from a position of philosophic doubt, ends in firm belief. He does not set out to "prove" anything, but he exposes the logical inconsistencies of atheism without mercy. He was not writing for the general reader and some of what he says may be difficult to follow unless one happened to obtain an Oxbridge degree in philosophy, or the equivalent, in the late 19th or early 20th Centuries - but this particular edition makes him easily accessible to most educated modern readers. The book is the first half of a series of Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, delivered in 1914. The Lectures were interrupted by the First World War - in which Balfour was occupied elsewhere, serving in the War Cabinet and writing the Balfour Declaration, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel thirty years later. Balfour returned to Glasgow after the War and completed the second half of the Lectures, which was published separately as "Theism and Thought" - and which is also recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
EXCELLENT INDUCTIVE ARGUMENT FOR EXISTENCE OF GOD BY ARTHUR, LORD BALFOUR,
POSSIBLY THE MOST INTELLIGENT STATESMAN OF HIS OR ANY OTHER ERA.

RELATED TO HALF THE MAJOR NOBILITY OF BRITAIN, NEPHEW OF LORD SALISBURY, THE MOST
POWERFUL CONSERVATIVE PRIME MINISTER OF HIS DAY, BALFOUR ACTED AS SALISBURY'S LEADER IN THE HOUSE AND BECAME, FINALLY' PRIME MINISTER HIMSELF.

NONETHELESS, THE LIFE HE HAD MOST DESIRED WAS TO BE A PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHER, PROBABLY AT HIS OWN COLLEGE IN CAMBRIDGE. HAD HE DONE SO, RUSSELL WOULD HAVE FOUND IN HIM A POWERFUL MENTOR AND ADVERSARY, AND WHITEHEAD, A SPLENDID ALLY. BRITAIN'S GAIN WAS PHILOSOPHY'S LOSS.
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