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The Evangelical Theology of the Orthodox Church by Bradley Nassif

Nearly all Evangelicals, whatever their denominational affiliation, look to C. S. Lewis as an apologist for and an expounder of the essential doctrines of the faith: what Lewis called “mere” Christianity. Still, many have expressed concern over the explanation Lewis offers of the atonement in Book II, Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity. Rather than advocate penal substitution, Lewis refuses to promote one theory of the atonement over another. Indeed, he makes it clear that historic (Nicene) orthodoxy does not demand that its adherents subscribe to a particular understanding of the atonement:

The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. . . . Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity; they are explanations about how it works. . . . We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary.

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Louis Markos , Professor in English and Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University, holds the Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities. His 19 books include Lewis Agonistes; Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C. S. Lewis; On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis; and From A to Z to Narnia with C. S. Lewis.

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