William Norman Pittenger (1905-1997), was an Anglican priest and teacher and served as Chairman of the Theological Commission of the World Council of Churches from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. In 1966 he moved to England, where he became a senior member of King’s College, Cambridge. He wrote more than 50 books and argued that the traditional Christian doctrines were incompatible with modern knowledge. He taught what came to be called “process theology,” an idea of God very different from traditional orthodox Christianity. Because of his published views on the Christian faith he crossed swords with C. S. Lewis in the pages of The Christian Century. In October, 1958, Pittenger attacked Lewis in The Century in an article entitled, “Apologist Versus Apologist: A Critique of C. S. Lewis as ‘defender of the faith.’”
In a January 1, 1959, letter to Mary Van Deusen, C. S. Lewis answers Ms. Van Deusen’s question of whether he ever replied to Mr. Pittenger’s criticisms. Lewis enclosed his response in the letter and adds,
“Yes, I replied to Pittenger and enclose my article. I hope I have not been uncharitable. The temptation was strong for (a.) The poor old goof is such a very bad boxer who lays himself open to such shattering blows, and (b.) While one can respect a straightforward-atheist, it is hard not to hate a man who takes money for defending Christianity and spends his time attacking it. But pity comes to one’s aid. Such a man cannot be happy. I think there is a good deal of anguish in his rudeness.”1
It’s always best to come clean regarding belief. If you think it’s all nonsense, then just say so. Don’t use the same dictionary but a different lexicon. You just come off looking like some old goof.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1008.