Early comparisons and contrasts (Edwards & Lewis)
One of the main thrusts of Edwards' Religious Affections was to enable discernment between false and true Christianity in oneself and in others. So as I headed into Lewis, it seemed I was met almost immediately with a contradiction to Edwards' entire premise. Lewis says in his Preface: "It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense....We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to 'the disciples,' to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were 'far closer to the spirit of Christ' than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological, or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian."
As I said, this statement seemed to me, on the surface to contradict Edwards. And this is one of the benefits of listening to different viewpoints. I went back to Edwards and found that though I would not say the two were in complete agreement, I can definitely say, they weren't so far apart as it first seemed. Though I think Edwards would be more inclined to refer to a professing Christian who lives in clear and prolonged disobedience to Christ as a hypocrite, than to refer to him as a "bad Christian"; at heart their attitudes are very similar. (This difference may also stem in part from a different aim: Lewis' apologetic, and Edwards' pastoral.) Here's how Edwards treats the matter: "That I am far from undertaking to give such signs of gracious affections, as shall be sufficient to enable any certainly to distinguish true affection from false in others; or to determine positively which of their neighbors are true professors, and which are hypocrites. In so doing, I should be guilty of that arrogance which I have been condemning. Though it be plain that Christ has given rules to all Christians, to enable 'em to judge of professors of religion, whom they are concerned with, so far as is necessary for their own safety, and to prevent their being led into a snare by false teachers, and false pretenders to religion...'tis also evident, that it was never God's design to give us any rules, by which we may certainly know, who or our fellow professors are his, and to make a full and clear separation between sheep and goats: but on the contrary, it was God's design to reserve this to himself, as his prerogative." (p. 193, 1959 Yale Ed.) And later he adds: "But nothing that appears to them in their neighbor, can be sufficient to beget an absolute certainty concerning the state of his soul: for they see not his heart, nor can they see all his external behavior; for much of it is in secret, and hid from the eye of the world: and 'tis impossible certainly to determine, how far a man may go in many external appearances and imitations of grace..." (pg 420).
Both men are in agreement that it is impossible to see into a man's heart, and that it is arrogant to insist otherwise. However, as I said before, each man had an entirely different purpose in making his assertion. Each comes at the matter from a different angle, with Edwards focusing more on not being able to judge a heart no matter how good a "Christian" someone may seem; and Lewis on not judging regardless of how bad a "Christian" someone may seem. I think Edwards has the Biblical edge in this case, because of an abundance of Scripture which indicates the idea that we can "know the tree by it's fruit". But I'm also happy and relieved to find marked agreement between these two very gifted, very godly, and very different men.
(All emphasis in bold is my own.)