C S Lewis
Hey everyone! I was curious what people's thoughts are on C S Lewis? What are some favorite quotes or works of his and why? Or if you don't like him, or disagree on an issue, I'd be curious to hear that, too! He always stirs up great conversation in my experience.
I'll chime in with an answer, because C.S. Lewis is one of my spiritual fathers - men whose thinking and life have shaped my own for the better.
I recommend C. S. Lewis to young Christians and non-Christians interested in the Christian faith, mostly because Lewis was so forthcoming about his own conversion from atheism to faith in Christ.
After his conversion, Lewis gave himself to careful study of his new faith, and over the years found himself contending for that faith in an environment (UK academia) which was always hostile to it. Yes, he had some confreres who were also Christian - J. R. R. Tolkien for one, Dorothy Sayers for another - who helped to shape his faith. But, he also had many in his college faculty who sharply disagreed with the religion Lewis was now defending amongst them.
Which of his works to read? His classic exposition of Christianity is Mere Christianity. Another helpful book is Surprised by Joy which recounts his early life and conversion to the Christian faith.
Lewis gets the reputation as an apologist for writing books which address various problems that people allege against Christianity. The Problem of Pain is an example of this.
Other books - ones I found to be very helpful - dive into the spiritual dynamics of living as a Christian. The Screwtape Letters is a good example of that kind of work. Expouding Christian spiritual life in the form of fiction is one of Lewis' best work - the Chronicles of Narnia, the Space Trilogy, and Till We Have Faces.
Do I think Lewis is infallible? Hardly! His work on the Psalms is deeply flawed by his treatment of the imprecatory Psalms. And, his uncritical acceptance of Darwinian evolution reflects Lewis' reluctance to challenge ideas far outside his own experience and knowledge.
I often wonder what Lewis would think/say as the debate about all things sexual comes to a raging boil around us - the LGBT agenda, transexualism, divorce, abortion, and so on. Homosexuality was something he encountered in his academic environs in the mid-20th Century, but he expressly declined to comment on it, saying it was not a problem with which he had any experience, and so he was reluctant to speak to it.
Even when I do not agree with Lewis' conclusions on some matter, his manner of wrestling with problems and questions is very human, very accessible, and models a kind of humility that is winsome and worthy of mimickry. Dive in at will. You won't be disappointed.
Thank you for your thoughts! I have already dived in fairly deep, having read most of his major works and taken a class on him 😉 I would love to hear what of his ideas themselves, you were most fond of 🙂
For me, his most influential book was his last, Til We Have Faces. This brought me out of the rationalism I was raised in (and by personality gravitated towards), and also out of substitutionary atonement, into a more relational understanding of Salvation. The influence of Lewis often neglected to be mentioned is from his very expertise, the study of Church history. He read the writers of the first 1,000 years of the Church, who are often neglected today. After falling in love with Lewis' poetic idea of "having a face" in order to face God, I found in those earlier writers a very similar message. You find much less emphasis on the violation of laws, nor any discussion of "worth" or "merit", but greater emphasis on the need to be like God in order to be in his presence without wanting to destroy yourself (like Judas did).
Today we often speak of breaking God's laws, and Christ being legally in our place. Yet if a parent did these things, like punishing one son for another sons crimes, we'd certainly condemn that parent, even if the innocent child volunteered. This is not justice, yet we've let it become a core piece of our theology. On the other hand, the idea that a child cannot participate with his parents discussing adult subjects because he cannot handle them is much more attuned to the early Christian writers, and to Lewis' Til We Have Faces. God keeps us a way from His all-consuming fire, which is His love, until we become like fire as the saints are said to in scripture, and should we encounter that fire before we have become fire, it will be a burning incompatibility. It has nothing to do with abstract legalities, but entirely with what happens when selfishness is fully made aware of who it is by the direct encounter with love.
Anyways, that's enough for now 🙂 But that way of thinking was introduced to me by Lewis, and I have found it not only more logically and experientially consistent, but offering greater spiritual growth in my life and much more effective evangelism than a father who is obligated to punish someone due to his legalistic wrath. It looks much more like a good father on Earth, too, or what all parents should aspire to. Punishment is not required, but it can be good in helping a child grow. When the Prodigal Son repents, the Father always welcomes Him back. Early Christians believed God even forgives Satan with no payment required, but Satan does not repent.
"I would love to hear what of his ideas themselves, you were most fond of 🙂"
Hard to say. On one hand, just wandering around his essays early in my Christian formation likely had a deep lasting effect on me. On the other hand, I can point to his Letters to Malcom as the source of ideas about the way liturgy "works" in Christian spirituality - these ideas were key in my migration from low-church antisacramental anti-liturgical Christianity to something far more catholic (note the small "c").
That shift resulted (eventually) to my ordination as a priest and my current ministry in a small Anglican parish in the wilds of North Texas.