Ten Key Ideas from C.S. Lewis’s Works


(Adapted from C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction by James Como, Box 2)

These are central to Lewis’s  thinking: many of his arguments are based upon them and they were central to his life. Omitted are orthodox Christian ideas (e.g., the incarnation), as well as political ones (e.g., the danger of fetishizing equality: ‘I’m as good as you’):

  1. Joy (Sehnsucht): is a longing conveyed by some image or memory or event that does not originate in any of those but comes through them. It is from a place beyond the senses and kindles a hope that there is Heaven, that Heaven is our home, and that we will return there. It is painful because nothing in the world can satisfy it, no matter how hard we may try to do so; it is sweetly painful because we can intuit its origin and our destiny.
  2. Contemplation and Enjoyment (or At/Along), or knowing from the outside and from the inside, where a phenomenon (such as religious belief or being in love) may seem very different. We need both.
  3. Chronological snobbery: is the uncritical acceptance of our own intellectual climate, as though past beliefs or practices are useless simply because they came before us. A corollary is that our belief in progress is misplaced: we must ask what it is we are ‘progressing’ towards.
  4. Subjectivism is poisonous: because it leads to an exaltation of the Self, a form of idolatry, especially when applied to morality, as when something is deemed good because it feels good.
  5. Reason is objectively valid: and, though one’s logic may be flawed in any given case, is a sign of our non-material nature: atoms moving randomly in our brains is not thought. It is the ‘organ of truth’.
  6. Morality is objective: outside of any personal preference or perception and accessible to Reason. To be subjective respecting this Natural Law (the Tao) is to submit to those who have the power, especially the technological power, to enforce their preferences, leading to ‘the abolition of man’. It merits obedience.
  7. Imagination: especially when realized as metaphor, symbol, and myth, is the ‘organ of meaning’, antecedent to truth. It helps extend language without distorting or destroying it (‘verbicide’).
  8. Quiddity: is the ‘thingness’ of a thing, be it food, weather, or a person. We must pay attention to things as they are, name them appropriately, and respond ordinately to them.
  9. Personhood: is not at all the same as ‘personality’, the expression of which ought not to be one’s goal; rather we should apply the Law of Inattention, allowing us to pay attention to all sorts of signs outside of the Self, especially to other people. What am I feeling? matters less than What is that? After all, ‘feelings come and go, mostly they go’.
  10. Ultimate Reality: is not the plane of existence we occupy, which is but a ‘shadowland’, a sort of training camp for the realist thing. That solid place sends signs (e.g., Joy) and, because it is so much richer than our shadowland, must clothe those signs in words and objects that already have ordinary meaning to us (like erotic imagery symbolizing religious devotion). That is how sacramentalism works: a higher reality is transposed into a more limited key having ‘notes’ we recognize as ordinary.

About The Author: James T. Como holds a Ph.D. in Language, Literature, and Rhetoric from Columbia University and is now Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric and Public Communication at York College (CUNY). A founding member of the New York C. S. Lewis Society (1969), Dr. Como’s books include Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis, a study of Lewis as a rhetorician, and Remembering C. S. Lewis. These, along with his many articles on Lewis in journals including The Wilson Quarterly and The New Criterion, and on-air commentary for five biographical documentaries, have established Dr. Como as one of the most highly-regarded Lewis scholars in the world. The Ten Key Ideas above are from his outstanding Introduction to C.S. Lewis in the series of books “A Very Short Introduction” published by Oxford University Press.

*C.S. Lewis and 8 Reasons for Believing in Objective Morality


The cornerstone of the moral argument is the existence of an objective moral standard. If there really is a standard of right and wrong that holds true regardless of our opinions and emotions, then the moral argument has the ability to convince. However, apart from the existence of such an objective standard, moral arguments for God’s existence (and Christian theism) quickly lose their persuasive power and morality as a whole falls to the realm of subjective preference. Although I could say a fair amount about what the world would be like if morality really was a matter of preference (consider The Purge), the purpose of this article is to provide reasons for believing in objective morality (or “moral realism,” as philosophers call it).

Because of his continued focus on the objective nature of morality throughout his writings, and due to his unique ability to communicate and defend this concept in a clear and compelling manner, I will rely heavily on the thought of C. S. Lewis below. As I’ve read through a number of Lewis’s books, I’ve identified eight arguments he raises in favor of objective morality. Below is my attempt to list these eight arguments and offer a few thoughts of my own concerning each.

1)    Quarreling between two or more individuals. [1] When quarreling occurs, individuals assume there is an objective standard of right and wrong, of which each person is aware and one has broken. Why quarrel if no objective standard exists? 

By definition, quarreling (or arguing) involves trying to show another person that he is in the wrong. And as Lewis indicates, there is no point in trying to do that unless there is some sort of agreement as to what right and wrong actually are, just like there is no sense in saying a football player has committed a foul if there is no agreement about the rules of football. [2]

2)    It’s obvious that an objective moral standard exists. [3] Throughout history, mankind has generally agreed that “the human idea of decent behavior [is] obvious to everyone.” [4] For example, it’s obvious (or self-evident) that torturing a child for fun is morally reprehensible. 

As the father of two children, a daughter who is five and a son who is three, I have noticed that even my young children recognize that certain things are obviously right or wrong. For example, while watching a show like PJ Masks, my children can easily point out the good characters as well as the bad ones – even without my help. In short, the overwhelming obviousness that certain acts are clearly right or wrong indicates that an objective moral standard exists.

3)    Mistreatment. [5] One might say he does not believe in objective morality, however, the moment he is mistreated he will react as if such a standard exists. When one denies the existence of an objective standard of behavior, the moment he is mistreated, “he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair!’ before you can say Jack Robinson.” [6] 

Sean McDowell relays an example of this when he shares a story involving J. P. Moreland taking the stereo of a University of Vermont student who denied the existence of objective morality in favor of moral relativism. As Moreland was sharing the gospel with the university student, the student responded by saying he (Moreland) couldn’t force his views on others because “everything is relative.” Following this claim, in an effort to reveal what the student really believed about moral issues, Moreland picked up the student’s stereo from his dorm room and began to walk down the hallway, when the student suddenly shouted, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that!” [7] 

Again, one might deny the existence of an objective standard of behavior through his words or actions, but he will always reveal what he really believes through his reactions when mistreated. (Note: Here at moralapologetics.com, we do not recommend you go around and mistreat others, as that wouldn’t be a moral way to do apologetics. See what I did there? Rather, we are simply bringing up the mistreatment issue as a way of exposing a deep flaw within moral relativism.)

4)    Measuring value systems. [8] When an individual states that one value system is better than another, or attempts to replace a particular value system with a better one, he assumes there is an objective standard of judgment. This objective standard of judgment, which is different from either value system, helps one conclude that one value system conforms more closely to the moral standard than another. Without some sort of objective measuring stick for value systems, there is no way to conclude that civilized morality, where humans treat one another with dignity and respect, is better than savage morality, where humans brutally murder others, even within their own tribe at times, for various reasons. 

To illustrate this point, Lewis says, “The reason why your idea of New York can be truer or less true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what either of us thinks. If when each of us said ‘New York’ each means merely ‘The town I am imagining in my own head,’ how could one of us have truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all.” [9] In the same way, if there is no objective moral standard, then there is no sense in saying that any one value system has ever been morally good or morally bad, or morally superior or inferior to other value systems. 

5)    Attempting to improve morally. [10] Certainly, countless individuals attempt to improve themselves morally on a daily basis. No sane person wakes up and declares, “My goal is to become more immoral today!” [11] If there is no absolute standard of good which exists, then talk of moral improvement is nonsensical and actual moral progress is impossible. If no ultimate standard of right and wrong exists, then one might change his actions, but he can never improve his morality.

If there is hope of moral improvement, then there must be some sort of absolute standard of good that exists above and outside the process of improvement. In other words, there must be a target for humans to aim their moral efforts at and also a ruler by which to measure moral progress. Without an objective moral standard of behavior, then “[t]here is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ – it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’” [12]  

6)    Reasoning over moral issues. [13] When men reason over moral issues, it is assumed there is an objective standard of right and wrong. If there is no objective standard, then reasoning over moral issues is on the same level as one arguing with his friends about the best flavor of ice cream at the local parlor (“I prefer this” and “I don’t like that”). In short, a world where morality is a matter of preference makes it impossible to have meaningful conversations over issues like adultery, sexuality, abortion, immigration, drugs, bullying, stealing, and so on.

7)    Feeling a sense of obligation over moral matters. [14] The words “ought” and “ought not” imply the existence of an objective moral law that mankind recognizes and feels obligated to follow. Virtually all humans would agree that one ought to try to save the life of a drowning child and that one ought not kill innocent people for sheer entertainment. It is also perfectly intelligible to believe that humans are morally obligated to possess (or acquire) traits such as compassion, mercifulness, generosity, and courage. [15]

8)    Making excuses for not behaving appropriately. [16] If one does not believe in an objective standard of behavior, then why should he become anxious to make excuses for how he behaved in a given circumstance? Why doesn’t he just go on with his life without defending himself? After all, a man doesn’t have to defend himself if there is no standard for him to fall short of or altogether break. Lewis maintains, “The truth is, we believe in decency so much – we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so – that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.” [17] 

Although the eight reasons provided above do not cover all of the reasons for believing in objective morality, it is a starting point nonetheless. If any of the reasons above for believing in objective morality are valid, then the moral argument for God’s existence (and Christian theism) has the ability to get off the ground. In fact, if there are any good reasons (in this article or beyond it) for believing in an objective moral standard, then I think God’s existence becomes the best possible explanation for morality since such a standard at the least requires a transcendent, good, and personal source – which sounds a lot like the God of Christian theism.


[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 3.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid. In the appendix section of The Abolition of Man, Lewis provides a list that illustrates the points of agreement amongst various civilizations throughout history. See C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 83-101.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sean McDowell, Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006), 45-46.

[8] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 43, 73. Also see Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13.

[9] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13-14.

[10] C. S. Lewis, “Evil and God,” in God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014), 3-4.

[11] Even if someone’s goal is to become more immoral, he still needs an objective standard to measure the level of his badness.

[12] Ibid.

[13] C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 54.

[14] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 10.

[15] C. Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), 2-3.

[16] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 8.

[17] Ibid.

*About the Author: Stephen S. Jordan currently serves as a high school Bible teacher at Liberty Christian Academy. He is also a Bible teacher, curriculum developer, and curriculum editor at Liberty University Online Academy, as well as a PhD student at Liberty University. He and his wife, along with their two children and German shepherd, reside in Goode, Virginia. This article first appeared on January 18, 2019 at moral apologetics.com


C.S. Lewis On Wanting Heaven NOW!!!

Is It Wrong to Want Heaven Now? By C.S. Lewis

lewis C.S. writing in his study

We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.

(Lewis, C. S. A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 357). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from The Problem of Pain).

 Aim At Heaven

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 358). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from Mere Christianity).


By Aaron Cline Hanbury

The author’s death barely made headlines 50 years ago when he died on the same day as JFK and Aldous Huxley. But today, his writings are more relevant than ever.

Wikimedia Commons; AP

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of a bizarre day in history. Three men of significant importance each died on November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy, author Aldous Huxley, and author and scholar C.S. Lewis.

On that day, the developed world (appropriately) halted at the news of the assassination of the United States’ 35th president. The front page of The New York Times on Saturday morning, the day after the tragic shooting, read, “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as he Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn in on Plane,” and virtually every other news service around the world ran similar coverage and developed these stories for days and weeks following.

Huxley’s death, meanwhile, made the front page of The New York Times the day after Kennedy’s coverage began. The English-born writer spent his final hours in Los Angeles, high on LSD. His wife, Laura, administered the psychedelic drug during the writer’s final day battling cancer, honoring his wishes to prepare for death like the characters in his novels Eyeless in Gazaand Island. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a haunting futuristic world where a sovereign, global government harvests its tightly controlled social order in glass jars; the Times obituary writer declared that Huxley’s well-known book “set a model for writers of his generation.”

The news of Lewis’s death, though, didn’t appear in print until Nov. 25, and it appeared in the normal obituary section of The New York Times weekday paper. At an earlier point in his life, Lewis enjoyed vibrant community with family, friends, and colleagues displayed famously in his writers’ club, the Inklings—which included, among others, J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time Lewis died, however, many of those relationships had fizzled out, and only a handful people even knew about Lewis’s funeral in time to attend. In one of the new biographies of Lewis by Alister McGrath (the now-definitive C.S. Lewis: A Life), the writer lists eight attendees, and assumes others, at the funeral for Lewis. No immediate family members were present—his brother, Warnie, stayed in bed, too drunk and distraught to venture to the ceremony. Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham, represented the family at the understated memorial.

But amid all of the attention to these three men during the past year—new biographiesfilmsconferencesmagazinesarticles—the legacy of Lewis stands out in relation to both those of the 35th U.S. president and of the prescient Brave New World author.

As Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. puts it in Publishers Weekly, “While Huxley is now largely forgotten and Kennedy remains a symbol of lost promise, Lewis lives on through his novels, stories, essays, and autobiographical works.” While I think that oversimplifies Kennedy and underestimates Huxley, the underlying point is worth considering: In one of the great ironies of history, Lewis at his death received less attention than Huxley, and far less than Kennedy. But it may be true that Lewis’s ideas claim the most lasting influence, both on the Christian tradition and on the Western culture beyond.


Lewis helped Tolkien finish perhaps the best work of literature from the century, ‘The Lord of the Rings’; another biographer suggests the Harry Potter series is kind of homage to the Narnia stories.

Lewis, a native of Belfast, Ireland, taught English literature at Oxford and Cambridge during the middle of the 20th century. Beginning in his teenage years and up through his early career, he was an atheist—but an uncomfortable one. In 1931, he became convinced that the Christian faith was more than a series of rational deductions; that it offered him a narrative that not only answered intellectual questions, but also satisfied his spiritual longings—what he described as the “god-sized hole” in his life. From that point on, he dedicated a significant portion of his energies to this idea that Christianity transcends facts and experience—Lewis believed Christianity wedded facts and experience in a deeper logical and emotional reality.

Lewis’s writing flowed in three streams: scholarly works, defenses of the Christian faith, and fiction. His canon, in addition to hundreds of essays and short writings, consists of more than 30 books, including widely celebrated criticisms on English literature and widely read works of fiction, poetry, and children’s stories. Today, several of these titles are familiar even to those with only a cursory interest in literature—such as the Chronicles of Narnia (which includes 1950’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), 1956’s Till We Have Faces, 1952’s Mere Christianity, and 1942’s The Screwtape Letters.

Just about any list of the best Christian books in the English language, of course, will include at least one Lewis title. In fact, when Christianity Today magazine asked more than 100 Christian writers and leaders to rank the most influential religious books of the 20th century, they named Lewis’s Mere Christianity No. 1 by far—which explains why readers have purchased the around 18 million copies of the book. And Harper Collins, which distributed some 10 million in unit sales since it acquired the rights to most of Lewis’s titles in 2001, reports more than 150,000 copies of Mere Christianity sold in the past year.

But even those numbers seem small compared to the more than 100 million copies (in at least 30 different languages) of The Chronicles of Narnia series sold.

And Lewis’s stories seem just as comfortable in Hollywood as they are in a corner bookstore. In recent years, three stories of the Chronicles of Narnia appeared as major film adaptations, with a fourth in development. And other films based on his life and works have materialized, too—such as Shadowlands, which casts Anthony Hopkins as Lewis and tells the story of his marriage to Joy Davidman, and a forthcoming film version of The Great Divorce, currently in the development stage.

Lewis narratives both answer intellectual questions and satisfy spiritual longings; he demonstrates the importance of images and stories without forgetting the necessity of reasoned, coherent belief.

Lewis’s works also appear onstage: Shadowlands began as television film and later turned into a play, and the theater production of The Screwtape Letters will continue its current tour in California later this month.

Traces of Lewis even appear in the works of other writers. Most significantly, he helped Tolkien finish perhaps the best work of English literature from the century, The Lord of the Rings; McGrath calls Lewis the “chief midwife” to the stories. Another biographer suggests that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series includes seven volumes as a kind of homage to the Narnia stories. Rowling’s character Dudley sounds and acts like Lewis’s Eustace Scrubb (from the Chronicles of Narnia series), and in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Rowling said she found herself “thinking about the wardrobe route to Narnia when Harry is told he has to hurl himself at a barrier in Kings Cross Station.” Lewis’s work also shapes, axiomatically, the stories of Christian writers like N.D. Wilson (also the screenwriter for The Great Divorce adaptation) and Andrew Peterson, and has also influenced writers like Lloyd Alexander—who said, “In our times, every fantasy realm must be measured in comparison with Narnia.”


One of the few men who did attend Lewis’s funeral was the English theologian and philosopher Austin Farrer. In his eulogy that day, Farrer effectively described the combination of logic and emotion—of fact and imagination, of prose and poetry—that made Lewis’s writings resonate with many demographics of readers: Farrer said, “There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader at home.” In other words, readers found—and still find—that Lewis narratives both answer intellectual questions and satisfy spiritual longings; Lewis demonstrates the importance of images and stories for the life of faith, without forgetting the necessity of reasoned, coherent belief, as well.

But Lewis’s appeal clearly reaches further than his Christian audience and draws appreciation from adherents of other faiths and the non-religious. There’s a profound reason for that. As the flamboyant, avant garde theater critic Kenneth Tynan, a proud proponent of amorality, wrote in his diary after reading Lewis’s novels, “How thrilling he makes goodness seem—how tangible and radiant!” And after reading a work of nonfiction, he wrote, “C.S.L. works as potently as ever on my imagination.”

In a culture that views the world more as charcoal than black-and-white, Lewis’s vision of the world speaks to a whole new mind of the 21st century as well as his native 20th.

In honor of his achievements as a writer, officials of Westminster Abbey announced last month that they will honor Lewis in the prestigious Poets’ Corner alongside literary figures such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens. The memorial stone displays Lewis’ famous summary of his faith: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else.”

This vision for a Christian lens to the world permeates Lewis’s stories, because, for him, the best stories hinted at the deep structures of reality, helping humanity in the journey for truth and significance. Good stories point to an ultimate story. And as Farrer—but few else—might have predicted, Lewis appears more relevant today than ever.

Lewis’s writings still often show up in both religious and secular conversations. As recently as last week, writers for The Atlantic recalled Lewis while analyzing contemporary, mainstream works of fiction: One writer invoked Lewis while in a critique of Disney’s Frozen, and another used Lewis’s The Four Loves to make a positive case for the film Love Actually. We live in a culture that views the world more as charcoal than black-and-white—a culture that prefers the mixed-motive, quasi-heroes in 2010’s True Grit to the good-guy-bad-guy figures in 1969’s version; a culture that prefers the more experiential, sensitive atheism of Slavoj Zizek to the cold, laboratory atheism of Richard Dawkins. But Lewis’s vision of the world still resonates in the 21st century as well as it did in his native 20th.


Like all good stories, Lewis’s includes an antagonist of sorts, or at least an opposing moral force: Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy (perhaps more familiar to Americans as the series that includes The Golden Compass), an explicitly atheist alternative to the children’s literature of Lewis’s. In 2002, a headline in the Daily Telegraph read, “Pullman does for atheism what C.S. Lewis did for God.” Pullman decried Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia as “blatant religious propaganda.” and accused Lewis of sexism and racism, among other things.

But, as McGrath, author of C.S. Lewis: A Life, points out, Pullman’s statements about Lewis’s wide readership almost 40 years after his death only draw more attention to the Narnia author, and “affirms Lewis’s cultural significance.” In this way, “Lewis’s most strident critic, paradoxically, turns out to be one of the most important witnesses to his present-day influence and importance.”

Last month, a writer for The Guardian suggested that Huxley was actually the more “visionary” of the two writers who died on Nov. 22, 1963. He points out specifically how Huxley’s Brave New World hints at today’s social networking websites that exchange services for members’ “intimate details.” He writes: “So, even as we remember C.S. Lewis, let us spare a thought for the writer who perceived the future in which we would come to love our digital servitude.” Still, he admits that, compared to Lewis, “Aldous Huxley never attracted that kind of attention.”

And assessments of Kennedy’s ideas, in turn, remain mixed. His actions, certainly, caused massive repercussions on the nation: In part, his term shaped the future of presidential campaigns, as television became a normal aspect of elections campaigns. And his celebrity-type appeal added style, in addition to substance, to the list of essential characteristics of a United States president. But crises like the Bay of Pigs debacle, the Cold War, the convoluted situation in Vietnam, and racial discord around the country arguably mark his time in office more than his Camelot White House.

“Assessments of Kennedy’s presidency have spanned a wide spectrum,” according to Kennedy scholars at the University of Virginia. “Early studies, the most influential of which were written by New Frontiersmen close to Kennedy, were openly admiring. They built upon on the collective grief from Kennedy’s public slaying—the quintessential national trauma. Later, many historians focused on the seedier side of Kennedy family dealings and John Kennedy’s questionable personal morals. More recent works have tried to find a middle ground.” So, the legacy of Kennedy’s ideas remains ambiguous; today, he is perceived by many as an intriguing national figure who lost his opportunity to fulfill many promises.

Back 50 years ago, no one reading the news headlines from November 1963 would predict that the ideas of an English scholar and children’s writer would wield (arguably) greater influence on European and American cultures than Kennedy’s or Huxley’s. After all, Lewis’s funeral only included one family member, related by marriage.

Huxley once wrote that “the prophet must make a selection of the facts that are more significant, that will have the greatest effect on the greatest number of future human beings.” And Kennedy famously said that a “man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”

And that’s why, in 1963, Lewis left us a legacy with influence that reaches far beyond 1960s England: He wedded significant facts with ideas that live on.

*SOURCE: THE ATLANTIC @ http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/12/why-cs-lewis-never-goes-out-of-style/282351/

The Page From C.S. Lewis That Changed My Life: By Jared Wilson

C. S. Lewis wrote about how the writing of George MacDonald “baptized his imagination” for later receipt of the gospel of Jesus. The writing of Lewis himself did this for me. I consumed the Narnia stories in elementary school, the Space Trilogy in junior high, and most of Lewis’s non-fiction in high school. My experience is not rare, I know. For many Christians, the writing of C. S. Lewis serves as a gateway to both intellectual and imaginative Christianity. This is why he is the greatest Christian writer of the 20th century and one of the greatest of all time.

A burgeoning storyteller myself, I had an overactive imagination that spilled over into my sense of self and my understanding of the world around me. Childhood was magical because I wished it so. Everything in my environment seemed ripe with splendor and meaning. I was an odd kid. But I didn’t just enjoy Lewis’s Narnia—I felt it. I knew instinctively he had tapped into something truer and better about fairy tales and fantasy and also about the ordinary world that seemed on sabbatical from wonder, much less from the prevalent miracles of the Bible. But I didn’t know what.

When I graduated from high school in 1994, my Grammy gave me a paperback copy of C.S. Lewis’s “God in the Dock” and Other Essays. I devoured it. And when I came to my absolute favorite piece in the book, a little treatise on the importance of mythology called “Myth Became Fact,” the effect was similar to putting on corrective lenses for the first time. Clarity of vision descended. I am speaking of page 67 in my edition, specifically, where Lewis writes this: “We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology.” He has been explaining why the ancient myths continue to be so resonant; namely, because “myth transcends thought” (66). These stories are received on a deeper frequency than other transmissions.

I like theology and its systems. I like to think rationally and logically. (So did Lewis!) But there is an inscrutable logic in a statement like this:

“We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic . . . shall we refuse to be mythopathic?” (67)

Lewis’s point is this: Myths resonate because there is a residue of truth in them—not historic facts of course, but truth about reality. (In his novel Perelandra he writes that myth is “gleams of celestial beauty falling on a jungle of filth and imbecility.”) And in the biblical story of Jesus and his gospel we find the convergence of the radiance of the mythopoeic with the glorious radiance of fact! Finally the one true “myth,” the myth that is not fiction. Lewis writes:

For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher (67).

Can even the Christian scholar and philosopher deny that the facts of the gospel are received on a frequency deeper than just the intellect? We discern the facts of the gospel with our minds, of course, but we receive them with our hearts because the Spirit has freed our hearts to receive them as true—to receive Christ as The Truth, the one true myth that is incontrovertibly fact.

What Lewis helped me see in that page helped me to see period. Page 67 of “Myth Became Fact” helped me to make the difference between seeing along the beam of light and seeing into the beam of light (to borrow from a later essay in the volume, “Meditation in a Toolshed”). Lewis helps me see how wondrous our real God and Savior is, how expansive, how utterly and eternally glorious. These words in “Myth Become Fact” gave me permission to wonder at God and to deepen in enjoyment of the true story of his Son’s reversal of death, rescuing of the bride, razing of evil, ruining of the dragon, and reigning forevermore. He has helped me see that nothing is wasted under God’s sovereign authorship of the universe, not even our fictions.

Article adapted from: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/06/20/the-page-that-changed-my-life-jared-wilson/

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont, and the author of the books Your Jesus Is Too SafeGospel Wakefulness, and the study 7 Daily Sins.

THE DEBT I OWE C.S. LEWIS by Dr. Holly Ordway

The Chronicles of Narnia

I owe more to C.S. Lewis than I can ever express. On this day, Nov. 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of his death and the day that he is honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, I wish more than anything to say ‘thank you’ to this great man.

And so I decided to share a glimpse of how Lewis helped change my life. In my memoir Not God’s Type, I’d alluded to Lewis’s significance in my conversion to Christianity, but not gone into detail. In the revision, significantly expanded and revised, which will be published in 2014 by Ignatius Press (and tentatively retitled The Sword and the Cross) I write a great deal more about the role of Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles in my journey.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my forthcoming book.

At this point in my journey of faith, I had accepted the arguments for the existence of God; I had become a theist. But what about the idea of a personal God? And in particular, what about Jesus? I found myself struggling, resistant, terrified . . . and so we jump in as I wrestle with the meaning of the Incarnation:


I had rejected the idea of ‘talking to God’ in prayer – not from intellectual disagreement, but from a visceral reaction of fear and anger, and although the cause was new, the feeling of baffled rage was all too familiar. I had felt it when I was eight or nine years old, weeping over my long-division homework (and refusing to do it); in high school, my stomach in a knot as I stared at geometry proofs that meant nothing to me; as a college freshman, sick with frustration as I struggled with my chemistry problem sets. I knew that there was some meaning locked up in these figures, these equations and problems, but I was unable to see what the teacher (and the other students!) seemed to find so obvious, and my inability easily to understand made me both angry at myself and, eventually, dismissive of the subject.

The idea of a personal God was almost impossible for me to grasp to begin with, let alone the Christian claim that the Creator become a human person, flesh and blood like me, yet also fully God. The ‘watchful dragons’ (as Lewis calls them) of my rebellious self spoke up loud and clear, insisting, “It can’t possibly be true that the Creator of the universe would respond to you, or even be aware of your existence. Who do you think you are, anyway? And these Christians are obviously talking nonsense. How could it be that the First Cause of the universe would somehow become a man, an actual human being walking around, getting his hands dirty, getting killed. Ridiculous. Who can believe that?”

I had nothing to say.

These new philosophical ideas about God made rational sense of the world as I saw it, but they did not show me that the God of the philosophers would have anything to do with me as an individual – much less that His concern for human beings would extend to becoming incarnate, as the Christians said that He had. God’s morality might apply to me, yes, but like gravity, indiscriminately to all people; or like a law code, written down and handed over, with its authority coming from the Law-Giver, but at a distance. Surely He could not, would not, take notice of me: I was too small; He was too big. Surely He would not enter into His creation; it was grubby and messy and material, and He was spiritual and orderly and infinite.

I could understand the definition of the word ‘Incarnation’ but not grasp its meaning. It seemed unimaginable that God would come close enough to be touched, would become man.

Or was it? I began to recall glimpses of something I’d been intrigued by, yet had been unable to name, from an earlier, deeper vision.

What if the idea of the Incarnation did not have to be solved like a math problem . . . what if I could get hold of its meaning in a different way?

I picked up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: this time, not to analyze it for my dissertation, but to enter Narnia like a little girl again.

And I encountered Aslan.

First just as a name, a glimpse of hope – “Aslan is on the move” – and then as a hope fulfilled, the great Lion really present in Narnia, bringing an end to a hundred years of winter. Aslan was a force to be reckoned with: he led the Narnians into battle, and killed the White Witch himself; when he roared, “they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.” No tame lion, indeed.

And yet he was touchable, playful, personal. If I could have stepped through the wardrobe door and seen this character for myself, I don’t know if I’d have first run up and buried my hands and face in his shaggy mane, or fallen down before his great velveted paws with their terrible claws, afraid to look at him, but love and awe would have been mingled in both.

In Narnia, I found that the Incarnation was not a bizarre idea, out of place in the world. It infused the very atmosphere; I breathed it in and was strengthened by it. That God would join His creatures by becoming part of creation Himself seemed, here in Narnia, as fitting as the fact that winter’s end brought crocuses peeking brightly through half-melted snow; as right as the fact that sunlight warms chilled limbs and water quenches thirst.

In Narnia . . . but here, in real life? It might not be true that God was involved with His world; it might not be likely that Jesus was God incarnate . . . but it was no longer unimaginable.

From The Sword and the Cross – forthcoming, Ignatius Press, 2014

Deo gratias.

*ARTICLE ADAPTED FROM: http://www.hieropraxis.com/2013/11/my-debt-to-c-s-lewis/


Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type (2010; revised and expanded 2nd ed. forthcoming as The Sword and the Cross, 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

Half Century Since C.S. Lewis by David Mathis

C.S. Lewis on Stone with Flowers

He went quietly. It was very British.

While the Americans rocked and reeled, and the world’s attention turned to Dallas and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, one Clive Staples Lewis breathed his last in Oxford just a week shy of his 65th birthday. Strangely enough, science-fictionist Aldous Huxley passed the same day, and in one calendar square, three of the twentieth-century’s most influential figures were gone.

It was November 22, 1963 — 50 years ago today.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is known best for his series of seven short fiction books, the Chronicles of Narnia, which have sold over 100 million copies in 40 languages. With three of the stories already becoming major motion pictures, and the fourth in the making, Lewis is as popular today as he’s ever been. But even before he published Narnia in the early 1950s, he distinguished himself as a professor at Oxford and Cambridge, the world’s foremost expert in Medieval and Renaissance English literature, and one of the great lay thinkers and writers in two millennia of the Christian church.

Discovering Truth and Joy

Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898. He became an atheist in his teens, and stridently such in his twenties, before slowly warming to theism in his early thirties, and finally being fully converted to Christianity at age 33. And he would prove to be for many, as he was for his friend Owen Barfield, the “most thoroughly converted man I have ever known.”

What catches the eye about Lewis’s star in the constellation of Christian thinkers and writers is his utter commitment to the life of the mind and the life of the heart. He both thinks and feels with the best. Lewis insisted that rigorous thought and deep affections were not at odds, but mutually supportive. And as impressive as he was in arguing for it, he was even more convincing in his demonstration.

What eventually led Lewis to theism, and finally to Christianity, was Longing — an ache for Joy with a capital J. He had learned all too well that relentless rationality could not adequately explain the depth and complexity of human life, or the textures and hues of the world in which we find ourselves. From early on, an angst gnawed at him which one day he would express so memorably in his most well-known single book, Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

This World and the Other

Such is the heart of his genius, his spiritual genius. So few treat the world in all its detail and contour like he does, and yet so few tirelessly point us beyond this world, with all its concreteness and color and taste, with the aggression and ardor of C.S. Lewis.

And so for many his impact has been so personal. For me, it was a six-word sentence in Lewis — “we are far too easily pleased” — that popped the hood on a massive remodeling of my soul.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Does Jesus really find our desires not too strong, but too weak? I had long professed Christianity, but this tasted so different than what I knew. It tasted! This affirmation of happiness and pleasure and desire and delight was, to me, so new in the context of the Christian faith. And Lewis was the chef.

My notions about God and the Christian life were exposed as mere duty-driven, and my soul was thrilling at the possibility that Christianity might not mean muting my desires but being encouraged (even commanded!) to turn them up — up to God.

Feel the Weight of Glory

As a layman, Lewis didn’t preach weekly, but occasionally had his chance at a pulpit. His most remembered sermon is one he preached under the title “The Weight of Glory.”

When he breathed his last and quietly slipped from this life 50 years ago now, he took one big step toward becoming the kind of glorious creature in the coming new creation he speaks about in that sermon.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.

For a growing number of us, Lewis occupies a class to himself. Few, if any, have taught us so much about this world, and the next, save the Scriptures. If you’d like to take him seriously, and with the smile and warmth he requests, start with his Mere ChristianityThe Screwtape LettersThe Abolition of Man, the Chronicles of Narnia, or just about anything you can find with his name as author. His writings are pervasively thoughtful, engaging, provoking, and rewarding. He will not disappoint.

ARTICLE ADAPTED FROM http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/half-a-century-since-c-s-lewis. 11/22/2013. This article also appears in the Minneapolis StarTribune and Saint Paul Pioneer Press. For more on the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis’s death, see Justin Taylor’s and Joe Rigney’s brief comparison of Lewis and Kennedy, “The Two Jacks.” Rigney’s ebook on Narnia is discounted for the fiftieth anniversary. He was a seminar speaker at our recent National Conference celebrating Lewis’s life and work, from which the full audio and video are available, as well as John Piper’s 2010 biographical address on Lewis, “Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul.”

Topic: Christian Biography

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing.Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

Dr. Roger Nicole on The Apologetics of C.S. Lewis

God in the Dock: The Apologetics of C. S. Lewis

The Apologetics of Joy by Linville

In modern English the words apology and apologize indicate regret because some statement or action was offensive and wrong. This is not the case for “apologetics” in theology, for that discipline is intended to manifest “a point of view is right.” It is intended for those who differ in order to win them over, or for those who agree in order to confirm them in the truth for which the apologist testifies.

It is in this sense that C.S. Lewis is recognized as an “apologist,” for a number of his works are intended to manifest the adequacy of the Christian outlook over against a “naturalist” position, which asserts that the universe is simply a great material mass functioning in terms of its own mechanism or laws without any possible intervention from the outside and specifically without a creative or governing power of a mind. C.S. Lewis was very well prepared for this task because until late in his twenties he was a devotee of atheism without any reference to Jesus Christ and was twenty-nine years old before being converted and embracing a Christian world-and-life view. Thus, he was more knowledgeable than many Christian apologists who know the views that they dispute only from the outside. He also experienced personally the gravity of the problems that the atheist has to face and the way in which such problems may force a person of integrity to look beyond atheism for a suitable philosophical and religious outlook. C.S. Lewis wrote about his own experience in 1933 in an autobiographical volume entitled The Pilgrim’s Regress, in the manner of John Bunyan, and again in Surprised by Joy (1955).

His first contribution to apologetics was entitled The Problem of Pain, published in October 1940 as part of The Christian Challenge Series (it was reprinted ten times by 1943). He dealt there forthrightly with the question: “If God is almighty and supremely loving, why does He permit pain in this universe?” He showed how pain is inevitable for real persons wherever sin exists. Who could imagine what a frightful world it should be if sin could grow without restraint? C.S. Lewis proceeds in his analysis in an orderly and lucid manner, dealing with this difficult subject in a way that a lay person can readily understand. From time to time, he has striking comments that remain unforgettable, like the following: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell” (p. 41). From 1941–44, he delivered a series of thirty-three broadcast talks whose titles describe well their contents:

1941: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe (5 talks)
1942: What Christians Believe (5 talks)
1943: Christian Behaviors (12 talks)
1944: Beyond Personality; or, First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity (11 talks)

First published separately in three volumes, these lectures were gathered together under the titleMere Christianity and often republished. The term mere in this title means “pure,” as it did in old English. The emphasis is to deal with major views largely common to all denominations in Christendom.

In 1943, The Screwtape Letters appeared, and this is probably C.S. Lewis’ most popular writing. Here we have a course by correspondence in which a master demon, Screwtape, instructs Wormwood, a novice in the art of tempting human beings and preventing on their part a true allegiance to God and the Gospel. This gives an opportunity to look on the Christian claims from below, so to speak, not with some artificial adornments provided by self-deceitfulness or charity in considering others, but with a kind of cynical realism that penetrates into the actual motives that people ordinarily attempt to hide. C.S. Lewis can cast a critical evaluation of many moves and motives that are flourishing under the umbrella of genuine Christianity. With sharp discernment and superb control of language, gained perhaps in his scholarly studies in early English literature, his wit and discernment surface on every page as some
of the following quotations evidence:

“We have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is [God’s] invention, not ours. He made the pleasure: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one” (p. 41).

“A moderate religion is as good for us as no religion at all — and more amusing” (p. 43).

“It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one” (p. 56).

“A good many Christian political writers think that Christianity began going wrong and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now, this idea must be used by us to encourage again the conception of a historical Jesus to be found by clearing away later ‘accretions and perversions’ and then be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a ‘historical Jesus’ on liberal and ‘humanitarian’ lines; we are now putting forward a new ‘historical Jesus’ on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantage of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifest. In the first place they all tend to direct man’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each ‘historical Jesus’ is unhistorical” (p. 106).

If these few quotations arouse your appetite, get the book and you will find much more than this sample.

The volume entitled Miracles: A Preliminary Study appeared in 1947, very shortly after Dr. E.W.Barnes, Bishop of Birmingham, published The Rise of Christianity, in which he denied the factuality of all miracles recorded in the New Testament, including those concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The word preliminary in the title should not be mistaken for elementary, for it is a rather technical vindication of supernaturalism versus naturalism defined as a view that nothing exists except nature, that is, the gigantic interlocking of all particles of matter existing from times immemorial. Nature cannot explain the origin of rational thought, and even less provide a basis for morality and conscience.

We are led, therefore, to recognize a powerful and purposive reality beyond the material world, who is the creator and sustainer of all that exists. With this in view, it is not strange that there would be occasions in which interaction between this power and His world might occur where the laws that govern matter might not function as they ordinarily do.

C.S. Lewis then devotes an essential chapter to the “Grand Miracle” of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Then he discusses miracles of the old creation with “the Divine Man focusing for us what the God of Nature has already done on a larger scale” (p. 169). The miracles of the new creation are those in which a “reversal” is manifest, principally the resurrection, which is fundamental for the whole of Christianity.

A brief epilogue and two appendices conclude the book. Throughout we can appreciate the great qualities of C.S. Lewis, his earnestness, his meticulous care not to leave any gaps in his reasoning, his thorough commitment to Holy Scripture, and his marvelous style. Dealing with objections to the virgin birth of Christ, he says that some opponents of it “think they see in this miracle a slur upon sexual intercourse (though they might just as well see in the feeding of the five thousand an insult to bakers)” (p. 115).

That parenthesis is worth the price of the book!

Article Originally appeared @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-dock/

About the Author

Dr. Roger Nicole was professor emeritus of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla., and author of Standing Forth. A notable theologian of the twentieth century, he was very influential in the shaping of evangelical theology in America.

Seven Questions about C.S. Lewis with Alister McGrath

C.S. Lewis 50 Years Later

by Aaron Cline Hanbury with Alister McGrath (AM)

Fifty years ago, Nov. 22, 1963, 20th century author and English scholar C.S. Lewis died. Five decades later, his influence continues to grow. Towers editor Aaron Cline Hanbury asks Alister McGrath, theologian, intellectual historian and apologist at King’s College London, about the legacy of Lewis and his new books, C.S. Lewis — A Life and The Intellectual World of C.S. Lewis.

1. Why, 50 years after his death, are we still talking about C.S. Lewis?

AM: Because he says some very good things, and says them very well. Lewis offers his reader an intelligent and winsome Christian orthodoxy, which has helped some to come to faith, and others to come to a deeper faith. He’s helped me a lot, especially in my apologetic ministry.

2. Evangelicals seems to be Lewis’ most enthusiastic readers, yet he himself was not an evangelical. How should evangelicals approach Lewis critically while learning from him?

AM: Lewis wasn’t an evangelical, and has quite a weak view of the authority and place of Scripture. But what he offers evangelicals is a richer vision of Christianity, which adds to their biblical foundations. Lewis deepens a biblical faith, without diluting it. There are many points at which evangelicals will rightly want to raise issues with Lewis — for example, on the authority of Scripture. We can be critical of Lewis, and still be helped by him. When giving a lecture in London recently, I quipped that what evangelicals really need is a mixture of John Stott and C. S. Lewis — Stott’s deep rooting in the Bible and determination to engage secular culture, and Lewis’ rich vision of the Christian faith as something that enriches both the mind and the imagination.

3. What sparked your own interest in Lewis?

AM: I began reading Lewis after my own conversion back in 1971. Lewis didn’t help me come to faith. But friends at Oxford told me he might be useful in deepening my faith, and helping me to think things through. They were right! I started reading Lewis in 1974. In fact, I still have some of the original copies of his works that I bought back then. And I never stopped reading him. Somehow, there’s always more to discover.

4. In your recent book, C.S. Lewis — A Life, you address certain common assumptions about Lewis (I’m thinking specifically about your treatment of Lewis’ conversion experience). What in your research surprised you the most?

AM: It was great researching this book. I read everything that Lewis wrote in chronological order and found that I had missed a lot from previous readings! I think my proposal for a redating of Lewis’ conversion from 1929 to 1930 may be the most important aspect of the book. But what surprised me most was how bad his relationship with his father was. Although I realize that Lewis wasn’t a Christian at this time, I found myself really quite uncomfortable with the way Lewis treated his father. I think Lewis eventually came to feel the same way himself. One of his later letters expressed his regret for his attitude toward his father.

5. Lewis’ writings took many forms in a wide variety of genres and outlets. How did Lewis think about the task of and impetus for writing? 

AM: That’s a great question. Lewis saw writing as a way of opening up questions. He suggested that a writer was a “set of spectacles,” not a “spectacle.” His point was that we shouldn’t look at a writer, but look through him — in other words, see the world through his eyes, and see if that helps us make sense of things. Lewis wrote the Narnia series partly to help children think about core Christian themes in a very imaginative way, and figure out the difference that these beliefs make to the way in which we think and live. One of Lewis’ big discoveries was that writing stories — like Narnia — captured the imagination of his audiences, and made them want to think about the ideas that these stories embodied.

6. How would you summarize the Lewis canon?

AM: I think there are three main sections in this canon. First, the works of scholarship in English literature, which established Lewis’ reputation as a leading scholar of his age. We don’t read these much today, although they have stood the test of time remarkably well. Then there is Lewis the Christian apologist, who presented the faith in a winsome, engaging and satisfying way. Mere Christianity is still very well regarded, and rightly so. One of the reasons that Lewis was so effective was that he used to be an atheist himself, and knew both what atheists believed, and how to counter their ideas. And then there is Lewis the writer of fiction — supremely Narnia, but also other works, such as The Great Divorce and Till We Have Faces. These remain widely read, and some have
become classics.

7. Commonly, people are familiar with Lewis, but they haven’t actually read his works. For those people, where do you recommend they begin?

AM: It’s like dipping a toe in the swimming pool, isn’t it? Happily, there are lots of introductions to Lewis, which make this process easier — such as Walter Hooper’s excellent C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide. I would recommend beginning by reading Lewis in small doses. For example, don’t read all of his Mere Christianity. Take it slowly, and in small doses. One of the best chapters is on “Hope.” It’s a gem. Read it slowly, see the points he is making, and the way he draws you in. Underline the good quotes — there are quite a few of them in this chapter. In my view, his best work is the sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” which he preached at Oxford in June 1941. It repays close study and careful reading. But many would say that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the best place to start, because it is such a great story, and so well told. You might like to read one of the guides to Narnia to help you get more out of it.

Article Posted Originally @ http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2013/11/22/seven-questions-about-c-s-lewis-with-alister-mcgrath/

Gene Edward Veith on The Key to C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis 1898-1963

C.S. Lewis was not only a Christian apologist and lay theologian. He was also an unusually imaginative and creative novelist. And in his day job at Oxford and then Cambridge he was an astonishingly perceptive and influential literary scholar.

At a time when the modernist literary establishment was obsessed with depressingly bleak realistic fiction, Lewis sent readers’ imaginations soaring in his Chronicles of Narnia. While the modernists were looking down their noses at popular genre fiction, Lewis was writing the provocative
science fiction of his Space Trilogy.

In his apologetic and theological writing, Lewis was surprising both non-believers and emotional pietists in applying lucid, logical thinking to argue that Christianity is actually true. In his fiction, though, Lewis opposed the dull rationalism of his age to provoke in his readers feelings of wonder, mystery, and longing.

In his literary scholarship, Lewis taught modern readers, inhibited by the blinders of their own narrow little time, how to respond to allegory (The Allegory of Love), how to understand Milton (Preface to Paradise Lost), how to appreciate ancient cosmology (The Discarded Image), and how to read for pleasure (An Experiment in Criticism).

In his breath-takingly comprehensive volume in The Oxford History of English Literature, with the daunting title English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama), Lewis not only discusses apparently every work written in that century, he develops the notion that there are two styles of poetry: the golden and the drab. Golden verse employs beautiful language to evoke the transcendent. Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton are golden. Drab verse employs colloquial, unadorned language to evoke the cynical and down-to-earth. Donne and most poets currently in vogue are drab. In other writings, Lewis defends Shelley (the atheist) for his golden verse, while critiquing John Donne and T.S. Eliot (his fellow Anglican Christians) for their drabness.

The point here is that Lewis was a complex thinker with a wide-ranging sensibility. He was both logical and wildly imaginative, conservative and a non-conformist, a devout Christian whose faith was never stodgy or limiting, but stimulating and liberating. And I think I have found the key to understanding Lewis in all of his complexities and in all of his different kinds of writing.

Not long after he became a Christian, Lewis wrote about his conversion in an odd book entitled Pilgrim’s Regress. An allegory, like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, it depicts an everyman named John who reflects Lewis’ own spiritual journey. He leaves his childhood home, Puritania, rebelling against its rules and restrictions, just as Lewis left behind his protestant upbringing in Northern Ireland. Just as young Lewis did, John falls in with characters like Mr. Sensible and Mr. Humanist and faces the temptations of the spirit of the age (Freudianism, Marxism), as well as moral temptations (the Brown Girls, symbolizing lust, and the Clevers, symbolizing worldliness). All along, John has glimpses of a far-away island, which fills him with transcendent longing, just as Lewis describes in his memoir Surprised by Joy.

Eventually, through the mysterious leading of the “Man” (Christ), John comes to accept the Landlord (God) and is received by Mother Kirk (the church). But he still must travel a narrow path, avoiding both the the arid rocks on the North (symbolizing rationalism) and the fetid swamps on the South (symbolizing emotionalism). Eventually, he arrives at where he began, the faith of his childhood at Puritania, which he now recognizes was not about rules and restrictions at all, but grace and faith. He then, like Bunyan, crosses the waters into the everlasting life beyond.

Pilgrim’s Regress is an odd book for many people, but it has always been one of my favorites. Its deft portrayals of different philosophies and worldviews are insightful and illuminating. More than that, the book is an evocative fantasy — giants, dragons, and adventure — of the sort that Lewis later would develop so thoroughly in The Chronicles of Narnia. And everything that Lewis would write is summed up in the book’s subtitle: “An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism.”

The phrase seems strange. The words do not seem to go together. Are not reason and romanticism opposites? The Enlightenment’s Age of Reason was countered, at least for a while, with Romanticism’s Age of Emotion. And did not both movements oppose Christianity? And yet, it is true that all three need to be defended, since they are all three under attack. Today, even more than in Lewis’ time, our culture rejects not only reason but objective truth altogether. Romantic idealism has been replaced with cynicism and nihilism. True, both rationalism and romanticism, by themselves, lead to falsehoods and dead ends. But there is a legitimate use of reason and of emotion. And Christianity is the only world view big enough to account for them both.

Christianity offers not only a world view but a sensibility, a way to think and to feel. Lewis addresses both the head and the heart. He is an apologist for reason, romanticism, and — what holds them together — Christianity.

ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON JANUARY 1ST, 2008 IN TABLE TALK MAGAZINE: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/key-cs-lewis/


Dr. Gene Edward Veith is academic dean of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.