Rediscovering C.S. Lewis
The name C.S. Lewis or Chronicles of Narnia immediately brings to mind all of the joy and excitement that comes with Christmas! You see, when I was 12 years old I was allowed to pick out of a special catalog exactly what I wanted for Christmas. I chose two sets of books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and The Little House on the Prairie. Oh, how excited I was to sit down and read these books that were all my own. I did not understand the symbolism involved in the books or know anything about the author, but I fell in love with the stories and I loved Aslan. Alister McGrath, in his biography C. S. Lewis: a life – eccentric genius, reluctant prophet, has helped me rediscover C.S. Lewis as so much more than just a children’s literature author. C.S. Lewis is a man of faith, reason, and imagination capable of pulling all three together in an intelligible and remarkable manner to reach not only fellow believers, but those searching for a reason for life.
I learned my senior year that Lewis was a Christian convert from atheism, thanks to a well written report of a fellow classmate. What I did not know is all that led up to that conversion. I stumbled upon an article online that gave a bit more information about Lewis’ decision to consider God. In this article, Robert Stewart quotes from Lewis’ book Surprised by Joy, saying that a comment from T.D. Weldon, a well-established atheist at the time, caused Lewis to second guess his stance on the unbelievability of the Christian story of a dying man. This comment paired with his own desire to read medieval literature in search of a “unified cosmic and world order” (McGrath, 2013, p. 135) started Lewis down a path that would ultimately lead to his salvation. As McGrath points out, Lewis’ relationship with J.R.R. Tolkien further led Lewis toward Christ. A pivotal comment came from Tolkien just after Lewis had moved from atheism to theism, but prior to his conversion to Christianity. Tolkien essentially told Lewis to not limit his imagination, to allow his reason and his imagination to both have free reign in his search for understanding of God (McGrath, p.149). C.S. Lewis discovered that “when rightly understood, the Christian faith could integrate reason, longing, and imagination” (McGrath, p. 151).
C.S. Lewis strikes me as the type of man capable of seeing the big picture. His ability to see the big picture and not get bogged down in the small details enables him to encourage others in the pursuits and help them move forward and achieve an end goal. He is described by his friends as a great encourager (McGrath, p. 199), so much so that he was not only willing to be that encourager but dedicated to being one as well (McGrath, p. 200). Some people have a natural tendency towards encouraging, others are given this great ability when they become a Christian (Romans 12:6-8), and all Christians are called to encourage one another in our walk with Christ (Hebrews 3:13). I get the impression, from the quotes of friends and the biographer, that C.S. Lewis fell into all three of these categories. I had not previously known this about him, but it fits with the way he tells the stories I am so fond of.
Another aspect of the man C.S. Lewis that I had not previously known or understood was his main goal in his writing. He was not a theologian or a pastor of any kind. The analogy that he gives in his preface to Mere Christianity of the hallway provided a clear visual for how he saw his writings (p. xv-xvi). He saw his writings as the introduction to the basics of Christianity, the core of what holds us all together as one body of believers. The virtually indisputable aspects of our faith that truly defines what it is to be Christian.
Moving forward in our reading, this will all be incredibly helpful information to have. To understand as I read that Lewis is not trying to convert anyone to the Church of England, or make any profound statements or insights into the Bible; but that he simply wants to inform others of what Christianity is and why it’s not only a plausible explanation for so many of life’s questions but is the only reasonable solution. With his skill with the written and spoken word, C.S. Lewis manages to incorporate faith, reason, and imagination into all of his fiction and non-fiction works showing that religion can encompass all three, that none need be excluded.
Lewis, C.S. (2015). Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins.
McGrath, A. (2013). C. S. Lewis: a life – eccentric genius, reluctant prophet. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.
Stewart, R. B. (n.d.). C.S. Lewis’ journey to faith. Retrieved from http://www1.cbn.com