C.S. Lewis has always been hard for me to read. I started out with an immature dislike of the man’s writings—because one of his science fiction classics was on my summer reading list in junior high. I didn’t get much out of the little bit that I actually read.
To get C.S. Lewis you have to know something about his subject, or at least have formed an opinion or prejudice. Consider his famous “Trilemma Argument” from Mere Christianity:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
He seldom wrote merely to supply information. He argued. He defended. To take on his trilemma argument you have to know more than a little about what Jesus actually said. And then you have to interpret—and therein lies the efficacy of C.S. Lewis.
It helps to get to know him a little bit as a person, not merely as an Oxford don. To this day he is reviled and revered. He died the same day that JFK was assassinated. He smoked and met colleagues and friends in the Eagle and Child pub. He loved, he lost, and he hurt. And he reasoned himself out of atheism. He is one of the most widely published and influential Christian authors of all time. But there were only 21 people at his funeral.
Here is a fascinating essay that provides some insight into his character. As tempting as it might be to jump ahead to the videos, don’t miss this essay. You might identify with this reluctant but nonetheless effective evangelist.
The following videos describe his enduring significance (notice the Chi Rho) and his home life. It helps to know a little about the man before you get into his writing.
Faith and reason. Who knew?
What do you think?