This Sunday, November 29, was the birthday of C. S. Lewis. It’s an easy day to remember because it is also my brother’s birthday and my son’s anniversary. What is interesting to me is why people still pay attention to such things more than 50 years after his death. I kind of doubt people will be remembering my birthday 50 years after I’m gone.
I really can’t speak for anyone else but I will mention a few of the reasons I continue to read Lewis’s works and find his life of interest.
- I first discovered C. S. Lewis in college. What he represented to me then, and still, is an example of one who both thought deeply and believed deeply, and that these needn’t be a contradiction in terms.
- While Lewis thought rigorously, he was also imaginative. Whether it was creating a world of floating islands as in Perelandra, or one that could be accessed through a wardrobe, Lewis taught me that grown-ups and children could both love imaginary worlds and good stories.
- That leads to another reason I have loved Lewis. I shared reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my son and have watched the love of story blossom in his life as an aspiring writer.
- There was an amazing seamlessness about Lewis’s thought. Owen Barfield once remarked, “Somehow what Lewis thought about everything was secretly present in what he said about anything.”
- Lewis helped me understand the banality of evil in The Screwtape Letters, and that all evil ever does is twist and distort the good.
- Likewise The Great Divorce helped me understand that if anyone endures hell, it is largely of one’s own making. He wrote in The Problem of Pain, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”
I cannot commend all of C. S. Lewis’s attitudes toward women, but I also find quite attractive this group of men who gathered weekly over an “adult beverage” and talked deeply about theology, literature, and whatever they were working on at the moment. Until I learned of the Inklings, I thought all a group of men could ever talk about, especially in a pub, was sports!
Lewis was an amazing correspondent. There are at least two volumes of his correspondence in print in addition to several books of letters (To an American Lady; To Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer; and To Children). But then, he wasn’t on Facebook! What a wonderful thing it must have been to receive such letters.
- Lewis not only kindles one’s love for his books, but also for others’ books, particularly old books. In his essay “On the Reading of Old Books” which introduces a translation of Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, he advises reading one old book between our readings of new ones. He, as much as anyone, is my inspiration for a reading group I lead called “The Dead Theologians Society“.
- Lastly, I find particularly compelling the fact that Lewis was a first rate scholar, who because of his open espousal of his faith and his popular works, never received the accolades of others and was a “tutor” most of his life. Yet I find no evidence of him grousing about this.
I’ll stop at the convenient number of ten but would love to know what others might add to this list and how Lewis’s works and life have touched yours.