Monday, November 22, 2010

Clive Staples Lewis, Apologist and Spiritual Writer

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

C.S. Lewis died at his home in Oxford on this day, November 22, 1963 - just one week shy of his sixty-fifth birthday; the very same day that, across the Atlantic, the thirty-fifth president of the United States was shot and killed.

Like so many others, I was first introduced to Lewis through the Narnia Chronicles, his extended allegory of the Christian gospel. Since then, I have been most influenced by The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and A Grief Observed. He seems to have been an extraordinary man and a faithful Christian.

It interests me that both liberals and conservatives seem to revere Lewis; Evangelicals, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics all look to him for wisdom and seem to claim him as one of their own. I am never quite sure what that means, but a couple of years ago when I was in a faculty-staff study at Assumption College with all Roman Catholics reading a collection of his sermons (The Weight of Glory)I did remind them more than once that he was in fact an Anglican! Perhaps we see what we want to see in great men. Or perhaps it means that Lewis was, indeed a "mere" Christian and that light shines through regardless of the lens through which we view him.

For my own part, I love Lewis because he sought to love God with both head and heart and never fell into the trap of seeing those as mutually exclusive. "I believe in Christianity," he once wrote, "as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." That's pretty good stuff.

And so, too, I think, is this - simple and clear (in the spirit of Jesus) for an Oxford don: "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

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