Reading C.S. Lewis (carefully)
It has caused me to reflect on why I like Lewis so much, even when I think he occassionally misses the mark.
I read C.S. Lewis for at least three reasons. The obvious one is that Lewis, like no one else, helps me understand things in ways I hadn’t before. Second, I find him to be a sheer delight to read. It is rare that I read Lewis without at least one chuckle along the way. But my favorite reason is that Lewis trains my mind to think in ways I would not otherwise think. It’s not just that he teaches me how to understand topics about which he has written. He helps me see patterns, principles, and insights about a host of topics of which he never wrote.
Lewis was spared the world of blogs, text messaging, twitter, and the like. I can only imagine what Screwtape would have said about these modern wonders! But his insights about chronological snobbery or the priority of old books or the importance of keeping second things second shed light on social networking techniques and many other mainstays of the twenty-first century.
He’s not just a tour guide pointing out sights to see. Lewis gives me lenses through which to see.
The author of Mere Christianity taught me how to evaluate arguments against the faith, even ones he never addressed. The preacher of The Weight of Glory enables me to see joy in the midst of disappointments – even post 9/11 varieties. The educator who penned The Abolition of Man changes the way I read The Chronicle of Higher Education. And the dreamer who invented Narnia helps me rejoice in a world that, at times, feels like it’s “always winter and never Christmas.”
But he’s not perfect. And so, Lewis also trains me, ironically, to not accept everything any individual human writer offers. On some points, Lewis was just plain wrong – no matter how eloquently he worded it. For example, he suggests the possibility of salvation through other faiths – a position soundly rejected by evangelicals for many decades, even centuries. He sometimes relied on logic more than Scripture and that got him into theological trouble. So…his writings are not inerrant. I know only one book that meets that criteria. I read that book more than I read Lewis. He would approve. It’s an old book.