One of the most widely respected figures
identified as an evangelical Christian, Lewis was a prolific author, an imaginative
thinker, and a serious scholar whose work sparked the interest of wide audiences
around the world. His writing is enjoyed by children, provokes renewed interest
in Christianity on the part of skeptics and agnostics, and continues to be read
by adults eager for a more robust faith, freed from the stultifying influences
of rigid orthodoxy.
The most recent evidence of this appeal is the popular
of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. In this series of children's
books, now appearing on theater screens worldwide, Lewis made an effort to express
the deep truths of the Christian faith in a fresh vocabulary that might appeal
to those, like himself, who at one time or another have have rejected Christianity,
quite possibility because of the unimaginative ways in which it is often expressed.
In this his effort parallels that of R.R. Tolkien who followed a similar path
in his Lord of the Rings
Still, the comparison that struck me most powerfully in watching
this first Chronicles movie, was with Mel Gibson's The
Passion of the Christ. I find it ironic that while Gibson asserts that he
is sticking with the literal truth of the gospel, he clearly compresses and distorts
its message, while Lewis, in a work of fiction, manages to convey the subtlety
of the New Testament faith in ways that are at once more entertaining and more
Consider this: the focus of Gibson's film is the bloody and
agonizing death of one man. Even if the viewer is willing to suspend all disbelief
and accept the figure at the center of all the bloodshed as the Son of God, the
film conveys one basic message. The death of Jesus was horrible; it was agonizing;
it was heart wrenching. It was not, however, any more agonizing that the deaths
of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens in the latest human bloodfest.
By contrast, in the Chronicles a far wider range of experience is reflected. The
imaginative world of Narnia mirrors both the evil and the good, both the violence
and the possibility of redemption, both the beauty and the color of the world
we all inhabit if we only look behind the curtain of our own adult consciousness
and see the grace that lies within.
Lewis[Clive Staples Lewis] British scholar,
novelist, and author of about 40 books, most of them on Christian apologetics,
the most widely known being The Screwtape Letters. He also achieved fame
with a trilogy of science-fiction novels and with the Chronicles of Narnia, a
series of seven children's books that have become classics of fantasy literature.
World War I, Lewis fought in France with the Somerset Light Infantry and was wounded
in 1917. The following year he went to University College, Oxford, where he achieved
an outstanding record as a classical scholar. From 1925 to 1954 he was a fellow
and tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford, and from 1954 to 1963 he was professor
of medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge.
lapsed into atheism
in his teens but experienced a reconversion to Christianity in 1931. His first
work to attract attention was The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology
for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism (1933). In 1936 came the critical
and characteristic Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, considered
by many to be his finest scholarly work. The first of his science fiction novels
(a genre then scarcely known), Out of the Silent Planet (1938), was followed
by the equally remarkable fictions Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous
Strength (1945). These three books, which form one of the best of all science
fiction trilogies, canter on an English linguist named Ransom who voyages to Mars
and Venus and becomes involved in a cosmic struggle between good and evil in the
The Problem of Pain (1940) brought him wide recognition as a lay expositor
of Christian apologetics, but it was far exceeded by the fictional best-selling
Screwtape Letters (1942). This satire consists of 31 letters in which
an elderly, experienced devil named Screwtape instructs his junior, Wormwood,
in the subtle art of tempting a young Christian convert. Lewis' first story for
children was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), the first of
seven tales about the kingdom of Narnia. The Narnia books are exciting, often
humorous, inventive, and, in the final scenes of The Last Battle (1956),
deeply moving. Notable among Lewis' other books are a volume of autobiography,
Surprised by Joy; The Shape of My Early Life (1955), and a novel based
on the story of Psyche and Cupid, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956).
Lewis, Clive Staples
(1898-1963). British scholar of English literature, writer and Christian apologist.
As an Oxford don in the 1920s, C. S. Lewis moved from atheism
to committed Christianity, specifically to an evangelical Anglicanism.
most popular Christian works are The Screwtape Letters (1942), relating
the advice given by a senior devil to his subordinate in luring a human subject
away from salvation; Mere Christianity (1952, but originally a series
of radio talks begun in 1941); and his spiritual autobiography Surprised by
Joy. A science-fiction trilogy (1938-45) and the seven children's books known
as the Chronicles of Narnia (1950-6) incorporate Christian themes allegorically.
The death of his wife, Joy Davidson, evoked the searching record of his grief,
A Grief Observed (first published under the name N. W. Clerk).
John Bowker, ed., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (2000).
(Oxford University Press)
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.