CS Lewis

Continuing in this little attempt to list some of the reasons for becoming Catholic, I come to CS Lewis.  As I said elsewhere, CS Lewis was probably single-handedly responsible for me taking Christianity seriously.  I developed an interest in it from him, and was formed in it by him.  And although he is deeply loved by Evangelicals as a preacher of Mere Christianity, he was a person who was deeply formed by the ancient Faith of the Catholic Church.  And so, as I was being formed by him, I was being formed by a much richer and deeper Christianity than was popularly available at your local non-denom church, which I was attending at the time.  In fact, while I remember it, I might add that, after I had long since started to feel the official tug of the Church, one of my main reasons for remaining Protestant was that, well, CS Lewis remained Protestant.   He was a smart Protestant who held to these various Catholic beliefs.  Why couldn’t I do that?  Overcoming this attachment to him was a big step I would later have to face.

So CS Lewis was a crypto-Catholic.  Wait.  What?  He was?  Well, yes.  He is most known for his Narnia Chronicles, which I haven’t read.  He is also very well known for his Mere Christianity, but that book was essentially a stripping back of Christianity to those elements which all Christians of good-will have in common.  It didn’t represent the fullness of his belief and practice.  And yet even in that irenic ecumenical book, there are things in it which, upon further reflection, would have been outright rejected by most Evangelicals if they hadn’t a priori been smitten with Lewis.  I think especially of his analogy of faith and works as twin blades of a pair of scissors.  Neither blade can do the work alone.  So right there, in the first serious book I read about Christianity, I was already being formed in something other than sola fide.

CS Lewis was a turn-of-the-20th-Century Anglican, which means that he was alive when that denomination started the long decline to what it has become today.  But it also means that he was very familiar with Cardinal Newman.  And so, somewhere, CS Lewis embraces the doctrine of purgatory, praising the way that Newman framed the doctrine.  So purgatory was a part of my Christianity from the start.  Later in his life, he went to confession weekly, and though that wasn’t part of my practice, he planted the seed of my longing for that sacrament.  He confessed in a letter somewhere, that his view of the Eucharist was almost “magical”, so I began to seriously consider the possibility of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist because of him.

Some other things that aren’t specifically Catholic, but which, in embracing them, distanced me from the more Evangelical/Fundamentalist view of things… In The Problem of Pain, he sets forth his view of a theistic form of evolution, describing St. Jerome as having compared the Genesis narrative to a folktale (though I have never been able to track that reference).  Being a graduate student in the biosciences, this helped me tremendously in the reconciliation of faith and science, and also primed me for the Church where such views are not viewed with raised eyebrow.  In fact, his views of Scripture were also not of the literalistic kind one frequently finds in the circles I was running.  Which is something else which primed me for the Catholic views of Scripture.

He also spoke in various places of the value of suffering, and how any suffering could be redemptive, not just those associated with the faith.  He was very strong in decrying a false sort of sentimentalism for the early joys of conversion, choosing rather to embrace the aridity of later years for what they are: God’s way of growing us up.  This was especially helpful in understanding my increasing discomfort with the way a vibrant Christian faith was often equated with certain feelings.

And of course, the guy loved his beer and was practically a chain smoker, which gradually led me to a more precise view of the goodness of the created order.  Alcohol and tobacco weren’t sinful.  Humans were who misused these things.

CS Lewis also held some pretty strong anti-Catholic views.  As I said before, overcoming these views of his was a difficult task for me later in my journey.  However, early on, they were “the perfect cover”.  They enabled to learn the Catholic faith, all the while suspecting I was actually becoming a better Christian, by which I meant, of course, Protestant Christian.  In fact, it is precisely these anti-Catholic views which make him, in my opinion, such a great Catholic apologist.  Most Protestants trust him implicitly.  Little do they suspect he is our Catholic Trojan Horse.

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~ by Rob on May 16, 2008.

One Response to “CS Lewis”

  1. […] CS Lewis […]

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