Saturday, August 16, 2008

Remembering C S Lewis

If you have yet to read C.S. Lewis Remembered (2006 Zondervan), you are missing some great insights into the enigmatic author of such diverse books as The Chronicles of Narnia series, Mere Christianity, and English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama. Remembered is a compilation of interviews with and essays by those who had contact with Lewis through the years as colleague, student, acquaintance or friend. It also includes a reprint of an interview on Science Fiction Lewis did for SFHorizons Magazine shortly before his death.

The picture that emerges of "Jack," as his friends called him, is of a highly intelligent scholar relentless in the pursuit of truth, yet winsomely jovial and generous to a fault. The contributors for this book do not all share Lewis's faith, but they are all admirers. Those who are believers are not all of the same "stripe" of Christianity. Many comment how Lewis, while living out his Faith, did not try to "ram it down their throats."

In the 1950's Dorothy L. Sayers*, author of the play The Man Born to Be King, wrote an essay for the magazine World Theater (Winter 1955-56) titled "Playwrights are not Evangelists." Her argument was that Christian playwrights should above all strive to produce good plays, rather than merely seek to evangelize. "A drama (or any other work of art) will not by itself make anybody a Christian. It can provoke attention and stir the heart..." but not convert the soul.

What Sayers wrote about playwrights applies equally to the works of Lewis, including his so-called theological works. When he set out to write a novel, I do not think he was thinking of the best way to manipulate people in order to turn them to God. He was seeking to write a good story. Nor did he assume that his non-fiction would create Christians. Certainly his desire was to be convincing, but he knew that intellectual persuasion and emotional manipulation are not the same as conversion. Salvation comes by the Word of God through the power of the Spirit of God. (1 Peter 1:23, Romans 10:17, Titus 3:5)

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for Christianity is a life well lived. C. S. Lewis lived his faith, as testified by those who knew him. Christians should strive to be the best they can be in whatever vocation in which they find themselves. If you are a playwright, be the best playwright you can be. If you are a novelist, be the best novelist you can be. I make my living as a welder. Living the Christian life, for me, means being the best welder I can be. Good craftsmanship will not convert the soul. but hopefully it will "provoke interest" so that I can be an influence. Whether my writing "provokes interest" I leave to you to decide.

*Sayers was an Oxford graduate who was friend of Lewis, mostly through written correspondence, and admirer of Charles Williams, a member of the Inklings--a writers group that included Lewis and JRR Tolkien. She is famous for her "religious" plays performed during World War 2, and her earlier Lord Peter Wimsey detective stories.

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