Having given you two Apostles, a martyr, an early mediaeval Celt, and an Eastern Father, I felt that it was time to give you a Protestant. My favourites are Thomas Cranmer, John Wesley (I think), and C.S. Lewis. The first two have feasts in the BCP calendar, so I’ve chosen the last for this week.
Dr. Lewis has been much discussed, of course, both in Christian circles and in literary ones. What can I say that will help you see him better or read him more? Very little, I imagine.
In grade 10, I wrote an essay about C.S. Lewis as my hero. I’m not going to reproduce that entity, but here are some reasons why C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite Protestants:
There is something to be loved in a non-Classicist (or anyone, really) who has read St. Athanasius’ De Incarnatione in Greek and proclaimed it, “As readable as Xenophon.” (See his “Introduction” to the same). Lewis was a scholar who knew lots of stuff. In fact, he was a scholar of Mediaeval and Renaissance English literature (hence his works The Allegory of Love and A Preface to Paradise Lost). Nevertheless, he had skills and knowledge beyond his own field. He knew Latin and Greek, and Italian (I think). He read more than simply Mediaeval and Renaissance English literature and the scholarship surrounding it. And when he read theology, he didn’t limit himself to the outpourings of the 19th and 20th centuries or even to his own language.
He had a deep respect for the ancient.
He knew reason and logic, as seen in his analysis of the rationality of miracles and the supernatural in Miracles or in his lucid explanations of Christianity in Mere Christianity. He had been an atheist, but at some point (1930?), due to his long, reasoned conversations with friends (such as Dr. J.R.R. Tolkien) became a Christian — reluctantly, for Galilean fishermen hold little allure for men steeped in the glories of mediaeval literature. Once convinced of the reality of the Christian Gospel, he gave himself over to it and its defence (see the essays in God in the Dock).
He knew the poetic. He wrote poetry, some of it even in Greek metres. He wrote the flashingly brilliant prose of his Space (or Cosmic) Trilogy, as in the vision of the Divine in Perelandra. Indeed, here we see also that, although he was acquainted with reason and logic, he did not limit himself to these two modes of operation. He took in the poetic and likely even the mystical and seemed to revel in it.
If we return to him as a scholar, the fact that he wrote books about his discipline (others not mentioned being Studies in Words, An Experiment in Criticism, The Discarded Image) and loved it did not prevent him from writing about matters theological (as in Fern-Seed and Elephants, The Abolition of Man) nor from writing more literature for others to read (The Chronicles of Narnia, the Cosmic Trilogy, Till We Have Faces) and creatures in between theology and “literature” (The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce).
That last paragraph reflects the sort of scholar I want to be.
Also, he saw why to avoid Prayer Book revision — we are too divided theologically and have no one with the brilliant synthesising mind of Thomas Cranmer (Prayer: Letters to Malcolm). This last point is one that rings clearly to me as an Anglican living on the other side of the liturgical “renewal” of the sixties and seventies.
How could I not admire this prolific writer and Christian man? If there were more C.S. Lewises, the world would be a brighter place.