Moving Beyond CS Lewis?

by André Z

cslewis-booksCS Lewis still provides a great read and he has been an important figure in my own journey of working out my faith. But I cringe a little when, as repeatedly happens, Christian people hear I’m into philosophy and science and such and they recommend I read the author of the Narnia books.

I’ve been reading some of his works for quite a while and they’re great, with plenty of insights into the poverty of a purely secular life – but they’re not the only thing out there if you’re looking for a critically engaged faith. (There’s perhaps a similar deal with Francis Schaeffer, but I struggle to think of other Christian thinkers who people in the pews would tend to know. For the rest of the post, I’ll refer to Lewis, as representative and chief of a possibly larger tribe; I’m open to being convinced anyway.)

I’m curious about what causes the phenomenon which I clumsily christen “you’re a Christian into thinking? Oh well (it’s a pity you can’t play the guitar); but quick, you better read CS Lewis!” The Church is not noted for being fast and trendy and up to date, but that’s not the whole story. I don’t have any evidence for the claim, but I suspect CS Lewis has been popular for a long time i.e. the Church hasn’t only just discovered him; and more fundamentally, that previous generations, who were more likely to read books and keep up to date with the world of literature, were better acquainted with a few defenders of the faith who were not long-dead at the time.

I’m not advocating the sin of chronological snobbery and I know that new and shiny stuff often soon enough hits the trash pile, but in my opinion, people really need to know that God is alive in the academy today and He’s worth taking as seriously as He ever was. That’s good news, but news which may be hard to hear above the dance/trance/pop/punk/thrashmetal-indie sounds of popular Christian culture and Christianity-lite ®. I have suggested the Church is slow in some respects, but it’s fast in others – making bad copies of non-religious pop culture arguably being one of our special skills.

If I sound bitter it’s only because, as much as I love the vibrancy of many of our churches, it’s not always well-rooted; and I hate to see people wander away from faith when they hit the combined power of big questions and the pressure of a society convinced that Christianity is irrelevant to things which really matter. Imagine if, in a society that slips away from literature, science and reason, the Church one again championed the life of the mind? Joining the rest in their slide is a short-term solution…

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