CS Lewis: 25 Percent Apologist, 100 Percent Effective

by William O’Flaherty

What can a person who’s been dead fifty years teach us? Actually any of the famous people who died in 1963 could speak (for good or for bad) to our society. However, I’d place my money not on John F. Kennedy or Aldous Huxley, but on C.S. Lewis as the person with the best message. In fact, because Lewis was such a multifaceted individual with so much to say to us even now, it is a challenge to pick which component to underscore.

The general public recognizes Lewis as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. While those in the church also associate him with these books, they usually equally identify him as the writer of Mere Christianity. Yet before either of these books were released he was on the cover of Time magazine in 1947. How could this be? Those well versed in Lewis facts know that the latter title was actually composed of three previously published books that were based on four series of radio broadcasts on the BBC.  However, you don’t see a microphone accompanying Lewis on Time’s cover. It’s a devil on his left shoulder and angel’s wings on his right.  The article underscored his “special gift for dramatizing Christian dogma.” He earned this description because of his best-selling book The Screwtape Letters. Yet, it had only been released in the U.S. four years earlier. As a side note, it’s interesting to observe Lewis’s only cover story was 66 years ago this year.

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It would be no surprised that the Time article additionally described Lewis as being “engaged in his full-time and favorite job.”  What was his full-time work? Readers here are likely aware that he was an Oxford don at the time, but those first learning about Lewis almost certainly did not. They would have been surprised to discover he wasn’t solely employed as a clergyman or at least a full-time religious writer. Even today, many are surprised to learn this fact. But, he wasn’t just an average lecturer and tutor at Oxford, he was so recognized as an expert in Medieval and Renaissance Literature that later Cambridge University persuaded him to leave Oxford to hold a newly founded Chair in just that specialty. Yet, despite being employed in such a “secular” position, he was considered as one of the most effective communicators of Christianity when he landed on Time‘s cover. Today, he is almost universally recognized as the best explainer and defender of the faith of the twentieth century…

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