The Heart of C.S. Lewis’ Spiritual Legacy
by Brenton Dickieson
There is no doubt that C.S. Lewis has left a profound legacy for us, which I will talk about a bit on Friday, the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.
What we know most is what he wrote down. He has sold literally hundreds of millions of books in dozens of different genres. He made modest but important contributions to literary criticism and the history of ideas–things I’ve only begun to read recently. He is most well known as the creator of Narnia. They are valuable in that they are simply great stories, but they also transformed the children’s book industry. C.S. Lewis was an early fantasy and science fiction writer, and tested boundaries with experimental literature like The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. His last novel, Till We Have Faces, is almost forgotten, but could be a classic.
And then there are the Christian books. Again and again I hear from people that Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and Surprised by Joy have been transformational books, drawing readers into faith for the first time, or helping them as they struggle Godwards. For many, The Screwtape Letters has helped them redefine Christian practice, Reflections on the Psalms has helped them recover sacred Scripture, and Letters from Malcolm has helped them find prayer in their lives for the first time.
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Not to mention that during WWII, Lewis was the second most recognized voice in Britain, as he shared poignant faith ideas on the BBC. There is no doubt that C.S. Lewis has left an astounding legacy. He is among the most important Christian writers of the 20th century.
None of this is surprising. A digital friend of mine, William O’Flaherty of the “All About Jack” broadcast, has begun collecting legacy articles celebrating the semicentennial of Lewis’ death. I don’t need to retell that story.
Part of my overall project with Lewis, though, is not the general consideration of his legacy, but to think about his theological legacy. The question I am trying to ask is this: “What is the heart of C.S. Lewis’ spiritual theology?”
This is different than the question, “What did Lewis believe?” Lots of people have written about that. It is also different than Lewis’ understanding of morality, his sense of right and wrong. That’s a great question, and I think time in Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man will get you there.
My question is a little different. Our spirituality or spiritual theology is the understanding we have of Christian discipleship. So I am trying to discern what principles Lewis followed in living out his conversion in every day life. While Lewis is known for words on a page, it is all the hours that fill up the day that really makes a man…