C.S. Lewis, Evangelism, and Cultural Engagement

by Jerry Root

C. S. Lewis denied he was a theologian but he did declare “I am a rhetor.”[1]

Since all rhetoric is persuasive—whether it be a request for someone to pass the salt or a shouted warning to flee a burning building—it is safe to say that through the spoken word as well as the written word Lewis sought to persuade.

However, his methods were not manipulative. He was committed to objective value, seeking to follow the truth where ever it led. He was a truth seeker and attempted to be a truth teller. This was true of Lewis as a rhetor and no less true of him as an evangelist.

Lewis wanted to point people to God. Although he was not always comfortable in the role of an evangelist, he was true to this task and regarded it as a necessary one.

That is, he sought to persuade others to accept the message of the Christian gospel—or good news—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19).

One need not survey for long the over 70 titles that bear his name to discover his evangelistic passion. He wrote letters explaining, “…it is our duty to do all we can to convert unbelievers.”[2] He declared this in his essays, “To convert one’s adult neighbour and one’s adolescent neighbour (just free from school) is the practical thing.”[3]

He added, with a sense of urgency, “If you make the adults of today Christian, the children of tomorrow will receive a Christian education. What a society has, that, be sure and nothing else, it will hand on to its young.”[4]

Furthermore, Lewis wrote that, “He who converts his neighbor has performed the most practical Christian-political act of all.”[5]

One can do all in his or her power to change society and transform social institutions but, until individual hearts are transformed the society will remain the same. Lewis believed this and, therefore, evangelism was as important to his own spiritual disciplines as daily prayer, Bible study, church attendance, and sacrificial giving to meet the needs of others…

C.S. Lewis, Evangelism, and Cultural Engagement