Thursday, 5 February 2015

Who has been the most important Christian writer in recent decades?

If you think about CS Lewis, my guess is that everybody in this room has read at least one book by him. 

In almost every setting in which I speak, if I ask the question "Have you read a book by CS Lewis?" either everybody or almost-everybody is going to put up their hand.

I can mention any other Christian writer from any point in history, and the same thing does not happen.

God has used CS Lewis to bring very large numbers of people to faith in Christ - we'll only find out how many in the Kingdom.

Jerram Barrs speaking


Since CS Lewis had such an important role in my own conversion to Christianity, I tend to take-for-granted Lewis's exceptional importance as a winner of souls for Christ in the English-speaking world; but sometimes the fact strikes me afresh and astonishing, as when I heard the above.

And furthermore Lewis is generally regarded with gratitude, respect and reverence by most types of Christian: evangelical protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Mormon - and no doubt others.

Clearly, then, most people who read, love, benefit-from Lewis are not taking him as the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth - rather, they are finding truth in-him; which is an attitude of considerable maturity and tolerance and positivity on the part of a wide range of Christians.

Since Lewis has a specific and somewhat distinctive theology, it seems clear that it cannot be the theology which people value; but something altogether more personal and inspirational.


My hope for the future of CS Lewis is that people focus less on his theology, and more on his morality - that is, on the social basis for his Christianity - Lewis's 'political' views. The same applies to Tolkien.

Lewis regarded himself as a pre-modern personality, a 'dinosaur'; and Tolkien felt much the same - they both felt that there was something profound wrong about modernity - something profoundly un-natural and something which made individual people and society as a whole vulnerable to open-ended extremes of evil; in particular to the deeply corrupt and perverse moral inversion of first denying the importance of good and evil, then denying the reality of good and evil, and finally regarding evil as good, good as evil.

This is where we are now, substantially, as a society and as individuals - confused, unwilling, unable, and inverted about good and evil; and this condition includes many of Lewis's great admirers (and even more of Tolkien's).

We have gone from being a society that knew good and evil and wished for good but where most people failed to live by their wishes;to a society that knows good and evil but buries this knowledge beneath self-confusion, self deception, complications, fear and constraint so that - for the first time ever - we live by an inverted morality.

Yet our inverted morality is not any kind of stark heroic Nietzscheian defiance of God; but a thoroughly muddled, cowardly, weaselling and dishonest pseudo-moralising - it is the banal, insidious, dull and depressing evil of faceless bureaucracy and fake public relations.

As a society, we reject even the goal of honesty - because real honesty is based-on acknowledging the stark, simple clarity of reality based on divinity; and instead wallow in the pseudo-sophisticated, contrived complexities of muddle and dishonesty and incoherence - a situation which gives us license to indulge ourselves according to whim and expediency.

But the muddle and dishonesty based on denial of real reality is a situation which dissolves all meaning, purpose and true relationships; and leaves us as merely points of temporary self consciousness for whom pleasure and suffering are the only - but temporary and unpredictable and arbitrary - realities.

Lewis (and Tolkien) saw all this; and were clear about all this - but many or most of their admirers bracket-it-out; and set it aside as merely outdated reactionary politics.

Not so - if we truly admire and understand Lewis and Tolkien, we too must be dinosaurs.


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