C.S. Lewis is the man. Let me just say that right now. If he had lived 1800 years earlier, he would have had at least one book in the Bible, I have no doubt. Go into a bookstore or your favorite online bookseller and select literally any book he ever wrote—every single one of them are classics. Well, except maybe for Till We Have Faces; unless you’re really really into the whole mythology behind the story of Cupid and Psyche you probably won’t get much out of it. But every other book he wrote is just absolutely chock-full of his classic wit, penetrating insight, and abundant imagination.
Lewis is a maestro at taking complex theological ideas and explaining them in such a simple and obvious way that even the most untrained layman can understand. And not only does he explain it well, he does so in a way which preserves and even highlights the mystery and awe of an eternal being, never watering a subject down or turning our faith into dry academia. Have you read Narnia as an adult? You’ll get ten times more out of that series now than you ever did as a child.
Lately I’ve been reading God In The Dock. It’s a collection of short essays and speeches that he gave at various times and places throughout his life. Most of them are sheer brilliance—the man can put more depth of insight into one sentence than I ever could over the whole course of my writing life. One essay in particular stood out to me as being an especially good fit with the style and message of The Skeptical Believer, and so I will reprint it here in sections over the next couple days.
For anyone who enjoys the subject matter and style of The Skeptical Believer, I can’t recommend C.S. Lewis highly enough. He is one of the three men (and one mother) who have shaped my view of spirituality more than any other; his influence on me personally cannot be overstated. It’s tough to decide which books to recommend first. So many of them are considered classics and essential reading, but if I had to pick just one it would probably be Mere Christianity. It’s sort of a ‘Christianity 101’, a defense not only of the faith but its rationality. You hear so many people today mocking Christians for being easily-led, mindless people who believe in dead men’s fairy-tales, but reading this book will remind you not only of the rationality of the Christian faith, but that brilliant minds have always embraced it.
In some of the circles I travel in, one finds so many straw-men set up purporting to depict the Christian faith (some of them are so flimsy that the supposedly intellectually ‘superior’ people setting them up really ought to be ashamed of themselves) that one can be forgiven for starting to think that maybe belief in Jesus really is nothing more than a feel-good story for stupid people. Reading authors like C.S. Lewis is a balm to that discouragement, reminding you that there have always been men and women of truly giant, formidable intellect throughout history who have weighed the claims of Christ and found them to be the absolute pinnacle of truth and sanity in the universe.
Also on the tops of my C.S. Lewis reading list:
- The Screwtape Letters—probably the most sheer fun of his works, even though the subject is quite serious.
- The Chronicles of Narnia—they don’t make for very good movies, for the very reasons that make them some of the best “children’s” literature ever written. There is far too much nuance for any mass-marketed movie to ever be able to relate. As a kid, they’re ripping good yarns. As an adult, you’ll catch all the spiritual themes and recapture the lost art of awe, of fear and trembling before a power so far beyond your own, and of the mystery and majesty of God.
Some of his biographies are quite interesting as well. The Narnian is probably the best-written and most well-researched, but I also highly enjoyed Jack, as it was written by someone who actually knew him personally and is able to retell several anecdotes that really get you close to the man. He had such a peculiar life that it makes me appreciate his writing that much more, because it comes from someone so human.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.