"Jack": Convert, "Mere" Christian, and Near Catholic | Michael Coren | CWR
The books and stories of C.S. Lewis, who died fifty years ago this month, continue to engage minds and capture hearts
He liked to be called Jack. Plain Jack.
But Clive Staples Lewis, arguably the greatest communicator of the Christian message in the 20th century, was anything but plain. He died on November 22, 1963, the same day as Aldous Huxley and President Kennedy, and while Lewis never completed the journey from Anglican to Catholic, he was well on the way; according to his last secretary Walter Hooper – whom am I proud to call a good friend – it was inevitably and only a matter of time.
Although evangelicals have adopted him as one of their own, this sacramental, liturgical Christian who smoked and drank was always a Catholic at heart. He wrote Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Surprised by Joy, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, among so many other titles. Several of his Narnia books have been made into movies, and commercialism being what it is, there is now a thunderstorm of books and videos. But it is a sweet rain and in this case it is a joy to be made wet. Lewis would have laughed at such antics, always considering himself to be an ordinary teacher and an ordinary Christian.
In fact, Lewis was a most extraordinary teacher. A lecturer at both Oxford and Cambridge, he was considered one of the finest minds of his generation by fellow professors. His English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama and The Allegory of Love are still considered to be academic masterpieces. But it is Lewis the Christian who changed the world. His genius was the ability to convey highly complicated and complex ideas in a straightforward and understandable manner. Like some grand knight of common sense he charged through the ranks of cluttered thinking, double-talk, and atheism, seldom taking any prisoners.
Lewis declared himself a Christian in 1929, “perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” It was as though he had tried to avoid the inevitable, considering every argument against Christianity, forcing himself to take on all of the objections his fertile mind could produce. Each one he overcame. By the time his intellect was well and truly won over his emotional being simply fell into place. From this point on everything he wrote was informed and enlivened by his Christianity. But Lewis was too subtle and too clever to knock people over the head with his faith. He knew that talking was far more effective than shouting.