Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on C. S. Lewis

cs-lewis

In the last decade a slew of Narnia movies were released in theaters and, though C. S. Lewis has been gone more than 50 years, his books are still as popular as ever. He’s the famous atheist-turned-Christian, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of C. S. Lewis—and why he still matters today.

Who Was C. S. Lewis?

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) was an Irish-born Anglican thinker and author who taught English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Lewis served in the English Army during World War I and converted from atheism to Christianity when he was in his early 30s. During World War II, Lewis presented talks on the BBC radio station titled “The Case for Christianity.” Lewis was a member of the famous Inklings literary discussion group at Oxford University that also included such distinguished authors as Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and J. R. R. Tolkien. He was married late in life to Joy Davidman Gresham whose death from cancer led Lewis to write the book A Grief Observed. Lewis died on November 22, 1963, the same day as the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and author Aldous Huxley.

What Did C. S. Lewis Write?

Lewis is well known for his extremely popular fictional writings, like the children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia as well as his science fiction series The Space Trilogy. But perhaps his two most important apologetics-related books are Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain. In the first he explains and defends the basic (or common) truths of Christianity whereas in the second he tackles the monumental challenge of pain, suffering, and evil.

What Did C. S. Lewis Believe?

C. S. Lewis was an orthodox Anglican, yet he was well known for emphasizing the common ground that all Christians share. Arguably, Lewis’s three most important ideas or arguments for the God of Christian theism are the following:

  1. Argument from desire: A man’s longing for meaning and transcendence in life is best explained as a pointer to God and to the reality of an unseen world.
  2. Argument from reason: The source and foundation of reason cannot be explained through atheistic naturalism; reason instead points to God as the Source.
  3. Moral argument: The human conscience and the existence of objective moral laws reveal a moral Lawgiver.

These three apologetics arguments are part of Lewis’ overall cumulative case in attempting to show that Christianity is the best explanation of reality.

 

CRASH COURSE_ LEWIS

Why Does C. S. Lewis Matter Today?

Some conservative evangelicals criticize Lewis for viewing Scripture as less than biblically inerrant, and for embracing a view of creation that was something similar to theistic evolution. And, yes, there is some merit to these criticisms. However, Lewis is widely considered the most popular Christian writer and apologist of the twentieth century. His book Mere Christianity was voted the most important Christian book of that century, and his Chronicles of Narnia series is among the bestselling fictional books in history. Maybe Lewis’ greatest legacy, however, is the large number of people who have been attracted to Christianity because of his writings—as well as the many Christians who have taken up the role of Christian thinker and apologist because of him.

Other articles in the Christian Thinkers 101 series: St. Augustine

Reflections: Your Turn

Lewis said that he believed in Christianity because of the faith’s great scope of explanation concerning reality. What does Christianity explain about life and human beings that other belief systems struggle to match?

Resources

  One thought on “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on C. S. Lewis

  1. April 7, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for another insightful post on an important thinker. I’ve been looking forward to more of this series! I’m hopeful we may get Paley, Butler, and perhaps some other interesting people like Madeleine L’engle.

    C.S. Lewis, I think, drives a lot of theology and apologetics to this day. Strangely, though, some aspects of his theology are ignored. As you noted, his view of Scripture is different from that of evangelicalism. I think it would be better for us to interact with his views on that kind of thing than to downplay or ignore them. We may learn from the experience. Bravo for taking note.

    • April 7, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks, JW.

      There is a new movie apparently coming out soon about the Lewis-Tolkien friendship. Might make an interesting film.

      All the best.

      Ken Samples

  2. April 7, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Reblogged this on Is Christianity True?.

    • April 8, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Steve:

      Thank you for the reblog.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  3. Rita Gorski
    April 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I enjoyed your 101 on C.S. Lewis because I’m a big fan of his. I would highly recommend some of his other books such as, Surprised by Joy, Miracles, The Abolition of Man, and even his own journal that he kept for several years (although a bit tedious). And others. The former shows his enormous intelligence (as they all do) and his progression to Christianity. I felt like I got to know him personally (and wish I had). I respect him due to the tremendous “bowing down” before this Other Person that he fought so heartily to resist, and said that his greatest offense was when someone interrupted him, which of course the Lord loves to do in our lives. He humbly surrendered completely. His Miracles book is one of the best I’ve read on Naturalism (evolution) vs.Creationism. A great man.

    • April 13, 2016 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks, Rita.

      Great comments.

      I wish I could have met him as well.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  4. April 15, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Ken, thank you for the snapshot of one of my early favorite authors.
    Here’s my turn for reflections:

    Non-Christian belief systems all boil down to being a man-centered view of life. But all our earthly lives are nothing but vapors that soon vanish. Yes there have been a small percentage of great humans throughout history that many of us know and remember and who even influence us centuries after their deaths. But all the other worldviews cannot avoid the consequence that the final outcome of our expanding universe without the intervention of an almighty Creator would be a burnt-out cold and lifeless void, when ultimately nothing human will remain. That is not a pleasant reality in the end, even though it would be billions and billions years away.

    Even the non-Christian belief systems that assert the existence of a creator (but not the God of the Bible), and an afterlife, still put man in control of their existence. But all humans are finite creatures, and we have no independence outside of our physical bodies, which are inevitably decaying. And each of us has harmed another in some way. All the other worldviews cannot explain how humans can escape their finite limits and penetrate into the presence and purity of the power that designed and created all life and all we see and experience. The Creator could not be who He is if He allowed any impurity in action or in thought to be with Him in His perfect glory. Our only hope is to admit our limitations and failings and our need, and be covered and escorted into His presence by God Himself, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, as He chose to give to us through the Hebrew nation, and as revealed and recorded in what is called The Bible.

    • April 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      MadeFromDirt:

      I appreciate your reflections.

      Thanks.

      Ken Samples

  5. Charles Payne
    May 7, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Another insight on Lewis by a former student is A Severe Mercy – by Sheldon Vanauken – makes you wish you could join Lewis for a pint at the pub; shows Lewis’s huge generosity

    • May 7, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      Thanks, Charles, for the recommendation. It must have been great to have joined Lewis and his friends for a drink and discussion.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  6. May 17, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Love this type of christians, after growing up with fundamentalist parents, I’m thankful I found Lewis and Heisenberg to show me that not only that God is not irrational, but that my rationality only makes my faith stronger.

    • May 18, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Diego:

      Thank you for your comments.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  7. May 17, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Love this type of christians, after growing up with fundamentalist parents, I’m thankful I found Lewis and Heisenberg to show me that not only is God not irrational, but that my rationality only makes my faith stronger.

  8. Bob Svitek
    June 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    It best ‘fits’ in with what ‘other’belief systems ‘try to match’.
    bob

    • June 28, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks, Bob.

      Ken Samples

  9. August 9, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Other Believes – The thinking of the world. (All point to human being in control)

    Christianity – There must be a Source to everything. ( Genesis 1; John 1)

  10. Olajide
    August 24, 2016 at 12:21 am

    Reblogged this on PhantomX.

    • August 24, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Thank you for the reblog.

      Ken Samples

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