C.S. LEWIS, MODERNITY’S GREATEST LITERARY EVANGELIST
A Short Course On C.S. Lewis With Dr. Peter Kreeft
A personal note: I find myself quoting Lewis more than any other author. His guardian angel is very much alive in my brain, moving around its molecules. I find him strikingly clear, even when writing about difficult ideas, always surprising even when writing about what is well known, and inexhaustible, like the sea to a fisherman. He keeps rewarding repeated rereadings—which is my practical definition of a great book and a great author. Above all, he exudes a constant honesty, holiness, and happiness (the true, the good, and the beautiful), that is uncompromising yet graceful and quiet. And he helps me unite my thinking, my living, and my praying as a Catholic Christian. He was not a Roman Catholic but an Anglican, or Anglo-Catholic, and focused on the essentials of what he called “mere Christianity,” but his spiritual gravity falls heavily on the Catholic rather than the Protestant side of every issue.
SURPRISED BY JOY is his spiritual autobiography and conversion story. I guarantee you will find at least those two things in it: great surprises and great joy. Its central theme is Augustine’s “restless heart,” and the heart’s search for a joy that is indefinable and unattainable yet demanding.
MERE CHRISTIANITY is his very clear, simple, and direct summary of Christianity for a BBC radio audience. Next to the Gospels, this is the book I recommend first to all non-Christians who want to know just what Christianity is. It remarkably combines clarity and profundity, and is equally praised by orthodox Catholics and Protestants.
THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, despite its shortness, is the most adequate and clear answer I know to the strongest argument for atheism and against faith in the Christian God. Also, 1 have never read any better account of both Heaven and Hell than the two short chapters in this book.
A GRIEF OBSERVED is a brief personal diary Lewis kept to record his agonizing reactions to the painful death of his young wife. It is a modern version of the Book of Job: the most harrowingly honest and helpful book I know about death and grieving, and strengthening our faith when it is most threatened. Books (3) and (4) naturally go together as the objective and subjective, intellectual and emotional, theological and personal, aspects of human suffering.
TILL WE HAVE FACES is Lewis’ very best book, and, I am convinced, one of the greatest novels ever written both for style (clear and clean) and content (deep and dark). Located in pagan, pre-Christian times, it plumbs the profundities of God’s providential plan for our messy lives, explores the turbulent relationship between faith and reason, and asks questions like “why must holy places be dark places?” Lewis’ wife helped him write this book; no mere man could have written it alone.
THE GREAT DIVORCE is a theological fantasy about Heaven and Hell and the everyday choices we make that determine our eternal destiny. It’s Dante’s “Divine Comedy” miniaturized, modernized, and psychologized. I’ve seen it performed on stage on four different occasions for four very different audiences, and all four were stunned to silence at it.