In Christian Praise of: C.S. Lewis
One of my biggest heroes, and quite simply, one of the great Christian thinkers of the Twentieth Century.
Born in Belfast in 1898, Lewis fought in the First World War, before becoming a Don, first at University College, then at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was also a hardline athiest throughout most of his life, until he was thirty.
So what is so special about him! Well he managed to keep his arguments for Christianity down to brass tacks. He avoided the doctrinal disputes that caused conflict between denominations (You could argue that Lewis was an early and prominent ecumenist), which was ironic considering his birthplace, and he put forward his arguments in a stimulating and thoughtful manner without being too intellectual or highbrow, which helped to secure a wide audience.
He also took full advantage of where he felt spiritually and emotionally vulnerable and turned it to an advantage. When his wife died, he wrote a book (under an psuedonym) about his feelings of anger and depression and tried to make sense of where God was within all the chaos. How many people would do that!
But he also knew when he made mistakes. When he was humiliated at an Oxford debate by Elizabeth Anscombe, concerning the logical argument for God, Lewis was worried that this might be confused as a disproof of God himself.
He therefore used arguments for God's existence, based on intuitive faith and feeling. Quite difficult to combine the two.
Lewis is also well known for putting forward the trilemma argument for Christ's divinity, being:
Jesus was telling falsehoods and knew it, and so he was a liar.
Jesus was telling falsehoods but believed he was telling the truth, and so he was insane.
Jesus was telling the truth, and so he was divine.
To be fair though, whilst I am convinced, the trilemma argument is contentious, although I think the argument of Christ being fictional is somewhat spurious.
Lewis is also well known for writing the Narnia series of books for children, as well as some science-fiction, textbooks on medieval and reniassance literature, and poetry, and was also a contributor of BBC Radio broadcats during the Second World War. He was also a member of a literary group called The Inklings (which included J.R.R. Tolkein), who sometimes met at the Eagle and Child pub in St Giles', Oxford.
(BTW I remember being in Oxford some five years ago, and when I was on my own for part of the afternoon, I visited the pub and sat with a pint in the celebrated corner, whilst reading a chapter of The Lord of the Rings. I honestly didn't realise the irony until I snapped my book shut and put the book back in my bag)
Finally, on a personal note, I gave a paper on Lewis's popularity at Queen's University, Belfast some seven years ago (The only time in my life I have done such a thing), and met several people who knew Lewis there. A retired diplomat who was a student of his, a retired Northern Ireland politican who bumped into him at an Oxford cafe in the 1950s, and his secretary. All very different people, all of them didn't know him for very long, and yet Lewis clearly had a profound affect on all their lives, simply from having known him.