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November 14, 2005

Comments

Liam

Lewis was the most prominent Christian writer in the past 100 years?

In the world? Or just in the Anglosphere?

Jacob

Personally, I'd pick Tolkien over Lewis as the most prominent Christian writer in the English language in the past 100 years.

Do you think more people have read 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Mere Christianity'?

Plato's Stepchild

I'm surprised they didn't say:

"When CS Lewis kicked the bucket."

Fr. Rob Johansen

This is merely stupid:

This would be harmless except for the fact that they have managed to morph the real Jack Lewis into “St Jack of Oxford”, a version of himself he would have had trouble recognising. The puritans of America (a breed Lewis always loathed) have even tried to eradicate all references to alcohol and tobacco in his writing.

I'm a huge Lewis fan, and have read pretty much everything of his available in print, and many books about him. I've never encountered the "St. Jack" sort of thing in writings about him.

Lewis loved a drink, he loved to smoke and he continued to enjoy his cigarettes when his doctors told him that they would hasten his death. For more than 40 years he smoked 60 a day between pipes. He actively disliked non-smokers and merrily mocked teetotallers.

All of which could be gathered by reading almost any two of his essays.

And then there was sex. As a youth Lewis revelled in vivid and cruel fantasies. He also loved bawdy songs and ancient poetry bordering on the pornographic.

He touches on these things obliquely in his autobiography "Surprised By Joy". Again, anyone familiar with his writings would know of his love of the bawdy.

Some might be surprised by the frank eroticism of the conclusion of "That Hideous Strength", but Lewis was a medieval at heart, and shared in the medieval's appreciation of the sensual.

As an adult he had sex with at least one woman. Nonetheless, the evangelists who collect his furniture and place it in glass cases — and the Lewis societies that work hard to project a fabricated image of the writer in England and elsewhere — have tried to remould him as a “perpetual virgin”. They believe that he died without ever having engaged in sexual intercourse and that therefore his late marriage to Joy Gresham was never consummated.

Absurd. I've never encountered this sort of thing, and anyone who advanced this hogwash would be laughed out of the room by serious Lewis devotees.

Where do they get this stuff?


G

Mentality of the MSM...

Lewis = Christian

Christian = Bush

Bush = Hitler

Hitler = Evil

This isn't rocket science, ya know?

bruce cole

The writer in The Times is merely re-cycling A.N. Wilson's biography of Lewis. Wilson might consider suing.

Tope

Liam - I think it's fair to say that Lewis is (arguably) the most prominent Christian writer of the past century in the US and UK. Elsewhere, I couldn't say.

Jacob - sure, it's probably true that more people have read Lord of the Rings than have read Mere Christianity . . . but the fact is that a large portion of Tolkien's readers don't think of him as primarily or explicitly a Christian writer. It's easy for non-Christians to overlook the Christian underpinnings of Tolkien's fiction (and the same goes for Lewis' fiction, though to a lesser degree). Lewis' non-fiction, however, is explicitly Christian and has nevertheless proven remarkably popular and enduring (Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity in particular). So in that sense, I'd say that Lewis is more prominent Christian writer than Tolkien is.

Rich Leonardi

If they want to be critical of Lewis, why not explore, say, the premise of Lewis' ecumenical "mere" Christianity, his conversion of the Pauline body of Christ into a house?

That would require actually knowing something about Christianity (or at least being curious about it). Far easier to use him as a club to wield against evangelicals.

Patrick Rothwell

When I read this, I thought of the A.N. Wilson biography which did in fact raise howls of protest by some of Lewis' devotees. Some argued that the depiction was libelous. Unfortunately, I read the biography back in college, and don't remember much about the details. Assuming Wilson hasn't libeled Lewis, I don't think some of the embarassing facts ought to be whitewashed. The embarssing facts wouldn't discredit his arguments - they stand or fall on their own - but they would flesh out who he was as a person - warts and all.

Maclin Horton

...we sense a deeper joy in Lewis’s prose as it escapes from the demands of Christian belief into the darker realm of magic...

No, actually, we don't. Sheesh. I have the urge take more lengthy issue with this writer but then I think "why bother?"

Tom Haessler

Fr. Rob is entirely correct. Louis was no prude and abhored puritanism, despite the fact that very early ingrained prejudices against "Romanism" prevented him from following the logic of so much of his theology.

Tom Haessler

Patrick Rothwell

I also think it is more probable than not that Lewis had a sexual relationship with Mrs. Moore. I also don't find Get Religion's huffing and puffing "how dare they say that about him" at all on point: of course writers who are really interested in C.S. Lewis the man will find his relationship with Mrs Moore interesting - even titilating - how could they not?

carolyn

I heard he was a virgin too,the implication being that he was ssa. His marriage was to a jewish american to prevent her deportation.

Jon W

Good Lord. Wheaton College in Chicago, the place where his furniture is collected and (some of it) under glass, is my alma mater.

Fr Johansen is right on. Yes, we joked about St Jack being the patron saint of the school, but we definitely knew and loved his medievalism and all it entailed. (How could you not?)

That is, in fact, why evangelicals love Lewis so much (even if they wouldn't articulate it). He's their touchstone to the Tradition. He sneaks so much of the Early Fathers and Medievals and everyone else into his stories and essays that he makes their experience of the Faith so very much richer than it would be if all they knew was just their American evangelicalism.

They believe that he died without ever having engaged in sexual intercourse and that therefore his late marriage to Joy Gresham was never consummated.

I think this writer forgot for a second that he was bashing evangelicals and thought he was bashing medieval Catholics. C'mon. Perpetual virginity has never been an evangelical ideal. If he'd never consumated his marriage with Joy, evangelicals would have less respect for Lewis, not more.

Innocent III

C. S. Lewis was not a Catholic. He should not therefore be honored with the title Christian.
And while the highly educated Bishop Fulton Sheen was a Catholic, he preached humanism and was a ecumenist in the non Catholic sense of the word, and thus his books are well to be avoided.

Patrick Rothwell

"I heard he was a virgin too,the implication being that he was ssa."

I never hear that implication and it probably isn't true, if what A.N. Wilson says about him is correct. I think it's clear that Lewis was homosocial in the sense that he got his emotional energies from being surrounded by men, and was somewhat adverse to women entering into his personal friendships, i.e. they got in the way. Not homosexuality as such, but they are closely-related phenomena in some respects.

carolyn

"Not homosexuality as such, but they are closely-related phenomena in some respects."

Hmmmm......

Sparki

My first contact with C.S. Lewis was in "The Screwtape Letters," recommended to me by evangelicals. And yeah, I do remember them whitewashing him to an extent and never admitting that he drank alcohol or smoked.

My husband was raised pentacostal protestant. I honestly think the only reason he is able to drink ale these days is because C.S. Lewis gave him "permission" to be an authentic Christian who drinks beer. Must be why we have a framed photo of the author hanging in our dining room...

Fr. Phil Bloom

Sounds like the old "invisible cat" argument: If that chair had an invisible cat sitting on it, that is exactly how it would look. Therefore, it has an invisible cat sitting on it. How can you disprove it?

Moreover, those tempted to expose the sins of others should consider what happened to Ham. (Gen 9:22ff.)


lizzie

Uh, Innocent III...

You're joking, right? Or that's an attempt at satire?

bruce cole

Innocent III (aka Mr. Giery): I finally got you figured out. All your posts are supposed to be a send-up of the RadTrads....The problem is, you do it too well.

Fr. Rob Johansen

His marriage was to a jewish american to prevent her deportation.

Initially, that is correct. However, if one reads "A Grief Observed" (one of his most powerful books), it is quite clear that he was already in love with Joy. He married her in the C of E not much later, and it is quite clear that they had a "normal" married life.

Jacob

Tope:
I agree that Tolkien is all too easily coopted by the fantasy crowd who are more into pentagons and wicca than the Cross and Christianity.

But that does not detract from the genius of Tolkien. Aside from the theological underpinnings of Tolkien's writings, the man created an entire fictional pre-history with fully realized languages, etc. Tolkien's sense of faith demanded that his pre-history not just be some fanciful plaything, but something that /could/ have really occurred back in prehistoric times and thus foresee the coming of Christ into the World.

maria horvath

Are we to believe that Lewis had sex with a woman he wasn't married to but did not have sex with the woman he married?

reluctantpenitent

On the bright side, the MSM is trying to find something about C.S. Lewis that they can identify with. As perverted (sexually and morally) hypocrites they want to make him out to be one as well. Essentially, they're trying to sell the movie to the manhattan crowd.

Jon W

Not homosexuality as such, but they are closely-related phenomena in some respects.

I don't think they're related at all. My experience is admittedly limited, but most of the men I've known who struggled with SSA were quite comfortable with, if not actively drawn to, the company of women as friends and companions; though I have also heard of SSA men abhorring women altogether. And I know plenty of guys who live in an almost entirely masculine world and rarely speak to girls in any kind of intelligent way but who, if you asked them whom they planned on sleeping with tonight, would reply, "Ugh. Woman."

Basically, I don't think one's taste in companions has very much to do with one's sexual proclivities at all. We're just a hyper-sexualized culture and far too oversensitive. Damn Freud.

Furthermore, I've never read Wilson, but I know that Lewis, in an answer to a question about why he never commented on homosexuality, claims that he tries not to talk about issues of sin that have no temptation for him (and mentions gambling in that category as well).

Oh, yes. And Sparki is right. Lewis has indeed given a whole generation of devout evangelicals permission to go out and order that Guinness. It's a beautiful thing.

Dan Berger

"The pathos of Aragorn and Arwen’s marriage is that, after Aragorn’s death, they will never meet again, in Valinor or elsewhere." -- A Critic at Large

Has this guy even bothered to read "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" in the Appendices of LOTR? Even a cursory reading of the pertinent passages in the novel itself would tell him that the pathos he describes is that of Arwen and her father Elrond, not Arwen and Aragorn.

Just one of many fisk-ready passages in that so-called "critical review."

Donna Marie Lewis

If Lewis had a sexual relationship with Mrs. Moore, it happened while he was an atheist. One of the many problems with the MSM is that they tend to dismiss one of the central tenets of Christianity- repentance. I noticed this with the treatment of Chuck Colson some years ago, in which his long-ago involvement in Watergate was stressed and the good things he has done since his repentance were ignored.
I'm imagining how they would treat St. Augustine of Hippo.....("Bishop with several lovers and an illegitimate son in his past now pushing celibacy..." )

Patrick Rothwell

"I don't think they're related at all. My experience is admittedly limited, but most of the men I've known who struggled with SSA were quite comfortable with, if not actively drawn to, the company of women as friends and companions; though I have also heard of SSA men abhorring women altogether."

I meant by "related" that there are some commonalities between the two which should be obvious, and NOT that homosociability is in of itself latent homosexuality - of course not.

"Furthermore, I've never read Wilson, but I know that Lewis, in an answer to a question about why he never commented on homosexuality, claims that he tries not to talk about issues of sin that have no temptation for him (and mentions gambling in that category as well)."

I vaguely remember him saying something like this. In any event, I doubt seriously that Lewis was either homosexual or a virgin as someone was apparantly told!

Dan Berger

And then there's "A Grief Portrayed." Doesn't anybody bother to run a piece by someone who actually has read the books being discussed before publication?

Maureen

Fairy tales and adventure are all very well and good. But if you don't feel a deeper thrill, a higher joy, when the knights go into the chapel, or the angel carries the Grail into the room and begins giving folk Communion, or you find out who Aslan really is...

Well, I know people like that. Some of them are perfectly fine people with good religious lives, even, since everyone has a different brain to worship God with. But I'm not one of them.

The general problem with Wiccans, et al, is not that they don't know what Tolkien's getting at, as that they've either never had any real exposure to any religious experience which really touched them, or that they've had bad or unfulfilling experiences with Christianity. The latter know what Tolkien's getting at, but they don't want to know.

People have always been perfectly willing to remake Tolkien or Lewis closer to their own desire. Even if it doesn't work, it works for them. (Or they think so.)

JP

Things have gotten so partisan that many people cannot except that Lewis - highly thought of Literary Historain and writer could also be a Christian. Many in the MSM know what influence Lewis's writings have upon Christians -especially Protestants. Lewis's apologetics have a charming appeal, but I've also found them lightwieght. But of course they were intended to be lightweight. Lewis's orginal audience was the secularized "thinkng man" of post war England. By avoiding the doctirnal battles that pit Anglicans against Methodists, or Catholics against Lutherans, Lewis intended to show these thinking people that Christianity in general could be acceptable to them. He packaged his apologetics in very general, clear written themes. He left it to the reader to search behind the doors of each confession, in order to find the particular church which suited him.

Lewis, of course essentially failed at this project. England remains firmly secular, and if any religious group will grow, it will be the Muslims. However, it is also a disturbing commentary on the level of religious education in our nation that Lewis is so studied and read by "believers". The fact that there is such an ongoing felt need for Lewis amongst both young Protestants and Catholics who are already catechized relfects poorly on our religious education. Sixty years ago, Lewis's biggest influence was on the "fence-sitters";today he is mostly read by people who are already confessed christians. The one group he really wished to speak to, ignore him altogether.

Innocent III

Great Post. Lewis and Sheen were smart when it came to marketing, as well. Offending the least number of people, can be inversely related to book sales.

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

I took a one-credit independent study course on C.S. Lewis in college, in which I had to read many of his writings. In his autobiography, _Surprised by Joy_, he says that he was never really tempted to homosexuality (this is in the context of discussing homoerotic relationships in British boarding schools).

And in one of his later works - either _The Four Loves_ or _A Grief Observed_, I forget which - he says things which definitely indicate that he slept with Joy during their marriage. I don't remember any specifics; if I have time today (a big IF!) I'll try to skim the works for a quote.

In Jesu et Maria,

Jon W

The religious believer finds consolation, and relief, too, in the world of magic exactly because it is at odds with the necessarily straitened and punitive morality of organized worship, even if the believer is, like Lewis, reluctant to admit it.

Well. What do you say to that? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Lewis's worlds of magic were precisely NOT at odds with the "necessarily straightened and punitive morality of organized worship." Anyone who thinks that has been reading Lewis with his eyes closed.

The unique excellence of the Space Trilogy (and especially the endings of each book) is the power and beauty of Lewis's depiction of the unity of morality, truth, and the worship of God. A young man reading the Space Trilogy for the first (or second or third or fourth...) time puts down the book and says, "Holy sh--! That's what all those rules were about." Not "Oh, thank God I can frolic with the eldils out of the shadow of those stone-cold Ten Commandments."

How can the New Yorker guy say this:

Fairy stories are not rich because they are true

and follow it up with this:

Atheists need ghosts and kings and magical uncles and strange coincidences, living fairies and thriving Lilliputians, just as much as the believers do, to register their understanding that a narrow material world, unlit by imagination, is inadequate to our experience, much less to our hopes?

This is Lewis's entire point. If atheists need ghosts and kings, etc, to "register their understanding that a narrow material world is inadequate to our experience", then either they have to deny the validity of our exerience or the validity of their materialism.

His "truth" is far too narrowly defined. Even if he likes to talk about magic, love, and fairy tales, this New Yorker is only willing to take a stand on materialism and on nothing else. All else is entirely subjective; he has, therefore, sundered every human being from every other on anything that really matters. No wonder everyone's so freaking lonely.

Interesting speculation. If it is in fact true that there is no metaphysical, moral, and transcendant other to which we are subject and which orders and establishes all our relations (but that "all of that" is the purely subjective speculation of the individual person, possessing no objective validity) then no wonder all interpersonal communion is reduced to sex. Strictly, the contact of body on body is the only real contact that we can have. There is no "meeting of minds", fellowship, or companionship other than that of skin on skin. (Just to bring everything full-circle.)

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

>>>Lewis's apologetics have a charming appeal, but I've also found them lightwieght

I thought his logical argument against dualism in _Mere Christianity_ was excellent. I've found it useful over the years, even adapted it for arguing with atheists over good and evil.

In Jesu et Maria,

James Kabala

Amy, Fr. Rob, and others:
A.N. Wilson definitely did claim that Walter Hooper (controversial man who was Lewis's secretary for a while in Lewis's last years and has been responible for publishing and editing many of Lewis's posthumously published works) asserted and believed that Lewis had never consummated his pre-conversion relationship with Mrs. Moore, his post-conversion marriage to Joy Gresham, or any other relationship with anyone. It was Wilson who mockingly coined the term "perpetual virginity of C.S. Lewis." I don't know whether Wilson was accurately reporting Hooper's views or distorting them, but the Times writer is not the inventor of this claim, whether it is "hogwash" or not.

Margaret

Oh my! I'm sure I'm just dense, but I just figured out that Innocent III = NeoConSpy. It's not quite as big a watershed as figuring out who Aslan was, but still... :-)

James Kabala

FYI, Hooper is a convert to Catholicism and was Anglo-Catholic before that, so he is likely to have a favorable attitude toward perpetual virginity. If this claim really does have any adherents, Jon W. is right that evangelicals are not likely to be among them.

Rick

A few comments:

1. I believe some earlier Lewis biographers (Clyde Kilby?) did presume that Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman was not consummated.

Joy, remember, was divorced. Lewis had written when he first legally married Joy to prevent her deportation that a "real" marriage would be in his view a sin.

Though Joy and Jack were later married by a C of E clergyman, I believe the marriage ceremony was not performed with the permission of the C of E Bishop, precisely because Joy was divorced.

Today it seems likely that Jack did consummate the marriage — I think there is evidence for this in Lewis' letters and in the testimony of his stepsons. Lewis likely came to believe that he and Joy were free to marry, because Joy's first marriage was not a real Christian marriage.

Still, Lewis's marriage to Joy was certainly irregular from a Catholic and even, I believe, from a C of E viewpoint — so this is a delicate subject.

2. Anyone who has read Lewis' correspondence with his childhood friend Arthur Greeves knows what is meant by Lewis' boyhood revelling in "cruel and vivid fantasies." Beyond an acceptance of bawdiness, Lewis was certainly susceptible to "the English vice." He would have found Anne Rice's pseudonymous erotica tiltillating.

3. But anyone who has read Lewis' letters with an open mind will also not fail to be impressed by the real saintliness he achieved as an adult.

Consider, for example, Lewis' "Letters to an American Lady," in which Lewis, a world famous author at the time with a crushing burden of correspondence, offers a crotchety hypochondriac American lady a book's worth of personal spiritual direction and gentle encouragement.

Not only is Lewis' advice exceptionally wise; he demonstrates heroic patience, imo, in dealing so charitably with a difficult person who offers nothing but burdens in return.

What a transformation this is from his younger days, when Lewis did not suffer fools gladly, and often skewered them with his formidable wit!

Also: Is everyone aware that Lewis also carried out (in Latin!) a long correspondence with a Catholic saint — Saint Giovanni Calabria?

St. Giovanni certainly recognized the grace that was operative in Lewis' life, as is clear in their correspondence. There's no shame in others making that recognition too.

Susan F. Peterson

Those who think it is likely that he had sex with Mrs Moore-why? What is your evidence?

He admits that he had sex outside of marriage before he became a Christian.

But to me it makes no sense that he would have had sex with his best friends mother! I mean, no emotional sense whatsoever. And since he sometimes referred to Mrs. Moore as his mother, it would seem to be psychologically bizarre in a way I just don't associate with Lewis. Why can't we accept that he took care of this woman because he made a battlefield deathbed promise to his friend? My father just adopted a man's Complete Shakespeare on the battlefield but he very emotionally refused to let me take it to college with me. Anyway, it sounds just like Lewis to stubbornly keep to his promise, even though Mrs. Moore apparently wasn't the most considerate of people. Do people just think he had sex with her because he did things like spend an entire weekend moving her furniture when he had work to do for his teaching? Do they think someone would only do something like that because he was having sex with the woman? Not saying he didn't have sex with other women,(and definitely not commenting on the contents of his fantasy life, not sure any of you would like that exposed as there is some darkness in all of us.) but this particular imputation makes no sense at all to me. So, again, to those here who said they thought it was likely, I again ask "Why?"
Is there any evidence in his writings for this?

Susan Peterson

James Kabala

The magic of Google: An article that, among other things, reports that Walter Hooper has denied believing in the perpetual virginity of C.S. Lewis can be found . Those who do not want Too Much Information should avoid Footnote Four.

James Kabala

I made a typo. I meant to write the word "here" after the word "found" and make that the link. The blue sentence about Footnote Four was not meant to be the link, but now it is and it does work.

Rick

I again ask "Why?"
Is there any evidence in his writings for this?

Susan,

Lewis didn't just provide for Mrs. Moore; his whole life revolved around her for years.

Lewis' diary, published as "All My Road Before Me" was essentially composed to be read aloud to Mrs. Moore as nightly entertainment. The mere writing of this diary presumes a great degree of intimacy with Mrs. Moore, and demonstrates the emotional bond Lewis had with her.

I also believe Lewis tried to keep his relationship with Mrs. Moore hidden, both from his family early on (before her son Paddy died), and from his colleagues after he set up a household with her. This again argues against a merely innocent relationship.

I think the best theory is that Mrs. Moore and Jack were lovers, but perhaps only for a short time; the affair itself may have even ended by the time they set up house together.

Old Zhou

I really don't care who Lewis did or did not sleep with or when or whether it was after or before smoking or drinking or not. But if he is going to be a writer, I want good stories, well written.

Scrutiny of the sex lives, drinking habits and other character defects of dead writers, poets, artists and composers is a great sport for graduate students.

But I find it utterly boring.

Patrick Rothwell

The C of E did not, until recently, formally permit re-marriages while the first spouse was still alive under any circumstances whatsoever. The C of E did not even have annulment proceedings! All of this, mind you, is a historical accident as is most things in the C of E. The only way out of the situation would have been to resort to the Episcopal Church's annulment process (it had one at one time), but as they were in England, that would not have been possible. And, I doubt seriously that Lewis would ever resorted to a Roman Catholic bishop. I note, without comment, that C.S. Lewis justified the marriage on what seems to be not much different than the very controversial "internal forum" solution.

Noah Nehm

In 1995 I was in a small British village of Blewbury, if memory serves, for a 50th year celebration of VE day. One of the elderly gentleman I was talking with, a former Major in the British armed services, mentioned that he actually knew C.S. Lewis and ran across Lewis and Tolkein quite often in the Eagle and Child in Oxford. His memory was a bit patchy due to a stroke, but he did mention two things. First, that he was actually quite a good illustrator and often Tolkein would ask him to draw a sketch of something from his books. The second thing was that talked about Lewis' marriage with Joy as one in which was "pure pure". He didn't go into details, he was perhaps embarrased and maybe a touch dismissive of such an arrangement, but he left me with the distinct impression that Jack and Joy had a Josephite marriage.

Rick

Patrick Rothwell,

Exactly right. But Lewis did ask his C of E bishop for permission to marry, and was refused. The C of E clergyman who married him did so illicitly.

he left me with the distinct impression that Jack and Joy had a Josephite marriage.

This is really not tenable, imo. In A Grief Observed Lewis records the suffering he experienced at the death of Joy, and makes it clear that the marriage was not a Josephite one.

Dan

"Lewis's apologetics have a charming appeal, but I've also found them lightwieght."

Perhaps this is intended to mean that C.S. Lewis was not a groundbreaking theologian, which is true. Otherwise it's a cheap shot. C.S. Lewis explained Christianity in modern terms with extraordinary power and insight. In this regard he is without parallel in modern times.

He was so convincingly committed as a Christain that I have come to believe, based solely on his apolgetics and not on any biographical information, that he was an exceptionally holy man and saint-like. Had he been a Catholic he probably would have been canonized and/or declared a Doctor of the Church.

I agree though that the Narnia series is overrated.

Jon W

I agree though that the Narnia series is overrated.

I entirely agree. It's too short. There aren't enough stories. It makes other children's literature appear silly by comparison. The style is deceptively readable while all the time there are deep, solid spiritual truths just strewn about, harum scarum. The good characters somehow manage to be likeable as well, which we all know to be impossible in art. Hmm, what else? Well, this will do for starters. Perhaps someone else would like to join me for some well-deserved critical abuse.

Patrick Rothwell

"I agree though that the Narnia series is overrated."

Thou heretic! Off to the thumbscrews and the burning pyres you go...

Donald R. McClarey

"Lewis' diary, published as "All My Road Before Me" was essentially composed to be read aloud to Mrs. Moore as nightly entertainment. The mere writing of this diary presumes a great degree of intimacy with Mrs. Moore, and demonstrates the emotional bond Lewis had with her."

I've read the diary, and I believe that Mrs. Moore was a surrogate mother for Lewis. His attitude towards her throughout does not strike me as that of a lover. For example, at one point he and Mrs. Moore discuss marriage prospects for Lewis. The father of C.S. Lewis was afraid that there was something immoral in the relationship, but I think his concern was unwarranted.

(Fr) Septimus

I'd hold back from calling Lewis a potential "doctor of the church," but I think his contributions are significant.

In particular, I find his approach to purgatory, and to how someone not explicitly a Christian might nonetheless be saved, very helpful. I think particularly of the encounter Emeth had, in "The Last Battle," with Aslan.

"The Great Divorce" is a masterpiece.

Dan

A couple of biographical details that provide small bits of corroboration to Rick's view (which I share) that C.S. Lewis acheived saintliness in his life:

1. He died with a very modest estate (I think it was $40,000 pounds or less). The Narnia books were best sellers and undoubtedly earned him what in today's prices would be many millions of dollars (and on top of that he received royalties from all his other books). It is understood that he died with such a modest estate because he gave away his money to charitable causes, without ever calling attention to that fact.

2. I have read that he personally responded to every letter written to him. This is truly remarkable given how famous he was during his life time. (I believe he was on the cover of Time in the 1950s.)

I may have the details of this wrong, but I also recall reading, I think it was in A.N. Wilson's biography, that an English journalist or writer of some sort says that C.S. Lewis, shortly after having died, appeared to him - i.e., the writer had a sort of C.S. Lewis resurrection experience.

Paul

""The Great Divorce" is a masterpiece"

Seconded! Often overlooked, but once read never forgotten.

Boeciana

I am very puzzled by the article which says that the Narnia books are less well written than the Harry Potter ones. Narnia may not be the most elevated prose, but it's considerably better-crafted than Rowling's often-sloppy (though far from charmless) writing. IMHO...

The journalists' comments about Little-England-ism and racial stereotypes also puzzle me. It's like all that hoo-hah about golliwogs in Enid Blyton a while ago. When I was little it never even occurred to me that the various sorts of people in Narnia (or other) stories could be mapped onto categories of people in this world. Because it was... fiction, and such absorbing fiction that one read it entirely on its own terms. Journalists often seem oddly incapable of grasping that children can tell the difference between fact and fantasy.

Mind you, I think I was quite a slow child, as, despite being brought up Christian, I didn't realise for years that Aslan's death and resurrection were like Our Lord's...

Rick

His attitude towards her throughout does not strike me as that of a lover.

Donald, I agree that Lewis and Mrs. Moore were not likely lovers at the time Lewis wrote "All My Road Before Me." I think it likely they had a brief affair before then — before Lewis went to war — and that conbtributed to Lewis' sense of obligation that he had to take care of Mrs. Moore.

If I recall correctly, Lewis chose to spend his last leave before he left for WWI with Mrs. Moore, rather than with his father. This contributed to Lewis' estrangement from his father. I believe Lewis' brother and father though Mrs. Moore to be far more than the needy mother of a friend.

William

"The Great Divorce" is number 1! "Screwtape" is number 2. "Mere Christianity" is number 3. Were it not for Lewis I doubt I'd be a Catholic.

Paul

I too have no interest as to who Lewis slept with and when etc.These are attempts (by the enemies of Christianity) to throw mud at him in the hope some will stick and somehow tarnish his reputation.This great man has brought(and continues to bring)many to Christ and that is all that really matters.

JP

Dan,

I, like many people read Lewis as teens or young adults. For decades Protestants have used works of Lewis as tools for evangelizing. He himself wrote much of his works with an eye to evangelizing the educated professionals of England. He gave very general, well written, logical, common sense reasons why people should be Christians; however, beyond that, it would be disingenious to say he was anything more than that. He did an excellent job on presenting the "Christian View" of things. For Catholics that is not enough. It would be no different than presenting my 10 year old son common Algebra as the be all and end all of math. Lewis performed a great service much in the same way that Bishop Fulton Sheen did.

Lewis was a generalist when it came to Aplogetics. He was a gifted Student of Literature, and Human Nature, as well as a fantastic writer. He was also an intellectual who wished intellectuals would return to thier Christian roots. Like I said in my previous post, his project in the long term failed. Great Britain has become almost totally void of Christians, and today most intellects consdier him an oddity. To THEM, he is one of US.

bruce cole

I don't know if anybody said this or not, but Joy got a divorce from a man who'd already been married and divorced before marrying her, so that would be a quite material consideration in a marriage tribunal. For the record, I owe a lot to C.S. Lewis (through his apologetics, especially) and for what it's worth: 1. Lewis wrote in "Suprised by Joy" that as a young man he 'followed the erotic route to the end and found pleasure there' which means tarts or wankery, 2. I've never had an intuition about about whether he and Mrs. Moore foo-fooed or not, and 3. Of course, he had it off with his wife! He wrote so several times, so if he didn't, he was big fat liar about a subject he never had to broach.

Tim Ferguson

Bruce, can you PLEASE promise me that, at some point in your life, you'll write a book with a chapter titled "Tarts and Wankery" - or give me permission to do so. Thats a wonderful turn of phrase, especially for something so...ummm...base.

alias clio

I believe that Lewis wrote of his marriage something like "every nook and cranny of heart or body was satisfied" in _A Grief Observed_.

That may not be an exact citation, but I think it's close.

Mr Cole: One point that A.N. Wilson makes in his book is that C of E rules regarding re-marriage were actually stricter than Catholic ones, in the 1950s. A woman with a living (ex)husband could not re-marry, even if her ex-husband had been previously married and divorced. A Catholic woman in the same situation would have been able to have her previous marriage annulled, and to re-marry. Wilson argued that Lewis probably came to the conclusion that the C of E position made no sense.

Although I am one of the few people who actually likes Wilson's book (I mean, one of the few who also likes Lewis), it has to be taken with a grain of salt. First, if you read it over (which I've done many times) there are passages which appear to be completely without sense - not merely illogical, but as though some crucial words or facts were inadvertently left out or wrongly arranged. (There's one in particular regarding K. Lindskoog that had me scratching my head...)

Wilson says Doug Gresham found his mother and future stepfather in a "compromising position"; Gresham says he NEVER told Wilson this.

alias clio

I believe that Lewis wrote of his marriage something like "every nook and cranny of heart or body was satisfied" in _A Grief Observed_.

That may not be an exact citation, but I think it's close.

Mr Cole: One point that A.N. Wilson makes in his book is that C of E rules regarding re-marriage were actually stricter than Catholic ones, in the 1950s. A woman with a living (ex)husband could not re-marry, even if her ex-husband had been previously married and divorced. A Catholic woman in the same situation would have been able to have her previous marriage annulled, and to re-marry. Wilson argued that Lewis probably came to the conclusion that the C of E position made no sense, and that he could thus choose to ignore it if he could find a clergyman who would marry him to Joy.

Although I am one of the few people who actually likes Wilson's book (I mean, one of the few who also likes Lewis), it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

First, if you read it over (which I've done many times) there are passages which appear to be completely without sense - not merely illogical, but as though some crucial words or facts were inadvertently left out or wrongly arranged. (There's one in particular regarding K. Lindskoog that had me scratching my head...) The whole book bears signs of over-hasty composition.

It has other problems. Wilson says Doug Gresham found his mother and future stepfather in a "compromising position"; Gresham says he NEVER told Wilson this.

Wilson also says that Joy G. was foul-mouthed (the "f-word" and all); her son says he never heard his mother use such obscenities.

To the rest of you: the reason some of us care about this is that we would like to know that Lewis, as a Christian, not only wrote well, but tried to live by his precepts. While he was no plaster saint, I think it is likely that he tried harder to live like a Christian than any other man of the 20th century - including Tolkien, who was a FAR more difficult man - and a miserable husband, demanding that his wife do all laundry (including diapers) by hand, because he disliked washing machines. This might make JRRT popular with environmentalists but it did make him a bit of a cuss...

Finally, regarding the supposed poor quality of the writing in the Narnia series - are you all !@#$ nuts? Sorry - but I firmly believe that Lewis, although often a coarse writer in the same way that Velasquez could be a coarse painter (thick paint, broad strokes, blurry when close up) was still an _unforgettable_ stylist, who could set a scene with such breathtaking sensual detail that it might remain branded in your memory forever. Think of Narnia's spring after its long winter; the headache the girls suffered from after hours of rowing in Prince Caspian; the feel of the grass on Lucy's feet in Voyage of the DT; or the ride across the desert at night in Horse and His Boy.

p.s. The Arabian Nights influence in Horse was clear to me even in childhood (they were read aloud to me at around the same time) but I think the portrait, although critical, is also admiring in some ways.


Jeb Protestant

Am I the only one who thinks that the praise given to Lewis is a little overboard?

Certainly, he was a good writer, but why would Romanists praise a man so much who never became a Catholic?

gresham

I recently read or re-read several of Lewis' books -- I highly recommend Miracles. Those who think of Mere Christianity as lightweight apologetics might be more pleased with this work. It deals with far more than miracles, including a refutation of naturalism, reflections on the meaning of the incarnation, insights on the relations between nature, myth and redemption and some helpful cautions and advice on reading biblical scholars. I first read Lewis as an evangelical and continue to read him as a Catholic -- he only grows in my estimation with each re-reading.

Rick

Jeb,

Because we Romanists recognize Lewis' baptism, acknowledge him as a fellow member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and have an inkling of how fruitful his "ministry of grace" has been?

Jeb Protestant

But isn't someone who knowlingly rejects the claims of Rome (as Lewis did) in a "gravely deficient situation" as Dominus Jesus said?

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

That doesn't mean we can't recognize and appreciate what is good and true in Protestantism.

In Jesu et Maria,

Donna

Certainly, he was a good writer, but why would Romanists praise a man so much who never became a Catholic?

An evangelical co-worker of mine was surprised to hear I am an admirer of Lewis. But that question can be turned around: why do evangelicals praise a man who went to (Anglican) confession weekly and believed in Purgatory? ;-)

Jeb Protestant

Donna,

I think evangelicals should reconsider their praise for Lewis. He was problematic in many respects.

Rick

Jeb,

Actually, Dominus Iesus says "followers of other religions," meaning the unbaptized followers of nonChristian religions, are in a "gravely deficient situation."

As a baptized Christian, Lewis was a member of the one Church - though admittedly imperfectly so.

The imperfection of his membership is regrettable. But it does not obscure the fruitfulness of his life and work.

But let me say that I commend you, as a good Protestant (:wink:), for reading papal encyclicals!

I'm sure if you continue you'll come to understand how the Catholic Church recognizes fruitful "ministries of grace" in other ecclesial communions...and rejects nothing of what is good even in nonChristian religions.

Jon W

Certainly, he was a good writer, but why would Romanists praise a man so much who never became a Catholic?

Because Lewis was so well-read and in touch with so much of Christian history, theology, literature, and Tradition, he broadens the minds of any Christian who reads him. People who criticize him for not being an original theologian are missing the point. Lewis was able to draw from so many wells of Christian wisdom as to be able to give a good, well-stated answer from the Tradition of the church on nearly any question that was put to him.

If an evangelical wants to remain Protestant, he would do well to stay away from Lewis. There's so much of the Tradition of the Church in him, it's hard for an unwary evangelical to resist. Someone once called him the Catholic Moses: he takes people to the Promised Land, but he can't go in himself.

Finally, regarding the supposed poor quality of the writing in the Narnia series - are you all !@#$ nuts?

Apparently. The only severe criticism of the Narnia Chronicles that could be laid at Lewis's feet was Tolkien's: no consistent mythology. (And who's pedantic enough to care about that nowadays?)

Lewis was one of the great prose stylists of our time. Whether writing an essay or telling a story, his prose has an entirely effortless grace that people miss only because he does it so freaking well. He is entirely clear and 100% to the point. It's an indication of this that none of his books are very long. He said what he had to say and stopped.

Rowling, though not - as was stated - without a certain charm, isn't even in the same league. When she tries to do Lewis (centaurs, anyone?) it's laughable.

Jeb Protestant

Rick,

Thanks for the correction.

I still don't understand why he is in a different situation than, say, James White or for that matter Martin Luther. From the Catholic perspctive, they know/knew the truth and reject it. Is their "imperfection of . . . membership" merely "regretable"?

Isn't it possible that Lewis' rejection of the RC Church a mortal sin?

Rick

One quote from Dominus Iesus for Jeb. The quote refers to various Christian ecclesial communions - but it can also be used to ground a Catholic appreciation for Lewis himself:

“Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.66

(Fr) Septimus

Jeb:

It is certainly possible Lewis' rejection of the Catholic Church was a mortal sin. That does not negate the worth of his work.

As to why Catholics lionize Lewis, but not James White or Martin Luther . . .

you're kidding, right?

keypusher

I loved Lewis' Till We Have Faces, a stunning retelling of the Psyche myth. Have any of you read it?

(Fr) Septimus

key - I read it, in my 20s, when I first discovered Lewis -- I was a Catholic-turned-Evangelical at the time -- and I didn't get it. I've thought about re-reading it.

Jeb Protestant

Maybe White and Luther were more sincere than Lewis in their Christian profession of faith.

I still don't see why James White is in worse situation than Lewis. Isn't it possible that his rejection of Roman Catholicism is more cuplable than White's?

Old Zhou

Sorry to be clueless.

Martin Luther I know--I translated some of his early works from Latin and German.

But who is James White?

(and, if anyone is keeping score, Lewis does not float my boat.)

(Fr) Septimus

Jeb:

I really thought you were kidding.

Catholics flock to Lewis because he's extremely talented and presents the Faith with beauty and power.

Maybe I'm totally wrong, but I am not aware of James White producing anything of the quality of, say, The Screwtape Letters. Perhaps you disagree.

As to Luther, his calling Holy Mother Church the "Whore of Babylon," and the successor to Peter, "the Antichrist," might have something to do with why Catholics don't love to read him the way they love reading Lewis.

Just a guess on my part.

Yootikus

James White (Alpha & Omega Ministries)
is to
C.S. Lewis (Oxford & Cambridge Universities)

as

Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code)
is to
Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace)

Jeb Protestant

It's not a question of loving his writings more. I am interested in knowing why anyone can say that Lewis's non-Catholicism is less culpable than White's.

(Fr) Septimus

Jeb:

Get a clue -- Catholics aren't terribly concerned about that!

Jeb Protestant

I happen to be interested in it.

Jeff

Well. I sent a letter to the Editor of the NYT Magazine with little hope of a hearing:

To Whom It May Concern:

Charles Williams, another member of the literary group at Oxford called the Inklings, once stated that all facts are beautiful. What is factually clear is that Mr. McGrath ("The Narnia Skirmishes," 11/13/05) belongs to the school of thought that philosopher Paul Ricoeur called the "masters of suspicion," Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. For Nietzsche, all truth was ugly, and so Mr. McGrath follows innuendo, hints and circumstantial clues to paint an ugly and, therefore, truthful (sic.) portrait of C. S. Lewis. This kind of insidious and inquisitional spattering of Mr. Lewis personal life shows Mr. McGrath's politically correctness in scapegoating the most influential Christian apologist of the twentieth century and Christianity in general.

However Mr. McGrath forgets a guiding principle of psychotherapy, namely projection: even so-called objective statements about others tells a great deal more about ourselves than about the person we slander. The filling-in the-facts with Mr. McGrath's imaginative ditherings about Lewis as an Oxford student are nearly as insightful of Mr. McGrath as his Freudiana take of Lewis's phrase, "Further up and further in."

And regarding the canonical correctness of his target, I wonder: Shall we see such poorly researched and inferential smearing of, say, (Saint) John Lennon? No. I forgot. He imagined there was no God.

Eric

I don't see why we can't give Jeb Protestant some straight answers.

Yes, Lewis was objectively in a perilous state with regard to his salvation, deprived as he was from full membership in the one true Church of Christ.

Whether, for some reason kown to God alone, he was invincibally ignorant of the truth of Catholicism and the need to embrace it is, well, something known only to God.

Is it possible that he died in the state of mortal sin? Yes, of course it is; indeed, such is a possibility (as far as Catholics are concerned) for anyone not a canonized saint.

Still, even if he were in Hell, this does not negate the intrinsic worth of many of Lewis's works. Truth is objective, no matter who utters it.

The Inquisitor

"I still don't see why James White is in worse situation than Lewis. Isn't it possible that his rejection of Roman Catholicism is more cuplable than White's"?

Because James White is not honest in his dealings with Catholics, whereas C.S. Lewis was. I personally don't believe that Lewis truly rejected the Catholic faith; his resistance to the faith was based mostly on his experiences with Catholics growing up in Belfast.

(Fr) Septimus

Jeb:

Without disagreeing with Eric, above, I'd put it this way...

Each situation is unique. It's not a matter of reducing salvation v. damnation to a formula. It really is a mystery -- meaning, not, that we can say nothing about the matter, but that we don't know how much of the reality is beyond our reach, so we have humility.

I really don't know if Lewis's salvation is more, or less, assured, than White's or Luther's. I tend to be sympathetic to Martin Luther, not because I agreed with him, but because I think he was messed up, personally, and caught up in events. I don't know enough about White to have any opinion.

Maybe others would disagree, but it's not the Catholic way to have opinions about anyone's final destiny. I was raised to allow -- quite seriously -- for the possibility that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Judas Iscariot were all, finally, saved. Not because salvation is universal, but because the mystery of salvation and God's grace is too beyond our ken. And because it wasn't certain, I was taught to pray for them all.

If you read Lewis's "Last Battle," particularly the scene involving Emeth, you'll find as good a description of what I'm trying to convey to you as I can recommend.

Jeb Protestant

I just find it interesting that many catholics will praise Lewis as "the century's greatest apologist" in spite of his knowing rejection of Rome. I've even read a catholic or two who says he prays to Lewis for divine intercession.

Maureen

The James White I admire was a rather decent doctor and science fiction writer from Belfast, best known for his Sector General series about a space hospital treating the bizarre diseases of thousands of species of aliens. (Yes, it stars diagnosticians treating House-like medical puzzles. Yes, some tend to make Dr. House look normal. I bet that's there's a shelf of White that explains why House became a diagnostician, too.)

But White wrote a lot of other good books, all of which I recommend to your attention. (Folks here might be particularly interested in his Irish alternate world novel, The Silent Stars Go By. Not my favorite, but I think I hit it at a bad time. I'm reliably advised that Bushmill is a good accompaniment. I've never gotten hold of a copy of The Watch Below, which I believe is a submarine story; but everyone says it's really brilliant and scary, so this is probably why I've never been able to get hold of a copy.)

He passed away in 1999. You can read more about him at sectorgeneral.com.

Maureen

Jeb Protestant --

You do realize that we Catholics can pray for the intercession of just about anybody, if we like? We can chat up our relatives. We can chat up famous composers. We can chat up the little old homeless lady who died last winter. We can chat up the person in Purgatory who most got in by the skin of his or her teeth, and ask for his or her prayers (and pray for him or her in return).

We live with a vivid sense of the cloud of witnesses around us, and the communion of saints through the Body of Christ. (As is vividly depicted by all the saint pictures and statues in Catholic churches.)

So this is not exactly ye interestinge facte. It's more like announcing, "Sometimes the sky is blue!"

Diane

Jon W:

In truth, CS lewis did comment on homosexuality, as a response to an inquiry by Shelden Vanauken as recorded in his book, "A Severe Mercy"

Says Lewis,
"I have seen...more than I wanted of this terrible problem....I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin...our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance...The disciples were not told why the man was born blind, only the final cause, that the works of God should be made manifest in him. This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will 'turn the necessity into glorius gain'."


Hope this clarifies some things,

Donna

Well, this has become an interesting conversation:

Jeb Proddie: Well, I don't know why you all like Lewis. Don't you think he's in hell for not being a Catholic?

Catholics: NO! Not Jack!

Jeb Proddie: But don't you believe all Protestants are going to hell?

Catholics: NO!

Jeb Proddie: Really, now, be honest. You think we all go to hell.

Catholics: No, we don't!

Really, Jeb, we are not going to consign you and C.S. Lewis and my nice Baptist boss to the eternal flames (as if we are the ones who decide), although you seem strangely eager to have us tell you to "go to hell!" :-D

Donna

Seriously, I like what Fr. Septimus has to say. What I was always taught was that while we know certain people (the saints) are in heaven, we cannot say for certain that anyone is in hell.

Personally, I rather liked Lewis' take in "The Great Divorce," although I have no idea whether it is true or not - the notion that free will is operative even after death and even the souls in hell can choose to accept salvation (although, in the book, most of them do not).

I also liked the portrayal of hell as a endlessly grungy, sooty city in the English Midlands. I was in a ugly section of Leeds once on a rainy, cold day and I understood why it would make Lewis think of hell.

Rick

you seem strangely eager to have us tell you to "go to hell!"


That's because "Jeb Proddie" is really "Rad Traddie."

Jon W

Diane,

Ah, yes. I think I remember that passage from ASM, now that you've quoted it. I think the whole "I don't comment on what I don't suffer from" line was referencing him dealing with it at length in a published work. The most I can remember him directly addressing it in one of his own books is somewhere in The Four Loves, where asks how we could feel "anything but pity for the genuinely homosexual" (and also aforementioned passages in SbJ regarding his schoolmates).

John Henry

I just find it interesting that many catholics will praise Lewis as "the century's greatest apologist" in spite of his knowing rejection of Rome.

That is because it is his writings that led so many of us to Rome, whatever his opinion of her may have been. Seriously, he is Catholicism's Trojan Horse. A wolf in sheep's clothing among Protestants, secretly deploying the Tradition and the Fathers in their unsuspecting midst.

I learned my Christianity from him. And then quickly found that the Christianity I had learned had no place in my Evangelical world. So I went where I could find it, which is Catholicism. Works, regenerational baptism, purgatory, confession, a "magical" view of the Eucharist, tradition, the Fathers, etc. The man was all-but-Catholic.

luis

I would like to think on Lewis more as a schismatic but not a protestant, i.e., heretic. In fact, his faith was a catholic faith, in the way of orthodoxy. The schisma does not affect mainly doctrine, so you could hold fides catholica and not be visibiliter in a perfect communion with catholic Church.

luis

Suppose that Cardinal Newman had died before his (full) conversion to Rome, which took for him several years. That's Lewis.
He is now in full communion, I believe

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