|C. S. Lewis - I love him so much, I can talk about his flaws.|
“There’s no need to read C. S. Lewis,” Dale Ahlquist’s brother-in-law Larry Norman (famed Christian musician) told him. “Everything in Lewis is also in Chesterton, and Chesterton says it better.”
There is much truth to that.
Indeed, Lewis has a kind of diffidence about him. There is a shy withdrawn quality about some of his work. His fascination with fantasy worlds does not have about it what Tolkien’s did. Tolkien’s fantasy world was more manly and solid, as it was based on a faith that was Catholic, that was there whether you liked it or not, and that served as a grounding for all of the intricate fiction that Tolkien built up.
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Lewis’ fantasy worlds were based on a Protestant faith. That may sound like nit-picking, but it makes all the difference in the world. A Catholic may ignore the reality that underlies his faith; it’s there whether he acknowledges it or not, whether he sins against it or not, whether he creates a fictional elaboration of it or not, whether he “feels” it or not. A Protestant must, to some extent, keep pumping up the reality behind his faith; he must gin it up and he ends up doubting how solid it is. Lewis was occasionally scrupulous in prayer, wondering if he had prayed with enough emotion or focus. Such is typically a Protestant fear, since “faith alone” cuts the believer off from the moorings. “Faith alone” puts us afloat without the ropes that tie us to the dock. It makes one suspect, even darkly and subconsciously, as one floats untied, that the shore is no longer there, and that the bark of faith and the anchor of hope are the most important things about the vessel. The reality of the solid land – of the destination for which the boat was built – becomes in the mind more sandy and shifting than solid, more like a mirage and less like a Rock.
This is not to say that Lewis was a bad Christian – but it is to say that there was something a bit squeamish about him. Fantasy for him, when he was a child, had about it the unhealthy aspect that it does for those among us we call “nerds”; it was a make-believe world compensating for loneliness, a small child’s unwillingness to play outside or scuffle in the sandbox. I’m not saying that this element defines everything Lewis wrote, but that element was always present. We see this played out in his adult “marriage” to Joy Davidman, a word I put in quotes because there was little about it – at least at first – that was the solid, sacramental union of two bodies and souls in Christ, and much more that was make-believe, playing house, pretending. Yes, “Jack” and Joy loved one another, and their marriage and short life together ended up being blessed, but early on they were both simply working the system – and this willingness to manipulate spiritual things out of fear or diffidence is never wholly absent from the writings of C. S. Lewis, brilliant as those writings are.
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And I'm serious in what I say in the caption to Lewis' picture above. He is a great writer and I love the man. I love him enough and have read him closely enough to know his flaws - which the Christian community hardly ever acknowledges, and which I'll probably take heat for acknowledging here.