Saturday, November 24, 2012

C.S. Lewis

Died peacefully the same day as President Kennedy. My guess is like a lot of old-school British things he’s got more American fans than British, considering how anti-religious Britain’s become. I like him. I read Narnia as a kid and Mere Christianity and Screwtape as a young man. Interesting: Mr Via Media, quintessentially Anglican, good and bad; more Catholic than his legions of Protestant fans (he went to an Anglo-Catholic parish because it was his territorial parish; he went to confession and believed in purgatory) but short of Catholicism, and lifelong anti-Rome (he was ethnic English from Northern Ireland). By the way, Tolkien, a sound Catholic, thought Narnia was a dumb preachy ripoff of his fiction and I think he and Lewis fell out over it. (Never got into Lord of the Rings.) Plenty of speculation what he’d do today. Get over his prejudice and become Catholic? Sell out and go along with Anglicanism’s changes? The convert Orthodox, often ex-Protestants, want to claim him too. I have no idea what would have happened. Maybe settled in with the C of E Evangelicals. I imagine if he were an American he might have gone Missouri Synod.


  1. I'd have a hard time seeing Lewis selling out and going along with Anglicanism's changes, seeing as how he never spared his criticisms toward the laxity in the hierarchy that was becoming apparent even in his day (the Episcopal Ghost from the Great Divorce would be a good example). What he would do today is a good question- too Catholic to become an Evangelical or join the Reformed, too concerned about the "scope of the pope" to become a Roman Catholic, he would probably view Orthodoxy as being not universal enough (though he did have some rather nice things to say about the Greek Orthodox in his Letters To Malcolm)- being English he might just stay with the Church of England despite what their American counterparts are doing up until such a time as that church officially declares heresy (I personally stayed with the Episcopal Church for many years after leaving my Southern Baptist background, behind based on the example set in his writings, despite their women and practicing gay bishops- it took the current round of lawsuits to wake me up to the reality of the Broad Church).

    In the case of Orthodox converts, those (like myself) who came from Evangelical backgrounds probably wish to "claim" him because he was a window for many of us to something beyond the sola scriptura, sacraments-are-mere-symbols mindset that dominates that particular expression of Christianity. Certainly the Anglicanism of the late 19th and early 20th century bore enough of a resemblance (on the surface, at least) to Orthodoxy that ecumenical dialogue went rather well between the two bodies up until the various Anglican bodies started ordaining women. Speaking from personal experience, Lewis laid the foundation (built upon in later reading by the Church Fathers and G.K. Chesterton) without which I would have never been able to accept a more salvific view of the sacraments, let alone the intercessions of the Saints or ever-virginity of the Theotokos. It's nice to note those places that Lewis agreed with Orthodox thought, but to proclaim him (as some do) "Orthodox" is to ignore the facts. Lewis was as Anglican as they come- to modify a phrase he was "more Anglican than +Canterbury".

    Still: Memory Eternal.

    1. Mr. Commini, You might like to acquire this winsome little piece:,E13Zy,PX2k_0024540632_1:23:1367&bq=author%3Dherbert%2520arthur%2520hodges%26title%3Danglicanism%2520and%2520orthodoxy%2520a%2520study%2520in%2520dialectical%2520churchmanship

      Originally given as a lecture in 1949, and expanded and published in 1955, the author, H. A. Hodges (1905-1976) was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, and a friend of C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers.

    2. Thank you, Dr. Tighe. I'll have to hunt it down someday. I believe I came across some excerpts during the not-quite-so-serious portion of my inquiry into Orthodoxy phase, and wouldn't mind reading a little more.

    3. It really is worth getting, and this copy is as about as cheap a one as you're likely ever to find.

    4. As you note, Lewis was English (he didn't like the term British) and the Anglican Church was the church of the English, so that's where he, as an Englishman, went.

    5. Forgive me the quibble, but Lewis was Irish by birth and Welsh by descent (the Lewises were a prominent family in Glamorganshire for centuries). He certainly lived most of his life in England but I doubt that he ever fully considered himself English.

      That does not take away from the main point, that for Lewis the Church of England simply was "the Church" and as such he cleaved to it. Lewis had the attitude of his mother's Church of Ireland background rather than that of the Welsh Methodism on his father's side.

  2. "I think he and Lewis fell out over it."

    That was one of several issues that caused tension between them- another was Lewis' refusal to believe reports from Spain of priests and nuns being murdered en masse by the communists. Lewis said it was nothing but Fascist propaganda, and Tolkien thought (probably correctly) that anti-Catholic bigotry was the only reason Lewis was ignoring the copious evidence of Republican atrocities.

  3. His marriage to the American divorcée also strained their relationship a great deal.

  4. Tolkien, who began but didn't finish many writing projects, began a review of Lewis' *Letters to Malcolm* which he entitled "The Ulsterior Motive: the Religion of C. S. Lewis," but, perhaps fortunately, never completed it.


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