If you had visited Oxford in the later years of the 1940s, while Britain was rebuilding and finding its way in the post-war era, you might have come across a frumpy, balding professor taking his daily walk or meeting his
friends at a local pub.
You might even have heard him give a
lecture, preach a sermon or join a debate,
and that would have been very special, for
not only was C. S. Lewis the rising apologist for the Christian faith in the English-speaking world, he was a dynamic presence when he spoke.
And when he did, the room was usually jammed with people.
Fifty years ago this November 22,
C. S. Lewis left what he called the shadow
lands for the brilliant and illuminated land
called heaven, a place of glory beyond tell-
ing where the deepest desires of the heart
are satisfied. It was his life’s work to tell
people about heaven and the glory that
radiates from it, the glory of the One who
made it and who made us.
Lewis believed it was more important
that heaven existed than that any of us
would get there, by which he meant the
reality of heaven is what makes this world
meaningful and beautiful.
During his life Lewis was seen as a
leader in speaking publicly in favour of
Christianity, but today, half a century
after his death, he’s more widely known
and read than ever before. Movies have
helped, including most recently three
from his fantasy novels The Chronicles of
Narnia. (And before those there was the
1993 drama Shadowlands, based on his
marriage and the death of his wife Joy.)
But most of all his writings also remain
compelling in a strange and delicious way.
Today those writings are increasingly
being picked up by leaders who think
about speaking of Christ to our culture.
The reason for this renaissance in Lewis
studies is the success of his writings to
trace out a plan, or perhaps we could say
create an architecture, for apologetics in
our age. Scholars are discovering he understood late modernism and spoke to it with
fervent argument, but even more that he
met late modernism on its own ground,
a ground later redefined as post-modern-ism. He did this by telling stories, weaving
narratives that evoke wonder and longing
while simultaneously pulling the reader’s
thinking in particular directions.
A great many Evangelicals will be familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–56),
more Than Narnia
Five Books by
C. S. Lewis
By Franklin Pyles
phOTO: WALDEN MEDIA. INSE T: hULTON DEUTSCh COLLECTION/JOhN ChILLINGWORTh