C.S. Lewis would have been 114 today! While there are some of us who quote Lewis all the time, it’s because Lewis had a profound effect on our thinking. I can’t think of any modern writer who has “mentored” so many people from his writings in terms of apologetics, theology,, and literature, to name a few. When we were kids, we pretended that we were firemen, policeman, army men. Now, we sit around with pipes drinking a beer and talking theology trying to imitate Lewis, Tolkien and others who formed the infamous Inklings. On November 22, 1963 Lewis collapsed and died from kidney failure. His death was overshadowed by another famous person who died that day… John F. Kennedy.
In my opinion why was Lewis so impactful? First, I remember someone telling me that what made Lewis unique is that his writings are loved by both Protestants and Catholics. He was Anglican but his writings reflect a much broader theological position while at the same time holding to “mere Christianity”. His writings not only reflect clear, rational thought but they get at something more important… the deep longings of our heart. I know this is true not only from my own experience but the experience of others when they tell me that it feels like they have spent time with their grandfather who not only shared truth but connected in an existential way to their own heart. That is robust Christianity!
Second, what Lewis did was stir our own imagination. Whether it was through children’s literature or through imaginary conversations in the Screwtape Letters or use of reason and imagination in The Great Divorce, his gift to us was to stoke the fire of our imagination! His use of myth was to remind us that the gospel is the uber-myth, the story that deep in our hearts we have always wanted to be true. Bradley Birzer in his book, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth, quotes Lewis when he wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves, “The story of Christ is simply a true myth. One must be content to accept it in the same way, remember that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths, i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of the poets, using such images as He found there.” This was in the same vein of thinking as Chesterton, Tolkien, and McDonald.
And so it’s with a sense of gratitude that I want to wish Clive Staples Lewis a happy birthday! Thank you for the legacy that you left behind!