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Last updated: 26 Sept. 2015
Lessons revised at GC 2009.
C S LEWIS
SCHOLAR AND SPIRITUAL WRITER (22 NOV 1963)
The Irish-English writer C S Lewis (1898-1963) has written many books and essays on the Christian faith, some defending it, some meditating on it. A partial list follows
1) MERE CHRISTIANITY. This originated as a series of fifteen-minute radio talks addressed to a very general audience, undertaking to give a general account of Christian belief. It begins with a discussion of some reasons for believing that God exists, and why it matters that He does, and then continues with an account of the redeeming work of God in Christ. It includes a discussion of Christian moral standards, and Trinitarian theology. Throughout, the author undertakes to confine himself to the common Christian core of belief, and to steer clear of disagreements between denominations -- hence the word MERE in the title.
2) MIRACLES. The author defines a miracle as "an interference with Nature by a supernatural power," and proceeds to examine the question of whether we have grounds for believing that there exists something that can properly be called supernatural (this involves definitions of Nature other than just "everything that exists"), whether there are grounds for supposing that that something could not or would not interfere with the workings of Nature, and what sort of view of reality is involved in the Christian assertion of the Miracle of the Incarnation (God took human nature upon Himself in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth). A cogent discussion and analysis of fundamental questions.
3) THE PROBLEM OF PAIN. Undertakes to answer the question, "If God is good and God is omnipotent, then why is there pain and evil in the world?" or, as otherwise put, "If God loves me, why can't I get my locker open?"
4) THE GREAT DIVORCE. A dream (owing some ideas to Dante) in which the author visits Heaven and Hell. The question is not what they are like physically, but rather what it means to be in Hell or in Heaven.
5) THE ABOLITION OF MAN. Not explicitly Christian. Three lectures defending the concept of Natural Law (a moral standard known in principle to all human societies).
6) THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. A series of letters from Screwtape, an experienced devil, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter on his first assignment. The letters deal with the psychology of temptation, and will make most readers laugh -- and wince. (NOTE: Some copies have at the end an essay, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast". This was written years later on a totally different subject. By all means read them both, but not as a single work, or in rapid succession.)
7) REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS. Problems or questions that occurred to Lewis while praying or studying the Psalms, and his thoughts thereon.
8) A PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST. A series of lectures on epic poetry and in particular on Milton's Paradise Lost. Lewis delivered these in his professional capacity as a specialist in Mediaeval and Renaissance English Literature, but they will be of interest to Christians as well as to English students, for Lewis maintains that one cannot understand or appreciate the poem without understanding (not necessarily accepting) the beliefs that the poem presupposes.
9) THE WORLD'S LAST NIGHT AND OTHER ESSAYS. Includes THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER. Does it make sense to believe that prayer can change things? ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF. Does it ever make sense to believe something "in the teeth of the evidence"? THE WORLD'S LAST NIGHT. How ought the doctrine of Christ's Second Coming to affect our lives and thoughts? AND OTHER ESSAYS. Many collections of Lewis's essays have appeared since his death, and there is an annoying lack of uniformity, so that the same essay may appear in two different books, or in one but not another collection with the same title.
10) THE WEIGHT OF GLORY AND OTHER ADDRESSES. Includes THE WEIGHT OF GLORY. On the promises concerning Heaven. TRANSPOSITION. (The title essay of the earlier editions.) On the indwelling of the higher in the lower. THE INNER RING. On the urge to "belong" as a temptation. AND OTHER ADDRESSES.
11) THE SPACE TRILOGY. Three science-fiction or fantasy novels on Christian themes. OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, PERELANDRA, THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH
12) THE NARNIA CHRONICLES. Seven books for children, fantasies or fairy tales that introduce indirectly many Christian topics. A reader might not notice the Christian implications (and I would suggest not pointing them out to a first-time reader), but an adult faced with a serious, intellectual, adult question may sometimes recall a passage as very much to the point. (I have.) Calling them books of stories may suggest an arbitrary collection of independent tales. In fact each book is a single story, and the series is a unity and should probably be read in the order of writing (although this makes the sixth a flashback, and some would favor reading it first.) THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE; PRINCE CASPIAN; THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER; THE SILVER CHAIR; THE HORSE AND HIS BOY; THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW; THE LAST BATTLE
13) LETTERS TO MALCOLM, CHIEFLY ON PRAYER. The title explains.
14) TILL WE HAVE FACES. Novel retelling the story of Eros and Psyche from the viewpoint of one of the sisters. One listmember wrote that she disliked Lewis's work (I suspect for political reasons). I got her to read this and she loved it. She said: "I had no idea Lewis could write this sort of book!"
15) ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY EXCLUDING DRAMA, later named POETRY AND PROSE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. A standard reference work. Much of the material is of interest chiefly to the specialist, but someone already familiar with the doctrines on which Christians are in general agreed and wanting to understand the differences that gave rise to the Protestant Reformation will find much helpful material. I particularly recommend pages 32-44, 162-165, 177-180, 181-192, 438-463.
16) THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS. An account in the style of John Bunyan of how a young man, nominally reared as a Christian, abandoned his beliefs and fared forth in search of something better, and eventually arrived at a destination in one sense identical with, but in another sense very different from, his starting point. The intellectual alternatives he considers are affected by the fact that he is (a) an Englishman, living in the 1920's, and (b) a scholar largely devoted to literature and philosophy. Today's reader may therefore find some of the references irrelevant or simply baffling, but I predict that there will be a residue that hits home. [Out of print but probably available used.]
17) THE FOUR LOVES. An analysis of different kinds of love, and different uses of the word "love," taking as its starting point four Greek words for kinds of love.
18) THE ALLEGORY OF LOVE first made Lewis's reputation in his profession as a literature professor. It deals with the development of allegorical love poetry in Western Europe from Ovid to Spenser. Parts of it are of interest only to the specialist, but I do not think this is true of the book as a whole. Reading it significantly changed my views on the workings of the subconscious. [Out of print but probably available used.]
19) GOD IN THE DOCK is a collection published after Lewis's death of various essays, brief memos, letters to the editor, etc. that he had written. [Out of print but probably available used.]
20) AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM deals with Art, particularly literature. Many critics have first distinguished good books from bad books, and then defined Bad Taste as a taste for Bad Books. Lewis asks what will happen if we reverse the process by distinguishing two kinds of pleasures to be gotten from books (or music, or painting) and then distinguishing books on the basis of the kind of pleasure that they offer, or the way in which they invite the reader to approach them. [Out of print but probably available used.]
21) THE DISCARDED IMAGE is an account of the view of the cosmos that was standard in medieval times, with a discussion of its effect on literature and on the imagination.
22) STUDIES IN WORDS takes several English words (and often their counterparts in Latin or Greek) and discusses changes in their meaning from century to century, and the patterns of human thought underlying the changes.
**) AND MANY MORE!!
by James Kiefer
[Note: Not mentioned are two autobiographical books: A
Grief Observed and Surprised
by Joy. Also, several of his major works: Mere Christianity,
The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles,
A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man are available
as a single