Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Return to C.S. Lewis

As I begin the first day of life post-sabbatical, I’ve naturally returned to work at Bidwell Pres. I’m also working on a concept for a new book, which represents something of a happy repayment on a thirty-year old debt.
It was sometime in 1979, as a wishy-washy junior in high school sixteen-year-old atheist-agnostic, that a friend handed me C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I was dumbfounded: Here a writer, a Christian at that, was somehow making the whole Christian faith reasonable. I mean, I had been taught that Christianity was anything but reasoned. And it didn’t take the atheists to convince me that Christians weren’t intellectually engaged—it was the light-in-the-head church youth groups singing Jesus songs, which many of didn’t believe, accompanied by hand-signals that were totally mismatched with the message of denial, faith, and abandonment to God that I heard from Jesus. The flippant belief was all I needed to not believe myself. It wasn’t really hypocrisy; it was the frivolity that turned me away.
I didn’t know who this Lewis guy was, but he made sense. It was so similar to a sentiment that Lewis himself would record—and which I read many years later—about his own reading, as a young atheist, of the Catholic author G.K. Chesterton:
Then I read Chesterton’s Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense. Somehow I contrived not to be too badly shaken. You will remember that I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive “apart from his Christianity.” Now, I veritably believe, I thought—I didn’t of course say; words would have revealed the nonsense—that Christianity itself was very sensible “apart from its Christianity.”
Lewis, though funny, was never frivolous. He knew that Christianity was something worth our lives. And so—if plans proceed—I’ll be writing to invite others to the rich feast of Lewis’s writings where insights pierce the heart, where imagination takes us soaring, and where we might even touch God. The journey to get out those reflections sounds, not frivolous, but (excepting some of the times of hard work) entirely joyful.

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