I’ve been a fan of CS Lewis’ writing forever, since I picked up The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in my church library when I was around ten. Over the years I have managed to read most of his books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is often quoted and has shaped many hearts and minds. For what it is worth, enjoy my top ten Lewis books.
This is a short book, under 100 pages, that packs a powerful punch. Lewis argues for the importance of universal values such as honor and courage. He shows how these values are found all over ancient cultures and world religions. It makes sense, since if all humans are created in God’s image then we should share many values. As he looked at the twentieth century, Lewis feared his culture was trying to jettison these long-held and vital values.
Some of Lewis’ best work came in essays and lectures. This book is a collection of some of those. The best here is “Learning in War Time” where he addresses whether it is worthwhile continuing to study at university during war, specifically WWII. Expanded, this is one of the best defenses of Christians pursuing study that you will find anywhere. He also writes an essay on why he is not a pacifist, which I recall being disappointing. Overall though, a wonderful collection.
Here is another collection of essays, though this one is at least twice as long as The Weight of Glory. If you have read a lot of Lewis, you will see many of his ideas found in his books showing up in his essays. On the other hand, if you’re new to Lewis this might serve as a good preview for some of the arguments in his books.
Lewis is the rare author who combined the ability to write fantastic fiction with compelling work on Christian spirituality and theology. This book was his last work of fiction and perhaps his best. While the Narnia stories were for children and much of the symbolism was easy to discover, the messages and meanings here require a good bit more thought. Lewis thought highly of pre-Christian paganism, and this story is set in such a pre-Christian land. Thus we meet a “god” and not God. Lewis thought that Western culture might need to return to paganism in order to be prepared for a serious reevaluation of Christianity. Meaning and symbolism aside, this is a great story.
In this book Lewis examines different types of love, from affection and friendship to romantic love and self-giving love. I found this both challenging and enlightening. One vital point Lewis makes is differentiating between need-pleasure and pleasure-of-appreciation. The first is kind of self-centered you appreciate something because you need it; you love it because of what it does for you. This is not bad of course, but, to take one example, if your love of your spouse never matures past this you are in trouble. Pleasure rooted in appreciation loves the other for its (his, her) inherent goodness and beauty.
Stay tuned for 5-1 next week…