This week I am headed down to Moscow Idaho for the Wordsmithy writer’s workshop at New St. Andrews College. One of the homework assignments was to reflect on the influence of C. S. Lewis on my life so far.
To my great regret my personal acquaintance with the actual writings of C.S. Lewis are limited. Until now I have had the illusion that I knew him well because I have been surrounded by quotes and conversations about him all the time, I was well versed in him myself. Nevertheless, I do feel that the limited exposure to him that I have had has had a very important place in my growth as a christian and a thinker.
During my early years in college I came to a time where I was really searching for a credible foundation for the things I believed. I was taking numerous classes which we actively challenging my christian worldview and I was surrounded by a bunch of young people who thought they had it all figured out because they learned the exquisite art of doubt. Philosophy classes were filled with conversations where any idiot with half a brain was given the freedom to say what they thought and feel smart about it, or to finish off with, “No one really knows.”
I needed real answers. Did my christian convictions line up to the “scrutiny”(if you could call it that) of the surrounding world? During this time I sought the input of a variety of history’s thinking christians, one of which was C. S. Lewis. The first work I turned to was his Mere Christianity.
Much can be said about Lewis’ writing that is good. But I think for me, the most accurate way to put it is that I found him incredibly effective. There were a couple of reasons why I think this is so. First of all, he spoke with a vivd clarity. In his works, complex ideas would come to life and clearly show their bright relevance. Thus, one could see a very clear line of reasoning, weave through his arguments like a thick cord. Secondly, he spoke with an honest objectivity. He did not allow himself to get entangled in intricate details and forget the overall picture. Some questions he did not have a full answer for. Yet at these moments he was able to turn to his audience and critics to hear their answers. Yet he did this only then to demonstrate that their answers were even less complete than his. This gave him a stance as a writer who was not “coming at” his readers, but rather coming alongside them. It puts author and audience all on one path in the quest for answers. This extinguishes the air of hostility and breeds an atmosphere of companionship, making him easy to listen and relate to.
My major takeaway from that read was the realization that, we christians have a set of answers that is much more powerful than we think. We mustn’t allow the world to direct our perspective of our own worldview. Much too often christians are driven by the loud voices around to be embarrassed of the things they believe. What is more, we do this without actually examining the claims made against us. Everyone says so, so they must be right, right? Additionally, I saw the power of tone and stance in his writings. It is critically important how we choose our words. In a world that is literally drowning in words and ideas, we must more than ever consider our approach. There is no use in being right if your words don’t carry a permeating saltiness that irresistibly impacts its surroundings. If you are going to speak out you might as well do so in a way that will be heard.
As I reflect on the impact of one book on my thinking I come to see one fact: I want more. I want to be challenged and chiseled all the more by the men who have challenged and chiseled the course of history. I want to take my place as a voice among them, however small it may seem.