No Time Like the Present
Few would deny the claim that C. S. Lewis was the twentieth century’s most influential and insightful apologist. He is less often acknowledged as a perceptive and prophetic cultural critic. And yet those two roles are inseparable in his writing. When Lewis wrote essays, lectures, and books explicitly intended to defend the faith, his imagination was informed by an abiding and sensitive awareness of how modern assumptions about life and meaning (mediated through our cultural experience) create obstacles for belief and for the ramifications of belief we call “faithfulness.” And those insights permeate his other writing as well, works of and about literature, about history, and about spiritual struggle.
In 1998, during the centenary of Lewis’s birth, I interviewed for Mars Hill Audio a number of Lewis scholars, including the philosopher and ethicist Gilbert Meilaender, whose 1978 book The Taste for the Other: The Social and Ethical Thought of C. S. Lewis had just been reissued. During the interview, we talked about the distinctive qualities of Lewis’s writings, particularly his apologetics works. Gil noted that he didn’t think that Lewis’s success as an apologist was tied (as many have asserted) to his skills in making arguments. “His work is so fundamentally imaginative,” Gil observed,
I think he’s not so much trying to argue anybody into thinking something as he is simply trying to help us understand what it would mean to believe something, through the enormous gifts he has for illustration and metaphor and story. A great deal of what he does is simply trying to think through what the world looks like from a Christian perspectivemake it understandable and make it come alive for us.
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Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also served as editor of Eternity, the Evangelical monthly magazine, and This World, the quarterly predecessor to First Things. He also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.
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