The Lutheran Appreciation of C. S. Lewis by Dr. Eric Phillips

Today’s guest author is Dr. Eric Phillips, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Nashville, Tennessee. Before attending seminary, he earned a Ph.D. in Early Christian Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He lives with his wife Kristina and their three children, the oldest of whom is six.

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Twice a Genius

In sitting down to write an essay on “how Lutherans appreciate C.S. Lewis,” I am confronted with the question of whether there is a distinctly Lutheran version of this appreciation.

I could write for a long time about my own admiration for the man and his work, but I suspect that most of my points would be echoed by most of the other essayists who are participating in this tribute. In fact, if this were not the case—if Lewis were not immensely attractive to Christians from across the denominational spectrum—this project would never have been conceived. He was first and foremost an apologist, whose goal and especial talent was to explain Christianity to the Modern mind. Whether that mind is in other respects a Lutheran mind, or a Baptist, Anglican, or Roman Catholic mind, or a secular and unbelieving mind, hardly matters. His message gets through, and is little changed by the various filters.

Mere Christianity was only one of his many books, but the project defines his whole corpus. In the preface to that work, he famously described Christianity as a great house, and the individual Christian communions as rooms within the house. While he counseled his readers to find a room, and not “live in the hall,” his primary goal was to convince people to enter the house in the first place:

Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.

This was indeed his forte, but in so doing he also explained the faith to all of us who already believe, with the result that we understand it better and are made bolder in the face of contrary Modernisms, having been shown how flimsy are their claims next to those of the Christian Church. I like to say of Lewis that he was twice a genius: first to have the thoughts he did, second to be able to communicate them with such clarity and simplicity. Many great intellectuals can speak to the public only through interpreters. C.S. Lewis speaks for himself. [Read more…]