Someone once asked my why I went to live in England for twenty five years and I answered. “It was C.S.Lewis’ fault. I discovered C.S.Lewis while at college and from his writings and the life of T.S.Eliot I became an avowed Anglophile. When I had the chance to study at Oxford for three years it was like a dream come true.
Lewis has changed the lives of millions and it is fascinating to live in these fifty years following his death to see how his books and those of his friend J.R.R.Tolkien have stood the test of time to become classics. When he died he was certain that his books would go out of print and his stepsons and brother would have no income.
Lewis’ writings are a dose of fresh sanity is a world of stagnant insanity. They are witty, wise and full of wonder. He writes clearly and profoundly, answering questions you never thought to ask. In the midst of academic obfuscation and deliberate ambiguity he writes with clarity, charity and common sense. He is a spring shower, a summer breeze and the bracing blast of astringent winter wind that brightens the mind, sharpens the logic and refreshes the heart all at the same time.
I wrote this in in the foreword to Joseph Pearce’s C.S.Lewis and the Catholic Church:
The Anglicanism of C.S.Lewis is attractive to many American Evangelicals because it gives historical and philosophical roots to the subjective, free flowing and wide ranging experience of modern American Protestantism. The classical Anglican position is that the Church of England (and by extension the other churches of the Anglican Communion) are the ancient Catholic Church properly reformed. Anglicans like to insist that their church is one of the three ancient apostolic churches along with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, but that it has affirmed all that is good from the Protestant Reformation.
Anglicans claim that they have retained the ancient faith while excising the excesses and excrescences of Roman Catholicism. Anglicanism, they argue, is a Catholic form of Protestantism, and holds together the good parts of both in a via media–a middle way. One of the reasons C.S.Lewis was committed to Anglicanism was because he believed this via media was the best place to preach the simple Christian faith which he termed “mere Christianity.”
This was Anglicanism’s main appeal for me. I felt I could be Catholic without being Roman Catholic. I could share in the ancient tradition, culture and spirituality of Catholicism, without all the foreign fuss, frippery and folderol. I could be Catholic without all the tiresome rules and regulations, or the unnecessary additional doctrines, decrees and dogmas. Within Anglicanism I could be a “mere Christian” with C.S.Lewis.
My love affair with Lewis, England and Anglicanism lasted about fifteen years and continues now even though we have accepted the “More Christianity” of Catholicism.
David Mills is another former Evangelical now a Catholic who has been much influenced by Lewis. His “must read” list of books by Lewis is here.