The Relevance of History

Stephen Porter

5 Stars

September 24, 2012

C.S. Lewis is arguably the greatest Christian author of the 20th century. The Chronicles of Narnia are revered alongside Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as one the greatest fantasy series ever written, but even more pronounced in the church are his Christian works like Mere Christianity, On Pain, The Screw Tape Letters, etc.

However, and this is a lesson the mass of Christian writers publishing today should take note of, C.S. Lewis’s writing ability was not just natural talent. It was honed through years of studying the great writers of yesteryear and his contemporaries. He was a literary professor after all.

For that matter, His Christianity didn’t exist in a bubble either. He read the church fathers, writings of the Catholic Saints, the scholastics, the reformers, the transcendentalists, and even the Pre-Raphaelites of the Victorian period.

The idea that we are somehow separate from the history of the church is a pernicious falsehood that stems from postmodernism’s crazy idea that there is no over-arching story in the world, that every generation sits in its own little bubble.

And while C.S. Lewis lived in the era of modernism, there were elements of postmodernism starting to surface in his time, some of which he championed and some of which he mocked, particularly the ideas of Marx and Freud, saying that they were “sawing off the branch that they were sitting on,” but that’s a whole different discussion, and I ought not follow that rabbit trail less this review become an academic paper, but I do think including some of the authors Lewis severely disagrees with in the book would have helped build the picture of his spiritual journey.

Overall, From the Library of C.S. Lewis, does an excellent job drawing a loose sketch of the authors that Lewis favored in his lifetime by including several excerpts from the most influential ones. The book arranges the excerpts by topic like “God’s Love”, “Our Love for Christ”, “Christ’s Sacrifice” etc, which makes the excerpts a lot more approachable than just randomly throwing them together.

If you’re interested not only in what influenced C.S. Lewis, but in the history of the church, and those who have followed Christ through the years, this is a good place to start, but be forewarned, if you do pick this book up, you may find yourself buying a few more books from the authors whose excerpts have been included.