4 Ways C.S. Lewis Can Shape Your Faith: Insights from a Scholar

It’s C.S. Lewis week here at Faithlife! We’re celebrating the scholar’s life and writings, and with that, discounting the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection for one week only.

In this excerpt from the Walking with C. S. Lewis Companion Guide, author Ryan J. Pemberton shares four ways C.S. Lewis shaped the faith of Lewis scholar Tony Ash. Walking with C.S. Lewis is a video series on the writings of C.S. Lewis featuring Dr. Ash, a longtime professor at Abilene Christian University whose life and faith were profoundly shaped by Lewis’s influence.

The excerpt picks up with the first of four ways C.S. Lewis shaped Dr. Ash’s faith.

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Commitment to Unity

Lewis was no stranger to a debate, but he refused to debate his friends on the inferiority or superiority of various Christian traditions. Whether the Lord’s Supper should be understood this way or that was of little interest to Lewis, and certainly not worth debating, he suggested, precisely because it did not encourage unity. And unity is something our Lord takes very seriously (John 17:20–23). So, too, must we. “Be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall,” Lewis writes. “If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them” (preface, Mere Christianity).

Christians are to strive toward unity among their sisters and brothers rather than resorting to so much time spent trying to prove that their own particular tradition is superior to others. This is one of the great lessons that Professor Ash has taken from C. S. Lewis’s work.

Personal Faith

One of the other great lessons Professor Ash has taken from Lewis’s writing is that he is nearly always making a personal appeal to the reader. Though Lewis may not fit perfectly with our expectations of an evangelical Christian—depending, of course, on who you ask—his writing was perfectly evangelical in that he was concerned with inviting readers to live into the Christian tradition for themselves.

At the end of so many chapters of Mere Christianity, for example, Lewis encourages readers that right here, right now, they have the opportunity to take seriously the claims of Christianity and to live them. As a result, Lewis’s faith was contagious; the fire that had been fanned into a flame inside of him by God’s grace and the faith of others produced light in so many other lives. May the same be true of each of our faith walks.

A Case for Absolutes

In a pluralistic, postmodern culture in which absolute values and morality are frequently traded for “what’s right for you,” C. S. Lewis’s work stands out for his insistence in objective virtues. This, too, is an aspect of Lewis’s work that Professor Ash highly values.

There are many places in Lewis’s writing in which his insistence on absolutes can be found—such as Mere Christianity and That Hideous Strength. As Professor Ash notes, though it is one of Lewis’s most dense works, The Abolition of Man makes an astounding case for absolute values that do not change, no matter the season or climate of our contemporary culture. Humans can no more argue against the idea of absolute, objective values, C. S. Lewis insists, than they can create an entirely new system of virtues. That is why any attempt to write off all of the virtues history has handed down as simply “old fashioned” is ultimately hopeless.

In our postmodern context, Lewis’s insistence on the undeniable reality of absolute virtues is, for many, a refreshing perspective.

Person of Prayer

Concluding on a more personal note, Professor Ash admits his deep appreciation for C. S. Lewis’s commitment to prayer. Far from writing off prayer as a childish practice that a man of his intellect does not need, Lewis frequently talks about his own prayer life, encourages others to do the same, and even asks those to whom he was writing to remember him in their prayers.

Written at the very end of his career and published after his death, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer is a series of letters Lewis wrote to a fictional friend on the subject of prayer. In this book, readers can find Lewis’s thoughts on a variety of different types of prayer, from communal and liturgical to private and petitionary prayer. This writing is not based in years of studying prayer in a clinical or academic setting, but out of his own experience as a devoted man of prayer. And one of the greatest lessons of prayer, for C. S. Lewis as much as for any one of us, is that it reminds us of our absolute need for and dependence on God, which is not a lesson we will ever advance beyond in this life.

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Grab the C.S. Lewis Collection for 30% off while you still can. This rare sale ends at midnight on September 24. (Walking with C.S. Lewis is not included in the collection.)

For more posts about Lewis, see below:

9 Shareable C.S. Lewis Quotes

Look. Listen. Receive. C.S. Lewis on Reading

C.S. Lewis’ Ingenious Apologetic of Longing

C.S. Lewis: An Appreciation

Men Without Chests: Lewis, Relativism, and the Soul of Christianity

C.S. Lewis as a Literary Critic and Medieval Scholar

 

Ryan Pemberton is the author of Called: My Journey to C. S. Lewis’s House and Back Again (Leafwood Publishers) and Walking With C. S. Lewis: A Spiritual Guide Through His Life and Writings (Lexham Press). Follow Ryan at @ryanjpemberton or RyanJPemberton.com.