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John Piper:

Lewis’s unwavering commitment to what is True and Real and Valuable, as opposed to what is trendy or fashionable or current, has been another kind of liberation for me, namely, from “chronological snobbery.” He loved the wisdom of the ages, not the whimsy of the passing present. He called himself a Neanderthaler and a dinosaur.

He didn’t read newspapers.

He never wore a watch.

He never learned to type.

He did not own or drive a car.

He cared nothing about cutting a good appearance and wore the same old clothes until they were threadbare.

He was incredibly free from the addicting powers of the present moment.

The effect of this on me has been to make me wary of what he called “chronological snobbery.”  That is, he has shown me that “newness” is no virtue, and “oldness” is no fault. He considered the present time to be provincial with its own blind spots. He said once: every third book you read should be from outside your own (provincial) century. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty and opened for me the wisdom of the centuries.

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6 thoughts on “One of the Reasons C.S. Lewis Remains So Widely Read 50 Years after His Death”

  1. Flyaway says:

    Some things like wearing the same clothes until they are threadbare could be “constitutional.” In other words he was born with no desire to shop. I’m that way and would wear the same thing every day if my husband didn’t complain! But he used and developed the wonderful gifts he was given and through God’s work in his life left us treasures! May we all do the same.

  2. Lindele says:

    This makes me happy that I do not have a cell phone. However, I am on facebook. But not twitter.

  3. JohnM says:

    Taking nothing away from Lewis I assure you, but…

    “He didn’t read newspapers.
    He never wore a watch.
    He never learned to type.
    He did not own or drive a car.
    He cared nothing about cutting a good appearance and wore the same old clothes until they were threadbare.
    He was incredibly free from the addicting powers of the present moment.”

    And he was exceptionally smart, but perhaps not exceptionally eccentric within his environment, which is why he could get away with all the above, whereas most of the rest of us cannot. But to the extent that you can get away with it, by all means do.

  4. Andy says:

    “Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration. How did someone with such a checkered pedigree come to be a theological Elvis Presley, adored by evangelicals?”

    He believed in purgatory. In Letters to Malcolm, he wrote “I believe in Purgatory. The right view returns magnificently in Newman’s Dream. There if I remember rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer with its darkness to affront that light. Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?” (pp. 110-111)
    He believed in evolution.
    He was unusually tolerant of mythology and paganism. On a visit to Greece with his wife in 1960, Lewis made the following unusual statement: “I had some ado to prevent Joy (and myself) from lapsing into paganism in Attica! AT DAPHNI IT WAS HARD NOT TO PRAY TO APOLLO THE HEALER. BUT SOMEHOW ONE DIDN’T FEEL IT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY WRONG–WOULD HAVE ONLY BEEN ADDRESSING CHRIST SUB SPECIE APOLLONIUS” (C.S. Lewis to Chad Walsh, May 23, 1960, cited from George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis, 1994, p. 378).
    He believed in prayers for the dead. In Letters to Malcolm, he wrote, “Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter men. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden” (p. 109).
    He believed in a type of “soft universalism.” “[H]ere are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position” (Mere Christianity pp 176-177).
    Perhaps these are why renowned Welsh preacher D. Martin Lloyd-Jones warned that C.S. Lewis had a 1101470908_400.jpgdefective view of salvation and was an opponent of the substitutionary and penal view of the atonement (Christianity Today, Dec. 20, 1963). And in a letter to the editor of Christianity Today, Feb. 28, 1964, Dr. W. Wesley Shrader, First Baptist Church, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, warned that “C.S. Lewis … would never embrace the (literal-infallible) view of the Bible” (F.B.F. News Bulletin, Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, March 4, 1984).

    1. Rich Tuttle says:

      While many of your arguments require more nuance to understand Lewis rightly (ie. Purgatory and Mythology) it would be unfruitful to touch them in a comment thread. However the notion that Lewis believed in evolution I contend is false. While evolution was not his main target, his book “Miracles” and his space trilogy expose the flaws and motivations behind a Darwinian worldview.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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