My wife is part of a reading group at our church that goes through different books by different Catholic or spiritual authors. Some of it’s fiction, some of it’s not. The latest book they’ve decided to go over is “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis. What surprised my wife and me though was that no one in the group had ever seriously read anything by C.S. Lewis.
It shouldn’t have surpried us, really. Now that I’m Catholic, if I’m reading anything, it’s most likely a Catholic book. That’s not because I’m not interested in other stuff, but rather that there is so much good Catholic literature out there to read, and I feel like, as I convert, I’m playing catch-up.
But still (and I realize and fully admit that I am a nerd when it comes to these things), in my humble opinion, every Christian needs to read C.S. Lewis. Here’s why:
1. He’s a great writer. This kind of goes without saying. So many people have read C.S. Lewis and enjoyed his works because he was so good at what he did. The Chronicles of Narnia are beloved classics. “The Great Divorce”, about a man who travels from purgatory/hell up to heaven, is imaginative and insightful. He was a literary critic and professor at Oxford and Cambridge. He knew his craft.
2. Every Christian I know who has read CS Lewis likes him, and I mean Catholics, charismatics, Anglicans for sure, you name it, it is hard to find a Christian tradition that doesn’t like this guy. He was able to write in a way that speaks to anybody which is his gift. He was an atheist and then converted to Christianity which means he knows how to speak to the larger world and not just in Christian jargon. He was Anglican himself which means he could kind of speak to the Protestant and Catholic crowd. And he focused mostly on those basic Christian teachings that nearly every Christian can get into or at least appreciate.
3. There is almost guaranteed to be something he has written that will appeal to you. Are you into sci-fi? Read “Perelandra” or “Out of the Silent Planet.” Are you into philosophy? Read “The Problem of Pain” or “The Abolition of Man.” Are you in elementary school or junior high? Read the “Chronicles of Narnia.” Apologetics? Read “Mere Christianity.” Theological fiction? “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Great Divorce.” Greek mythology? Read “Till We have Faces.” Are you into blogs where people just write their thoughts on life? Read this blog, and then read “A Grief Observed” – a book where he describes his process of grieving over his wife after she died.
4. He’s probably the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century. This is not because he is as deep as other Christian philosophers, or as witty as other Christian writers. A lot of what he said are things you can find in other books on Christianity, but he had the knack for speaking in a language people could understand – even in his apologetics books.
I find that in my own writing, both in fiction and nonfiction, I pull so heavily from him and his style. I just realized recently, going through the Screwtape letters again, that the book I’m working on now is greatly influenced by the style in which that book was written. I don’t mind at all being so unoriginal when the person I am imitating (or I should say trying to imitate) is someone like him.
If you still aren’t sure whether you want to commit to reading one of his works, try picking up a book of quotes from him to get a feel for how he writes and what he has to say. I hope you’ll find his writings as enjoyable as I did.