What Accounts for the Powerful Spiritual Impact of C.S. Lewis? - page 2




What Accounts for the
Powerful Spiritual Impact of C.S. Lewis?

by Lyle Dorsett,
Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School

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Well, thanks to my being employed at the Wade Center, and thanks to Marjorie Mead, who was instrumental in my coming here, I was able to do a major oral history project: My wife and I would travel to the UK every year; we interviewed, I would think, forty or so people; we always took a video camera and went around and interviewed people who knew Lewis. I got a couple of other young people to do some other interviews. I think we had – at least during my tenure – more than fifty oral history interviews with people who knew C.S. Lewis. They were relatives; they were students of his; they were colleagues, whatever their relationship. We talked to them about Lewis, picked their brains about Lewis, and I would glean things from them on what made him grow spiritually; I learned so many things from different people.

I also had the privilege of being here in this place and going through all the C.S. Lewis letters that have been collected from the time Clyde Kilby started with a pile of letters he had from C.S. Lewis on down to … – the Wade Center is still acquiring letters that people locate written by C.S. Lewis. And in these letters there are many clues, in fact a lot of strong evidence on how Lewis grew and matured spiritually. This is a very important topic, not only because it’s interesting to know about Lewis, but I can tell you this from my own personal experience: once I began to gather together the factors that shaped him as a powerful Christian, it began to change me. I wrote a book on the spiritual formation of C.S. Lewis to help other people, and part of the burden on my heart and soul this week as I’m here with you – I want to convey to you what I found about Lewis’s spiritual formation, what elements were involved, what factors were involved in him growing from infancy into more maturity in Christ, not only to learn about him but to see what can we take and put into practice. But I would say this, and this is really the thesis of what I’m saying tonight and this week: C.S. Lewis’s influence has been wide and deep, and it still is, because of the depth of his spirituality.

It’s very easy to try to explain Lewis’s effectiveness in ways that are obviously part of it but not the real issue. He wrote in so many different genres. He’d get a theme he was keen on, and you’d find it in a poem; you’d find it in a piece of fiction; you’d find it in an essay; you’d find it in a sermon; he would develop these things. So he had this versatility to write in a variety of genres to reach a much wider audience. That’s one thing.

He also had, I think, the advantage of being a convert, a midlife convert. I don’t recommend people waiting to come to Christ until they’re older in life. I think it’s good if people can grow up in the faith and never stray from it. But Lewis knew what the agnostics and the atheists were thinking; he’d been there. He knew the questions they were asking, and he didn’t try to dodge them and pretend they were bad questions; he would reach out and try to speak to those questions. So to me it’s a glimpse of God’s economy. God’s economy is phenomenal to me. Lewis was an agnostic for a long time, perhaps an atheist. But God used that to train him up to make him more effective.


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