How C.S. Lewis Managed to Be All Things to All People
- Wednesday, November 09, 2005
How does a Christian talk about faith with a seeker?
Sometimes it's hard to know where to start. So much depends on the seeker: what he or she already knows, their questions and objections – and these days there is an overwhelming number of questions.
That's why a wonderful new book written by my friend Art Lindsley, "C. S. Lewis's Case for Christ," is so valuable. In it Art shows how one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century managed, in his life and in his work, to be nearly all things to all people.
Art adopts a fresh approach to the material by framing it with a story about a discussion group gathering in a bookstore to talk about the works of Lewis. Each chapter opens and closes with a vignette about this fictional group, which is made up of very different people who are there for very different reasons.
There's a mother interested in children's literature; an atheist who wants to know how Lewis "was duped into believing in a God"; a woman on a "spiritual quest" who thinks that all religions are equally true; a nominal Christian; and a man who's "just here for the coffee." The group's only committed believer is its leader, John, who does his best to answer the group's questions about Lewis, literature, and God.
Despite their major differences, these people keep coming back for more, because Lewis has something to offer each one of them. In fact, one of the most remarkable things about Lewis has always been the breadth of his appeal. Lovers of fantasy are drawn by his magnificent imagination; logical thinkers are attracted by his careful, methodical, and brilliant reasoning. Even atheists like Art's fictional character Simon find Lewis appealing – after all, Lewis was once one of them.
On his long, difficult path to the Christian faith, he experienced the same struggles, doubts, and questions that other atheists face. Seekers of all kinds have found in Lewis something to which they can relate. And as the book demonstrates, even people who have never thought that deeply about faith often find themselves doing so when they encounter his arguments. I know, because it was Lewis's book "Mere Christianity" that God used so powerfully in my conversion thirty-two years ago.
The book takes on some of the most difficult arguments of our day – arguments and questions that Lewis also dealt with in his era, like "How can a good God allow evil?" and "Don't all religions teach the same thing?"
It's crucial to remember, of course, that the main focus of our attention should not be on Lewis. Art points this out through one of his characters in the final chapter of his book: "C. S. Lewis would not want people to focus on his personality or even his books. He wanted to point beyond that," Art writes, "to Jesus." And that's exactly what this book does, focusing not on Lewis but, as the title says, on Lewis's case for Christ.
But it's worth learning how Lewis, through his wide range of interests and experiences, was able to be so many things to so many people, and answer so many questions, then pointing them to the God who could meet every one of their needs. And Art Lindsley's "C. S. Lewis's Case for Christ" is a great compilation of the most important thoughts and arguments used over the years in Lewis's voluminous writings: arguments we need to understand today as we introduce seekers to Christ.
© 2005 Prison Fellowship
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