Kennedy's 'C. S. Lewis Overflow'
C. S. Lewis, anonymous Orthodox, 1
Jonal entry 1012 | July 25 2007
I'm interrupting the discussion of Lewis's science fiction to republish here the first half of my most recently published magazine article, C. S. Lewis: Anonymous Orthodox, in the current edition of Again, a magazine of contemporary issues for Orthodox Christians. As it is about twice as long as most of these Jonal entries, I am breaking it into two installments.
In a paper he gave at Westcott House, Cambridge, in 1959, C. S. Lewis said, "Missionary to the priests of one's own church is an embarrassing role; though I have a horrid feeling that if such mission work is not soon undertaken the future history of the Church of England is likely to be short." Lewis, believed by many to be the most influential Christian writer of the twentieth century, was as aware as anyone of the winds of skepticism blowing through the Church of England [also known as the Anglican Church, Anglicanism, and in some countries, the Episcopal Church*] and he already feared they would blow down his church. One of the tourists visiting heaven on a day trip from hell in Lewis's short novel, The Great Divorce, is a theologically liberal Anglican bishop who argues with his hosts on the superiority of his own religion over against heaven's brand, and gladly gets back into the bus back to hell after he fails to convert those not astute enough to see his brilliance.
In That Hideous Strength, Lewis's most ambitious novel and a frontal assault on academic and worldview liberalism, one of the main proponents of a totally "scientized" society stripped of all spiritual beliefs is an openly apostate clergyman basedaccording to Lewis's biographerson many that he knew at Oxford and beyond. In recent years, British media have been conducting surveys of Anglican clergy and reporting their findings, just in time for Easter, that more than a third of the church leaders in England do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And, as has been widely reported, the defection from traditional Judeo-Christian teachings on sexual sin among some Anglican leaders has scandalized the church and is now resulting in new widespread defections.
Understandably, Lewis's admirers like to wonder where "Jack," as his friends called him, would have gone if he'd lived long enough to say, as so many others have, "enough!" to the Anglicanism he was born into (and died in). Many of the people closest to him, like Dom Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), George Sayer (1914-2006), and even one-time Anglican curate and trustee of the Lewis literary estate Walter Hooper (1931- ), turned to Roman Catholicism as their best hope for a continuing holy catholic and apostolic church. But Oxford University lecturer and Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware expresses the opinion of many Orthodox Christians that Lewis would have likely found a more amenable home in Orthodoxy than the Latin church, even arguing that Lewis was "an anonymous Orthodox." Writing in "God of the Fathers: C. S. Lewis and Eastern Christianity" in The Pilgrim's Guide, C. S. Lewis and the Art of Witness (Eerdmans, 1998) the Bishop of Diokleia says:
*The portions in square brackets are added to make this piece more accessible for readers who are not of either Anglican or Orthodox background.
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