Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'C. S. Lewis Overflow'
Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything C.S. Lewis and Narnia Book, due in stores in March 2008, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. This series of articles is thinking inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series.

C. S. Lewis, anonymous Orthodox, 1

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.

CSLewisIn 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 based—according to Lewis's biographers—on 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:

Again and again we have found that C. S. Lewis articulates a vision of Christian truth that a member of the Orthodox Church can whole-heartedly endorse. His starting point may be that of a Western Christian, but repeatedly his conclusions are Orthodox, with a large as well as a small "o." His apophatic sense of God's hiddenness, his teaching on Christ and the Trinity, his understanding of creation and of personhood, were all expressed in terms that appeal to Orthodox Christendom. Surely he has a strong claim to be considered an "anonymous Orthodox."

One of the strongest logical arguments for Anglicans turning to Orthodoxy is that the church governance structure of both communions is more alike than the governing structures of Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. Orthodox often, when describing the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul [the bishopric highest in honor in Orthodoxy] to inquirers of Western backgrounds, say it is more like the office of Archbishop of Canterbury than that of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. Both Orthodoxy and Anglican communions have central offices to dispatch inter-communion questions and promote ecumenical relations, but neither has an infallible magisterial "bishop of bishops" who can tell all his fellow bishops what they may and may not do. Neither did the ancient church before the Great Schism of Eastern and Western churches of 1054. .

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*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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Today's chuckle

God says to Adam, "What would you like in a wife?" "Hmmm," says Adam, "I'd like her to be the most beautiful creature in the world. I'd like her to do whatever I tell her to. I'd like her to work hard, be smart, enjoy being with me."

"Hmmmm", God says, "I can do it, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg."

"Oh," says Adam, "Well what can I get for a rib?"

—Sent by Carl Essex

Thought for today

You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963), The Weight of Glory

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