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.

Surprised by C. S. Lewis

One of the traits about C. S. Lewis's writing that appeals to many readers is that he often sees issues in surprisingly original ways but never fails to reach orthodox conclusions. For example, most Christians are inclined to think of paganism (the religion of pre-Christian peoples, like ancient Ireland's Druids and the Roman and Greek civilizations' mythologies) as anathema, enemies of biblical faith. But Lewis wrote of paganism as much preferable to modern secularism and even said he would welcome a revival of paganism in Britain because it would be better than the "scientism" of his generation.

Though with all orthodox Christians he believed Christianity to be a further development of the religion of the Jews (something so-called "Christian modernists" generally reject), he also believed that pagan myths about a god who becomes a man, and a god who dies and is resurrected, were planted in the imaginations of ancient peoples to prepare them for the coming of Christianity. He was greatly influenced by, and adopted in his own writing, the claim of his writer friend J.R.R. Tolkien (an orthodox Catholic who made a major contribution to Lewis's journey from atheism to Christianity) that the Christian Gospel is "the true myth."

One of the first things people should know about Christianity, he said in public radio addresses aimed at the vast and largely secular audience of BBC listeners during the Second World War, is that they don't have to be the enemies of every other variety of religion. He widened this proposition, unexpected from anyone reputed to be the best writer of Christian apologetics of his time (many "apologetics" courses in orthodox seminaries major in opposing religions posing as alternatives to Christianity) in varied books and talks later in life.

Most notably, it forms the bulk of his book, The Abolition of Man, where he calls it "the Tao," the Chinese word for "the Way" and analogous to "the Logos ('Word')" used in the Gospel as a name for Jesus, God incarnate. Though the Chinese philosophies pre-dating Christianity are used in that book for many illustrations of "the Tao," he shows how the same principles, such as "keep human life sacred" and "help your neighbor" are common in most ancient ways of life from the Egypt of the Pharaohs to Greek and Roman paganism, to the classical philosophies of Plato and Confucius.

In an essay entitled "Ethics," Lewis proposed that those who say "a return to Christian ethics is the only hope for civilization" are failing to realize that Christian ethics is not qualitatively different from any other system of human ethics.This he considered proof of God's gift of "natural law," that all people have conscience, innate knowledge of good and evil, and when they apply themselves to defining such distinctions, they draw mostly similar conclusions.

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Today's chuckle

A new teacher was trying to make use of her psychology courses. She started her class by saying, "Everyone who thinks you're stupid, stand up!"

After a few seconds, Little Johnny stood up. The teacher said, "Do you think you're stupid, Little Johnny?"

"No, Ma'am, I just hated to see you standing there all by yourself!"

Thought for today

A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

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