Like so many others I can remember exactly what I was doing for a portion of the day exactly 43 years ago this very day. I was munching on a cheese roll—that is, one of those big Kaisers with cheese in it; I still love the things—and a news flash interrupted the television show I was watching—Ponderosa!—to inform the watching public that the President of the United States, JFK, had been assassinated. I was in England at the time and I can still visualize the room in which I was lying at Knoll Court, Coventry. Later, in my teens, as an avid fan of sci-fi—I almost never read the stuff today, but have shifted in my fiction loves to mystery!—I read the works of another who died that day—Aldous Huxley.
Years later, when I was converted and beginning to read Christian literature, I learned of yet another who had died that day, C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). Lewis was very instrumental, along with Francis Schaeffer, in informing and shaping my early Christian mind. Since then I have gone through a love-like relationship with his writings. There have been times when I have loved his stuff, and others when that love has been replaced by mere liking. Some of his stuff is really not so good—the space trilogy for example. J.I. Packer was undoubtedly right when he said, for example, that Lewis’ The Hideous Strength is really hideous!
But there are other works that are really remarkable and will surely stand the test of time: The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce and the small collection of essays, The Weight of Glory—the latter of which I have read numerous times, in particular, the title essay, “The Inner Ring” and “Membership.”
In recent years, there has been a great debate over whether Lewis was actually a believer. That he held some aberrant ideas is clear. For example, he was an inclusivist and murky on the destiny of those who are sincere in their worship of other gods and have never heard the name of Christ (see the ending of The Last Battle). (He did believe in the reality of hell, though, for those adamant in their rejection of Christ). And his remarks on the atonement in Mere Christianity are not really helpful.
Personally, though I think he was the genuine thing. For instance, any study of his witness at his college at Oxford in the face of vicious slander and shunning by some of his colleagues—including the Marxist historian Christopher Hill—reveals a man prepared to suffer for his Christian profession. So, despite his theological flaws, I thank God for every remembrance of C.S. Lewis.