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    Entries in C. S. Lewis (3)


    The Church is a Diversity By Design

    On more than one occasion, I have marveled at the differences existing within the fellowship of the church, whether it be racial, socio-economic, political, theological, liturgical, or otherwise. At times, I have been in awe. But not always.

    I confess to being snobbish, from time to time, regarding just who God has called to be part of the church, or in what way those in the church express their devotion to God. This is not easy to admit. I may conceal it well. But in my heart of hearts, I know. There are people I am quite surprised to find myself in fellowship with, not by my own appointment, but by the calling of Christ.

    And when I reflect upon this reality, I quietly confess my sin, remember that I am redeemed by sheer grace, and humbly ask that God reform this deficiency. Perhaps, over the course of time, the Great Physician will rid me of all impurity, and I will experience the sweetness of welcoming all people in to God's great fellowship, as they actually are, not as I wish them to be. It is God's great feast, not mine, and I trust that he possesses greater wisdom when compiling a banquet list. My parties can be a bit dull. If our picture of Jesus given in the gospels is any indication, with God, it is not so.

    C. S. Lewis is instructive. In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Lewis writes:

    It takes all sorts to make a world; or a church. This may be even truer of a church. If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display far more variety than Hell. "One fold" doesn't mean "one pool." Cultivated roses and daffodils are no more alike than wild roses and daffodils.

    There is beauty in diversity, and God calls us together not according to our race or social status, our talents or our abilities, but instead by grace. Diversity is God's design. And unity is given in Christ.


    Remembering Clive Staples Lewis

    Photo by Shelly Lynn Williams

    While today the nation memorializes President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, many evangelicals remember the death of another notable figure: C. S. Lewis. The writings of C. S. Lewis have been helpful for my journey as a Christian, not because of the overall power of Lewis's arguments in his apologetical works, but because of the extension of friendship to intellectuals through the gift of his imaginative prose.

    In his books, essays, and sermons, Lewis made himself available as a willing conversation partner to those thinking critically about matters of faith and ultimate meaning. I first read Lewis's Mere Christianity as a high school student in East Texas. The underpinnings of some of his arguments were lost on me as I read them, considering the original lectures that served as source material for the book were delivered as radio addresses during World War II. But his tone differed from my peers and classmates who identified as Christians, and Lewis occasionally offered a smooth and penetrating turn of phrase on the nature of morality or the substance of the Christian life that was stirring and inspiring. Lewis helped point me toward a more robust and compelling articulation of the Christian faith that was logically cogent and emotionally compelling. He spoke of God's love for us in way that I not only found reasonable, but that I wanted to be true.

    Evangelicalism would do well to cultivate more apologists who speak and write in like manner to Lewis.  But the combination of historical factors as well as Lewis's personal biography are unrepeatable (as with all our stories), and made for an uncommon forging of character. As I think is always true, evangelicalism is not searching for another Lewis, but a unique voice that rings out with clarity for our own time. There might be echoes of other great apologists and theologians from ages past, but the distinctives arising from context are what fosters connection and results in persuasion. We want voices that speak to us now, even as they transmit eternal truth.

    Lewis fought in and survived the World War I, read widely from the classics, and lectured for the bulk of his career as a university professor in a rapidly changing world. Lewis was a literary scholar, who spoke publicly on matters of theology as an admitted layman. And this, I believe, is what made Lewis accessible and appealing to a broad audience. Lewis possessed depth and sophistication but strove for clarity and simplicity in presentation, and understood that for truth to be grasped it must not only be seen as sound, but helpful. Christianity was presented by Lewis as not only intelligible, but attractive.

    Here are few other other perspectives on Lewis:

    All worthwhile reading.

    As a bonus, a few weeks ago I completed Alister McGrath's biographical work, C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, and found it readable and enjoyable. Check it out.

    Feel free to leave your thoughts on the life and legacy of Lewis, the impact he may have had on your own journey, or his works that have made a mark on you personally. I'd love to read your reflections.


    Instead of Being Original, Be Truthful

    hard work 2

    In an essay entitled "Membership," C. S. Lewis writes:

    No man who values originality will ever be original. But try to tell the truth as you see it, try to do any bit of work as well as it can be done for the work's sake, and what men call originality will come unsought.

    The essay itself is a corrective on the true nature of church membership, and a critical engagement with obsessive individuality. Lewis ends his essay on a powerful note, that of new creation, and its relevance for those who are part of a church, an entity that in the collective and the representative parts is being remade. But Lewis' remarks concerning originality, and its relation to human endeavor, is what captured my imagination, for who in the creative arts is not striving to be seen as a true original, truly unique?

    Whether the work be writing or some other creative endeavor, or, let's say any other job, these remarks have relevance. Even the bus driver, who is committed to truth telling and doing work with excellence for the sake of the work, can come to be seen as an original.

    I think here of a woman I worked with for four years. She was fully committed to doing excellent work as a driver. She greeted every child by name, with a smile, and a love that breaks the stern stereotype of the bus driver. She decorated her bus for the different seasons of the year, dressed up for Halloween, and celebrated accomplishments of her students. She was truly a professional, and thus an original, not because she did her work to be noticed, but instead did her work for the work's sake, the best as she was able to do it.

    In every field of endeavor, there is a truthful, excellent way to perform one's work. So whatever you do, undertake the work today for the work's sake, not for the sake of your own name. Put yourself aside, and simply strive for excellence.

    And one day, without you even realizing, others may begin to notice your originality, which you only see as a normalcy, for your work will be conducted with truth.

    In Paul's letter to the Colossians, it is written, "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Work done "in the name of the Lord Jesus" is likewise work done in truth, for Jesus himself said, "I am the...truth."

    Don't worry about originality. Don't worry about self-promotion or vain ambitions. Just do the work and do it well, and give thanks to the source of every breath, every opportunity, the one who created you as an original, who is now calling you to be remade, a new creation, fully and truly human.