Thursday, September 4, 2014

C. S. Lewis Again...

C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity by Paul McCusker and published jointly by Tyndale and Focus on the Family continues the popularity of Lewis and his many books. But here we learn more about  how he became involved with providing scripts for radio talks, as well as sets of series on religious subjects that were very popular with BBC radio listeners during World War II.

There is much detail here, focusing on C. S. Lewis (called Jack by author McCusker) and his family situation; his friendships with and support from Eric Fenn and James Welch of the BBC; as well as his academic teaching at Oxford, Magdalen College and Cambridge; his long friendships with fellow authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and other members of The Inklings. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers were also friends and they appreciated each other’s writing.

The book is full of stories and incidents that tell us of Lewis’s care and concern for individuals as well as for his involvement in duty as a service person in both World Wars, I and II. At his home, the Kilns, they had evacuees from London staying with them during War II, as many families did. Usually three girls came together and stayed for a time. McCusker includes one of the girls’ appreciation for time she spent with Lewis and his family, when she was one of the “evacuees.”

Those familiar with Lewis’s history will recall that his mother died when he was nine years old, and he and his older brother Warnie were sent off to boarding school by their father. After their education years, both served in the military and both were authors during much of their adulthood. Among Jack’s many popular books are The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many others. Probably his most well-known book is Mere Christianity, most of which was first given as radio talks on BBC radio during WW II.

Lewis was a tutor and lecturer in English literature at Oxford. After his radio talks, he became quite well-known and was often invited to speak as an apologist for Christianity at meetings around the country. This was not appreciated by the Oxford dons, who thought he should stay in his own academic circle. Lewis described himself as a defender of the faith rather than “an apologist” and he encouraged his listeners to be the same.

McCusker includes so much of Lewis’s thoughts, decisions, actions, one wonders: how does he know this or that detail? Yet, it’s all there, in the vast amount of conversations, diaries, interviews, letters, speeches, books, referred to in the Notes section of this fascinating book.

—Lois Sibley