C. S. Lewis and the Church: Essays in Honour of Walter Hooper
edited by Judith Wolfe and B. N. Wolfe
(T&T Clark, 2011, 208 pages)
C. S. Lewis is famous for his promotion of “mere Christianity,” a concept which eschews denominational particulars and focuses on the common conceptual framework of the Christian faith. According to Lewis’ metaphor, mere Christianity is a kind of hallway which leads into the various rooms of particular communions or traditions. To extend the metaphor a bit, the approach of C. S. Lewis and the Church is something like stepping back to view the entire house, looking through the windows, and examining the layout of the whole floor plan.
These essays look at the role that the Church played in Lewis’ life and writings, as well as looking at how he related to communions outside his own Anglican tradition. The various contributors come from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and evangelical backgrounds. The overall quality of these essays is very high, but I found Judith Wolfe’s chapter, “C. S. Lewis and the Eschatological Church,” to be particularly helpful in understanding Lewis’ perspective on the Church. She offers a discussion of Lewis’ critical appropriation of Platonic ontology and shows how this leads to his emphasis on the eschatological or heavenly nature of the Church. This offers a very helpful explanation of Lewis’ approach to “mere Christianity” – if the earthly Church is only a shadowy image of its perfect heavenly form, then it makes sense that Lewis found the very temporal concerns of denominational identity to be of little importance.
Another essay worth mentioning is Kallistos Ware’s “C. S. Lewis, an ‘Anonymous Orthodox’?” Ware notes that, unlike many popular Christian writers in the West, Lewis holds great appeal for Eastern Orthodox Christians. Focusing on Lewis’ fiction, he goes on to draw out various elements of the stories that cohere closely with Orthodox emphases. Given that the cultural divide between eastern and western Christians is generally very wide, the fact that Lewis appeals so widely adds credibility to his claim to be a “mere Christian.” Overall, this is a great volume for those interested in the theological aspects of Lewis’ writings.