C.S. Lewis as imaginative theologian

In the introduction to the Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, editor Robert MacSwain considers whether a volume on Lewis even belongs in the Cambridge series on religion, rather than, say, literature, which was after all Lewis’s day job and primary area of expertise. Moreover, academic theologians have generally ignored, if not disdained, Lewis and his contributions to theology. MacSwain suggests that what might be needed is an expansion of our concept of theology beyond the familiar academic model:

[I]t may … be the case that Lewis should rightly be considered in this particular series because he has, in fact, expanded the genre of theology to include the imaginative works for which he is so famous. Thus, instead of an amateur, dilettante theologian who cannot possibly be considered in the same league as, for example, Barth, Gutierrez or Moltmann, Lewis might rather be seen (a la Kierkegaard) as a deliberately ‘indirect’ theologian, as one who works by ‘thick description’ or evocative images, operating in multiple voices and genres, through which a single yet surprisingly subtle and complex vision emerges. Yes, of course it is ludicrous to compare Lewis’s Mere Christianity to Barth’s Church Dogmatics–but perhaps it is equally ludicrous to let Barth define the character of all theology. And when Lewis’s entire output is considered as a whole, the comparison might not be so ridiculous after all. Lewis cannot possibly count as a theologian on the Barthian model, but he may nevertheless offer a model of theological expression which needs to be appreciated on its own terms. (pp. 8-9)

The books itself includes essays on all aspects of Lewis’s output (as scholar, thinker, and writer) from top-notch figures in various fields. Theology is represented by Kevin Vanhoozer, Paul Fiddes, and Stanley Hauerwas among others. And the volume as a whole certainly makes a persuasive case for taking Lewis seriously as a thinker (i.e., not someone to be uncritically venerated or dismissed).

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5 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis as imaginative theologian

  1. Perhaps the reason that he is largely ignored by academic theologians is because he was and is a boring old fart.
    I have always found him so – quite uninspiring.
    Does theology, or any kind of thinking and philosophy, have anything to do with the Process that IS True Religion?

    Real Intelligence is tacit or intrinsically wordless living existence.

    He was essentially a misogynist until he married later in life.
    Easily the most over-rated writer on religion – even more so because he is so frequently quoted or referred to.
    He was also essentially a drug (tobacco) addict. He is frequently pictured smoking a pipe.
    What happens when you smoke?
    Every time you inhale you draw a stream of toxic chemicals into your lungs, and thus to your blood-stream, and thus to every cell of your body. You poison yourself and systematically undermine the health of the body.
    And thus destroy the capacity to feel the all pervasive Divine Presence.

    Would a person to whom the Living God was absolutely Real (as in “a feather of the breath of God” – Hildegard of Bingen) practice such a life-negative habit/addiction?

  2. That some would question that Lewis is a theologian says more about how they understand theology, and perhaps, that they are of a tradition other than Lewis’ own. Anglicans have been doing theology through the written arts from the get go in poetry, hymnody, liturgical prayers, etc.

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