C. S. Lewis and the Church: Essays in Honour of Walter Hooper

By McNutt, David | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

C. S. Lewis and the Church: Essays in Honour of Walter Hooper


McNutt, David, Anglican Theological Review


C. S. Lewis and the Church: Essays in Honour of Walter Hooper. Edited by Judith Wolfe and Brendan N. Wolfe. T&T Clark Theology. London: T&T Clark, 2011. xi + 193 pp. $29.95 (cloth).

In the preface to his well-known work Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, "I am a very ordinary layman of the Church of England, not especially 'high,' nor especially 'low,' nor especially anything else." Indeed, Lewis seems not to have been particularly concerned about his ecclesiastical affiliation, preferring instead to promote the notion-borrowed from seventeenth-century theologian Richard Baxter-of a "mere" Christianity, which he described in the same preface as "the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times," a version of the classical Vincentian Canon.

Lewis's relationship with the church was and remains at once simple yet complicated. On the one hand, following his adult conversion to Christianity, Lewis remained a faithful member of the Church of England. Indeed, although others, such as John Henry Newman, left the Anglican faith for Rome, Lewis never did so despite several factors: his close friendships with Roman Catholics, including J. R. R. Tolkien; the misconceptions of some early reviewers of his works, who thought he was Catholic; and misinterpretations of The Pilgrim's Regress, the first book that Lewis wrote following his conversion, in which the character John undertakes an allegorical journey of faith that leads him to return to "Mother Kirk," a term by which Lewis meant orthodox Christianity. At the same time, Lewis's reflections upon the Christian faith have reached far beyond the shores of England, and his works have influenced many facets of the Christian church beyond Anglicanism.

With that in mind, the present volume offers a well-rounded treatment of the relationship between Lewis and the church through contributions by eleven different authors. This work will be appreciated by laypersons, clergy, and scholars for the range of the essays as well as the insight that it sheds on this often overlooked aspect of Lewis's life and work.

The first of three sections, "The Church in Lewis' Life," opens with Mark Edwards's consideration of Lewis's relationship with early Christian literature, which argues that he did not engage with the church fathers as much as one might expect, being drawn more to Dante, Spenser, and Milton than Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine. Similarly, Jonathan Herapath traces the influence of Victorian ecclesiology upon Lewis's thought, while Francis Warner addresses Lewis's involvement in the revision of the Psalter as both a scholar and a literary expert. …

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