Tuesday 1 October 2013
Bible Society Australia has launched a library of Australian resources on C.S. Lewis to celebrate the life of this great author and champion his contribution to literature and to Christianity for many years to come.
At a lecture last week, the life and works of C.S. Lewis were examined by professor and author Robert Banks, who shows us the continuing legacy Lewis has on the world. To find out more, read our summary of the lecture below, and visit the new CS Lewis Today library at biblesociety.org.au/cslewis.
While no one knows the precise number, it’s estimated CS Lewis’ books are selling at a rate of approximately two million a year, and every year that rate is increasing.
50 years have passed since CS Lewis died—the anniversary of his death is November 22 this year—but his books live on, more popular than ever.
“Lewis is now more popular than he ever was,” said Robert Banks, author and professor with a particular interest Lewis, speaking at a lecture in Sydney this week. “And each year he becomes more popular than he ever was by far in his lifetime.”
November 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. Robert Banks, author and professor with a particular interest in the life and works of Lewis said the author was an “influential companion”, a “friend who walked alongside” his readers to engage them with the heart and soul of the Christian message.
“And not just for me,” said Banks. “But of course C.S. Lewis has been a huge influence over the past 50 years, since he died, on the lives of a whole lot of highly important thinkers, and huge multitudes of very ordinary people. In fact, the more you dig into the ongoing legacy of C.S. Lewis, the more surprised you’ll become.”
For example, said Banks, Lewis’ writings are now available in almost 20 languages around the world. Sales of his books are estimated at between 150 and 200 million, selling at a rate of approximately two million a year. In fact, each year, the number of CS Lewis books sold is more than the year before.
But why? According to Banks, CS Lewis was a very ordinary man in many ways. “He looked like your local butcher,” says Banks.
In a lecture this week for Robert Menzies College in Sydney, entitled ‘Beyond the wardrobe – the legacy of CS Lewis’, Banks outlined the key elements he believes have led to C.S. Lewis reaching so many people, particularly outside the church.
The first, says Banks, is Lewis’ absolute conviction that he would avoid all unessential matters of the Christian faith.
“The most successful way of reaching the widest number of people with the Christian message is to keep a firm focus on the most essential Christian beliefs, and the most significant objections raised against them,” said Banks,. “He wanted to speak about what most Christians, most of the time have mostly believed in, and revolved their lives around…: mere Christianity.”
“That is, a belief and knowledge of the reality of God, and of his presence, actively in our world… Of the absolute centrality of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Christ…These are the things that preoccupied Lewis.”
Throughout his writings, Lewis presented a style of apologetics that began first with using, what Banks calls, “the most persuasive way of convincing unbelievers of God’s reality”: an appeal, in the first instance, to their deepest longings, and provide them with a compelling vision of who God might be, and what they might become.
“It’s the rational, cognitive dimension of his Christianity which, amongst many Christians, is the thing which most marks him out as being helpful and effective.”
But more than that, says Banks, CS Lewis came across as just an ordinary man, with the same, everyday familiar activities as the next person. It’s why he could talk about Christianity with such simplicity, and yet such depth. The man who “gave Christianity a whole new language”, through metaphor, simile, anecdotes, took his everyday life very seriously.
“He was a very ordinary man in many ways—resolutely so. It’s what he chose to do because this is what life is all about. His writings are full of such things. And what he found was not only did God speak to him in those everyday tasks, but it gave him a way of speaking about the most central Christian convictions to people out there who would not normally understand the Christian jargon.”
In Mere Christianity alone, Lewis uses 36 different metaphorical ways to describe what it means to be converted.
“36 in one book! Most of us would find it hard to come up with two or three examples in ten volumes of conversation. But CS Lewis was saying, ‘If this one doesn’t work, try this. Or, how about coming at it this way?’ They’re the most simple of things. The most hum-drum, monotonous, repetitive types of activities. And Lewis used these in the most effective way.”