Love him or hate him, C S Lewis was arguably the foremost Christian apologist in the west during the twentieth century (‘apologetics’ seek to do several things: present the attractiveness of the Christian faith; demonstrate the reasonableness of Christianity; and clear up misconceptions and faulty understandings about Christianity. This task has been going on now for two millennia).
Although his style may seem a bit dated these days, his books have become spiritual classics for their incisive thinking and spiritual honesty. We have some good apologists at present, but Lewis was unique in bringing a classically-influenced imagination and creativity to his writing.
However, every vocation has its own snares. For clergy, the fact that we want to be available to people can easily shade into believing ourselves to be indispensable. Caring in prayer for a church and a parish can turn into obsessive anxiety about a thousand problems that we aren’t, after all, called to solve.
C S Lewis had his own snares. For anyone speaking or teaching about God, it can be all too easy to start thinking that our own way of thinking is the only way, that our so-called victories prove to us that we are right, our defeats mean that somebody has it in for us, and we start putting our faith in results, instead of in God alone.
These can be pretty subtle and you have to know yourself and your God. Lewis wrote a prayer about his own snares, which was only published after his death. It is very honest, and an encouragement to help restore a sense of spiritual reality.
THE APOLOGIST’S EVENING PRAYER (C S Lewis, 1898-1963)
From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
(poem found in Malcolm Guite’s article in the Church Times 15 April 2011)