C.S. Lewis On “Apologetic” Books

Here’s an excerpt from the essay (actually the manuscript of a lecture) by C.S. Lewis, called “Christian Apologetics.” You can find it in the collection God In The Dock. Part of the reason I post it, is because it expands a little more on what I said in my last post about The Fiddler’s Gun, and how that book can’t really be labeled “Christian” fiction, though it IS written by a Christian. Fiddler’s Gun has more of Lewis’ concept of “latent” faith woven right into the world of the story, rather than preachy faith. Of course Lewis’ concepts here aren’t true for all books Christians will or should write. It probably needs to be balanced by saying we absolutely need more good books that specifically preach Christianity as well. But what he says is pretty profound as we consider how to engage our Modern, or Postmodern world, in the most effective way for the kingdom of Christ, using (and writing about) our areas of giftedness and expertise.

Sorry about the length, but it’s all just so good. Lewis says,

“I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is take for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the re-conversion of this country is a series produced by Christians, which can beat the Penguin and the Thinkers Library on their own ground. Its Christianity would have to be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. Science twisted in the interests of apologetics would be sin and folly.”

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2 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis On “Apologetic” Books

  1. Good stuff.
    Note, however, that one can go too far the other way, as for example (and this is obviously my opinion only) Graham Greene, and at times, Flannery O’Conner. Ie: you can try so hard to not be “preachy” or overtly Christian that you end up servicing the world and it’s values. You can take the latency only so far.

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