A Review of “C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic”

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By: Paul McCuskerListen
Published: 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As early as the first sentence, I knew Paul McCusker had penned a book unlike any other about CS Lewis.

“Jack Lewis—or Clive Staples Lewis, as he was officially known—clutched his rifle and marched across the French field of Mount Bernanchon.”

I was not disappointed with the remainder of the book. McCusker shares the story of the life of CS Lewis, as well as the backstory to many of his works. Best of all, the story is wrapped in the history of England during the Second World War.

McCusker’s account of Lewis’ life is an honest portrayal. We see the ups and downs of a man estranged from his father, caring for his brother, and living with other people he would care for late in their lives. Despite health problems and an extremely busy schedule, Lewis found time to write an extensive collection of fiction and non-fiction works.

If you have seen Shadowlands, rest assured that there is very little overlap in the events documented in Lewis’ life. This book is certainly not Shadowlands Revisited. As much as this is the story of Lewis’ life, the historical accounts are detailed enough for the reader to pull back from the life of Lewis and engage with the world stage at the time of the Second World War.

I find it interesting that Mere Christianity and other works by Lewis would never have been penned had it not been for the circumstances of the war. Beginning as a series of radio shows broadcasted to lift the spirits of the English, Mere Christianity is the product of those broadcasts. Listening to the verbal dexterity of Hitler and his ability to twist language to suit his evil ends was the springboard for The Screwtape Letters.

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Damage to Westminster Bridge during World War II.

I consider this book a great read for those who have enjoyed reading several of Lewis’ books and will appreciate adding an additional layer of texture to their reading by understanding why Lewis wrote some of his most popular works. Lewis can certainly be read without an understanding of the world at the time of his writing, however, a glimpse of the circumstances that prompted his work sharpen some of the arrows of Lewis’ cultural critique.

I wonder what Lewis would think of “all the fuss” that has been written about him. One passage provided an interesting insight into Lewis’ attitude about his work:

It is likely Jack had no idea of the legacy he’d created. That he’d become one of the foremost writers and Christian apologists of the twentieth century wasn’t something he would have thought about. He once commented about being a writer people might read— and forget— in no time at all.

Perhaps Lewis’ lack of concern for his legacy made his writing and thoughts a bit sharper. Maybe he felt he could be more honest and vulnerable since his thoughts would not last long in history. Yet we are all fortunate to see God’s redeeming work in a man such as Lewis.

Thank you to the people at Tyndale House Publishing for a copy of this book for review

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 Image credit: “Westminster Bridge” by  Leonard Bentley

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License 

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