Just as conservatives probably should get comfortable with the notion that there will never be another Ronald Reagan, Christians should probably reconcile themselves with the fact that there will never be another C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ writings, particularly his defense of the Christian faith, has stood the test of time and to date is considered in a class by itself.
Nonetheless, David Skeel, writing for the Wall Street Journal, explains that many continue to look for the next “Mere Christianity,” only to be let down time and time again.
Tim Keller’s new book, “The Reason for God,” is one of the mentioned succesors. I am halfway through this book myself, and while it is wonderful, I have to agree with Skeel (I bet Keller would too):
“The Reason for God” is as sensible and winsome as one would expect from the pastor of a latticework of churches that draw more than 5,000 attendees in New York City every Sunday, most of them young, single, urban professionals. But it too is no “Mere Christianity.” It does not have the original arguments or the magical prose of Lewis’s classic.
Why can’t evangelical authors produce a true successor to “Mere Christianity”? The main reason, I think, is that today’s best scholars, like Mr. Plantinga and Yale philosophy professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, can’t write for a general audience (or, in Wright’s case, are distracted by the pressures of trying to help hold the Anglican church together), and the writers who can accomplish this are no longer real scholars. Lewis was both, at a time when the two were thought to be compatible. No need to borrow his bona fides because he himself was a leading medievalist and literary critic.
Lewis’s real ambition was, he revealed in his letters and diary entries, to be numbered among the great English poets. He didn’t get there. Unlike his Narnia novels, Lewis’s poems are largely forgotten. But when we marvel at a metaphor or memorable passage in “Mere Christianity” — such as the famous claim that Jesus, given what he said, must have been either a lunatic or the very Son of God — we are the beneficiaries of a gifted dreamer’s not quite successful quest. And maybe that’s as good as it gets.
And if it is, it is still pretty damn good.
Skeel also has a blog that is worth bookmarking.