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More on Lewis's Uniqueness--Stuntz

Two comments on David’s interesting and wise column on the absence of contemporary C.S. Lewis equivalents:

I think the absence of Lewis-like figures in the university world is part of a larger change in academic culture. Used to be, the best professors at the best universities were expected to engage with the world outside universities. Lewis was hardly alone in this. His rough contemporary, British historian A.J.P. Taylor, was a major public figure even as he wrote first-rate historical scholarship. In mid-twentieth-century America, sociologist Daniel Bell, historian Arthur Schlesinger, and economist John Kenneth Galbraith are all famous examples of the same type. Today, economists still play this “public citizen” role, but few academics in other disciplines do. And most academic writing is now so technical and jargon-filled that no one outside the relevant discipline could bear reading it.

The second comment is about Lewis’ past: I think one big reason Lewis’ apologetic writing is so strong is that he came to Christianity as an adult, not as one who grew up inside the fold. The worst thing about most contemporary Christian writing is that it lacks the ability to imagine the mental universe of a non-believer. That seems natural, since most of the writers have never inhabited that universe themselves. Lewis did, and it showed. Even as he defended his faith, his language showed real empathy for those outside it. Sadly, that kind of empathy seems to me in short supply in evangelical churches today.


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Comments ( 3 )

While his writings are a different genre than C.S. Lewis', Garry Wills series What Paul Meant, What Jesus Meant and What The Gospels Meant provide a common sense approach to the gospels and Paul's teachings and get to the source of the reality C.S. Lewis was attempting to convey in his works.

Well, Lewis had a unique perspective. I read a biography about him once, and he came to Christianity from atheism; thus, his great sympathy for those outside the church.

His book, Surprised by Joy, describes his conversion.

A reader who had highly recommended Phillip Yancy's book "The Jesus I Never Knew" to me in an email sent a related, followup email after reading this post. Here are her comments about Lewis and Yancy:

"I just read some of the blog from your website and was particularly intrigued by Mr. Stuntz's explanation for why Lewis is unique as a Christian apologist. He describes most current Christian apologists as lacking the ability to imagine the 'mental universe of a non-believer because most writers had never inhabited that universe.' Lewis did and so did Yancey (who describes his very fundamentalist Christian upbringing as turning him away from Christianity for a time). Yancey is very similar to Lewis in that "even as he defended his faith, his language showed real empathy for those outside it". That description of Lewis perfectly capsulizes my reaction to reading Yancey's books and particularly The Jesus I Never Knew."