Earlier this week, we looked at C. S. Lewis’ thoughts on Christianity and Culture, which discusses his philosophy of writing–why he wrote what he wrote.
He felt that “The abuse of culture is already there, and will continue whether Christians cease to be cultured or not. It is therefore probably better that the ranks of the ‘culture-sellers’ should include some Christians–as an antidote. It may even be the duty of some Christians to be culture-sellers.”
Having established this, though, he goes on to write that, “[When] I speak of ‘Resisting the abuse of culture’ I do not mean that a Christian should take money for supplying one thing (culture) and use the opportunity thus gained to supply a quite different thing (homiletics and apologetics). That is stealing. The mere presence of Christians in the ranks of culture-sellers will inevitably provide an antidote.”
And I find this fascinating because “homiletics” are preaching, a sermon or moralizing discourse, and “apologetics” are defending the Christian faith, particularly against those who don’t believe. He writes in an apologetic way in Mere Christianity, but he argues here that this sort of thing shouldn’t show up in a novel.
This fits with what he says on art in An Experiment on Criticism: “[A]n ‘appreciation’ of sculpture which ignored the statue’s shape in favour of the sculptor’s ‘view of life’ would be self-deception. It is by the shape that it is a statue. Only because it is a statue do we come to be mentioning the sculptor’s view of life at all.” If we busy ourselves so much about our view of life, we will never make a proper statue, and if we focus on others views of life, we’ll never appreciate their art as art. We’ll be too busy looking at what they’re trying to say.
And yet, this is the man who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia and Out of the Silent Planet. Who wrote Till We Have Faces and That Hideous Strength. Everywhere one turns in Lewis’ novels, we find the fingerprints of Christianity…but no preaching for preaching’s sake (with the exception perhaps of Perelandra…but that is a unique book). He is clearly writing from within a Christian construct, whatever he writes.
So even while he argues that Christian culture-sellers must not peddle preaching or apologetics, he clearly doesn’t mean that they must divorce themselves from their beliefs and write anti-Christian works or even works devoid of any supernatural content or feelings. He seems to mean that one should focus on writing a book…and let the rest creep in naturally.
“The great artist—or at all events the great literary artists—cannot be a man shallow either in his thoughts or his feelings. However improbably and abnormal a story he has chosen, it will, as we say, ‘come to life’ in his hands. The life to which it comes will be impregnated with all the wisdom, knowledge and experience the author has; and even more by something which I can only vaguely describe as the flavour or ‘feel’ that actual life has for him.”
C. S. Lewis, An Experiment on Criticism
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren
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