Fellow Patients in the same Hospital:
Law and Gospel in the Works of C. S. Lewis
by Angus J. L. Menuge

"When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor…. Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in…dismay." 2

C.C. Lewis

C.S. Lewis.

If you wish to believe in Christ, you must become sick; for Christ is a physician only for those who are sick. 3

Knowledge of broken law precedes all other religious experience. 4

C. S. Lewis was an Anglican, not a Lutheran, yet he had a remarkable grasp of the role of Law and Gospel. Even when Lewis championed the notion of mere Christianity, as the vestibule from which one could choose between various denominations 5, his presentation of the basic claims of Christianity presupposes the distinction. The idea is further illustrated throughout his works.

This paper will begin by substantiating Lewis’s commitment to the Law/Gospel distinction in his basic theology. It will then examine two of the methods Lewis used to present the Law as an effective preparation for the Gospel. These techniques are of interest both for sermon writing and for pre-evangelistic witness and apologetics.

I. The Law/Gospel distinction in C. S. Lewis’s theology.

A remarkable feature of Lewis’s Mere Christianity is that it does not start out with any Christian presuppositions at all. Lewis does not list Christian doctrines and then try to defend them. Instead he starts where any human being already is, analyzes his condition and then shows that Christianity is a remedy. Lewis believed that merely to state the Gospel to one who does not know they have need of it is to cast pearls among swine. And he thought there was very good reason to expect that his audience would find the Gospel superfluous, a cure for a disease that they denied they had. Lewis was broadcasting and writing to people convinced by materialism and determinism that there are no objective moral values and that there is no moral responsibility. 6 "Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing…to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness." 7 Here Lewis agrees with Walther, who wrote, "It is quite useless to offer mercy to the godless. They imagine either that they do not need it or that they already have all of it." 8

The argument of the first book of Mere Christianity ("Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe") begins with the recognition of the objectivity of morality.

P1. Despite our denials and evasions, we are all committed to the existence of the Moral Law.

The fact that there are ethical disputes presupposes some common standard. We can hardly argue whether or not an action was a foul in soccer unless we agree that there is a rule that may have been broken. We can hardly argue about whether or not the President should be impeached unless we agree that there are such things as impeachable offenses. Again, our indefinite ability to make excuses or casuistic ability to describe our behavior as not of the sort which falls under the rule ("What is ‘is’?" asks President Clinton) shows that we accept the authority of the rule. Indeed, the more that we try to argue that the moral standard does not apply to us (we, of course, are an exception), the more it becomes clear that we do accept the standard.

Next comes an observation about our actual behavior.

P2. We do not live up to the Moral Law.

Whether or not we are willing to confess it to others, we all know in our hearts that there is a large gap between what our behavior should be and what it is. In a sense this already conveys the message of the law, that none are righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10). But it does so without any link to a personal God. Lewis’s next move is to note that if we see we ought to do things that we do not do, it is pretty clear that the moral law is not merely a convention. If it were, surely we would be easier on ourselves and lower the bar of morality to suit our actual behavior. Furthermore, Lewis argues that morality cannot be derived from instinct, since we have conflicting instincts. When a grenade lands in the bunker, the strong instinct of a marine to preserve himself conflicts with his weaker "herd instinct" to save other soldiers: if the marine chooses to risk his own life by diving on the grenade and covering it with his backpack, he is going against his stronger instinct, so it cannot be instinct that explains the choice. Thus we are left with the idea that moral prescriptions really are objective, part of the furniture of the universe, as Romans 2:14-15 tells us.

Yet prescriptions are not statements of natural fact: they do not state what is the case, but what should be the case. A complete inventory of all the natural facts in the universe would not entail that we ought to do anything. To claim otherwise is to commit the is/ought or naturalistic fallacy, that is, to claim erroneously that we can get from non-evaluative descriptions (such as torture is painful) to evaluative conclusions (such as torture is wrong). Prescriptions are non-natural laws. Unlike the laws of nature which attempt to describe inevitable regularities, these laws specify what should be regularities though in fact they are not. As outside of nature, they point to the supernatural. As laws, they point to a Lawgiver. And as statements of moral perfection they suggest that the author of these laws is a holy being. Thus Lewis argues that

P3. The existence of the Moral Law points to a divine Lawgiver.

Now if, as our consciences suggest, these moral laws are expectations the Lawgiver has for us, we must conclude that we have earned the wrath of the Lawgiver. At this point we feel the full condemning power of the law as the original will of a personal God which we have irrevocably violated. This leads to the dismay Lewis talks about in the opening quotation. This is the dismay of the noble pagan who knows he has transgressed the divine will and flounders around looking for a means of restitution. Lewis has succeeded in convincing us of the unwelcome diagnosis of sin.

But there remain two alternatives. Perhaps individuals can do something to put themselves right with God. Or perhaps they cannot. In later books of Mere Christianity, Lewis argues in various ways that the gap between our natures and God’s expectations can only be bridged by God. Part of the problem is will. In "What Christians Believe," Lewis argues that we are by nature enemies of God: "…fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms." 9 But the paradox of repentance is that "the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it." 10 And Lewis reminds us in "Christian Behaviour" that God, being perfect, does not require anything that we can do anyway, so that the attempt to pay God back is like a child buying his father a birthday present with his father’s own money. 11 It is clear, therefore, that there is no way that man can bridge the gap between himself and God. Thus,

P4. If there is any hope at all, God must bridge the gap.

This does not "prove" that Christianity is true, but it represents grace as the only believable cure to the illness we have. The Gospel now comes to a heart and a mind which are prepared to hear and understand it. The argument may be completed by noting that

P5. Christianity is the only religion which both clearly claims that God does (indeed did) bridge the gap, and which stands up to the objective tests of historicity.

It should be clear from this outline that Lewis’s central apologetic for Christianity depends on the Law/Gospel distinction. This was certainly not because Lewis, who only occasionally references Luther’s work, was schooled in Lutheran theology. However, Lewis was a great admirer of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress12, and it is clear from that work that Bunyan, though a Puritan who was not in the conventional sense "educated" in theology, understood the central teachings of the Reformation, especially the dangers of legalism and the necessity and sufficiency of grace. Early in the pilgrim Christian’s journey, Evangelist reminds him of Scripture’s teaching, "the just shall live by faith" 13 and advises him that "ye cannot be justified by the works of the law; for by the deeds of the law no man living can be rid of his burden." 14 Later, in his marginalia, Bunyan is explicit in his appeal to the Gospel and grace alone: "There is no deliverance from the guilt and burden of sin, but by the death and blood of Christ." 15

We also know that Lewis read Augustine, who clearly understood that we are by nature enemies of God and unable to turn to him without grace. 16 Though it is probably impossible to prove it, it seems a plausible hypothesis that Lewis’s grasp of the Law/Gospel distinction partly derived from such works. Yet, as we will see in some of Lewis’s autobiographical passages, this understanding also arose from Lewis’s honest appraisal of his own spiritual condition: the Law/Gospel distinction was vindicated by its making sense of his own spiritual life.

II. Preparation for the Gospel: Intimacy and Distancing.

Lewis did not deny that the simple, personal appeal to come to Jesus could sometimes be an effective method of evangelism. But he did think that it was not his gift to make such an appeal 17, as he was better at the "head stuff" (a reasoned case for Christianity) than the "heart stuff" (direct preaching). 18 And, as Michael Ward has argued 19, he did not think the direct approach would be as effective for most people as various indirect approaches, particularly those centering on story-telling. One reason for this is that the direct approach is easily seen either as a kind of marketing, or as an attempt to exert power over the person to be evangelized. As a result, that person’s "watchful dragons" are awakened, and the message is rejected by an almost automatic self-defense mechanism which requires no activity or cooperation from the reason or imagination. Lewis aimed to disarm these dragons and activate the reason or imagination long enough to seriously evaluate Christianity’s truth claims.

We will examine the nature and role of two of Lewis’s "strategies of disarmament" which I will call intimacy and distancing.

1. Intimacy.

By "intimacy," I mean Lewis’s personal exposure of vulnerability, which not only appears in his explicitly autobiographical writings but also peppers the examples in his apologetics, fiction, and correspondence. In confessional mood, Lewis will suddenly interject a disarmingly honest admission of his own failure, or his own past intellectual errors, or his own longings and need. He holds up a mirror to himself, and through our affinities with him, we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror as well.

At other times, Lewis also offers advice. He not only reveals a problem, he also shares what he has learned about solving or enduring it. This functions rather like unilateral disarmament, except that it is a much more promising strategy in evangelism than in war! Lewis lowers his guard and reveals his true condition (problems encountered, insights found), and the layers of defensive ice around his reader’s heart begin to thaw. For in Lewis’s frank outpouring of problems and solutions (a permitted eavesdropping), the reader sees many problems of his own and is encouraged to adopt similar responses. Reader identification is very likely, because it is a psychological and spiritual fact that honest confession and encouragement are contagious: if one man is courageous enough to admit his weaknesses and what he has learned about overcoming them, many will soon follow.

The Mirror of Confession.

Shortly before becoming a Christian, and under pressure from the Hound of Heaven that relentlessly pursued him, Lewis, who had admitted to a carelessness about morality in his youth, finally held up a mirror to himself.

For the first time I examined myself with a serious practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion. 20

The statement makes no excuses but reports a real and shocking experience, like the discovery of a cancer. At the same time, Lewis’s honesty about his condition encourages the reader to examine his own.

Later, when assisting Sheldon Vanauken in his journey toward Christ, Lewis describes his role in a way which summarizes his entire evangelistic career: "Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, cd. give some advice." 21 In outline at least, an accurate picture of Law and Gospel is implicit in this analogy. Lewis does not present himself as someone who has become perfect, nor as someone who can save himself and others through a 12-step program. He is a fellow sinner whose only advantage is that he knows the hospital’s implied doctor, Christ. Lewis points away from himself to the Great Physician, implying that the Gospel is the only cure. Indeed, as a mature and world-renowned Christian writer, Lewis continued to avoid self-righteousness. As he confided to an American lady who might have been tempted to make of Lewis a plaster saint,

I am a panic-y person about money myself (which is a most shameful confession and a thing dead against our Lord’s words) and poverty frightens me more than anything else except large spiders and the tops of cliffs…. 22

Lewis’s acute sense of his own sin explains why he thought it quite unnecessary to do research in order to write The Screwtape Letters, a book about temptation from the devils’ points of view.

Some have paid me an undeserved compliment by supposing that my [Screwtape] Letters were the ripe fruit of many years’ study in moral and ascetic theology. They forget that there is an equally reliable, though less creditable, way of learning how temptation works. "My heart" – I need no other’s – "showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly." 23

Again, consider the structure of Lewis’s fantasy, The Great Divorce, in which denizens of the grey town (which represents Hell) are allowed to ride a bus to Heaven in hopes that some may stay. Lewis could easily have remained the detached "omniscient narrator" or he could have presented himself as someone in Heaven greeting the lost. Instead, Lewis writes himself in as a fellow passenger in the bus, and not under a fictitious persona, but as himself. When they arrive in Heaven, it is full of a light and solidity that makes the bus riders look like ghosts. Lewis writes, "I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded…. Then—there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus—I caught sight of my own." 24

As if that were not enough, Lewis meets his great mentor George MacDonald in Heaven and is brought to a crushing realization about the spiritual dangers of his own apologetic work. MacDonald gives Lewis a piercing glance and warns him,

There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. 25

Lewis squirms, "[m]oved by a desire to change the subject." 26 Though this is fiction, it is a genuine confession which derives from Lewis’s own experience as an apologist.

I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist…. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality – from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. 27

The point to learn from such examples is not the obvious one, that Christians should talk of ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ in talking about sin. Lewis realizes that we should follow Christ’s advice and start with the plank in our own eye, not the grain of dust in our neighbor’s. Directly attacking people’s sins so often leads to a self-righteous evasion of one’s own sin and defensive denials from others. By contrast, attention to the plank in one’s own eye is both a way of constantly reminding us of our own need for grace and a fruitful way of helping others admit the same need. Indeed, Lewis suggested that it was a general principle that in attempting to convict others of sin, we should begin with our own.

I cannot offer you a watertight technique for awakening the sense of sin. I can only say that, in my own experience, if one begins from the sin that has been one’s own chief problem during the last week, one is very often surprised at the way this shaft goes home. 28

Part of the motivation for this approach is that Lewis believed one can only fully understand a sin one has experienced some inclination toward.

Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed. 29

For example, if someone never tempted by alcoholism sermonizes on the vice, he may easily portray himself as superior to the alcoholic rather than as a fellow sinner (with different ailments). As a result, genuine compassion for the alcoholic’s condition will not be conveyed in the manner of Christ: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

Lewis as advisor.

Lewis does not merely give a good example, by confessing his own sins. He also offers advice for overcoming obstacles to the Christian life. This advice is often based closely on his own experiences in life, including his wandering in the wilderness as a young apostate with a longing for he knew not what. For example, Lewis frequently used arithmetic as an analogy for what repentance means: "When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on." 30 Repentance means turning away and starting over again, Lewis advises. It is not, as trendy psychologists would have us believe, a mere change of attitude as we walk on in the same direction.

Again, for those searching for their heart’s desire, Lewis offers what is both a confession of a misspent youth pursuing "false answers," and advice given in the hope that others may be spared these costly detours.

I have myself been deluded by every one of these false answers in turn, and have contemplated each of them earnestly enough to discover the cheat. To have embraced so many false Florimels is no matter for boasting: it is fools, they say, who learn by experience. But since they do at least learn, let a fool bring his experience into the common stock that wiser men profit by it. 31

And what Lewis learned was that the thing which his Sehnsucht or (as he called the longing, "joy") pointed to was not one of the many worldly distractions by which he, like Bunyan’s Christian, had been deceived. Rather, it was God, a discovery Lewis reports to help other seekers.

But this brought me already into the region of awe, for I thus understood that in deepest solitude there is a road right out of the self, a commerce with something which, by refusing to identify itself with any object of the senses, or anything whereof we have biological or social need, or anything imagined, or any state of our own minds, proclaims itself sheerly objective. 32

2. Distancing.

By "distancing" I mean Lewis’s ability to project spiritual struggles onto a third person, thereby avoiding a direct confrontation with the reader’s spiritual condition. He does this both in imaginative fiction and in the concrete examples he uses throughout his apologetics and other writing. The strategy works because Lewis knows how to exploit the mythic in his writing – the myth is a point of contact between the abstract and the concrete. As Lewis said, the unique quality of reading myth is that "[y]ou were not knowing, but tasting; but what you were tasting turns out to be a universal principle." 33

Lewis’s "contemporary parables" 34 are precisely myths in this sense: they express universal moral and spiritual truths in realistic scenario and using concrete characters with whom the reader can readily identify. By seeing himself in a protagonist, the reader sees that the same universal truth applies to them both. The reader is not coerced into seeing this by direct confrontation, but simply cannot help seeing it, if he is honest: "Yes, I too have been a prodigal son and a Levite who walked by on the other side."

An Old Testament model of Lewis’s approach is Nathan’s rebuke of David’s adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12:1-6). Lewis follows this method but relies on the reader’s own conscience to conclude that he is "the man" (2 Samuel 12:7). This unwelcome conclusion is made more palatable by the fact that Lewis uses intimacy as well. Indeed, as his remarks about the writing of The Screwtape Letters show, intimacy is a source of distancing: Lewis uses his own introspection and spiritual struggles as the raw material to project onto his third person construction. In that sense, some of Lewis’s characters play the role both of confession and a call to confession, and both an illustration of something learned and a means of learning it. Lewis shows how we stumble and how we can surmount the obstacle.

Joel Heck has exhibited many examples of distancing in the Chronicles of Narnia, episodes in which a child is confronted with his or her own sin. 35 As one similar example, consider Jill Pole’s initial encounter with Aslan in The Silver Chair, which, in a manner reminiscent of Genesis 3:9-13, shows the sin of vanity and its terrible consequences writ large:

"Human Child," said the Lion, "Where is the Boy?"

"He fell over the cliff," said Jill….

"How did he come to do that, Human Child?"

"He was trying to stop me from falling, Sir."

"Why were you so near the edge, Human Child?"

"I was showing off, Sir."

"That is a very good answer, Human Child. Do so no more." 36

The Screwtape Letters provides many examples of distancing as we will often see that a temptation of the "patient" is one that has afflicted us. For example, Lewis shares out what had been his own childhood temptation to works righteousness in prayer. 37 Screwtape advises, "Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling." 38 As a child, Lewis had believed that an acceptable prayer had to produce a sense of authenticity or a "realization," as if a good performance is necessary for God to listen to our prayers. By exposing the error, Lewis hoped others would see it in their own prayer life and overcome it.

Lewis also shows the difficulty of confronting sexual lust which tends to enslave us even when we are ashamed of it and know of its dangers.

I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder….What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard…. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. "Shut up, I tell you!" he said….

"Would you like me to make him quiet?" said the flaming Spirit….

"Of course I would," said the Ghost.

"Then I will kill him," said the Angel, taking a step forward….

"….I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it."

"The gradual process is of no use at all."

"….How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did….."

"It won’t. But supposing it did?"

"You’re right. It would be better to be dead than live with this creature." 39

Lewis’s point is that some sins are so powerful and addictive that the only way to deal with them is to kill them. As Jesus tells us, "It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Mt. 5:29). This reinforces the idea that repentance is turning away from our sins, not toning them down.

Lewis also projects his own experiences of the dangers of spiritual lust and a vague spirituality (into which he had been tempted by his matron at Cherbourg school 40) in a dialogue between Weston and Ransom in Perelandra.

"I’ve been made for a purpose. It is through me that Spirit itself is at this moment pushing on its goal."..

"Look here," said Ransom, "one wants to be careful about this sort of thing. There are spirits and spirits you know….. I mean a thing might be a spirit and not good for you."

"….Didn’t we agree that God is a spirit? Don’t you worship him because He is pure spirit?

"Good Heavens, no. We worship Him because He is wise and good. There’s nothing specially fine about simply being a spirit. The Devil is a spirit." 41

Sometimes Lewis includes himself as a character in his own stories, revealing himself as a fellow struggler in the faith, with his own set of weaknesses. In The Great Divorce, Lewis applies Nathan’s strategy to himself. The passage quoted earlier, where Lewis is rebuked by MacDonald for being distracted from Christ by apologetics, follows an unsuspected parable of Lewis’s own sin in which Lewis, like David, can easily see the sin of the third party. In the role of Nathan, MacDonald describes a man called Sir Archibald who had been consumed with the issue of survival from a scientific perspective. He died, was allowed to visit Heaven, and found that his occupation was now pointless.

"Everybody here had ‘survived’ already….Of course if he would only have admitted that he’d mistaken the means for the end and had a good laugh at himself he could have begun all over again like a little child and entered into joy…."

"How fantastic!" said I [Lewis].

"Do ye think so?" said the Teacher with a piercing glance. "It is nearer to such as you than ye think….. There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ…."

Lewis clearly sees that he is "the man" who had sometimes "mistaken the means" (apologetics) for "the end" (Christ). 42

I think, however, that there is a non-trivial sense in which Lewis is "in" all of his stories, even if no character goes by that name. Lewis was once bothered by the fact that if the world were like Hamlet, and God like Shakespeare, then just as it would be impossible for the characters in the play ever to know Shakespeare, so we could never know God. He saw Christianity as a brilliant solution to this problem, for according to it, God makes Himself a character in the "play" and thereby knowable by other characters. Lewis, consciously or unconsciously, followed a similar pattern in his own writing. Because of his intense honesty and refusal to talk about what he had not experienced (either directly, or vicariously through literature), bits of Lewis are incarnate and alive in his stories about other characters. As a result, even when Lewis is explicitly using the technique of distancing, he is implicitly using intimacy as well.

This connection is implied by Lewis’s own analysis of the power of stories: "To construct plausible and moving ‘other worlds’ you must draw on the only real ‘other world’ we know, that of the spirit." 43 Since our most reliable access to the world is through our own spirituality, successful distancing (producing "other worlds") is therefore the result of implicit intimacy: it is a sharing out of one’s own discernment of the Spiritual World. The point Lewis makes about a science fiction novel (Voyage to Arcturus) surely applies to his own works: "…the author is recording a lived dialectic." 44 This does not imply the "personal heresy," that what Lewis’s works are really about is his own internal spiritual and psychological state. Rather it implies that Lewis communicates what he has been able to discern, something objective, yet something with which he was intimate. We are, as it were, standing side-by-side and trying to discern the same spiritual truths together. In this way, Lewis tries to overcome the Pauline dilemma that the natural man, as an enemy of God, is not inclined to receive "the things of the spirit of God."

Lewis’s ability to see is inevitably the result of his own life and inner dialectic and in that sense is private, but what he sees is something anyone can see if only their sensibility can be awakened, and so is entirely public. Indeed there would be no point writing stories at all if we were really "windowless monads" or if we were the prisoners of a private language of incommunicable subjective experience. Lewis is intensely autobiographical, but because he is insightful and honest what we learn from him is never simply, or even mainly, about himself, but has wide and often universal application.

I. Conclusion.

What Lutherans call the distinction between Law and Gospel was so central to Lewis’s Christian understanding that it lies at the heart of his exposition of Christianity’s core beliefs. At an implicit level, the distinction undergirds Lewis’s whole career as an evangelist, as a fellow patient in the same hospital who hopes to introduce us to our only help, the Great Physician. One of Lewis’s techniques of preparing an audience for the Gospel is intimacy, the frank disclosure of one’s own spiritual condition offered to encourage the audience to do likewise. Another technique is distancing, the projection of spiritual failings onto a third party with whom readers find themselves identifying. Lewis knew that the Christian life is one of daily repentance. It begins in dismay, with the unwelcome diagnosis of sin in the mirror of the Law, and ends in unspeakable comfort and joy, with the forgiveness of the Gospel.


Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Revised edition. Ed. Roger Sharrock. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Ferry, Patrick T. "Mere Christianity Because there are no Mere Mortals: Reaching Beyond the Inner Ring." In C. S. Lewis:Lightbearer in the Shadowlands . Ed. Angus J. L. Menuge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997, 169-190.

Heck, Joel. D. "Praeparatio Evangelica." In C. S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands . Ed. Angus J. L. Menuge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997, 235-257.

Hyatt, Douglas T. "Joy, The Call of God in Man: A Critical Appraisal of Lewis’s Argument from Desire." In C. S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands. Ed. Angus J. L. Menuge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997, 305-328.

Lewis, C. S. "Christian Apologetics." In God in the Dock. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, 89-103.

________. The Great Divorce: A Dream. New York: Macmillan, 1946.

________. Letters to an American Lady. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971.

________. Mere Christianity. Revised and Enlarged Edition. New York: Macmillan, 1952.

________. "Myth Became Fact." In God in the Dock. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, 63-67.

________. "On Stories." In Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. Ed. Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1966, 3-21.

________. Perelandra. New York: Collier Books, 1944.

________. The Pilgrim’s Regress. Originally published London: Geoffrey Bles, 1933. Deluxe illustrated edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.

________. The Screwtape Letters. Revised Edition. New York: Macmillan, 1982.

________. The Silver Chair. New York: Harper Trophy, 1953, 1994.

________. Surprised By Joy. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1956, 1984.

Musacchio, George. "Exorcising the Zeitgeist: Lewis as Evangelist to the Modernists." In C. S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands. Ed. Angus J. L. Menuge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997, 213-234.

Ryken, Philip G. "Winsome Evangelist: The Influence of C. S. Lewis." In C. S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands. Ed. Angus J. L. Menuge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997, 55-78.

Vanauken, Sheldon. A Severe Mercy. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.

Walther, C. F. W. God’s Yes and God’s No: The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1973.

Ward, Michael. "Escape to Wallaby Wood: Lewis’s Depictions of Conversion." In C. S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands. Ed. Angus J. L. Menuge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997, 143-167.


1. Thanks to Richard Eyer and Joel Heck for their comments on an earlier draft.

2. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 39.

3. Walther, God’s Yes and God’s No, 33.

4. Lewis, explanatory heading for the first chapter of The Pilgrim’s Regress, 3.

5. See Lewis, Preface to Mere Christianity, 12. For a recent, insightful examination of Lewis’s understanding of mere Christianity and its importance for evangelism see Patrick Ferry’s "Mere Christianity Because there are no Mere Mortals: Reaching Beyond the Inner Ring."

6. See George Musacchio’s "Exorcising the Zeitgeist: Lewis as Evangelist to the Modernists" for an analysis of the war-time worldview which made the Gospel so difficult to present, and Joel Heck’s "Praeparatio Evangelica" for an analysis of Lewis’s approach to pre-evangelism.

7. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 38.

8. Walther, God’s Yes And God’s No, 37.

9. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 59.

10. Ibid., 60.

11. Ibid., 125-126.

12. Lewis’s autobiographical allegory, The Pilgrim’s Regress, is modeled on Bunyan’s work.

13. Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, 22. Bunyan completes the quotation "but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" from Hebrews 10:38. See also Rom. 1:17 and Habakkuk 2:4, key passages for the Lutheran doctrine of justification.

14. Ibid., 23.

15. Ibid., 27.

16. Lewis’s spiritual autobiography, Surprised By Joy, is clearly modeled on Augustine’s Confessions. Indeed Lewis’s concept of joy is very similar to Augustine’s restless heart. For an examination of the connection, see Douglas T. Hyatt’s "Joy, The Call of God in Man: A Critical Appraisal of Lewis’s Argument from Desire."

17. See Lewis, "Christian Apologetics" in God in the Dock, 99. "I cannot do it: but those who can ought to do it with all their might."

18. Lewis’s admission is recorded in an audio interview with Bishop A. W. Goodwin-Hudson, quoted in Philip Ryken’s "Winsome Evangelist: The Influence of C. S. Lewis," 60.

19. See Ward, "Escape to Wallaby Wood."

20. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, 226.

21. Letter to Sheldon Vanauken of 22nd April, 1953, quoted in A Severe Mercy, 134.

22. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, 21.

23. Lewis, Preface to The Screwtape Letters, xiii.

24. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 25.

25. Ibid., 71.

26. Ibid., 72.

27. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics" in God in the Dock, 103.

28. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics" in God in the Dock, 96.

29. Lewis, Preface to Mere Christianity, 9.

30. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 36.

31. Lewis, After word to Third Edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress, 203.

32. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, 221.

33. Lewis, "Myth Became Fact" in God in the Dock, 66.

34. This phrase is borrowed from Heck, "Praeparatio Evangelica," 245.

35. See Joel Heck, "Praeparatio Evangelica."

36. Lewis, The Silver Chair, 22.

37. See Lewis, Surprised By Joy, 61-62.

38. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, letter IV, 21.

39. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 100-101.

40. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, 59.

41. Lewis, Perelandra, 93.

42. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 71.

43. Lewis, "On Stories" in Of Other Worlds, 12.

44. Ibid.

Angus G. L. Menuge is Associate Professor of Philosophy, Concordia University-Mequon, and author of Lightbearer in the Shadowlands.

Bible References

Romans 3: 10
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;

Romans 2: 14-15
14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

Hebrews 4: 15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.

2 Samuel 12: 1-7
1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." 7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.

Genesis 3: 9-13
9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" 12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Matthew 5: 29
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

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