|< Return to Famous Anglicans
The Religious Affiliation of Author/Theologian/Philosopher
C. S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis was born into the Church of Ireland, which is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. (Members of the Church of Ireland are indeed Anglicans, although Irish Anglicans were frequently known as "Protestants," to distinguish them from Irish Catholics and from Anglicans in England.) Lewis was for many years an agnostic or an atheist, but he later came to embrace Christianity and became an active Anglican.
From: Andrew Rilstone, "Frequently Asked Questions About C.S. Lewis", for Alt.books.cs-lewis listgroup (http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/cslfaq.htm; viewed 14 November 2005):
4: Questions about Lewis's Beliefs
4.1 Was Lewis a Roman Catholic? Didn't he believe in Purgatory?
Lewis was not a Catholic. He was and remained an Anglican (Church of England) for his post-conversion life, describing himself as 'neither particularly 'high', nor particularly 'low' '. He was critical of some specific aspects of the Catholic faith - memorably commenting that if the Virgin Mary is like the best of human mothers, she doesn't want attention directed at herself instead of her Son! On the other hand, in Letters to Malcolm and elsewhere, he defends the idea of Purgatory as a necessary 'cleaning up time' for the soul before entering the company of heaven - although he acknowledged that the doctrine was open to abuse.
'I hope' he writes 'that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am coming round, a voice will say 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be purgatory.'
In the essay Christian Reunion he states that the real disagreement between Catholics and Protestants is not about any particular belief, but about the source and nature of doctrine and authority:
'The real reason I cannot be in communion with you is... that to accept your Church means not to accept a given body of doctrine but to accept in advance any doctrine that your Church hereafter produces'.
When Lewis was working on Mere Christianity, he had Book II vetted by Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian clergymen, to avoid any hint of denominational bias creeping in. In a telling passage in Allegory of Love he recognises the potential flaws in both the Catholic and the Protestant paths:
'When Catholicism goes bad it becomes the world-old, world-wide religion of amulets and holy places and priest craft; Protestantism, in its corresponding decay, becomes a vague mist of ethical platitudes.'
4.2: What did Lewis think about the Bible? Was he a fundamentalist?
Here we again run into semantic difficulties, what is meant by 'fundamentalist'? Lewis did believe that the Bible was the word of God, but he also believed that we were given our minds to use them.
In his Reflections on the Psalms Lewis says:
'At one point I had to explain how I differed on a certain point from both Catholics and Fundamentalists: I hope I shall not for this forfeit the goodwill or the prayers of either. Nor do I much fear it.'
The 'certain matter' is, again, the source of authority: although he regards much of the Bible as being the historical truth, he cannot regard it as a source of absolute certainty, as fundamentalists do.
His two most sustained discussions of the Bible are 'Fern Seed and Elephants' (an essay in the collection of the same title) and the chapter 'Scripture' in Reflections on the Psalms.
Lapsed Jewish film director Stanley Donen here recalls how he made his movie Bedazzled with the help of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Donen incorrectly states that Lewis converted to Catholicism. Actually, after years as a professed atheist, Lewis embraced Anglican Christianity - the denomination he had been born into. From: Stephen M. Silverman, Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies, Alfred A. Knopf: New York (1996), page 313:
Donen said that in putting together the script [for his film Bedazzled] with Cook, "I used as my Bible a book called Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), having been a don at both Oxford and Cambridge, was "an atheist who late in life converted to Catholicism," said Donen. "He was a great theologian and did a great study of Christianity, not just Catholicism. His is the only book I know of that doesn't point out the differences between religions but the similarities, the places where they all meet and agree. That book was the basis of the whole picture, because I wanted it so that if any Christian saw Bedazzled, he could be outraged but he could not fault it."
From: "Religious Affiliations of Celebrities" page in "Celebrity Religion" section of "Religion Facts" website (http://www.religionfacts.com/celebrities/religions_of_celebrities.htm; viewed 26 April 2007):
Below is an index of the religious affiliations or belief systems of celebrities (both living and dead; in film, television, music, literature, academics and politics), listed in alphabetical order by last name...
Celebrity: C.S. Lewis
Quotes, More Information, Sources:
The Oxford professor and author of the Chronicles of Narnia was an atheist for most of his life until he quite reluctantly converted to (Anglican [link to: http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/denominations/anglicanism.htm]) Christianity, convinced of its truth. He was known for his ability to explain Christian belief in a reasonable and accessible way, in such books as Mere Christianity.
Webpage created 19 July 2005. Last modified 26 April 2007.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: email@example.com.