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A blast from the past:
In 1998, Richard John Neuhaus wrote an article which touches on Lewis’ book Miracles. It was entitled “C. S. Lewis in the Public Square,” and you can read it here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/12/002-c-s-lewis-in-the-public-square . Neuhaus speculates how C. S. Lewis would write and speak for the Christian faith were he to be living in the twenty-first century. Some things have changed since the mid-twentieth. Lewis could foresee that modern thinking would continue to wreak havoc in our society, but, in his day, he could still count on having a good deal of common ground with unbelievers. He could argue with them rationally – which he does in Miracles. He could also tell stories with meanings people would appreciate and do so with a measure of confidence that such things would echo as “true” in the minds of the public. Neuhaus spends time explaining how such a situation no longer exists in the thinking public square. People today feel the irrational is the place to look for meaning. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but there it is. Multiculturalism has also deteriorated a common recognition of who we are as a people, based on the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories we have inherited from the past. This being the case, the public square is on a different footing from that which Lewis addressed and so we naturally wonder what he would do today.
Neuhaus’ conclusion is that Lewis would probably go on doing what he did anyway, with needful adjustments. Neuhaus says this because he recognises that the approach Lewis took in the past is still needed, in spite of its obstacles, and that Lewis would realise the same. Lewis would still argue with people about what they find as true in daily life. He would continue to speak to individuals as one human to another, trying to help them recognise what is true and real in the world in which they live; he would still appeal to common human experience. Also, Lewis would continue to tell stories; stories which reveal the truth in our universe. Though the stories of our world are being emptied, theoretically, of their worth, nevertheless the realities of our world are still there and stories still do their job in communicating them to people. People are still people.
Neuhaus also adds his own opinion of the great necessity of the witness of the Church to continue in life and liturgy (meaning, those liturgies that, in their drama, tell the story of Creation and Redemption, such as are found in the Orthodox, the Roman, and the Anglican Churches). While we seek to engage people with argument and story in the public square, we need the Church’s witness to point to as the living representative in our culture of the presence and reality of the kingdom of God; the historical presence of the Real Story of our world. I think he’s right.
You may want to keep a dictionary beside you as you read his article, but it is worth it. As for how it affects our study, we must recognise that the arguments Lewis makes in Miracles seem convincing enough to ourselves, who have a more absolutist and supernatural understanding of our world, but they may not be convincing to others. As a result, we must be creative in how we communicate the same things we learn in Miracles to the people around us.
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