So you’d think that someone as geeky as me would have lived on a steady diet of C. S. Lewis, especially given the fact that I’m a pastor’s kid.
Once again, you would be wrong. I didn’t read C. S. Lewis until I was in the Seminary but when I finally did, he had a profound effect on my life in a major way.Growing up, I don’t think I was even aware of Lewis. I vaguely remember that, when I was a teenager, my little brother started reading the Narnia books, but they were a series that I had never heard of and I dismissed as “kids’ stuff.” That kind of changed when I was in high school. My grandparents owned a cabin that my family would go to during the summer. The thing is, I wasn’t big on outdoors type of stuff, so I spent a lot of time reading. Given the sheer speed that I burned through books, I often wound up devouring whatever I brought with and then tried to find something to occupy my time.
Well, on one of those occasions, I stumbled across a copy of The Screwtape Letters and read some of it. I don’t think I read the whole thing, but I brought it home with me and put it on my bookshelf, probably thinking that I would read it “someday.”
That day finally came while I was enrolled at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. My final year there, I had an elective slot free on my schedule and I needed something to fill it. I had heard good things about a class called “The Gospel and C. S. Lewis,” so I decided to give it a try. And am I glad that I did.
In that class, we didn’t read Lewis’s theological works. Instead, we focused on his fiction. We read about half of his Narnia books, two of his Space Trilogy stories, a handful of his poems, and then capped it off with Til We Have Faces (which remains one of my favorite Lewis books of all time). And then we would discuss what Lewis had to say in his fiction about God, Jesus, and the faith.
It was a great class, but it sparked a hunger in me. I suddenly realized what I had been missing out on all those years and I started correcting my deficiency. I read the rest of the Narnia books and That Hideous Strength. I finally read through Screwtape. And then I started branching out into his other writings, like Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce, among others. In Lewis, I found a man who tackled the matters of the faith with wit and wisdom. It was simply fantastic.
But Lewis also started a chain-reaction that’s still playing out to this day, one that changed my life profoundly.
I remember it well: while our class was discussing Lewis’s Space Trilogy books, our professor started dissecting the theological underpinnings of those books, specifically about how human salvation might effect other alien species. Basically the idea was this: every species would have an Eden-like moment, a time of testing to see if they would remain faithful to a command that God gave them (in the case of humans, it was “Don’t eat the fruit;” for the citizens of Venus in Perelandra, it was “Don’t spend the night on solid ground”). If a species failed, then Christ would come to them in a culturally relevant way, bringing about salvation for them.
It was a fascinating idea. But it got me to thinking: what if it was the other way around? What if, when humanity fell, we dragged down everyone else?
That one question started burning inside me and, like Lewis, I thought it might be fun to explore that theological puzzler in the form of a story. So I started sketching out ideas. And those ideas grew into outlines. And those outlines grew into a trilogy of books.
Now, I’ve always been a storyteller at heart and my childhood dream was to become a published author. I’ve written a lot of books in my life (and I’ll tell you about a lot of them in future confessions), but I thought I had something special here. I wanted to see this trilogy published. But how? Soon I was writing to authors who had published Christian science fiction, one of whom suggested I check out this organization called ACFW. I did, and I even tried to sell my trilogy at their annual conference. When no one bit on that (and at the advice of a veteran author), I decided to move on to other projects. And eventually, I hit upon the idea that sold, namely Failstate.
In other words, if I hadn’t stumbled upon that class and read C. S. Lewis as an adult, I might never have had that sci fi trilogy idea. And if I hadn’t had that trilogy idea, I might never have discovered ACFW, which means I’d likely never have become a published author, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
That’s why I have a fond place in my heart for C. S. Lewis. I owe him a lot, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to thank him in person.Author @JohnWOtte shares why he owes C. S. Lewis a debt of gratitude. Click To Tweet