Arts, Books — October 2, 2012 8:07 am

Five Great Christian Authors Who AREN’T C.S. Lewis

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I love C.S. Lewis as much as the next person, but there are two things that I find incredibly interesting about Evangelical Christianity’s obsession with the great Christian thinker. The first is that many people would be surprised at Lewis’ own theology, which is often at odds with the current stream of Evangelical thought, especially in regards to what happens to us when we die. The second is that there are a wealth of other good men and women who wrote brilliantly on the faith. Thankfully, Relevant put together just a small list (who would you add?) that highlights some others who made waves in Christian thought throughout the years.

C.S. Lewis has received loads of attention in the last sixty years because of his potent mix of brilliance, thought organization, orthodox Christianity and clear, understandable writing. But it is important to understand that C.S. Lewis was not a lone voice crying in the wilderness of the twentieth century. In fact, he was surrounded by authors addressing the same subjects he addressed, in styles equally clear and delightful. Sadly these authors have been slowly disappearing into history’s concealing mists. Like John the Baptist before them, they have decreased while C.S. Lewis has increased. But not completely! Their works are still available (all the more in our newfangled digital age) and waiting to be read. This article is here to introduce a few of these authors. So if you have exhausted your C.S. Lewis catalogue and are pining in despair, cheer up; more is
waiting out there for you, much more.

If you have exhausted your C.S. Lewis catalogue and are pining in despair, cheer up; more is waiting out there for you, much more.

G.K. Chesterton

If you want to be joyful when you grow up, Chesterton is the man for you. As a youngster he broke into London’s literary scene seemingly out of nowhere, filled with wit, jokes and paradoxes. He wrote detective stories, books about anarchists and madmen, essays on every conceivable topic, and books of philosophy and theology. He had an extremely unique combination of genius and humor and used it fully. He argued for Christian morality in unexpected ways. There is pure spontaneity in his writing, a disorganization that is charming. He is like C.S. Lewis with messy hair. Lewis himself thought highly of Chesterton, especially his apologetic work, The Everlasting Man. A beginner to G.K. Chesterton would do well to start with his book of essays called, Tremendous Trifles and eventually move on to his fiction and most popular theological work, Orthodoxy.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge is valuable as a writer in the twentieth century AD for the same reason King Solomon was valuable as a writer in the tenth century BC—he had and saw extreme success, and it did not fulfill him. Not only did he have a really awesome name, he witnessed—as a journalist—first hand, Russian communism, World War II, and the liberalization of morality in Europe and America following that war. An agnostic much of his life, he also had vast experience in sin while running with the literary elite of his day. He converted to Christianity in his mid sixties and became a strong advocate for the faith. Because of his former lifestyle and success he could say with authority, “The hopes and desires of the world [are] even more desolating . . . in realization than in aspiration.” Much of Muggeridge’s writing rings of C.S. Lewis, though a tad more cynical. The book Jesus Rediscovered is a solid place to begin. In time, make your way to Chronicles of Wasted Time, his multi-volume autobiography. His sheer skill as a writer is a wonder to behold, and his perspectives on life and Godliness are invaluable.

Frank W. Boreham

Frank Boreham may be the least known of this group of writers, but he is certainly not the least worthy of recognition and readership. His life was not flashy and his personality was not magnetic, but Boreham’s writings are filled with a deep love of God and understanding of the Christian life that can only come from years of walking with Jesus. Boreham was born in England and spent his entire adult life as a pastor in New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia in the early to mid twentieth century. His style of writing is conversational and has that unmistakable British charm associated with writers of his time period. He wrote about walks he had in the country, strawberries and cream, and corner cupboards. As with C.S. Lewis’ work, to finish a Boreham essay, is to be encouraged spiritually and intellectually. Beginners in Boreham should first prepare themselves to be delighted and then read his book of essays, Mushrooms on the Moor followed by A Handful of Stars.

Dorothy L. Sayers

Though she was primarily known as a crime writer, Dorothy Sayers was not limited to that genre. She was a translator of Dante, playwright, a Christian apologist, and a founder of the classical education movement. She had a passion for careful reasoning and logic, which can be like a cold drink on a hot day to today’s confused post-modern reader. Though her writing is not extremely accessible, it is rewarding, clever, witty and quite funny. She had a way of saying old orthodox truths in fresh ways. She shared a friendship with C.S. Lewis and even attended some meetings of the Socratic Club in Oxford, of which Lewis was the chairman. Her most well known Christian apologetic work is The Mind of the Maker. Though the language and writing are thick, it is a good read and worth the wading.

Lewis gave McDonald the honor of being, “The greatest mythmaker” he knew.

George MacDonald

Anyone who appreciates the fiction of C.S. Lewis and the imagination from which that fiction arose, owes a great debt to George MacDonald. Lewis gave McDonald the honor of being, “The greatest mythmaker” he knew. And indeed McDonald had a wonderful imagination, writing fairytales for children and adults full of Christian imagery and indefinable beauty. Sound familiar? But MacDonald’s work was not limited to fantasy and myth, he also wrote novels such as Robert Falconer and The Seaboard Parrish. He was very concerned with God’s work in making the Christian more like Himself. A believer reading George MacDonald will truly feel cleansed by encountering so much truth and grace. A good place to start with MacDonald would be his fairytales such as The Light Princess along with a novel like Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood.

C.S. Lewis is not the only Pevensie in the Wardrobe. Each of these authors brings a fresh perspective to the old truths of the Gospel story. It would be shameful to let them fall into obscurity just because they have not been placed in Norton’s anthology or the shelves of local bookstores. (Thankfully some have.) Their generation has something to teach ours; the best way to begin to learn is to begin to read.

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4 Comments

  • C.S. Lewis has had the most impact on my thought. I am an odd admirer of Lewis, however. I’ve read his collected letters. I’ve even read huge chunks of Oxford’s History of English Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama, to include The Discarded Image (his Introduction to Renaissance and Medieval Literature), his Great War with Owen Barfield on the nature of Imagination and Poetic Diction and Metaphor, his Preface to Paradise Lost, his essays on John Donne, Shelley, and Milton; pretty much all of his metaphysical poetry on The Planets, what I could understand of The Allegory of Love, his Study In Words (fascinating!), his controversy with Tillyard called The Personal Heresy (interacting with this helped me formulate a loose philosophy of art). His popular books (fiction and non) become all the more illuminating after interacting with his scholarly stuff.

    Even so, the other authors you listed have impacted me enormously. Along with Lewis’ Miracles, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy saved my life, as did Muggeridge’s The Third Testament. Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker (which I accidentally found like a treasure in my mom’s closet!) was another life-changer.

    I’ll add the Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos hit me like a sledgehammer, and his Message in a Bottle was one of the most provocative books I’ve ever read. His views on language have made tectonic shifts in my worldview, as did he take on the human condition and his essays on alienation. Another book that made an inestimable smash on my spirituality is Thomas Merton’s The New Man, which put everything into a perspective that I could understand. His lucidity did more than most books to cast a mystical light on the whole idea of personal identity, easing that universal ache of who I am. Also, his The Seven Storey Mountain told me the story of real man with real struggles, whose road to Christian spirituality rung utterly authentic to me. Rudolph Otto’s The Idea of the Holy did wonders to my understanding of God’s transcendence and ‘otherness’ as did Heschel’s The Prophets. The altogether inadequacy of scholastic philosophy to completely encompass religion and God was elegantly put into focus. Martin Buber’s I and Thou made huge contributions to Kierkegaard’s idea of subjectivity that up till then had been a little mystifying to me. MacDonald’s Lilith took me to imaginative places that I never dreamed of. In terms of pure philosophers, William James’ The Variety’s of Religious Experience was a game-changer for me; he supplied the biographical content for what I had been reading abstractly for years.

    I’ll probably think of more later. lol

    • Matt,

      Thanks for sharing. I love Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy.” In fact, I was inspired to read it after reading “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren. That book really changed a lot for me about what it means to be truly ecumenical. Sort of blew my mind.

      Obviously NT Wright has been a big influence on me as well.

      And finally I’d add John Howard Yoder to this list as well.

      So many authors and scholars to be thankful for!

  • I hate C.S. Lewis’ writing, a fact that I usually keep quiet. I just feel like this was a safe space. I need to tell someone.

  • No problem at all Janna. It’s all a matter of taste. What was your least favorite Lewis book? As for myself, I cannot stomach The Chronicles of Narnia. Being a Lewis fan in other areas of his writing, I just cannot enjoy these books for whatever reason. I also have the hardest time enjoying Till We Have Faces.

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