Kathy Keller, assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has written a beautiful essay about the influence of C.S. Lewis on her life:
…Lewis has been my daily companion. He alone navigated me through the cynicism and illogic of my college religion classes. His prose was a model for my own. When others began to write about him and form societies and have dinners and speakers and tours, I must admit to a pang of jealousy. Lewis was mine! (Had I been older, I have often thought, I would have given Helen Joy Davidman Gresham a run for her money!) But the truth is, Lewis is not mine. He is a shining gift of God for many ages. A gracious man, and a man of grace.
I’m grateful that Keller was willing to answer some of my questions about Lewis’s ongoing influence.
You corresponded with C.S. Lewis as a child. How did those letters shape you as a young woman?
As a young child I thought it nice, but not particularly unusual that this author should answer my letters. After all, his books could hardly be found in the U.S., so I thought he was lonely and not well known! Later, when I came to understand the volume of mail he received, and that he answered every letter, in spite of rheumatoid pain in his wrist, I was amazed and humbled. I had though Lewis was my private possession, because I was the only one who seemed to know about him.
You’ve said that C.S. Lewis has been your daily companion. How does his writing continue to shape you today?
I had though Lewis was my private possession, because I was the only one who seemed to know about him. In college, if I wanted to spruce up my writing style, I would just re-read all I had of his works. He was so clear and concise, it sort of rubbed off. When I read him today, I am always surprised to discover that this or that argument that I had “always” known had come from him.
The New York Times just called Lewis an “evangelical rock star.” What accounts for his popularity among evangelicals today?
Lewis is not part of the culture wars, and so can be enjoyed by all groups. He fits into no category, theologically or culturally, and yet he punctures all manner of pompous cultural assumptions of our day.
Lewis wrote of his growing preference to catch “the reader unawares—thro’ fiction and symbol” rather than through a direct approach. How can evangelicals learn to do this from Lewis?
I did my thesis on Lewis’s Mythopoeic View of Language—I think they ought to read Lewis himself, first, read his fiction, read other fiction, and find how Christian truths can sneak up on you when you aren’t on guard against them
Do you have a favorite C.S. Lewis book?
Perelandra. Peter Kreeft, I believe, said that when he lies dying, he hopes that his mind will fly to the coronation scene at the end of Perelandra. Me, too.