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The long way round

"... you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Colossians 3. 9-10

If Karl Barth was the 20th century's greatest theologian, then CS Lewis was its most popular popular Christian apologist. But it wasn't always so. In his early life Lewis was a sceptic, an atheist even, and utterly self-absorbed. Yet he was possessed of the liveliest and most enquiring of minds and, no doubt as he would see it in retrospect, the prompting of the Holy Spirit challenged his self obsession.

It seems that Lewis came under the influence of Scottish writer, poet and minister, George MacDonald, who taught that the human calling was not to hoard one's life but to offer it as a sacrifice. It would be some time before Lewis grasped the full significance of MacDonald's teaching. In the meantime, it was enough to set Lewis on the road to conversion - to Theism initially, and ultimately to evangelical Christianity. Yet, in his conviction that he must displace himself to ensure God occupied the throne off his life, Lewis devoted his middle years to such radical self-denial that friends and colleagues felt he had ceased to be a person, becoming somewhat mechanical in his championing of Christian faith and his availability to others.

Only in his twilight years did Lewis realise that, in such extreme self-denial he may have been missing the point that, in order to sacrifice one's life, one first had to possess it - otherwise there would be nothing to give! Thus, without returning to the self-obsession of his early years, Lewis allowed a more personal touch to add lustre to his life and faith, which is reflected also in his later work, so that all three - life, work and faith - became as much a gift of love as a duty of service.



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