The “Moral Mythology” of C. S. Lewis
“We are all familiar, of course, with Lewis’ apologetic works. But apologetics was not Lewis’ only gambit. He saw that the problem of speaking in behalf of Christian vision in this century was not solely a matter of countering argument for argument. . . . [T]he problem went deeper than the level which could be reached by polemic. It was a problem of imagination. That is, modern imagination is such that it has no way at all of even calling up the vision of things that Lewis (and all orthodox Christians) believe to be true.”
In this essay, literary scholar Thomas Howard describes C. S. Lewis’s fictional works in terms of a mythological re-presentation of the Christian and pre-modern moral and cosmic vision. The greatest apologetic challenge for Lewis was not so much responding to arguments, as it was persuading an audience whose horizon had been radically altered and shaped by modernity that that which was esteemed and revered in the pre-modern imagination was in fact desirable. The modern imagination seeks meaning in self-liberation, in the quest, in self-authenticating experimentation. By contrast, the world that Lewis presents is that of a finely choreographed dance, one in which perfect freedom is achieved when the individual listens to the music that precedes him and after mastering the steps joins the rest of the cosmos in a dance that he did not create, but which was nevertheless made for him.
This article was originally published in Modern Age, Fall 1978. Read by Ken Myers. 41 minutes.