Front cover image for A challenge to C.S. Lewis

A challenge to C.S. Lewis

From the many-sided genius of C.S. Lewis, two main facets stand out. The first is the creative imagination of the storyteller, deriving from Teutonic and Classical sources. The other is the sturdy rationalism and erudition of the medieval scholar. Author Peter Milward emphasizes the latter in his latest book, A Challenge to C.S. Lewis. As a young Jesuit, Milward was one of Lewis's students who heard the eminent medieval scholar draw upon the dim recesses of Northern learning and Greco-Roman mythology to make his subject lucid for his listeners. After himself becoming a professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, Milward continued a dialogue with his former lecturer through a lengthy correspondence. With this book Milward challenges some of the presuppositions of Lewis's scholarship. With all the medievalist's talent as a scholar, Milward maintains, there remains the defect that, as a Protestant with roots in Northern Ireland, Lewis was unable to enter sympathetically into the Catholic mind of medieval Christendom. According to Milward, it is significant that in his lectures on "Prolegomena to the Middle Ages" Lewis laid more emphasis on the pagan elements in the medieval mind than on their more characteristic Christian elements, as if the latter had no need of explanation to a modern audience. Yet in his more popular and less academic writings as an apologist for the Christian faith, Lewis assumed that the majority of his readers would be more or less ignorant of the teachings of Christianity. Here the "mere Christianity" professed by Lewis was, Milward argues, in effect a Protestant side of Christianity, placing him on the modern side of the Great Divide ushered in by Martin Luther for Europe and by Henry VIII for England. Thus, the author states, there is a deep contradiction at the heart of all Lewis's academic writings, in that while Lewis set out to expose the medieval view of the world as (in his words) a "discarded image," he remained out of sympathy with that view in its basically religious features. Milward, therefore, calls for more analysis of this contradiction in Lewis's writings, in the form of a challenge to intellectual debate such as Lewis himself enjoyed so much in his Oxford days
Print Book, English, ©1995
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press ; Associated University Presses, Madison-Teaneck [N.J.], London, ©1995