I’ve been a C. S. Lewis fan for decades but I almost didn’t buy this copy of Christian Reflections at a local second-hand store. I wasn’t in the mood for a collection of Lewis’ essays, knowing that they can be tough slogging at the best of times.
But I’m also continually watching for works that help define, express or make comment about the intersection of faith, arts and culture. So when I looked at the table of contents and saw the first essay was titled “Christianity and Literature,” I changed my mind.
Here’s one of the things Lewis says about the topic:
I knew, of course, that Christian story and sentiment were among the things on which literature could be written, and conversely, that literature was one of the ways in which Christian sentiment could be expressed and Christian story told; but there seemed nothing more to be said of Christianity in this connection than of any of the hundred and one other things that men made books about. We are familiar with, no doubt, the expression ‘Christian Art’, by which people usually mean Art that represents Biblical or hagiological scenes, and there is, in this sense, a fair amount of ‘Christian Literature’. But I question whether it has any literary qualities peculiar to itself. The rules for writing a good passion play or a good devotional lyric are simply the rules for writing tragedy or lyric in general: success in sacred literature depends on the same qualities of structure, suspense, variety, diction, and the like which secure success in secular literature.
It’s the last sentence of that paragraph that struck me: “success in sacred literature depends on the same qualities of structure, suspense, variety, diction, and the like which secure success in secular literature.” I’d suggest (not Lewis) this principle can be applied to any of the arts: success depends on following the particular disciplines of that art form.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Lewis? Why or why not?