Christian theologian McGrath (Theology and Ministry/King’s College London; Mere Apologetics, 2012, etc.) dissects the life of C.S. Lewis 50 years after the author’s death, focusing on how his life was impacted by theology and vice versa.
In this chronological account, McGrath splits Lewis’ life into sections, beginning with childhood and then moving through his many years at Oxford, his time at Cambridge, and then his death and posthumous popularity. An entire section is also devoted to the Chronicles of Narnia and its religious meaning, conception and popularity. Based almost completely on Lewis’ letters, the biography is rich with information but short on the sort of anecdotes that make author biographies so colorful. McGrath focuses mainly on Lewis’ religious development, with a secondary theme of the relationships that affected his work. This concentration on Lewis’ role in apologetics may be due to the fact that McGrath himself is an apologist and finds common ground with Lewis in this area. While this focus may be useful for Lewis scholars and die-hard fans, it feels narrow for a literary biography. McGrath is clearly a huge fan of his subject; while he doesn’t shy away from criticism of the man’s life or work, he does downplay it. For instance, in discussing Lewis’ Space Trilogy, McGrath states, “The quality of these is somewhat uneven, with the third being particularly difficult in places. Yet the main thing to appreciate is not so much their plots and points, but the medium through which they are expressed—stories, which captivate the imagination and open the mind to an alternative way of thinking.” This is characteristic of McGrath’s attitude throughout the book. While not necessarily a problem, it wears thin in some places where more support is needed to make a truly sound argument.
Dense for general readers but an excellent scholarly read encompassing new ideas for Lewis devotees or those interested in religious argument.