If it isn't obvious enough by now, I am a huge fan of Mr. C. S. Lewis. My wife found a copy of The Screwtape Letters at a garage sale almost 30 years ago: I read it and was hooked. As is my usual habit when I discover an author I like, I proceeded to seek out and read all of his books.
I haven't quite made it. Not being particularly interested I have never read any of his books in his academic specialty, Medieval and Renaissance literature. And two of his books, Dymer and Spirits in Bondage, being published early on in his career and before his reconversion to Christianity, well, I haven't honestly looked very hard for them. I have read a passage from Dymer and it sounds interesting, though.
I cannot begin to tell you enough about a later edition of Screwtape which includes the addendum Screwtape Proposes a Toast. As it happens he was addressing American education, and was dead on in his assessment. I have used his arguments there quite often in my dealings with, ahem, modern educators.
The Abolition of Man may be the best work of nonfiction outside of the Bible. Mr. Lewis' defense of the doctrine of objective knowledge is far more fantastic and profound than the small book in which he delivers it. In short, I adore the man, and must credit him to a great degree in cementing my belief in God.
Yet there is a skeleton in the closet which most of his admirers, Catholic and Protestant alike, tend to downplay or ignore. And that is his refusal to make pronouncements about certain particulars of Christian doctrine. He asserts that he is not enough of a theologian to do so.
I am not aware that one must be a theologian in order to understand most theology. I understand, as a Catholic, that the consecrated host is really the Body of Christ. Lewis famously says in regards to this that Christ's directive is, take, eat, not take, understand. I say with all due respect that he rather begs the question. Why would God not want us to understand? Wouldn't we want that closer relationship with Him?
Much of it can be linked to the psychology of Mr. Lewis I'm sure. Dr. Joseph Pearce wrote a very good book called C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome which deals with the issue of why Lewis never became Catholic as he certainly was very close to it. Dr. Pearce's answer was, essentially, because of Lewis' background and his Ulster stubbornness (he was from Northern Ireland).
I would have to agree. And I don't mean that without sympathy: sometimes, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect intended, invincible ignorance gets in our way. Lewis may not have had the capacity to take that next step; it's the same as I think of my dear maternal grandfather who, though he came to accept and respect my father's Catholicism, could not be expected to easily let go of his Southern Baptist background. Thankfully, God will accept us on those terms, if the situation is real and sincere, and not an intentional blindness.
That question, can anybody get to Heaven?, used to plague me yet now I can accept it. But even in that light, we still must address our skeletons as honestly and openly as we can. C. S. Lewis did what he could with what he had, and has accomplished with it a far sight more than anything most of us have managed. So he perhaps could not take that last step towards full Christianity. How many of us can? It is an area in which we must be supremely grateful for God's mercy.