Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The last interview (Part 1)

This is widely believed to be C.S. Lewis’s last interview. It was conducted by Sherwood Wirt, an associate of Billy Graham and founding editor of Decision magazine. I’ve included some commentary which Sherwood Wirt wrote regarding the interview. –Ken Symes

Sherwood Wirt with Billy GrahamI drove to Cambridge, England, on May 7 [1963] to interview Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, author of
The Screwtape Letters and one of the world’s most brilliant and widely read Christian authors. I hoped to learn from him how young men and women could be encouraged to take up the defense of the faith through the written word.
    It was quickly evident that this interview was going to be different from any that I had ever been granted. I found Mr. Lewis in a wing of the brick quadrangle at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, where he is professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature. I climbed a flight of narrow, incredibly worn wooden steps, knocked at an ancient wooden door with the simple designation, “Prof. Lewis,” and was shown in by the housekeeper.
    Passing through a simply furnished parlor, I came into a study that was quite Spartan in appearance. Professor Lewis was seated at a plain table upon which reposed an old-fashioned alarm clock and an old-fashioned inkwell. I was immediately warmed by his jovial smile and cordial manner as he rose to greet me; he seemed the classic, friendly, jolly Englishman. He indicated a straight-backed chair, then sat down, snug in his tweed jacket and two sweaters, and we were away.

Sherwood Wirt: Professor Lewis, if you had a young friend with some interest in writing on Christian subjects, how would you advise him to prepare himself?

woman-writing-letterC.S. Lewis: I would say if a man is going to write on chemistry, he learns chemistry. The same is true of Christianity. But to speak of the craft itself, I would not know how to advise a man how to write. It is a matter of talent and interest. I believe he must be strongly moved if he is to become a writer. Writing is like a ‘lust’, or like ‘scratching when you itch’. Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.

Wirt: Can you suggest an approach that would spark the creation of a body of Christian literature strong enough to influence our generation?

Lewis: There is no formula in these matters. I have no recipe, no tablets. Writers are trained in so many individual ways that it is not for us to prescribe. Scripture itself is not systematic; the New Testament shows the greatest variety. God has shown us that he can use any instrument. Balaam’s ass, you remember, preached a very effective sermon in the midst of his ‘hee-haws’ (Numbers 22:1-35).

C.S. Lewis, “Cross-Examination,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 258-259 with appropriate additions from the originally published interview in Decision magazine, September 1963, © 1963 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

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