Sherwood Wirt: A light touch has been characteristic of your writings, even when you are dealing with heavy theological themes. Would you say there is a key to the cultivation of such an attitude?
C.S. Lewis: I believe this is a matter of temperament. However, I was helped in achieving this attitude by my studies of the literary men of the Middle Ages. and by the writings of G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton, for example, was not afraid to combine serious Christian themes with buffoonery. In the same way. the miracle plays of the Middle Ages would deal with a sacred subject such as the nativity of Christ, yet would combine it with a farce….
Wirt: What is your opinion of the kind of writing being done within the Christian church today?
Lewis: A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution.
Wirt: What do you think of the controversial new book Honest to God by John Robinson, the Bishop of Woolwich?
Lewis: I prefer being honest to being ‘honest to God’.
Lewis: The contemporary book that has helped me the most is Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. Others are Edwyn Bevan’s book, Svmbolism and Belief, and Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, and the plays of Dorothy Sayers.
Wirt: I believe it was Chesterton who was asked why he became a member of the church, and he replied, ‘To get rid of my sins.’ [At this point I was surprised by the suddenness of Professor Lewis’ reply.]
Lewis: it is not enough to want to get rid of one’s sins. We also need to believe in the One who saves us from our sins. Not only do we need to recognize that we are sinners; we need to believe in a Saviour who takes away sin. Matthew Arnold once wrote, ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ Because we are sinners, it does not follow that we are saved.
C.S. Lewis, “Cross-Examination,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 259-260 with appropriate additions from the originally published interview in Decision magazine, September 1963, ©1963 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.