(CMCSL-5): C.S. Lewis was Just a Children’s Author

This is part of an occasional series exploring questionable claims about the life or writings of C.S. Lewis.  For a list of the topics either already explored or planned to be examined you can visit the introduction to this series


I often find it amazing how little some people know about C.S. Lewis. Of course, I’m bias, considering the fact that I eat, drink and sleep all things Lewis (or some think I do). Yet, when I pause and consider how multi-talented he was, it is not hard to understand why most don’t know a lot about him. It’s strikingly similar to the problem Superman had when seen up in the sky. Is that a bird? No, wait it’s a plane! Someone needed to give the observer the glasses that Clark Kent wasn’t wearing to clear things up. Finally, a sane person steps up and proclaims that Superman is above them.

For Lewis, the confusion is worse. While there are more than three choices, common options are that he was an Oxford teacher, a Christian apologist, and a Children’s author. Of course, he was all that and more. However, most only think of him as the latter, a kid’s writer. In fact, some have thought that a hundred years from now that this might be the only achievement by which he will be remembered. While The Chronicles of Narnia are a great achievement on many levels, people are missing out on a lot from Lewis if they only consider those books.

Most of you reading this piece are likely fairly well versed in Lewis and are aware how much more than just being a children’s author he was. So, the information covered here might not be as interesting as other misconceptions covered in this series. However, I believe that you’d be surprised about the two main types of people who believe this falsehood. The first group are those who haven’t read any or much of Narnia and think of them as okay stories, but believe Lewis isn’t the kind of author they would want to continue reading. The other group might have read some of the Chronicles and even parts of other writings, but dismiss him as “just a children’s author” and believe that he shouldn’t be taken seriously. These individuals are usually atheists, who look down on others for taking Lewis seriously about Christianity because he wrote kid stories. This second group is who I want to mostly address.

Peter S. Williams notes in his book, C.S. Lewis vs the New Atheists that when thinking Christians give praise to Lewis that there are also those who are quick to dismiss Lewis. He gives an example of Victor Stenger, the late American particle physicist and religious skeptic, complaining about famed physician-geneticist Francis Collins praise of Lewis’ Christian writings and the influence Lewis has had on him. Williams quotes from Stenger’s 2009 book, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, that instead of reading works by C.S. Lewis that Collins “would have done better to refer to the latest literature on cosmology and evolutionary psychology, and to consult theological sources besides an author of children’s literature.”

Underneath this bias against Lewis is a motivation to paint of picture of Lewis in a highly distorted perspective. IF Lewis was “just a Children’s author,” then it might be understandable to question the value of getting advice on matters outside that specialty. After all, you might enjoy the works of someone like E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web) or Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit), but would you dare go to either of them for advice on religious or philosophical matters? But here lies the difference between Lewis and those writers.

Beatrix Potter, 2012, Olivia Waste

When using Google to search for “famous children’s authors” you see a list of pictures that includes Lewis in the top twelve. Selecting the picture for Beatrix Potter, various links are provided, including a Wikipedia entry. Selecting it provides the reader with a decent summary of her and there’s a nice picture of her in the right corner along with a few basic facts. It notes she is best known as a “Children’s author and illustrator,” and her main genre was “Children’s literature.” The Wikipedia entry for E.B. White lists “Writer” for his occupation and doesn’t give a genre. This is because of the obvious fact he didn’t just compose children’s books (he expanded The Elements of Style in 1959).

Had Stenger bothered to consult this type of resource, he would have found Lewis was given a pretty fair shake. The Wikipedia entry basic facts summary reports that his occupation was “novelist, scholar, broadcaster,” and gives his genres as “Christian apologetics, fantasy, science fiction, children’s literature.” Again, that’s a decent summary given the space restraints. The complete entry does a good job of painting a clearer picture than Stenger would want others to have. It mentions the fact that in 1924 he was “a philosophy tutor at University College.” Pause and think about that. Lewis taught Philosophy (it was only for a year because he was filling in for the person who had taken a one-year leave) at Oxford University! This wasn’t some third-rate community college where it seems like they’d let anyone teach. Oxford is considered one of the best places to get an education.

One fact not mentioned in the online encyclopedia is that Lewis was on the cover of Time on September 8, 1947. This is over three years before the first Narnia story! Imagine being more famous for something after landing on the cover of such a respected magazine. So, in conclusion, considering Lewis as just a Children’s author is a vast understatement and could be used as an insult.


The next article to be posted is:

TBA


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Updated 7/1/2017

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  1. (CMCSL-4): After Winston Churchill, Lewis Was the Most Recognized Voice in Britain in the 1940’s | Essential C.S. Lewis - […] Lewis was Just a Children’s Author […]
  2. Correcting Misconceptions About C.S. Lewis (CMCSL) | Essential C.S. Lewis - […] (CMCSL-5) Lewis was Just a Children’s Author […]

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