The Joyful Christian, by C.S. Lewis
This is admittedly the sort of book that is comfortable to read. As someone who has read a lot of books from the author, many of them compiled from materials after his death, it is pretty easy to enjoy this sort of book. Apparently there is a whole series of books that this is a part of where excerpts from authors that are loosely connected together by theme have been published with the goal of providing readers with thoughtful reflections that may serve as inspiration. And I found much to my surprise and pleasure in reading this book that I had been thinking of an upcoming message that dealt with the same sort of concerns that the author talks about here in one of my passages. Even when one is familiar with the material of the author, it is good to be reminded of the subtle influence that a writer can have one one’s concerns, and reflecting on the subject of joy as it relates to the lives of Christians is definitely a worthwhile task as well. There is a lot to gain out of a book like this and plenty of reason to check out more books like it in the future.
The contents of this book are pretty straightforward and mostly short, 127 readings from the writings of C.S. Lewis that end up a bit more than 200 pages. Included among the topics are issues like atheism and ecumenical thinking and areas of Christian doctrine. There are some discussions of miracles as well as some humorous excerpts from the Screwtape letters showing the point of view of the enemy. There are a couple of references to the Tao, and some discussions of Christian practice and psychology. Since joy is such a subject of interest for the author, you get joy in the sense of salvation–with talks about death, judgment, resurrection, and the supposed fate of the soul, as well as more mundane areas about joy relating to sex and marriage and the joys of friendship and affection. The author wrote a lot about love, and so you see plenty of that material here as well. Overall, the sections should encourage the reader to read more about Lewis’ thought if they have not already done so, and the material comes from a wide enough array of the author’s works that it will contain something new for at least most readers.
This is the sort of book that is easy to recommend. A selection of works by C.S. Lewis is better than most of the books one will encounter, and it is a lot easier to recommend reading him for a second time than it is to recommend many authors for even a first read. That said, there is something ironic in this in that Lewis himself, in selections chosen for this book, commented that it was better for readers to gain an appreciation for the classics before looking at modern authors, himself included. A large part of the greatness of Lewis’ writings was that he was engaged with in a great conversation about matters of faith and practice for believers going back hundreds and even almost two thousand years. If he was no great scholar about the Hebraic roots of Christianity, he was very knowledgeable about the Hellenistic Christianity of the Middle Ages, the piety of the Protestant mystics, and the heathen myths that were close enough to Christianity that it was easy for Hellenistic believers to baptize and make it suitable for such elements to be remembered by Christians like Lewis. And this book shows its legacy proudly, and in a way that is accessible to many readers.