I've always wondered why, exactly, some of my evangelical students and lots of other American evangelicals fall so hard for Lewis, since the actual C. S. Lewis, who came smoking, drinking, and carrying some fairly kinky early sexual predilections, was no moral avatar. But McGrath also excels in his explanation for the evolution of Lewis's literary and theological reputation: "Engaging both heart and mind, Lewis opened up the intellectual and imaginative depths of the Christian faith like nobody else." (369) For those who needed their heart, mind, and spirit engaged, Lewis provided a compelling Protestant model—and many American Christians have mistaken Lewis for an evangelical himself upon learning that he converted from atheism to Christianity.
C. S. Lewis: A Life did not convert me from atheism to Lewisism; I'm not sure that anything ever will. I personally take my faith a little funnier, and so I would suggest we canonize Anne Lamott. But I can say that I admired McGrath's book tremendously and feel that I've gained a new appreciation for Lewis the writer, Lewis the Christian apologist, and Lewis the scholar. The next time I'm engaged by students, parishioners, or Internet trolls with questions or wielding quotes, I'm going to be much better prepared.
And I find that, strangely enough, I'm excited about returning to the Preface on Paradise Lost.
After all, I have to teach Paradise Lost this fall after many years' layoff, and I've never yet found a guide to Milton any better than C. S. Lewis. :::page break:::