C.S. Lewis is an acclaimed author known throughout the world. His work, “The Chronicles of Narnia” remains one of the most popular children’s books today. But because of his famous works in defense of the Christian faith, he is also one of the most celebrated Christian authors of the 20th century – which makes one wonder: was he Catholic? Let’s find out here.
C.S. Lewis was not a Catholic, but he was a Christian. However, before he started defending the faith, he went through quite a journey, particularly in his religious life. He was raised in the Church of Ireland and became an atheist, then a theist, and finally a Christian – an Anglican to be exact.
So what made C.S. Lewis leave Christianity, become an atheist then a theist, and go back to Jesus Christ? Moreover, why is he popular among Catholics? Continue reading to learn more about him below.
Who Was C.S. Lewis?
Clive Staples Lewis, more popularly known as C.S. Lewis, is a scholar, novelist, and author who was born in 1898 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He has 40 books under his belt with “The Chronicles of Narnia”, a series of children’s books, being his most popular and most-read series of books. It has also become a classic in fantasy literature with several movies based on it.
Additionally, Lewis gained acclaim for his apologetic works, including “The Screwtape Letters” and “Mere Christianity”. These works made Lewis popular among many Christians as he presented religion and faith in a much clearer picture. He was also respected across all Christian denominations, including Anglicans, Baptists, and Roman Catholics. This is because while he considered himself an orthodox Anglican, he took an impartial approach in his works.
C.S. Lewis covered a diverse range of genres and literary styles. He was able to write fairy tales, essays, poems, anthologies, autobiographies, science fiction, and literary criticisms. All these works, including his apologetics and children’s books, earned Lewis considerable wealth. But he anonymously gave away two-thirds of this through the “Agape Fund”, a charitable trust established by his friend, Owen Barfield.
Aside from being an author, C.S. Lewis was also a war veteran. He fought in World War I where he served in the Third Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. During his time in service, he went through trench warfare and was wounded in combat. Unfortunately, he also lost some of his friends.
After service, Lewis started studying at Oxford where he excelled, taking in honors and gaining multiple degrees. Soon later, he became a fellow and tutor in Oxford then a professor at the University of Cambridge.
C.S Lewis’ Journey to Christianity
As mentioned above, C.S. Lewis went through quite a journey in his religious life. He was raised in the Church of Ireland, an Anglican denomination. However, when his mom died from cancer and his interest in old pagan myths of the Norse gods grew, he became an atheist or someone who did not believe in the existence of God or gods.
His time in service during World War I, being wounded and losing those around him, only solidified his stance as an atheist. He saw all the suffering as contradictory to having a good and loving God. This was even made stronger through his studies, which made him wonder why one god could be considered true and the other not. He then made the conclusion that “all religions are simply mythologies invented by human beings?” (“C.S. Lewis – A Life” by Alister Mcgrath, p. 42)
However, even as an atheist, Lewis still found himself questioning God’s existence. His atheistic beliefs were also challenged through the books he read and the people that surrounded him, including colleagues, scholars, and friends. This led him to theism in 1929 and started to recognize that there was indeed a God.
Then, two years later, while reluctant, Lewis converted to Christianity and became a member of the Church of England.
Why is C.S. Lewis Popular Among Catholics?
That said, Lewis is an Anglican Christian – not a Catholic. So why is he so popular among the Catholic Church? Well, because he sounded a lot like one and held many beliefs that leaned more toward Catholicism than Protestantism.
For instance, Lewis called the Holy Eucharist the “Blessed Sacrament” and believed in the Real Presence, a doctrine asserting that Jesus is present literally and wholly in the Eucharist. This is a Catholic view and is seen by many Protestants as “unbiblical”.
Furthermore, Lewis opposed ordinating women in the Anglican church, saying that the priest at the altar is “in the person of Christ”. He also regularly confesses to an Anglican priest, which was unconventional in the Anglican church. He prayed for the dead, too, and finally, he believed in purgatory – even saying that that’s where he was destined to go.
Now, you’re probably wondering why – with many beliefs that conform to the Catholic faith – didn’t Lewis convert to Catholicism. Well, when pressed about it, he pointed at the veneration of Mary and the authority of the Pope as his main concerns in the Catholic Church. His famous Catholic friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, however, suggested that Lewis has a deeply rooted anti-Catholicism belief, which he absorbed as a boy as a member of the Church of Ireland and had never left him since.
But despite Lewis’ resistance to embracing the Catholic faith, he is still loved and respected by many Catholics. In fact, the late Pope John Paul II said that “The Four Loves”, Lewis’ book, was one of his favorites. Pope Benedict XVI was also familiar with his works and spoke highly of them.
More than that, a lot of Catholics today credit Lewis as one of the reasons why they converted to Catholicism. Proof of this is Joseph Pearce, the author of “C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church”, who said in one of his interviews: “I have a deep debt of gratitude to C.S. Lewis. He was a significant influence on my own path to Rome, even though he failed to get there himself during his own lifetime.”