The Oxbridge Evangelist

Motivations, Practices, and Legacy of C. S. Lewis

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Michael J. Gehring
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , April
     262 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Michael Gehring wants to do something “truly original” in his focus on C.S. Lewis as an evangelist (viii). So much has been written about the man that it seems a monumental task, and upon finishing the book, one still wonders if Gehring has succeeded. While much of the book seems devoted to negative assessments of Lewis’s life and legacy, Gehring’s final summation, “as an evangelist, Lewis was lion-hearted,” seems appropriate (230).

Throughout the book, however, the author focuses most intently upon Lewis’s faults and failures, and an inordinate amount of words are devoted to conjectures and conclusions regarding Lewis’s perplexing relationship with Janie Moore. Gehring repeatedly comments positively on Lewis’s dogged commitment to evangelism, and all that was sacrificed, both personally and professionally, to pursue his “calling.” Lewis is portrayed as a determined and faithful letter writer, wherein one finds rich sources of his brilliance, clarity, insight, and humility. Gehring reveals Lewis’s interesting and surprising reactions to both Karl Barth and Billy Graham. He also writes extensively on the many “ad-hominem” attacks on liberal clergy. Were Lewis’s laser-focused verbal assaults on the neo-orthodox necessary? “Lewis believed that gentleness and kindness were not enough; the war had to be won with strong arguments” (229). Lewis perceived it as the ultimate hypocrisy for those entrusted with propagating the Christian faith to preach, teach, or write about a gospel they no longer believed in. To derive their living from this vocation he considered as base betrayal. Therefore, Lewis called upon his considerable verbal giftedness to counteract these heresies and those who perpetrated them.

C.S. Lewis had the foresight to be “concerned by the rise of modernism, the perceived erosion of orthodoxy among the clergy, bishops, and theologians as it gave way to rationalism and liberal theology” (22). He had remarkable vision into the secular-driven society Europe was to become.

Reiterating Lewis’s unshakable conviction that from the time of his conversion, he felt called to be an evangelist above all else, Gehring’s ambivalence towards Lewis’s zeal to both preach the gospel and enthusiastically challenge threats to basic Christian tenets seems perplexing. The author quotes Lewis: “Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbeliever neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times” (189). Given this “service” which Lewis perceived as sacred obligation, and considering all that he sacrificed in its obedient pursuit, it is any wonder that he should publically disdain those who threatened to undo this saving faith? As he pursued his passion for “mere Christianity,” Lewis was not only faithful, but indeed lion-hearted.

About the Reviewer(s): 

J. T. Read is Faculty Member at Ryokan College and a doctoral student at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Date of Review: 
February 21, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Michael Gehring is senior pastor of Broad Street United Methodist Church in Statesville, NC and adjunct professor of pastoral theology at Hood Theological Seminary.


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