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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2008
C.S. Lewis is without doubt one of the greatest - if not the greatest - lay theologian of the 20th century. Immensely personal, his works do not fail to speak to whoever takes time to read and reflect on the great and eternal questions humans have been asking since time immemorial. Reading this book from cover to cover has been a truly spiritual journey - absolutely rewarding but difficult and challenging as well. Nowhere in his works will you find mindless zeal of the self-righteous, instead what shines from every page is a candid and life-long search for truth by a highly intelligent, highly educated and decent man not afraid of asking difficult questions about his faith and reasons. A committed Anglican himself, C.S.Lewis must be a mandatory reading for all Christians regardless of their denomination, as well as everyone who believes or knows that there is more to our existence and this world than meets the eye.
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113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon 19 December 2005
C.S. Lewis was a rare individual. One of the few non-clerics to be recognised as a theologian by the Anglican church, he put forth the case for Christianity in general in ways that many Christians beyond the Anglican world can accept, and a clear description for non-Christians of what Christian faith and practice should be. Indeed, Lewis says in his introduction that this text (or indeed, hardly any other he produced) will help in deciding between Christian denominations. While he describes himself as a 'very ordinary layman' in the Church of England, he looks to the broader picture of Christianity, particularly for those who have little or no background. The discussion of division points rarely wins a convert, Lewis observed, and so he leaves the issues of ecclesiology and high theology differences to 'experts'. Lewis is of course selling himself short in this regard, but it helps to reinforce his point.
This collection contains several of C.S. Lewis' classic works (although it is not in fact a complete collection of all his writings, not even of all his non-fiction writings). It contains the following works: 'Mere Christianity', 'The Screwtape Letters', 'The Great Divorce', 'The Problem of Pain', 'Miracles', 'A Grief Observed', plus 'The Abolition of Man'. It does provide an excellent survey of Lewis' theology, ethics, and general outlook on life. I will highlight two of the selections that show the different ways Lewis approaches things.
For the first example, the book 'Mere Christianity' looks at beliefs, both from a 'natural' standpoint as well as a scripture/tradition/reason standpoint. Lewis looks both at belief and unbelief - for example, he states that Christians do not have to see other religions of the world as thoroughly wrong; on the other hand, to be an atheist requires (in Lewis' estimation) that one view religions, all religions, as founded on a mistake. Lewis probably surprised his listeners by starting a statement, 'When I was an atheist...' Lewis is a late-comer to Christianity (most Anglicans in England were cradle-Anglicans). Thus Lewis can speak with the authority of one having deliberately chosen and found Christianity, rather than one who by accident of birth never knew any other (although the case can be made that Lewis was certainly raised in a culture dominated by Christendom).
Lewis also looks at practice - here we are not talking about liturgical niceties or even general church-y practices, but rather the broad strokes of Christian practice - issues of morality, forgiveness, charity, hope and faith. Faith actually has two chapters - one in the more common use of system of belief, but the other in a more subtle, spiritual way. Lewis states in the second chapter that should readers get lost, they should just skip the chapter - while many parts of Christianity will be accessible and intelligible to non-Christians, some things cannot be understood from the outside. This is the `leave it to God' sense of faith, that is in many ways more of a gift or grace from God than a skill to be developed.
Finally, Lewis looks at personality, not just in the sense of our individual personality, but our status as persons and of God's own personality. Lewis' conclusion that there is no true personality apart from God's is somewhat disquieting; Lewis contrasts Christianity with itself in saying that it is both easy and hard at the same time. Lewis looks for the `new man' to be a creature in complete submission and abandonment to God. This is a turn both easy and difficult.
'Mere Christianity' was originally a series of radio talks, published as three separate books - 'The Case for Christianity', 'Christian Behaviour', and 'Beyond Personality'. This book brings together all three texts. Lewis' style is witty and engaging, the kind of writing that indeed lives to be read aloud. Lewis debates whether or not it was a good idea to leave the oral-language aspects in the written text (given that the tools for emphasis in written language are different); I think the correct choice was made.
On the other hand, Lewis can write in ways that are intensely personal and reflective. This is true of the book 'A Grief Observed'. This was drawn out of his personal experience with his wife, Joy. C.S. Lewis was a confirmed bachelor (not that he was a 'confirmed bachelor', mind you, just that he had become set enough in his ways over time that he no longer held out the prospect of marriage or relationships). Then, into his comfortable existence, a special woman, Joy Davidson, arrived. They fell in love quickly, and had a brief marriage of only a few years, when Joy died of cancer.
This left Lewis inconsolable.
For his mother had also died of cancer, when he was very young.
Cancer, cancer, cancer!
Lewis goes through a dramatic period of grief, from which he never truly recovers (according to the essayist Chad Walsh, who writes a postscript to Lewis' book). He died a few years later, the same day as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
However, Lewis takes the wonderful and dramatic step of writing down his grief to share with others. The fits and starts, the anger, the reconciliation, the pain--all is laid bare for the reader to experience. So high a cost for insight is what true spirituality requires. An awful, awe-ful cost and experience.
'Did you know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past...'
All that was good paled in comparison to the loss. How can anything be good again? This is such an honest human feeling, that even the past is no longer what is was in relation to the new reality of being alone again.
In the end, Lewis reaches a bit of a reconciliation with his feelings, and with God.
'How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back. She said not to me, but to the chaplain, "I am at peace with God." '
Lewis had a comfortable, routine life that was jolted by love, and then devasted by loss. Through all of this, he took pains to recount what he was going through, that it might not be lost, that it might benefit others, that there might be some small part of his love for Joy that would last forever.
I hope it shall.
This is a wonderful collection.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2009
A fantastic collection but I just want point out that "(Rough cut edition)" is a literal description of the page cut. I have never heard of this or ever bought a book quite like it. The pages are as you can imagine, roughly cut. But the more I think about it the more endearing the book becomes. It will age well and what a collection of books to own.

So buy it, but don't return it thinking it is a publishing fault.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2012
This particular box set of has had a rather curious publication history. It was first issued in the early 1990s, when I first bought it. The box set (not known then as the SIGNATURE SERIES, it was later renamed thus in the second incarnation) was focused explicitly on Lewis's output from the 1940s. There were six books included: THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, THE GREAT DIVORCE, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, MERE CHRISTIANITY, MIRACLES, and THE ABOLITON OF MAN. The first two are works of fiction, and the remaining four are first rate, but very intellectual and written much more from the head than the heart, apologetics.

As the box set stood on its original publication, it was the ideal presentation of Lewis's critical faculties and contained very detailed, rational defenses, very eloquently written and simple to understand, of the Christian faith. Due the books all being written within a few years of each other, the box set read very much like each book was a logical extension of the next.

Then when the new millennium dawned, the publishers decided to rechristen the box set (formerly nameless) as the C. S. LEWIS SIGNATURE SERIES, and include a new book from a much different era in Lewis's life. They removed THE ABOLITION OF MAN, and instead included A GRIEF OBSERVED, a work published much later in Lewis's life than any of the other books. This rearrangement is a particularly revealing little facet of what has now become a very profitable industry built on Lewis's name. With the public attention brought on by Lewis's marriage, there has been a marked increase and peaking of interested in Lewis's relationship to Joy Davidman, and GRIEF was included for business reasons. While the original set presented a very clear and rational set of apologetics, it was broken up to include a book incompatible in tone and content with the other five books.

To better understand why they deleted the book, it is best to know more about each work. THE ABOLITION OF MAN focuses on moral law, and is primarily focused on debunking the idea that morality is not objective, but subjective, and all reactions to beauty, horror, etc, are purely biochemical and subjective. Lewis goes to great pains arguing against this viewpoint, and also focuses his critical attacks on [various professors and teachers] two professors from universaties. ABOLITION is very much an extension and elaboration on one of the primary arguments in MERE CHRISTIANITY. THE CASE FOR CHRISTIANITY, the first book in MERE CHRISTIANITY, argues for a natural law, and ABOLITION expands and propounds on Lewis's ideas of the Tao, or moral law. These two works are best understood when read together, and it is unfortunate they dropped ABOLITION from it. The book is subtitled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," which lets the reader know one of its primary audiences is education, which is not surprising given Lewis's profession. THE CASE FOR CHRISTIANITY, the first book in MERE CHRISTIANITY, argues for a natural law, and ABOLITION expands and propounds on Lewis's ideas of the Tao, or moral law. These two works are best understood when read together, and it is unfortunate they dropped ABOLITION from the second incarnation fo this boxset.

After the publication of MIRACLES in the mid 1940s, Lewis had a debate at the university defending his arguments found in the book. Though even the other debater would disagree when asked about it later that Lewis actually lost the debate, Lewis believed himself losing the critical debate. After this key moment in his career, Lewis stopped writing apologetic works, based on stringent, rational arguments, and turned rather to writing devotional books or examinations of the Christian faith, and did not write any more defenses of his faith on the same level as the works found in the original set.

Lewis would go on to write several more Christian books, but as previously stated, none of them were explicitly apologetic, that is, none were built on logical arguments and primarily focused on providing rational defenses to Christianity. Rather, Lewis wrote works of meditation and autobiography. Toward the end of his life, he wrote A GRIEF OBSERVED, which is exactly what it says it is. It is a very acute, extremely frank, heart wrenching work, and very beautiful. It is also a very personal work. It is one of Lewis's most precious and honest works, but in terms of content and style, it simply does not work when presented in the context of the other five books included in the second publication, all of which were primarily apologetic and written in a much earlier era than this book.

Too me the ideal solution would have been to let the original six books stand, and then come up with a second box set of the books Lewis wrote in the 1950s and 1960s. This second box set could include the following works: THE FOUR LOVES, TILL WE HAVE FACES, REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS, LETTERS TO MALCOLM, SURPRISED BY JOY, and A GRIEF OBSERVED, and perhaps throw in AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM as well (essential literary criticism, and highly influenced by Joy). These better represent the period of Lewis's life that Joy had the most impact on, though LETTERS was published in 1963. Both sets would be present an accurate snapshot of Lewis's faith and how it evolved as he lived his life. Both sets would be much better served by being published together, as Lewis's style and intellectual focus is more consistent when broken up into two box sets. The original set are great apologetics, and the second set is a more meditative box set.

Instead of presenting Lewis's remarkable skills as an apologist, which was the original function of the box set by presenting four nonfiction works and two works of fiction , ABOLITION was replaced with a book from an entirely different period of Lewis's life.

Then we come to the third incarnation of this box set. For whatever reason, they went back to including ABOLITION, and added GRIEF as well. These books are central to understanding Lewis as a Christian writer, and especially as an apologist. Most people may know him from NARNIA or one of these volumes, and it is a good place for introduction into the mind and works of C. S. Lewis. All the classics are here, from SCREWTAPE, MERE CHRISTIANITY, and MIRACLES, as well as three other works, all of which range from profound (the majority) to beautiful (THE GREAT DIVORCE), to the gut-wrenching (A GRIEF OBSERVED).

Bottom line: This is a nice box set to have, just be aware that GRIEF isn't really the same as the other six works, and to understand the era that Joy Davidman most impacted, read the works listed above. The other six, however, are fantastic apologetics, and wonderful to study and use for witnessing [as a witnessing tool].

Bottom line: This is a nice box set to have, just be aware that GRIEF isn't really the same as the other six works, and to understand the era that Joy Davidman most impacted, read the works listed above. The other six, however, are fantastic apologetics, and wonderful to study and use for witnessing [as a witnessing tool].
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2010
I mistakenly purchased this thinking it was a boxed set. It is not - one large book, so not such a good deal. That said, the actual books are great - a must have for all Christians. CS Lewis's insights are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them.
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on 16 June 2015
The advantage of LEWIS being an expert in Philology means he understood ancient languages very well, which is what you need if you are going to attempt to interpret the Bible. From being an atheist and becoming a Christian, he comes up with some very good arguments of why God does exist viewing the argument in often a different perspective. Having served in World War One and had many sufferings in his life, I think he was a man much to be admired though he would never seek such praise. I must read for anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2013
I enjoyed these books.They are thought provoking for anyone interested in the meaning and purpose of our existence on this Earth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2009
Love this book have read the first 3 books in it and the cover has a nice texture too which is a bonus!
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on 17 August 2014
A voice which too many people have forgotten, solid, powerful arguments in favour of Christianity. From a man who refused to believe
but slowly realised God and Creation were absolutely obvious! Science, Mathematics and Philosophy lead us to Christ....not away from him.
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on 23 March 2015
C. S. lewis should have been voted the Greatest Briton. The legacy he has left us in his literature is timeless wisdom in a humble but entertaining form. I wish it was required reading in every school in the country! Good to have the books on easy to access kindle form.
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