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C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church Paperback – 1 Nov 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Saint Benedict Press (1 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161890230X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618902306
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 812,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Joseph Pearce is Writer in Residence and Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. He is a renowned biographer whose books include "Candles in the Dark: The Authorized Biography of Fr. Ho Lung, Missionaries of the Poor "(Saint Benedict Press, 2012); "Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays " (Ignatius Press, 2010); and "Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life " (HarperCollins, 1998). He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Higher Education from Thomas More College for the Liberal Arts and the Pollock Award for Christian Biography. He is co-editor of the "St. Austin Review," editor-in-Chief of Ignatius Press "Critical Editions," and editor-in-Chief of Sapientia Press.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has an exceptionally interesting title both for Catholics and non-Catholics alike,who are fans of Lewis.There are many interesting links to those of his circle who figure in so many biographies etc.
It is good that Pierce declares his actual agenda fairly early on ,which is to consider whether Lewis had really become de facto a Roman Catholic by the end of his life.It is good that he declares this ,because then one can just about tolerate the last two or three chapters.These become more a less a frustrated polemic almost shrieking with frustration and considerable lack of cool objectivity about Lewis's 'failure' to reach the blessedness of communion with the 'true faith' etc.The chapters use rather childish allusions to 'mere' and 'mire' christianity and generally lapse into an agressive tone ,so the finale of the book is pretty poor.The idea is that the 'wicked Ulsterprotestantism of the Lewis childhood kept the Lewis brothers away from blessedness to the end.
Joy Davidman gets a mention but i doubt very much if her significance would be guessed from THIS book.I think the author was out of his depth there..
But the earlier chapters are very enlightening,especially regarding the influence of Dante and Tolkien;these are well brought out and at first one had no reason to feel that their membership of the RC church was the cause of the emphasis on them.However it was good to see the inflence of Newman also followed up too.What is definitely missing though is Lewis' relations to the more esoterically active people, especially to Charles Williams and to the anthroposophists Barfield and Harwood.Presumably these are all so heretical as to be unmentionable.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a most enjoyable read for a C. S. Lewis fan. Of course the author has an agenda, but he isn't making this stuff up out of thin air - there is plenty of evidence. It is a most readable book: many quotations from Lewis' works, letters and from friends, are woven into the text. It's true that certain important aspects of Lewis' life don't get much attention, but that would make the book too long and unwieldy. In the end, I'm not completely convinced that Lewis would have eventually become a Catholic because I think he was aware that the controversy would have overshadowed his usefulness as an apologist for "mere Christianity".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8b65dd20) out of 5 stars 14 reviews
94 of 100 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b6738b8) out of 5 stars Jack's Journey on the Road to Rome 26 Nov. 2003
By Gord Wilson - Published on
Format: Paperback
In picking up a book like this, the most obvious question is "why read it?" The most obvious answer is given in the title: to explore Lewis's views of, and relation to the Catholic Church. I picked up the book with that idea in mind, but instantly discovered a much wider appeal. More interesting than Pearce's attempt to answer that question are the many byways he treads to get there. What impressed me was his skill as a researcher: in turning over stones to find things others have overlooked, in drawing odd, if plausible parallels between things that seem disconnected, in tracing some of the rich streams that fed Lewis's imagination and flowed into his works. In particular, Pearce looks at The Pilgrim's Regress and The Great Divorce, two widely-read works of fiction, and Mere Christianity, Lewis's most popular nonfiction work. Pearce probes into the "troubles" of Lewis's native Belfast and the later atmosphere of inquiry and debate at Oxford, following him from an atheist to a convert and well-known Chrstian apologist. Would that road have eventually led to Rome? he asks. Why or why not? One can only speculate, and Pearce imaginatively considers the question. Interestingly, he notes, the Anglicans of Lewis's own denomination less and less read him, while he is becoming more and more popular among two other groups: Catholics and Evangelical Protestants. A Catholic convert himself, Pearce naturally leans towards the former readers, but it would be unfortunate if the latter group missed this book by an author in so many ways in sympathy with them, and which sheds so much light on what both groups find in common in an author they both love.

For more on Lewis' relationship to the Catholic Church see my interview with Richard Purtill, author of C.S. Lewis' Case for the Christian Faith (available through Amazon) at in the Ignatius Insight online magazine.
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b67390c) out of 5 stars Different from Other Books on C. S. Lewis 13 May 2004
By Fr Phillip Bloom - Published on
Format: Paperback
Many people have had an experience of C. S. Lewis similar to mine. I have read all of his popular works - the space trilogy, Narnia, theological works, essays and letters - several times. However, I have found practically no value in books that attempt to explain Lewis. No one could make him any clearer than he already is.
Joseph Pearce's book is the first exception I have encountered. Pearce focuses on an aspect of Lewis' writing which is genuinely ambiguous - his relationship to the Catholic Church. Reared in the Ulster Protestant milieu, he had a revulsion to Roman Catholicism, which never completely left him. Yet, "papists" (e.g., Chesterton and Tolkien) played a major role in his conversion. And he embraced distinctively Catholic doctrines such as purgatory, the Blessed Sacrament and the impossibility of female priests.
Pearce asks why Lewis never became a Catholic - and whether, like many of his disciples, he would have, if he had lived longer. Although the questions cannot finally be answered, Pearce's lively attempt sheds light on a major aspect of Lewis' thought.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b5f563c) out of 5 stars Understanding Lewis 12 Dec. 2004
By Karl B. Erickson - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is important to note that Lewis' conversion to Christianity in September of 1931 might not have even come about at all without the presence of an orthodox Catholic by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien. It was Tolkien and Hugo Dyson who were instrumental in persuading Lewis to see Christianity as the "True Myth". One criticism of Pearce's work by a Mr. Hutchins (in Books & Culture) erroneously asserts that Lewis recognized the supposed impossibility of creating the perfect church here on earth, and that it can only be a weak reflection of what is to come. He claims that it is foolish for any church to claim the title of the one true church. The Catholic Church, then, is condemned by Mr. Hutchins as a fraud. It is interesting to note that this view was not shared by C.S. Lewis himself. In fact, Lewis believed in Purgatory, the sacrament of confession, had concerns regarding the morality of birth control (as inferred in a letter to Mrs. Ashton on March 13, 1956), acknowledged the validity of honoring the saints (as discussed in a letter to Mrs. Arnold on June 20, 1952), and placed great significance on the sacrament of communion--referred to by Lewis himself as the "Mass" in a letter--and opposed the ordination of women as priests within the Anglican Church.

What gave Lewis trepidation concerning a move closer to the Catholic Church? While he does mention concern with certain Marian doctrines and elements of church authority,I think Joseph Pearce's insights into the man give us a distinct possibility for his inability to ford the Tiber. Based on the letters of C.S. Lewis and other writings of his, I also would suggest that verses such as Romans 14:21 played an important role. He understood that he was an important religious figure to all Christians, and he did not want to do anything to make his brother stumble, or to jeopardize the wide acceptance of his works. Our motivations for any serious undertaking are seldom black and white, but frequently of a more interwoven nature. While we can't know with any certainty what was within Lewis' heart, it is clear that his concept of faith and the church mirrored most significant aspect of the Catholic Church.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to have a fuller understanding of Lewis' spirtual life. He takes a long look at who Lewis was and what he held true.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b673b94) out of 5 stars Insightful answer to "why didn't Lewis convert" and more 9 Dec. 2003
By Paul - Published on
Format: Paperback
C.S. Lewis surrounded himself with Catholics at Oxford, immersed himself in literature written by Catholics and accepted Catholic teachings that Protestants are not supposed to (like the doctrine of purgatory). So many have wondered why he never converted to Catholic Christianity as did many of his peers. To point to his "Ulster Protestant prejudice" is a natural, but somewhat overly-simplistic, explanation when applied to this remarkable former atheist turned premier Christian apologist. This well-researched and insightful book shows both the points of convergence and divergence between Lewis's brand of Christianity and Catholic doctrine and seeks to unravel the reasons why Lewis never went the way of Newman and Chesterton. Speculative at times but always cogent in his arguments, the Catholic author always deals with C.S. Lewis and his "Mere Christianity" with great respect, demonstrating his vast knowledge of the circumstances Lewis's life and great familiarity with his writings.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b673dd4) out of 5 stars Excellent 21 April 2005
By Pitti-Sing - Published on
Format: Paperback
I must first begin by stating that I am reviewing from a Catholic viewpoint. I think this book should be read, however, by Protestants and Catholics alike, just as I have read Protestant material on similar subjects.

C.S. Lewis is admired by many Christians including myself, but it is interesting to see, as a high-church Anglican, why and where he drew the line between his religon and that of Roman Catholics. Looking at his literary work and that of his close friends (including J.R.R. Tolkien, the staunch Catholic), Pearce carefully and honestly examines Lewis' beleifs and clarifies his positions.

It is interesting to see how Lewis really was just a breath away from Catholic beleif, but how very important that breath is.

This book is well-researched and quite enlightening. I enjoyed it and will ceratinly be reading more of Mr. Pearce's work in the future.
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