Monday, August 8, 2016

"Present Concerns" by CS Lewis: A Review

I have said it a hundred times before; no writer from the 20th Century remains more relevant and has proven more prophetic than Clive Staples Lewis. Whether one is reading one of his more popular works (like Mere Christianity or Screwtape Letters) or his lesser known volumes, Lewis is always fresh and penetrating. This remains true in his book Present Concerns which consists of a series of essays. The title is appropriate as Lewis touches on topics that were not only pressing during his lifetime, but remain relevant in ours. Most obvious here is his essay "Living in an Atomic Age."

Of all of the books I have by Lewis, this one strikes me as the most cultural/political. Most notable writings that touch on the political include "Democratic Education," "Blimpophobia," and "Modern Man and His Categories of Thought." Consider, for example, the following from the latter essay:
What we may call Proletarianism, in its various forms ranging from strict Marxism to vague "democracy." A strong anti-clericalism has of course been a feature of continental Proletarianism almost from its beginnings. This element is generally said (and, I think, correctly) to be less present in the English forms. But what is common to all forms of it is the fact that the Proletariat in all countries (even those with "right" governments) has been consistently flattered for a great many years. The natural result has now followed. They are self-satisfied to a degree perhaps beyond the self-satisfaction of any recorded aristocracy. They are convinced that whatever may be wrong with the world it cannot be themselves. Someone else must be to blame for every evil. Hence, when the existence of God is discussed, they by no means think of Him as their Judge. On the contrary, they are His judges. If he puts up a reasonable defence they will consider it and perhaps acquit Him. They have no feelings of fear, guilt, or awe. They think from the very outset, of God's duties to them, not their duties to Him. And God's duties to them are conceived not in terms of salvation but in purely secular terms - social security, prevention of war, a higher standard of life. "Religion" is judged exclusively by its contribution to these ends. (64-65)
Overall, I would encourage everyone to read many of the essays published here. Lewis has a special ability to sift through much of the muck and piercingly articulate the Christian worldview in a prophetic way. His words remain relevant today and we would do well to listen to him.
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