Guest / Limited Access /

At first glance, C. S. Lewis and Elvis Presley seem like polar opposites. But a closer look will show that these two cultural icons have a lot in common.

Like Elvis, C. S. Lewis had been a soldier. Both men came to fame on the radio. Both men's homes (Graceland and the Kilns) have become pilgrimage sites. Both left behind estates now valued in the millions. And both rose from relative obscurity—Elvis, a Mississippi truck driver, and Lewis, a tutor at Oxford—to become larger-than-life figures profiled in books and movies and beloved by legions of adoring fans. Like Elvis, even after death, Lewis remains a superstar.

Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn't subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration. How did someone with such a checkered pedigree come to be a theological Elvis Presley, adored by evangelicals?

The Problem of Pain

The journey begins in 1940, when the world was teetering on the brink of collapse. The Nazis were rampaging across Europe. France had fallen, Hitler had signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, and only Great Britain stood in the way of Nazi domination of Europe.

Theologian J. I. Packer was a schoolboy at the time in England. He recalls being taught about "inevitable progress … fueled by scientists who were churning out the idea that science was going to transform the world. Science and education would make everything wonderfully different."

Such liberal idealism quickly ran into sin-drenched reality. Packer notes ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Into the Wonder
You won't understand the genius of C. S. Lewis's literary criticism, satire, science fiction, and theological essays until you spend time in Narnia.
Current IssuePaul Doesn’t Care Whether You Like Him
Subscriber Access Only
Paul Doesn’t Care Whether You Like Him
An excerpt from 'Paul Behaving Badly.'
RecommendedThe World Is Yearning for Beautiful Orthodoxy
Subscriber Access Only The World Is Yearning for Beautiful Orthodoxy
Goodness, truth, and beauty all come from the same Person.
TrendingWhy Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
In the face of a candidate’s antics, ‘America’s Pastor’ speaks out.
Editor's PickI Found the Gospel in Communist Romania
I Found the Gospel in Communist Romania
And then I shared it with the man the government sent to kill me.
Christianity Today
C. S. Lewis Superstar
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.