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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 ...

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C. S. Lewis Superstar
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In the Magazine

December 2005

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