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"I wish your project heartily well," wrote C. S. Lewis to Christianity Today, "but can't write you articles." Carl F. H. Henry, founding editor of the magazine, had in 1955 invited Lewis to contribute to the magazine's first issue. Lewis declined. Henry was not, as the saying goes, "a day late and a dollar short." He was over a decade late, and no dollar amount would have mattered, as Lewis gave the lion's share of his royalties to charity.

There was a time when Lewis would have said yes: namely, when Nazi soldiers marched into Poland and threatened the stability of the world. Adolf Hitler's influence on Lewis's apologetics is an irrefutable fact. The Führer's evil campaign paved the way for the clear-speaking Lewis to engage listeners of the British Broadcast Service. Even as bombs fell over London, Lewis's baritone voice boomed on radios across Europe. His evangelistic approach was tailormade for men at war.

Thus, Mere Christianity was born in the fullness of time. Published in 1952, the classic was taken from transcripts of his broadcasts from the early 1940s. By the time the book was available in print, Lewis was already changing his approach. As Solomon said, "There is a time for war and a time for peace." Lewis modified his methods for both.

"But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world," Lewis later said of the power of fiction to present truth, "could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?" Lewis thought so. Thus, his writing career focused on smuggling theology behind enemy lines. The enemies Lewis now faced were comfort and post-war apathy. To battle both, he would engage his readers' ...

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