One day when I was talking to the local evangelical history professor, I happened to mention what seems to be a brewing bibliographical problem concerning C. S. Lewis. Since he was a regular visitor to England and no doubt had contacts in professional circles that I did not, I hoped he could clarify the matter. I was quite unprepared for his answer: “I’ve never been what you would call a Lewis devotee.” That conversation started me thinking, and I recalled other similar experiences. Is it possible to develop a kind of spiritual pedantry that drives away potential friends from our favorites, that prevents others from acknowledging their greatness precisely because of the inordinate attention these figures seem to receive?

Lewis is, of course, omnipresent in evangelical circles. Not a few publishers have mined gold by linking his name with their books. Dissertations, master’s theses, and garden variety term papers abound on him. “He’s a ‘phenomena,’ ” as one of my students would say. Everyone has a personal reminiscence to share, letters to collect, memorabilia to display.

But perhaps I come into the discussion a bit late. When I discovered Lewis there were few handbooks, study guides, and so forth around. I came to him as much for his literary criticism as for his fiction or apologetics, which are the most popular routes to him. Lewis was steadfastly opposed to any apparatus that kept people out of the books and into the sources.

It may sound like I am arguing for some kind of general obscurantism. Hardly that. Bring on the Kilbys and Holmers, the Lindskoogs and Howards. But a moratorium would be restful. Soon it will become fashionable to criticize Lewis, to find reasons for looking the other way, to discover him superseded ...

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