Every action is born of good or ill. There is nothing neutral.

All readers will have heard of C. S. Lewis; not all wil have heard of his good friend Charles Williams. Williams was an editor at Oxford University Press. He wrote novels, poetry, drama, criticism, biography, and theological essays, besides a torrent of reviews.

As an orthodox Anglican, he was, of course, a sacramentalist. This had its effect on what he wrote. More than that, it determined his whole vision. A sacramentalist believes that the greater may be perceived in the lesser (e.g., water bespeaks more than H2O when it appears in the rite of baptism).

On this accounting, of course, every Christian is in some sense a “sacramentalist.” Nature itself speaks of more than zoology, meteorology, or astronomy to him: running through his imagination he has language about dragons and great deeps praising God, black clouds being God’s chariot, and the morning stars singing together; and however he may attempt to chalk all of this up to mere “poetry,” he does not thereby mean that it is all nonsense, as his secularist friend would. It means something, and probably something that reaches into regions that the textbooks cannot quite concern themselves with.

But that is to use the word somewhat loosely. For many Christians, the word sacrament sails too near the wind of magic.

There is one aspect of Williams’s vision, however, that no Christian can quarrel with, and it shows up in his fiction and poetry in a stark and unsettling way. It certainly suggests that the greater may well be both cloaked and revealed in the lesser. We might call it “heaven and hell under every bush.”

It would run something like this: the small nuances of ...

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

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

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.