Paul McCusker on C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity

C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity

Paul McCusker is an author and dramatist. His books include Screwtape Letters: The Annotated Edition and the newly released  C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic, plus over 20 novels and non-fiction works. His scriptwriting includes the multiple award-winning audio dramatizations of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis At War and the Peabody Award-winning Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom.  He is also a writer and director for the popular children’s program Adventures In Odyssey.Paul lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, son and daughter.

KW: How did your interest in C.S. Lewis and the story of Mere Christianity develop? 

PM: I grew up with a cursory knowledge about C.S. Lewis – the quotes often used in churches and youth groups from him. But my interest in C.S. Lewis as a writer and person began with The Chronicles of Narnia, which I read back in the 80s. I was so impressed with them that I began to read about his life and explore his other writings, including Mere Christianity. Then, as a writer and director for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, I had the honor of dramatizing all seven Narnian stories, along with The Screwtape Letters. 14 years ago in England I stumbled onto Justin Phillips’ CS Lewis and the BBC, which chronicled his relationship with broadcasting and told the story of how Mere Christianity came to be written. I immediately made notes about how to dramatize it, but the project was put aside for various reasons. It came to mind again a couple of years ago and we eventually produced the audio drama of “C.S. Lewis At War.” While Phillips’ book was helpful, it was written mostly for a British audience. So I had to do a lot of peripheral research to fill out sections, not only about Lewis and the BBC, but about World War Two and England and other aspects that American listeners would need to know. The idea then came up that I should write a companion book for the drama, which I did.

KW: What are some ways that WWII shaped the thought and ideas Lewis expressed in his radio talks and in the finished book?

PM: The war shaped every aspect of the lives of those living in England at the time. Everyone was touched by it in one way or the other, through fear, loss, and tragedy. Lewis had evacuees living in his house, his brother Warnie was active in the military in France, friends or children of friends were regularly shipping out to fight, the threat of an invasion by Germany seemed imminent. Lewis was impacted by all of this. And, as an academic, he came into regular contact with the prevailing secular positions, and anti-Christian bias. With the BBC broadcasts, then, he spoke into the nightmare that was England. He reminded an increasingly secular culture about faith and God and hope and mercy. He also wrote The Problem of Pain and The Screwtape Letters during this time, as well as more of his science fiction novels, and many of their themes came about because the nation was at war.

KW: What was the most surprising thing you learned in your research?

PM: I was surprised by the complexity of Lewis as a man. He was not easily categorized. There was a full integration of his life, experiences, pain and faith. The portrayal of him as a “pie in the sky” Christian, living in an academic tower and untouched by the realities of life, is nonsense. He was a fully rounded human being.

KW: How would you describe the legacy of Mere Christianity?

PM: It’s amazing to think through the many ways we’ve been impacted by Lewis’ thought and approaches in Mere Christianity. The “Three L” argument about Jesus (Liar, Lunatic or Lord), the explanation about God’s being about to deal with all prayers from all people because He is outside of time, and even arguing for the faith from a soundly intellectual and reasonable position – they were all positions popularized by Lewis. We take them for granted now because he did them so well. And it’s significant that his work seems as relevant now as it did when first presented – even more so, in some cases.

KW: Is there something unique we can learn from the chaotic background to the formation of Lewis’ work that might help us understand or navigate our way forward in much of the chaos of today’s world?

PM: He took seriously the task of defending Christianity to a secular audience in a sensible way. He earned his credibility to speak into people’s lives by identifying with their common humanity and then guiding them into the bigger picture of eternity. He was intentional in trying to explain why Christ was relevant using the language of the people, without talking down to them. He didn’t shy away from the tough questions. He didn’t use tricks of propaganda to explain what he believed. We have to remember that every generation has its challenges, its chaos, its secular ideas, its anti-Christian efforts. Ours is no different from his. The question is: will we rise above the shrill voices and screams to speak  about Jesus in a meaningful way to our culture?

KW: What’s a significant takeaway for you personally?

PM: I learned that writing a book about C.S. Lewis is incredibly difficult. I’d rather do novels where I can make up everything :)

KW: What are the books you most recommend to people to learn more about Lewis or the sides of Lewis we may not know? I  recommend Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis by George Sayers. It’s one of the best. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by Lewis himself is essential, as well as reading Lewis’ many other works. Lewis’ letters to his friend Arthur Greeves is insightful, since they span most of his life. Professor Devin Brown’s books about Lewis and his works are very good. And, for self-serving reasons, I also recommend Screwtape Letters: The Annotated Edition :)



Social Media

Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.
On Key

Related Posts

God of justice

The God of Justice

The God of Justice “The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.” Isaiah 32:16 The God of Disruptive

Guest Post by Tamara Wytsma

Guest Post by Tamara Wytsma

Has the thought of doing a daily devotional ever felt similar to the feeling you get when you think about doing your taxes: You know

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Get The Latest Updates