When we come to know the work of novelist and scholar C.S. Lewis, we usually do it through a textual medium — specifically in childhood, through that thrilling written artifact known as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Often this leads us into the rest of his seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia series (find a free audio version here), and those most deeply intrigued by the worldview that shaped that high-fantasy world may find themselves eventually reading even Lewis’ Christian apologetics, of which 1952’s well-known Mere Christianity came as only the first. That book drew its content from a series of theological lectures Lewis gave on BBC radio between 1942 and 1944, during the Second World War. Little material from these talks survives — in fact, we have precious few minutes of his voice on tape in any context, and nothings at all of him on film — but you can hear about fifteen minutes of it in the clips above and below.
These excerpts come from “The New Men”, the last episode of Lewis’series Beyond Personality originally broadcast on March 21, 1944, and an introduction to The Great Divorce, his theological novel written in response to William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. “If I’ve written of their divorce,” Lewis says, “this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I knew what he meant.” The statement exemplifies the clarity and humility with which he always wrote, even when essentially trumpeting the benefits of his own faith. Given the off-puttingly combative tenor of most high-profile religious arguments made today, both for and against, the remains of Lewis’ broadcasts remind us how much we could use more thinkers like him today — in any form of media.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.