I briefly want to compare and contrast C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards. I read both this year, and enjoyed them almost equally. They had some similar traits, but also were quite different. For the sake of my own ease, I’ll make a bullet list of similarities and differences—twelve of each. I will not expound much on each point because of time, but see my previous two posts for more on each of them. Moreover, I put these in the present tense because these men are both alive together with their Savior and God.
Both are brilliant thinkers.
Both are compelling arguers.
Both defended and honored the truth.
Both reveal the glories of God, displaying God as big and beautiful.
Both love God and his ways.
Both believe God to be the most important person and reality in the universe.
Both allure with the wonders of heaven.
Both convince many to live seriously and joyfully for Christ.
Both have a strong desire for their fellow men to be reconciled to God.
Both use analogies masterfully.
Both explain the grossness of sin and honor Christ’s saving work.
Both were Christian giants in their day and have a large, lasting influence.
Edwards is extremely clear. Lewis is extremely creative.
Edwards inspires worship. Lewis inspires wonder.
Edwards’ God is massive and beautiful. Lewis’ God is mysterious and beautiful.
Edwards probes a topic from a clear, biblical perspective. He connects dots and leaves no stone left unturned. In this way, he makes connections and discoveries one never would make on their own. Lewis probes a topic with clever and creative philosophy and thoughts. In this way, he thinks thoughts that one would never have thought before. Both, I believe, arrive at much truth.
Edwards’ is a theologian, preacher, and writer of cohesive treatises. Lewis is an essayist, lecturer, and book-writer, but I personally don’t think writing whole books was his strength.
Edwards is not a great writer. Lewis is an excellent writer.
Edwards is difficult to read at times because he repeats and has running thoughts and sentences. Lewis is difficult to read at times because he rants.
Edwards delights in sovereignty. Lewis delights in story.
Edwards shines when he is discussing the ways of God and who God is (in relation to us). Lewis shines when he is discussion the ways of humanity and who we are (in relation to God).
Edwards emphasizes sin and the substitutionary death of Christ. Lewis wonders more at the incarnation of Christ.
Edwards inspires a serious yet joyful resoluteness in the Christian life. Lewis inspires a creative beauty to be lived in connection with our new life in Christ.
Edwards convinces many to live for Christ because of the eternal glories in heaven and the fearfulness of hell. Lewis convinces many of the beauties of heaven by showing that there must be more than this world.
Much more could be said. But I’ll end with this: I do not think these men would’ve been friends if they lived during the same period, yet both have something wonderful to offer. And, I believe, their strengths can be conflated in a positive way.
I think Lewis could have learned much from Edwards. Edwards is a man of excellent systematic and logical thought. He plunges depth of revealed truth in the Word. Lewis would’ve done well to listen to him in this regard. I think it would’ve better directed his own genius.
But then, Lewis adds another dimension—what I called called a ‘whisper’ of something beautiful, new, different, heavenly. I’m not sure Edwards needed more of this per se, but I do think it was a strength of Lewis to be emulated.
In sum, Edwards plunged the depth of revealed glory in the Word. He expounded and excavated and esteemed his God with utter clarity and worshipfulness. I desire to be much more like this in my thoughts and life. Lewis similarly excavated glory, but with philosophy and creativity. He found sparks and whispers of wonder rooted in overarching biblical truths. I desire also to be more like this in my thoughts and life.