C.S. Lewis is one of the most well-known authors, both in secular and Christian circles. He has written dozens of novels, essays, and nonfiction works. Some of his most famous works include: The Chronicles of Narnia, "Mere Christianity", and ''The Screwtape Letters''. ''The Last Night And Other Essays'' is a collection of essays that represent who C.S. Lewis was, both as a Christian and as a writer. This book is a collection of seven essays highlighting his beliefs and concerns. It includes an essay on prayer, an essay on belief, an essay on the definitions of religion and culture, an essay by Screwtape, an essay on good work vs. good works, an essay on life outside of earth, and an essay on Jesus’s second coming.
The first essay in the collection, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” explains what it means to pray and how one should look at the results. One should not look at the results to see whether or not there is a God; “Our act, when we pray, must not, any more than all our other acts, be separated from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all finite causes operate” (Lewis 10). This essay explains in simple language why there are “unanswered” prayers, why God says “No.” It is a good essay for anyone who has struggled and can offer comfort to those who feel like their prayers are not being heard. As a Christian who has struggled in the past, and still continues to struggle, I know I found this essay to be comforting. It is a good reminder that man is not in control, but God is.This essay stood out because it highlighted C.S. Lewis’s beliefs as a Christian and gives the reader a glimpse into his worldview.
The second essay in the collection, “On Obstinacy In Belief,” defines what belief is. C.S. Lewis explains what belief is through logic and examples, highlighting what a scientist does with belief and what the Christian should do with belief. This essay was long and wordy, using several examples and circular thought, when a simple example would have the same, if not a greater effect. This essay is good for the intellectual looking for an explanation of belief from a philosophical perspective. “On Obstinacy In Belief” stood out because of its multiple and interesting analogies, making it the perfect read for the questioning theologian or scholar. I did not find this essay to be a very enjoyable read, partly because I was not the target audience and partly because I did not enjoy Lewis’s circular explanations.
The third essay in the collection, “Lilies That Fester,” defines what culture is and how it relates to religion. C.S. Lewis explains that one who experiences “culture” and truly loves opera and art, is not thinking about what culture is, but is simply enjoying it. The person who goes to the opera or the art show to experience culture is not really experiencing it at all and is simply missing the point. The same goes with religion. It is the thoughts behind the actions that complete the definition and it is those actions and thoughts that allow the true character of a person to be seen, for “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds” (Lewis 48). This essay stands out because it reveals who C.S. Lewis was both as a philosopher and as a person. His wit shines through with lines like: “Where the goody-goody slinks and sidles and purrs (and sometimes scratches) like a cat, his opposite number in the ranks of the cultured gobbles like an enraged turkey” (Lewis 48). This essay stands out because of its ability to add humor to the seriousness of the subject matter, making it an excellent read for one who enjoys a witty banter; I know I enjoyed it.
The fourth essay in the collection, “Screwtape Proposes A Toast,” highlights some of the problems in society. This is done through the monologue of Screwtape, one of the head demons. The irony of this essay is glorious and an enjoyable read for any English major. The irony of the essay helps relate the problems going on in the world. This essay stands out because even though it was originally published in 1952, the societal problems are still relevant. I found it interesting that the exact same problems going on now were highlighted in an essay written over 60 years ago. This essay once again shows humor and wit and gives the reader a peek into who C.S. Lewis was as a person.
The fifth essay in the collection, “Good Work and Good Works,” explains the difference between good work and good works through a series of examples. Even though this was one of C.S. Lewis’s shorter essays, it seemed longer because of how long-winded he would get with his circular thought process. This essay stood out because it showed his philosophy on good work and works as a Christian. Someone interested in this topic may enjoy this essay. It stood out because of its extensive examples, many of which were long-winded and not the most enjoyable to read.
The sixth essay in the collection, “Religion And Rocketry,” ponders the idea of intelligent life on other planets and how the Christian faith fits into that dilemma. This fascinating essay goes through a series of questions and answers concerning the theoretical problem of life outside of Earth, demonstrating how the Christian should handle that situation should it ever arise. The Space Race was happening at the time this essay was written, making it an interesting historical piece of literature and making it stand out when compared to all of the other essays in the collection. Anyone interested in science, science fiction, the Space Race, or philosophy would enjoy this essay, for “What we believe always remains intellectually possible” (Lewis 92). I found this essay to be absolutely fascinating, since it discussed an ethical question that I do not normally sit and ponder. It made me think and I could see where some of Lewis’s fictional inspiration came from.
The seventh and final essay in the collection, “The World’s Last Night,” explains the concept of the apocalypse and how it relates to the Christian faith. C.S. Lewis answers some common questions about the second coming of Christ by quoting scripture and explaining it in a way that the regular Joe can understand it. He quotes passages from Shakespeare’s "King Lear'' to support his argument and rebut some common misconceptions unbelievers have. I quite enjoyed his quotes and I found that they made his essay easier to follow. This essay is a good read for anyone who has questions about “the world’s last night” (Lewis 112). This essay stands out because it showcases who C.S. Lewis was as a literary writer. He quoted Shakespeare and Biblical scripture for his logic driven essay, making it a very credible essay.
This collection of essays is written on the central theme of Christian life and answers questions the modern day believer has. C.S. Lewis is a methodical writer, always thoroughly explaining his argument and disputing the other side. He is a witty writer, focusing on analogies and examples that are easy to understand. He is at times laugh-out-loud funny and at other times solemn and almost angry. He is educated, both in Biblical principles and secular ones, which is made evident by his quotations of Shakespeare, Darwin, and the Bible. C.S. Lewis is a fantastic writer, both from a literary perspective and from a Christian perspective.
In conclusion, this anthology of essays is an excellent collection to have. It is a short, easy read, perfect for the fast-paced, busy world today. This collection is a sampler of C.S. Lewis works, for it showcases his Christian thought, his literary expertise, his familiarity with science, and an essay from his "Screwtape" collection, making it the perfect addition to one’s home library. This is a collection of essays that one reads over and over, discovering something new each time it is read, making it a valuable and interesting book.