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C.S. Lewis and the Apocalypse of Gender

From very nearly the beginning, Christianity has wrestled with the question of the body. Heretics from gnostics to docetists devalued physical reality and the body, while orthodox Christianity insisted that the physical world offers us true signs pointing to God. This quarrel persists today, and one form it takes is the general confusion among Christians and non-Christians alike about gender. Is gender an abstracted idea? Is it reducible to biological characteristics? Is it a set of behaviors determined by society? Or is it something more?

It may come as a surprise to hear that C.S. Lewis had many thoughts on these questions. In fact, woven throughout his works, Lewis offers us a coherent, orthodox, and imaginatively satisfying vision of gender, one in which gender is a unique revelation of God—an apocalypse—and a powerful sign of reality itself.

Lewis, a master of Renaissance literature (and through it, of the late medieval period and antiquity), allowed his imagination to be formed not by the convulsions of his era but by the slow developments of millennia. He writes from deep within a realm many of us struggle even to enter, let alone explore: that of the Christian imagination, in which every single element of reality is at once itself and also a profound sign of God’s nature.

I have hesitated for a long time before writing about gender from a Lewisian perspective. It is perilous to bring a past thinker into discussion of a contemporary issue. As Lewis himself knew, these topics are best approached through the imagination. Rather than this essay, it would be more effective to write a poem or a song or a story about gender and the Christian imagination. That, after all, is what Lewis did.

But elucidating an imaginative vision, as Michael Ward does for Lewis’ thought in Planet Narnia, can be helpfulFor many of us, the landscape of the Christian imagination is so far away that we need guides to point even to the trailhead. I hope here to point the way to that trailhead, where Lewis himself is waiting to lead us into the foothills of a realm in which physical realities, like our bodies, are signs revealing the nature of God.

Read more at Acton Institute 

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