Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life

There is no one better suited to write a book on Richard Dawkins and C. S. Lewis, two prominent Oxford academics, than Alister McGrath, an Oxford academic himself who has written multiple works on both men. In “Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life” McGrath briefly presents views and reflections from Lewis and Dawkins, inspiring readings to think on one of the most universally challenging topics, the meaning of life.

The book is fairly brief with 58 pages not including notes or recommendations for further reading. In the first of four chapters McGrath introduces Dawkins’s and Lewis’s view of the “big picture” or their world views. He ends each chapter by reflecting on the world views of both men, Dawkins, a vocal atheist and evolutionary biologist, and Lewis, an important Christian thinker from the twentieth century. In the first chapter he encourages us to see science and religion, not as being at war with one another, but that each illuminates a part of life and can enrich the other.

The middle two chapters focus more directly on apologetics as McGrath interacts with ideas about truth, reasoned belief, evidence, faith, and the question “Is there a God?” I’ve noticed in other works by McGrath that he often leaves the reader with food for thought regarding apologetics or the relationship of evidence and faith, and though brief, this book also inspires readers in that sense.

Chapter four is entitled “Human nature: who are we?” and explores Lewis’s and Dawkins’s take on what or who we are as humans. Here McGrath reflects on the limitations of human nature. For Lewis, it is limited by sin, which leads the reader to a discussion of Christ as transforming the way we think, and as renewal and repair. I do wish the gospel had been a little clearer. It is not the point of the book, but it’s my personal opinion that anytime the “big questions” are considered, the good news should be presented as a little more important than one might gather from this book.

The conclusion “Searching for meaning” is one readers won’t want to miss. Though shorter than the chapters, it is just as rich. The reader will walk away with a sense of the insufficiency of science alone to give meaning and virtue to life. There must be something more. “For Lewis, the Christian Narrative allows us to hold together the functionality and meaning of our universe.” (pg 58).

In the introduction, McGrath states he hopes this brief engagement with the issues will stimulate his readers to explore them further. I would say this is a successful attempt at doing so, readers will be encouraged by this short book to explore meaning further. The engagements in this book will inspire those who read it to expand and enrich their understanding of the meaning of life.

Many thanks to SPCK for supplying me with a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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