The C.S. Lewis Foundation was established in 1986 as a non-profit organization with a mission:
Inspired by the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the C.S. Lewis Foundation is dedicated to advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression throughout the world of learning and the culture at large.”
Throughout the years, our goal has been singular: to encourage Christian faculty, students, clergy, lay persons, and seekers to actively, openly, and creatively integrate the life of the mind, the life of the imagination, and the life of the spirit in order to live a fully developed and mature life in Christ.
From its inception, the Foundation has endeavored to fulfill this mandate through 5 key initiatives:
- C.S. Lewis Study Centre at The Kilns
- C.S. Lewis Summer Institute (“Oxbridge”)
- C.S. Lewis College
- C.S. Lewis Conferences & Retreats
- C.S. Lewis Faculty Forum
Charles Malik, eminent Christian philosopher and former President of the UN General Assembly, observed, “The universities…directly and indirectly, dominate the world; their influence is so pervasive and total that whatever problem afflicts them is bound to have far reaching repercussions throughout the entire fabric of Western Civilization.”
The reason is quite simple: the university serves as the center for the development and training of the entire professional class of the next generation – our teachers, professors, journalists, lawyers, jurists, politicians, business leaders, scientists, engineers, health care professionals, film and television executives and producers, not to mention pastors and prophets of every persuasion.
More than 16 million students currently attend American colleges and universities. According to an annual survey of entering freshman, fully 80% of all students identify with the Christian faith upon entrance to college. Of these, well over 90% attend secular colleges and universities, where their faith is challenged daily.
Students attending secular institutions of higher learning today are appropriately exposed to a wide array of alternative views within the classroom. What is painfully evident, however, is that, with but few notable exceptions, there are virtually no serious, professionally credible, and identifiably Christian intellectuals at the faculty level within the mainstream of American university life today. Most students understandably, if mistakenly, conclude that the Christian faith can’t hold its own among serious and intelligent people. The cumulative result, as each academic year passes, is a student body that is increasingly devoid of spiritual understanding, vision, and hope.
The fruit of constant exposure to the steady drumbeat of secular materialism and moral relativism on our campuses is vividly evidenced throughout the entire culture as our schools, courts, hospitals, media, legislatures, and even our churches, increasingly resonate, as they inevitably must, with the prevailing attitudes and opinions of their university trained leaders.
Of the 975,000 faculty that currently make up the American professoriate, the C.S. Lewis Foundation estimates that over 100,000 are confessing Christians. Christian scholars and educational leaders are clearly well represented at the highest levels of American higher education, representing a potential force for great good in our society. Under current conditions, however the great majority would truly be at risk professionally if they were to dare express opinions that in any way betrayed serious Christian convictions. This would not only be true in social settings but all the more so within faculty, classroom, lecture hall, or seminar settings.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “The sources of unbelief among young people today do not lie in those young people. … This very obvious fact – that each generation is taught by an earlier generation – must be kept very firmly in mind. …Nothing which was not in the teachers can flow from them into the pupils.” (From “On the Transmission of Christianity” from God In The Dock) Bearing this in mind, it is imperative that we ask, “What can we do to more truly nurture the young and restore the vital Christian thought and expression to the mainstream of the university world and society at large?”
Believing that the very survival of a vibrant democratic society depends upon its commitment to a genuine pluralism, the Foundation is determined to do its utmost to ensure that the universities’ vaunted free marketplace of ideas lives up to its stated high ideals.
At a time when we are in danger of becoming increasingly polarized by strident voices on both sides of the debate over secular vs. religious views of life, the Foundation finds it all the more important that open dialogue and informed discourse replace ignorance, fear, anger, and suspicion.
Christians from all walks of life, including most especially those called to serve as professors on our mainstream university and college campuses, cannot engage secular culture in healthy debate and dialogue unless they themselves are adequately prepared and supported.
“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered,” Lewis declared. But he also aptly observed that “A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time for him to feed on it.”
In an effort to both challenge and feed the thousands of often isolated, alienated, and weary Christian faculty serving within the world of higher education, as well as the church at large, the C. S. Lewis Foundation offers a variety of programs and opportunities designed to both enlighten the mind and minister to the spirit.