Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Lewis, Kennedy, Huxley… and the End of the Age of Innocence

lkhThree deaths on one day, November 22, 1963, that marked the passing of an era. Justin Taylor, at the Gospel Coalition, chronicles the timeline of the events on that momentous day, with a blog post entitled “The Death of Narnia, Camelot, and the Brave New World: A Timeline of 11.22.63.”  Three iconic figures. Three different views of death. Three different visions of reality. Which vision of reality, Narnia, Camelot, or a Brave New World, best lives on, captivating your imagination today?

(As for me, Narnia is what draws me in)

 


C.S. Lewis, the Scandal of Particularity, Science & Revelation

Reading about my Veracity co-blogger John Paine’s adventures in England, and seeing the photos of the Eagle and Child, it made me think of C. S. Lewis. Until recently, I have never been a very avid C. S. Lewis reader. My problem is a bit different from John’s. Sure, Lewis can at times be hard to get through, but my primary difficulty is that I have a rebellious streak against reading popular Christian authors.

Back when I was in college in the mid-80’s, it seemed like EVERY Christian I knew was reading C. S. Lewis. Or at least, they planned to read Lewis. Lewis just seemed a bit too trendy to me, and Lewis himself thought that his work would be long forgotten within years of his death. At that time, Lewis had been dead for twenty years, and it just seemed like there was a desperate need for new voices, and aside from exceptions like Francis Schaeffer, evangelical Christianity was not producing many with the kind of substance Lewis possessed. I respected Lewis, but I had little desire to fall into the “Lewis crowd.” So I bought a small stack of MacMillan published titles from the college bookstore, and there they sat on my shelf, unread, for years.

The situation is different today. C. S. Lewis is still popular, but mostly through his children’s works, and not so much through his apologetics writings. Among evangelicals now, I find that C. S Lewis is someone everyone has heard of, but few have really read. Like me, those books just sit up on the shelf, and many Christians say, “Maybe someday I will try to crack open some of Lewis’ more challenging writings.”

A few years ago, my rebellious spirit prompted me to go against this evangelical malaise and actually read Lewis. I read The Great Divorce, and it gave me a whole new way of thinking about the doctrine of hell. Lewis’ Space Triology was up next, and it made me wish I had read through the whole series thirty years earlier! Sure, there are some peculiar constructions in Lewis’ style that seem outdated, but the man had a grasp for ideas that in many ways was years ahead of his time. It would probably help us if we were to dust off those Lewis books on our bookshelf, and engage what Lewis had to say. This video by pastor John Piper, tells us why Lewis is still important:


Here is one of those ideas in Lewis that has had me thinking a lot recently….
Continue reading


The Eagle and Child in All of Us

And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NET)

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Outside Christ Church College, Oxford. One of the most beautiful and profoundly ‘magical’ places we have ever been. Scenes from Harry Potter movies were shot here. Albert Einstein, John Locke, John Wesley, Lewis Carroll, and 13 of the 26 Prime Ministers from Oxford studied here. Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was inspired here, and Alice was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church.

Yesterday, Marion and I travelled to Oxford and had a late lunch in the renowned Eagle and Child pub, where a group of famous Christians met regularly to encourage one another. We sat in the same nook where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others discussed ideas that shaped some of the most significant English literature to come out of the twentieth century. I couldn’t help feeling a little exuberant, so I took a few snaps with my cell phone and sent them off to friends and family.

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I really didn’t want to write this post. I’ve never read any Tolkien. I’m no C.S. Lewis scholar. I find it difficult to read Lewis’ philosophical theology, preferring instead to listen to his books using Audible. His writing is undeniably brilliant and packed with words that connect the intellect to our faith. But as Dick Woodward once told me, “C.S. Lewis made things complicated, but I spent my entire ministry trying to make them simple—so people would understand.” One of the great wonders of the Christian Faith is that it works on both very simple and very complex levels.

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Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child pub. This is where Tolkien, Lewis and others sat. The Gloucester sausages and steak and ale pie were quite good. We were late for lunch, so it wasn’t too crowded.

When Clarke received our photos from the Eagle and Child, he prodded me, reluctantly, into writing this post. But it occurred to me while sitting in the Eagle and Child that I have experienced and benefitted from the encouragement of some wonderful brothers and sisters. Brothers like Dave Thompson who will send long, deep, profound emails of encouragement at all hours of the night. And Dave Rudy, who always can add to any topic I may bring up (it’s amazing how much Dave has studied and absorbed). And Rob Campbell, who is the most devotionally devoted person I have ever met (and a finer friend you could not have). And Clarke Morledge himself, with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things theological and hermeneutical (his zeal is as contagious as his heart). And Ken Petzinger, a Princeton-educated physicist who is living proof that Christians also come with extreme intellectual capacity (and who always has something current to share from his personal studies). And Dick Woodward, who was such an encourager and gifted teacher. And Iris Rudy, who is such a good listener (and who commands respect when she speaks). And Tina Campbell, who works at being the most compassionate and hospitable person I know (and succeeds magnificently). And Marion, whom I could never thank appropriately for being such a wonderful, selfless person (and in whom I continually see the Gospel lived out).

So when the writer of Hebrews states, “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near,” l get it. I am thankful for the Eagle and Child that all of us have experienced.

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The University of Oxford has 38 Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls (PPHs) of religious foundation. There are cathedrals, churches and scenes like this everywhere you turn. I hope that you can visit Oxford soon!


C.S. Lewis and the Butterfly Effect

C.S. Lewis

Why would C.S. Lewis take the time to correspond with a young American girl he did not know? Would his four letters, including the one he wrote to her just 11 days before his death, have any consequence?

In our culture we are taught to swing for the fences. Blast the game-winning home run high over the center field wall. Instant gratification and recognition. Great work if you can get it.

But a life lived in obedience to God is seldom like that. It’s much more like the butterfly effect—where one small change can make a big difference in the way things turn out. Consider the chain of events in the following story.

  1. In the 1960s, a somewhat under-appreciated (at the time) Cambridge don, deep thinker, and writer of children’s literature gets a fan letter from a 12-year-old American girl. Despite all he has going on, he takes the time to write back to her.
  2. The young girl begins to read some of his other work, including his Christian writings. She writes more letters, he writes back.
  3. When he dies, only a small number of friends attend his funeral.
  4. Through subsequent publishing he becomes one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the 20th century.
  5. Because he took the time to write to the little girl, his corpus has a profound effect on her faith and her ability and desire to defend her Christian worldview.
  6. The little girl grows up, marries a small town preacher, and has a profound effect on him.
  7. The small town preacher becomes one of the most influential Christian writers and thinkers of the 21st century.

For the whole story, read this article.

We really don’t take enough time to correspond with people. Taking the time to write someone can have significant and lasting consequences—much more so than hitting a dramatic home run.

HT: Marion Paine, David the Older


Imagination: ‘Jack’ Lewis

I was just a few months old when the death of President John F. Kennedy shook our nation 50 years ago. But everyone who knew of the Kennedy assassination at that time knows exactly where they were at the moment when they heard the news. Like 9/11 in our day, the story of the Kennedy tragedy shaped a generation. However, there was another cultural event on November 22, 1963 that was overshadowed by the Kennedy shooting:  the death of C. S. Lewis.

Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis: famous Christian of the 20th century, influential apologist, and still today a popular author of children’s fantasy… and yet, I often wonder how much the Christian church has truly been been shaped by the life and work of this Oxford don.

As my fellow Veracity blogger, John Paine, confesses, Lewis can sometimes be a little hard to get in sync with.  From another angle, I pretty much boycotted reading Lewis years ago precisely because he was so popular back then. Many evangelicals seem uncomfortable today about the legacy of this tobacco-smoking, British intellectual Anglican. But both John and I have now come to deeply appreciate Lewis more and more.

What does Lewis have to say?  If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be imagination.  It was a vision of a Biblically-informed imagination that brought this atheist to faith, a man filled with animosity towards his father, and who had a very odd, even scandalous relationship with a much older woman. Lewis endured the mindless insanity in the French trenches of World War I, but he rarely talked about it. Lewis, like any human that I know, had moral failures and terrible skeletons haunting him in his closet. But it was the creative energy of thinking about the love story of the Bible, God’s relentless pursuit of bringing a rebellious and alienated people into relationship with Himself, that broke through Lewis’ cynicism, despair, and denial.

We need more of C. S. Lewis’ vision of a Christian imagination today in Christ’s church.  Many Christians get so absorbed by the literal truth of the Scriptures that they forget about the revelatory power of the figurative, the transcendent beauty of a turn of a phrase, the deep wisdom of Biblical poetry, the whoop and wharf of story, and the subtle Truth of myth.

I think Lewis can still help us with that.

I have been listening to a wonderful and provocative audio book by Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.  In promoting the book, McGrath gave a series of lectures, including the following sponsored by the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas in the spring of 2013.

May we as followers of Jesus be shaped by the imaginative vision of C. S. Lewis.  His friends knew him as “Jack”.


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