Fantasy Friday – Remembering C. S. Lewis

CSLewis MemorialWhile many news outlets look back fifty years and recall President John F. Kennedy’s life and assassination, some are joining a host of book industry professionals and readers to commemorate C. S. Lewis who also died November 22, 1963.

One particularly interesting article compares Lewis, Kennedy, and a third notable man who died that day, Aldous Huxley, particularly looking at the differences in their religious beliefs: “50 years ago today, Kennedy, Huxley and Lewis followed different paths to the grave” (Desert News). Another excellent article, this one from the Religion News Service, interviews James Houston (who turned 91 yesterday), founder of the C. S. Lewis Institute, and a colleague of his at Oxford–“Why C.S. Lewis remains popular: a friend reflects.”

Over at Patheos, the Christ and Pop Culture contributors did something similar to what I did this week–they highlighted the books that meant a great deal to them. One writer chose The Problem of Pain, another A Grief Observed.

In “Why C. S. Lewis Matters Today,” agent Steve Laube commemorated Lewis with a video documentary which includes a five minute segment about “Rediscovering Christian Imagination” about which Mr. Laube says, “We in the publishing industry should have this reminder placed before us on a regular basis.”

Another significant video is that from the UK showing the ceremony held today honoring Lewis in which he was given a memorial in the Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Meanwhile, Moody Radio aired Dr. Alister McGrath, former atheist and now Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College London, talking about his research into C. S. Lewis’s life.

Another great resource is a free e-book, C.S. Lewis – A Profile in Faith, made available by the C. S. Lewis Institute.

For those who love the many quotes from Lewis’s books, one site posted an accumulation of lesser know lines from his books or articles, including a wonderful paragraph on Lewis’s thoughts on death.

Still a different site gave a rundown on his “seven lesser known books.” They opened with Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s spiritual autobiography, which happens to be on my list of favorites of his books, and follows it with Till We Have Faces, my all time favorite Lewis book. Check out the other five rated as lesser known.

As for me, I was also impacted by Lewis’s better known books–his stories. The Great Divorce was especially significant because I had been afraid of dying as a child.

Back in those days people didn’t talk about dying and preachers didn’t preach much about dying. Or Heaven. Or Hell. At best, I had a fuzzy understanding of the afterlife. Then I found The Great Divorce. I suddenly grasped the fact that the eternal is what’s real, what’s solid, and this temporal life, as James so clearly says, is just a vapor that passes away. All my previous ideas had the two reversed.

Narnia impacted me in so many ways, not the least being inspiration to write fantasy. I loved the inventiveness of the world Lewis build from his imagination, but I also loved the way he brought truth to life in those stories. I wanted to write like that!

Till We Have Faces is such a great book, showing the effects of sin and the change yielding to the Master can bring. It’s steeped in mythology, but the end is such a beautiful picture of Christ clothing the repentant believer in His robes of righteousness. Again, for me, this story brought to life the reality of the spiritual.

While I appreciate Lewis’s nonfiction, one particular book had a lasting impact. I’ve already mentioned it: Surprised by Joy. Lewis expresses better than I’ve ever heard before the longing I’ve felt when I am at peace, happy, content, sometimes a condition induced by a piece of music or a rainbow amid a bank of pink sunset clouds or . . . a list of awe-inspiring things. But behind the beauty and the glory and the joy is that one moment of longing–that the beauty and glory and joy could stay and be that way always, only deeper (or, as I’ve since learned, a longing that I might be able to go further up and further in). This is what Lewis identified and what played a big part in his becoming a Christian. For me it crystallized something about my faith.

Perhaps others have said this before, but Ravi Zacharias just tweeted what I think best encapsulates C. S. Lewis’s writing: “C.S. Lewis had the ability to take people to the front door of reason through the back door of imagination.”

I don’t think I can overstate the influence that one man, that one apologist, writer, storyteller, thinker, child of God, brother in Christ, has had on my life. May God continue to use his words to impact the next generation and the next, as long as Christ should tarry.

The Atheist Box

In the section I read today of The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna Cullicut McGrath ( InterVarsity Press), the authors referred to something like a no-God box atheists put themselves in. It resonated with me because of a discussion I had with an atheist over at Spec Faith some months ago. At one point during the discussion, it dawned on me how limited is an atheist who believes that all we can know as truth must be discovered by the scientific method.

Essentially, an atheist who rules out the metaphysical has narrowed the options of what he will explore. If there is only the natural, then there can be no supernatural explanations of the things we don’t understand.

I’m reading John Olson’s Shade right now in preparation for next week’s CSFF blog tour, and the protagonist (one of them) came up against this very position. There can be no supernatural explanations, so when someone experiences something inexplicable, the only conclusion can be, You imagined it, conjured it up out of your diseased mind. Which is what many atheists conclude about Christians. God does not exist, they say, so a Christian who “hears” His voice, is a fool, a liar, a simpleton, or mentally ill.

It’s not so far from the conclusion C.S. Lewis (popularized by Josh McDowell) came to about Jesus based on the claims He made about Himself (liar, lunatic, or Lord)—with one exception: C.S. Lewis added that Jesus could be who He said He was.

The atheist gives himself no such option because he’s already ruled God out.

I commented on Mike Duran’s blog this morning regarding something he wrote about evolution, and once again, it hit me how many more options Christians have than atheists. After all, if an omnipotent God does exist (and He does), then what are the limits? But by making the presupposition that there is no God, an atheist is then left to figure things out via Man’s limited observations and reasoning. No wonder science keeps discovering new things and theories keep changing and science textbooks have to be rewritten.

Spiritually? Not much has changed from the day God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden. Oh, sure, lots of history has happened, including the fulfillment of the prophecy to Satan that Man would bruise him on the head and Satan would bruise Him on the heel. And of course God gave us His written word as well as His Son. But we don’t need to continually discover new revelation in order to make sense of our world.

And we don’t need to fear new discoveries. They will always make sense because we have a God who can do the impossible. When something looks incongruous with Scripture, we can rest in the knowledge that it is not. Our understanding may be incomplete or veiled or our interpretation may be in error—we have lots of possibilities. The atheist in his box? Not so many. His data can’t be wrong—at least until another scientist comes along and proves that it is.

The earth is flat, after all. We can all see that it is flat. Sadly, the most adamant fundamentalist extremists just might be atheists who box themselves into a field of knowledge they know will most probably be altered one day.

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 12:58 pm  Comments (36)  
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God and Delusion

Last night I watched a PBS Masterpiece Contemporary called (I think I have the title right) “God on Trial.” In essence it was the story of a group of Jewish Auschwitz prisoners who decided to put God on trial because He broke His covenant with Israel by not protecting and blessing the nation as He said He would.

If it weren’t for the death-camp setting, the story would have seemed rather silly to me. Here were several Rabbis, one who supposedly had memorized the Torah, but they didn’t really get the fact that Israel broke the covenant and God fulfilled the clear warnings He gave, should they do so.

At one point, one of the men brought up that possibility, but the discussion turned to why “good Jews” were suffering for the sins of the “bad ones,” defined as those who no longer had faith in the Torah. As it turned out, I guess they found God guilty (I fell asleep near the conclusion, but woke up to see the end), yet as the German guards hauled off the group designated for the gas chamber, the man who instigated the trial said something like, Now that God is guilty, what are we supposed to do? And the answer was, Pray and believe in the Torah. They then began quoting a passage from it, and continued to do so as they marched to their deaths.

So this morning, I started reading a book called The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna Cullicut McGrath ( InterVarsity Press). Apparently atheist Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion, which the McGrath book is clearly answering, is most critical of what I’ll call the Faith Factor.

God is a delusion—a “psychotic delinquent” invented by mad, deluded people. That’s the take-home message of The God Delusion. Although Dawkins does not offer a rigorous definition of a delusion, he clearly means a belief that is not grounded in evidence—or, worse, that flies in the face of the evidence.

A faith such as “God on Trial” depicted the Jews of Auschwitz having.

The McGrath’s make an essential point:

Dawkins is right [about this point]—beliefs are critical. We base our lives on them; they shape our decisions about the most fundamental things. I can still remember the turbulence that I found myself experiencing on making the intellectually painful (yet rewarding) transition from atheism to Christianity. Every part of my mental furniture had to be rearranged. Dawkins is correct—unquestionably correct—when he demands that we should not base our lives on delusions. We all need to examine our beliefs—especially if we are naive enough to think that we don’t have any in the first place. But who, I wonder, is really deluded about God?

Well, I already know the answer, because I read the Book—the one written by the All-Knowing Creator God. Anyone who puts God on trial and finds Him guilty, or absent, or dead is deluded. I could have said, anyone who puts God on trial is deluded. The idea that we can judge God shows our delusion.

It doesn’t help that those who judge God and find Him wanting then turn around and profess faith in Him or His Word. It is the biggest delusion of all.

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 11:05 am  Comments (9)  
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