Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

ron

Ron’s #21: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

This is C.S. Lewis’s autobiography on his journey from atheism to theism to Christianity. What more do I need to say to get you to read this book?

I loved this book, but it was not as easy a read as I thought it would be. Lewis is immersed in authors and poems that I’ve never heard of, and he assumes the reader is following along nicely. He name-drops more than a D-list celebrity at the Green Room club on Hollywood Boulevard. While the reader need not know all the poems referenced, it would help understand Lewis’s train of thought better. At the very least, one would need to understand Romanticism to a beginning degree to follow along.

Throughout his school life, Lewis continues to search for Joy (his capitalization) that connects to something in our hearts for something bigger. This Joy turned to be our heart’s longing for its Creator.

Here are a few excerpts that show the power of Lewis to turn a phrase:

“All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be.”

“Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.”

“The horror of the Christian universe was that it had no door marked Exit.”

“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere…God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

ron

Ron’s #52: Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

The story begins with this excellent opener: “I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods.  I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom they can hurt me.  My body, this lean carrion that still has to be washed and fed and have clothes hung about it daily with so many changes, they may kill as soon as they please.  The succession is provided for.  My crown passes to my nephew.”

I decided on this novel as my final book of 2011 after reading Mere Christianity. I love Lewis’s writing style, and I wanted to finally read this. This book is one that I’ve owed for some time. I bought this on my birthday in 1997. I know this because I still have the receipt in the book for a bookmark. I’ve started Till We Have Faces many times, but never getting beyond a chapter or two. I was frightened away by the subtitle—“A Myth Retold.” This is a version of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. If you are like me, you know little of that story. I kept telling myself that I’ll learn the myth before reading the Lewis version. I never did the first so I never got to the second. I grew tired of avoiding it, so I wanted to read it. To hell with the Psyche story (there’s a bit of a joke in that…)!

This is Lewis’s most challenging work; it is the one that he stated was his favorite, one that he has mentally worked on for years. It tells the story of Queen Oruel, her beautiful sister Psyche, and their beloved Greek tutor know as the Fox. Psyche is sacrificed to the god Ungit (Aphrodite), where she becomes more real and alive. Oruel, unwilling to believe that she is happy with her amorphous husband, challenges and defies the gods.

The novel is filled with dualities. Orule is ugly while Psyche is beautiful; Fox is rational, and the King is romantic; Lord Bardia has two “lovers”; the world is divided with Gnome and the Grey Mountains; Oruel fights to stay alive and not consumed by herself as the queen. There are even two books in this.

I wish that I could report that an understanding of Cupid and Psyche is not needed to fully enjoy this novel, but that is not true. While I did enjoy the story and the writing, I often felt like I was missing a greater portion of the tale because of my ignorance. However, readers can still find great value in reading this novel because Lewis is so vivid and clear in his style.

In addressing how insignificant our lives are next to the gods, Oruel adds this comment that I have been thinking about since yesterday:

(On the death of her father) “Yet I have often noticed since how much less stir nearly everyone’s death makes than you might expect. Men better loved and more worth loving than my father go down making only a small eddy” (214).

Till We Have Faces was a challenging end-of-the-year read, and I was glad to end with this work. If you have read it and can offer insight into the ending, I’m all ears.

ron

Ron’s #51: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

As I have mentioned before, C. S. Lewis is my favorite author. I understand that this is not a novel pick; most Christians would say the same if asked. It’s been said that Lewis is the only patron saint of Evangelicalism. There is something about his writing that is irresistible. One may disagree with his claims, but it is difficult to deny his gifted writing style. Because of the latter, it is often hard to do the former.

Mere Christianity is a must-read for Christians (See a few others I posted before), and it makes a clear treatise for the logic of both theism and Christianity. It was birthed from a series of radio talks that Lewis made on the BBC during WWII, and later edited for publication. Whether or not you call yourself a Christian, this slim volume will offer a clear, concise case why Christianity makes sense.

This is not actually the best apologetics book if you are looking for answers to specific difficult questions in the Christian faith. Rather, it takes on general topics such as: is Jesus who he says he is; is there such a thing as absolute morality?; and is Jesus Christ God?

No other writer has had the impact on me as a reader and a thinker as Lewis has. His books change, strengthen, inform, and inspire me. In my post for #48, I discussed the influence that Robert Cormier had on my reading life. If that is true, then C. S. Lewis had an even far great influence on my Christian reading life. To him, I’m grateful. Because of this, I’ll be reading and rereading Lewis for as long as I’m alive. There is no other author about which I can make the same claim.

Except maybe for the guys who write Spiderman comics.

For those in Okinawa: We have our monthly Apologia meeting on Wednesday, January 25, to discuss the second half of this book. Read it and join us!

mark

Mark’s #51 – Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity is widely recognized as a classic of the Christian faith.  Lewis appeals to a broad range of Christian traditions, from theological conservative to liberal.  Originally given as radio addresses during WWII and a few years following, C.S. Lewis tried to explain and defend the basics of the Christian faith.

I have read this book more times than any other book outside of the Bible (perhaps five or six times now).  On this reading I realized two things; First, I can see where much of my own thinking and preaching has been deeply influenced by Lewis in general, and Mere Christianity in particular.  Second, as I grow in my own understanding of theology, I realize more and more where I disagree sharply with some of Lewis’ thoughts on Christianity.  For example, Lewis’ philosophical and apologetic reliance on his view of ‘free will’ is much more arminian in thinking than mine.  In addition, Lewis seems to presuppose the validity of human evolution, as well as a kind of universalism through salvation of adherents of other religions if they are sincere (something he also implies in The Last Battle in The Chronicles of Narnia Series).

Some have even argued that Lewis is very much like Rob Bell in these areas.  However, these are not focal points or even essential teachings of Lewis (whereas it seems that Bell is doing just this, or at least capitalizing financially on these issues).  Furthermore, there is much to be gained from Lewis’ thinking and apologetics.  Therefore I would continue to encourage believers and non-believers alike to read carefully through this classic book.

Jim

Jim’s #26: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

What a classic!  I don’t really have a ton to say about the book since I’m sure everyone that’s reading this has already seen the movie and most have probably read the book.  It was great.  A great story line, wonderful character development, and altogether fun and engaging.  After reading the Magician’s Nephew first, it is clear through some references in this one, that this was meant to be read first.  Jon Freiburg’s comment on my last post points to a neat article in Christianity Today on the chronology of the anthology.

Again, the depiction of Aslan as the Christ figure was great to read.  There were other biblical features that Lewis through in that I thought were particularly neat.  The deep magic of course referred to the law and the broken stone table simulating the torn veil.  Aslan’s words to Lucy and Susan on the night of his death were neat as well, instructing them to keep him company, but only to a certain moment, after which he would need to proceed on his own like the Garden of Gethsemane.  After his resurrection, it was the girls who were the first to see him as well and then he went to the Queen’s castle itself to free the souls she had claimed.  So many references yet they weren’t forced in any way and if you weren’t looking for them, I could see missing them altogether.  I spose that’s part of what makes the series so universal.

I think my favorite part of the book, however, was the pictures of Aslan, both in his playful, loving manner as when he was playing with the girls after his resurrection, and his ferocious, fearsome demeanor towards all things dark.  His emotions throughout the book were captivating in themselves.  His is certainly not a tame lion, but he is good.

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