Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Books that Read Us: C. S. Lewis

Today I am kicking off a series of posts here on my blog where we talk about a book or author who has impacted our theological and/or spiritual journey. I say "we" because after this post, I will be hosting a series of guest posts for this series! Look for them every Wednesday for most of the rest of the year!

In this post from last year I briefly talked about some of the books and authors that I described as having "wrecked" my theology, but in a good way. I called that post Wrecked Theology: The Books that Read Us. I love the idea that the books are doing something to us, because they do! Books have the power to introduce us to new ideas and change our ways of thinking.

In that post I mentioned Greg Boyd, N. T. Wright, Peter Enns, Scot McKnight, and Rachel Held Evans, just to name a few. But if you know me at all, in real life or online, you probably already suspect that no author has influenced me more than C. S. Lewis.

I have written before about how Lewis said his imagination was "baptized" when he read George MacDonald's Phantastes, and how I can say the same for how the writings of C. S. Lewis have baptized my imagination.

So how has Lewis impacted my theological and spiritual journey? Well it is all related. I have always struggled with trying to keep everything on a more intellectual level, even spiritual things. Lewis's writing, especially his fiction, helps bridge the gap between my head and my heart via the imagination. He gets past my intellectual defenses just as he intended:
"But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.” - C. S. Lewis, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said" 
I was in second grade when I read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time, and the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia soon after. I can't even remember how many times I have re-read this series at this point in my life, and I still love it. I love how Aslan's sacrifice makes me appreciate Jesus' sacrifice all the more. I love how the children's delight and awe of Aslan reinforces my delight and awe of God. I love the magic and the whimsy. There are so many poignant moments that grab my heart: the undragoning of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the time on the Dark Island when all hope seems lost and Lucy calls out to Aslan and hears him whisper, "Courage, dear heart." and so many more.

Later on, in college, I read The Great Divorce and The Space Trilogy (better called, "The Ransom Trilogy"). I love the visions of paradise and heaven in Perelandra and The Great Divorce (and The Last Battle). Reading Lewis's visions of heaven always makes me all the more excited for that day!
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
So far I have only been talking about Lewis's fiction, but his non-fiction has had profound effects on my theology as well. From Mere Christianity to The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man to The Weight of Glory, so much of Lewis's thoughts have shaped my own. I could probably write a whole series by myself just focused on answering this question! And of course I don't agree with everything C. S. Lewis wrote, but that doesn't take away from how much he has influenced me.

You can read more from me on C. S. Lewis in the 31 Days of C. S. Lewis series I did last October.

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