Just Babies Making Up a Game

One of my favorite passages in all of literature is Puddleglum’s response to the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair. The Lady (an evil sorceress) has several characters trapped underground, and with the help of a little magic is trying to convince them that Narnia and Aslan and the rest of the “Overland” do not actually exist. The characters are on the verge of giving in when Puddleglum stomps on the magic fire in these words: One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying…

My Three Favorite C.S. Lewis Poems

C.S. Lewis’ prose is far more acclaimed than his poetry. But poetry was always important to him. He wrote poems continuously from age 14 until his death; his first publications were poetry (Spirits in Bondage, Dymer); his first prose publication was also filled with lyrics (The Pilgrim’s Regress); and arguably his greatest work (Till We Have Faces) began as a poem before it morphed into a novel. I love his poems. They demonstrate the same spiritual insight and facility with words that characterize his prose and make him my favorite writer. In the spirit of sharing them for a wider…

Clarity Needs Humility

C.S. Lewis was an accomplished academic. He taught at Oxford and then Cambridge, and wrote several significant academic works that are still highly regarded today (The Allegory of Love, The Discarded Image, English Literature in the 16th Century, A Preface to Paradise Lost). His academic credentials are solid. Among many readers, especially American evangelicals where his influence is greatest, he is primarily perceived as an “intellectual” writer, and first and foremost an apologist. At the same time, Lewis has always had a somewhat ambiguous relationship with academia. His fame and influence is chiefly from his popular works, not his scholarly…

On C.S. Lewis, Humility, and Marketing

The 1973 MacMillan edition of C.S. The Great Divorce quotes Lewis in large font on the back cover of the book as claiming: “Blake wrote of the marriage of Heaven and Hell. . . . I have written of their Divorce.” This sounds like a bold claim, a challenge to the great poet William Blake—and its not hard to imagine how such a tagline could be advantageous from the publisher’s standpoint for marketing purposes. But the publishers take Lewis’ statement out of context. What Lewis actually wrote (in the preface) was this: “Blake wrote of the Marriage of Heaven and…

If I Were Casting That Hideous Strength

One of my favorite books is That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, the final novel in his Space Trilogy. As far as I know, there are no plans to make it into a movie—but there should be! Its a great story, with an ever-relevant message (which Lewis also makes in The Abolition of Man), and beyond that, I think it could be turned into a movie much more easily than most other books-turned-movies. For example, I think this book makes for a much more natural movie than the Narnia stories. I’ve read or listened to it many times over, and…

The Objectivity of Ideas

This is a favorite passage from my favorite book these days, perhaps my favorite book of all time. Its describing one character’s reaction to his being imprisoned and trained in “objectivity,” which in the context of the book means the belief that all thoughts are mere chemical reactions and there is no possibility of using reason to arrive at truth. I think this notion that ideas correspond to objective reality is one the main issues that comes up discussions about the Ontological argument (which I’m reading a lot about in my PhD work these days), and also in Plato’s theory…

Atonement in Narnia

One of the books I have read for my atonement seminar this fall is IVP Academics’ The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me came with Greg Boyd’s response to Tom Schreiner’s presentation of the penal substitutionary view. In general, I found Boyd’s contribution to this book more helpful than I expected. I rank his presentation second after Schreiner’s, and I thought his critique of Joel Green’s kaleidoscopic view to be very insightful. In his response to Schreiner, Boyd appeals to C.S. Lewis’s presentation of Aslan’s sacrifice on behalf of…

Reflections on Mere Christianity

I’m looking back through Mere Christianity these days, one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. Some miscellaneous thoughts: 1) Lewis’ appeal to mere Christianity was not tantamount to doctrinal minimalism, as some people have suggested. His metaphor for a hall (Christian orthodoxy) with many rooms (Christian denominations) on it at the end of the preface makes it clear that he focuses on the broad essentials of Christianity because he is introducing his listeners (and now readers) to the Christian faith, not because he thinks the broad essentials are all people need to subsequently accept. He is…

A Review of Orwell’s Review of That Hideous Strength

On August 16, 1945, just days after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, George Orwell, author of the dystopian novel 1984, wrote a review of C.S. Lewis’ similarly dystopian novel That Hideous Strength. He acknowledges various admirable qualities of the book and – interestingly – the plausibility of the plot Lewis envisages. “There is nothing outrageously improbable in such a conspiracy. Indeed, at a moment when a single atomic bomb – of a type already pronounced ‘obsolete’ – has just blown probably three hundred thousand people to fragments, it sounds all too topical.” Orwell faults the…

The dry and choking places

Picking up in my previous post, here’s a crucial passage in the depiction of Mark’s redemption. Its such a creative literary presentation of the conviction of sin: There were no moral considerations at this moment in Mark’s mind. He looked back on his life, not with shame but with a kind of disgust at its dreariness. He saw himself as a little boy in short trousers, hidden in the shrubbery beside the paling to overhear Myrtle’s conversation with Pamela, and trying to ignore the fact that it was not at all interesting when overheard. He saw himself making believe that…