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…

Looking Back At Favorite Blog Posts and Series

I’ve been blogging for just over 6 years now. Its been a far more enriching experience than I had expected. My primary purpose in blogging has always been my own learning: I find that I learn best in a dialogical, two-stage process of both (1) reading and (2) writing. Stage 1 typically involves carefully reading a book with my pen in hand, making notes on the pages and inside the back cover as I struggle with how to place and understand the book. (Sometimes, of course, it could also be an article, movie, etc.) The key in this stage is…

Help from Bryan Garner on Writing Well

In my Historiography seminar this fall we worked through Bryan A. Garner’s Modern American Usage: The Authority on Grammar, Usage, and Style (3rd edition; Oxford University Press, 2009). Its basically a reference tool for issues of style and grammar, and I am finding it a very helpful resource for improving my writing. I think the best way to learn grammar and usage is, like most learning, by observation—reading skilled authors over and over until their writing habits soak into us. But books like Garner’s can be very helpful as a supplement to this. In class we worked through the “Quick…

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…

The Silmarillion

I got a copy of The Silmarillion for Christmas, which I started reading a little bit (though now that we’re into the quarter it will have to wait until summer to be finished). The Silmarillion tells of the creation of Ea (the universe in which Middle-earth exists) and the first three “Ages” (leading up to the events in The Hobbit). I’ve reflected before about how Tolkien didn’t merely write a story; he created a world, complete with its own languages, history, and even metaphysics. My thought after diving into this story a bit is that the essentially Christian structure of…

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…