To celebrate 10 years of blogging here at The Wardrobe Door, I wanted to speak with some others who read, appreciate and study C.S. Lewis. Over the next two weeks, each day will feature an interview with one of these individuals (and maybe a few more).
- Joe Rigney
- Louis Markos
- Laura Schmidt
- Jennifer Neyhart
- Devin Brown
- Sarah Waters
- Brandon Smith
- Michael Ward
- Crystal Hurd
- William O’Flaherty
- Brenton Dickieson
- Dan DeWitt
- Diana Glyer
- Alister McGrath
The Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College houses a collection of papers, books, and manuscripts related to seven British authors, including C.S. Lewis. Of particular note, the center houses several Lewis artifacts, including the wardrobe that inspired the wardrobe that first lead Lucy to Narnia.
Today, I’m talking with Laura Schmidt, archivist at the Wade Center, about her thoughts on Lewis.
Wardrobe Door: What do you remember about reading C.S. Lewis for the first time?
I had seen the 1979 animated production, and was read the book by my third grade teacher in a public elementary school.
Lewis inspired my imagination and added to my already fervent love of reading. The Narnia books were my favorite books until I discovered Tolkien in 8th grade.
All the Lewis books I’ve read have left a deep impression on me, and his influence continued throughout childhood and into my adult years to the current day.
WD: While it may be next to impossible to answer, what is your favorite Lewis work, one you consider most overlooked, and one that you tend to enjoy less than others?
Most overlooked: His essay collections, which are very rich resources.
Less enjoyable: That Hideous Strength has never been one of my favorites due to its drastic change in tone, and attempt to cover too much thematic ground in one book. I do enjoy the other two books in the Cosmic Trilogy, however.
WD: Here are 50 of my favorite, what is your favorite Lewis quote?
This is also next to impossible, but the one that comes to mind at the moment:
“Courage, dear heart.” Aslan to Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the end of the Dark Island chapter.
WD: Why do you think he continues to maintain such influence in modern evangelicalism?
I think that three of Lewis’s great giftings are:
- His understanding of the common human perspective, to speak as an “everyman” that many of his readers can relate to,
- his intelligence and understanding, particularly in complex areas of theology, morality, and issues which impact the human condition,
- and possibly the greatest one: his ability to communicate clearly, in graspable terms for the everyday reader with ample examples to illustrate his points.
These elements combined make his works relevant to modern conversation with readers around the world, and it appears as if he’ll be around for the foreseeable future!
WD: Like all of us, Lewis wasn’t perfect. Where do you find yourself disagreeing with him or his approach?
Duane Litfin, former President of Wheaton College, once said: “Lewis may not always be right, but he’s always worth consulting.” I find this true for my experience with Lewis, certainly.
There are areas in The Four Loves for example where his understanding of the feminine mind is off-putting to me, but I recognize he’s speaking honestly from his time, culture, and point of view.
Likewise, I find some of his arguments in The Problem of Pain weak (which are still remarkable given the difficulty of the topic and the fact it was one of his earlier works as a writer).
There are more examples, but the wealth I get from Lewis’s works always outweighs the other qualms I may have with his books.
WD: If you had to choose, what is the most invaluable lesson you learned from him?
The freedom to fully engage my intellect and my imagination in my understanding of the world around me, in living and serving alongside others, and in glorifying God. What a tremendous gift.