To celebrate 10 years of blogging here at The Wardrobe Door, I wanted to speak with others who read, appreciate and study C.S. Lewis. I’ll conclude the series with my own thoughts.
- 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
To conclude my interview series on C.S. Lewis, I thought I would answers the questions I posed to other Lewis fans and experts. This will give me the opportunity to share my own background with Lewis and why he continues to shape my thinking.
I’ve read Lewis continually since my childhood and have taken courses on his work as an undergraduate and graduate. But my favorite times of reading and studying his writing have been at nighttime with my kids, as they’ve grown to love Narnia.
What do you remember about reading C.S. Lewis for the first time?
I remember devouring The Chronicles of Narnia in elementary school. Despite growing up in the church, I had no idea the writer of these stories I loved so much was a Christian. (I had a similar experience with Madeline L’Engle.) It wasn’t until high school, when I discovered Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, that I realized he was a believer (and one that millions of people already knew about).
In college, as I transitioned into a faith of my own, Mere Christianity became such a comfort. While I didn’t find an answer to every question, it took faith seriously from an intellectual standpoint.
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?
I hated asking this question to the Lewis scholars because I knew how difficult it would be to answer myself. I’ll have to give a few, but I’ll try to limit myself. I’m not sure where I would be without Mere Christianity. Screwtape and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are pure and perfect pieces of fiction written through a Christian worldview. I hate to give just the classics, but I’ll save my other favorites for the most overlooked.
When I asked, so many scholars put Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold as either a favorite or overlooked for a reason. It’s such a rich, beautiful book and not enough people have read it. Virtually every collection of his essays is worth reading. And while it might be impossible to say that any of The Chronicles of Narnia is “overlooked,” I feel as if The Horse and His Boy never garners enough attention.
As far as one I enjoy less, this is like a punch to the gut to say this of any Lewis book. While I appreciate the Space Trilogy overall, I do feel it is uneven. Many parts could be consider a classic, but other parts miss. And again, there are elements of Prince Caspian that I love, but it may be my least favorite Narnia book.
What is your favorite Lewis quote?
There’s a reason I did a list of 50 quotes—I appreciate so many. He is imminently quotable. I can’t help but think someone like Lewis (or G.K. Chesterton) would have been great at Twitter. Here are a few favorites.
I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. — The Silver Chair
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. Be he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.” — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. — The Weight of Glory
Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. — The Problem of Pain
Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. — The Great Divorce
Why do you think he continues to maintain such influence in modern evangelicalism?
I would have to think he appeals to others today for the same reason he appeals to me—the mix of imagination and intellect, the ability to creatively communicate eternal truths in a timely manner.
And while the words may be Shakespeare, Lewis perfectly captures the phrase, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” He is able to succinctly express depth with such wit and clarity.
Like all of us, Lewis wasn’t perfect. Where do you find yourself disagreeing with him or his approach?
I would probably side with Tolkien in his critique of Lewis’ approach to marriage. In so many areas, Lewis recognized the benefit of applying the truth of Christianity to society and culture. It seems odd that he failed to see this when it comes to marriage.
As an evangelical, I would disagree with Lewis in some of his approach to the inspiration of Scripture. But I think many of his critics focus too much on this and ignore the overwhelming value he placed on the Bible and numerous ways we are in agreement.
If you had to choose, what is the most invaluable lesson you learned from him?
That it is entirely possible to love the Lord with all your intellect and imagination. Lewis crafted both rich pieces of fiction and deep philosophical works of non-fiction, but those two were not isolated from one another. His fiction was philosophical and his non-fiction had the richness of a story.
I think part of the reason he did this (used stories to communicate truth in both fiction and non-fiction form) was because he recognized that stories “steal past the watchful dragons.”