Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In the shadow of Lewis

Oh, the things I never knew (that I would have liked to). Fortunately I was alerted to one of them by this blog post on Tall Skinny Kiwi. I'm sure you knew it, but yesterday was the anniversary of C. S. Lewis's birth (to call it his "birthday" is surely pushing the bounds of good taste).

112 years is not a significant anniversary, but Lewis is current because of the imminent release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third Narnia movie, following the deeply disappointing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian, which I avoided in case it was equally dismal. The production company Walden Media bought the rights to Narnia with the stated aim of producing "wholesome" films, which seemed to equate in this case to "po-faced". However new owners Fox have apparently sacked them, so there may be hope for The Dawn Treader.

I loved Narnia as a child, and honestly, I still do. As an adult reader one becomes sensitive to Lewis's rather strong opinions forcing themselves into the narrative, but what right-minded person would not want to live the life of Narnia, to fight for justice and Aslan, and to go to his country when they die? Of course, some people don't, but that is precisely the point. Narnia beautifully illustrates Lewis's genius for conveying profound truths with imagination, clarity, and pure style.

I use the word "genius" intentionally. Lewis had a rare gift. He was a scholar, master wordsmith, and a true-hearted friend. But his genius lay in that ability to communicate his thoughtful faith in a way that seized the imagination of not just his generation, but of successive generations. Not only his children's stories, but almost all his books were deeply influential on the thinking and faith of countless readers.

Lewis so shaped the idea of Christian literature that, for the last 50 years, every Christian writer has wanted to be him. The "Christian" publishing industry has churned out thousands of metaphorical children's adventures, humorous reflections on the Christian life, and worldly-wise apologetics. A few of these have been successful, most have been rubbish. But no-one has really conquered the territory in the way that he did.

And now the world has changed. Could we imagine a book called "Mere Christianity" having such an impact in 2011? The post-war, church-schooled audience isn't there any more. What would a modern-day Lewis write, and how would he capture the minds of this generation?

4 comments:

Nickie Goomba said...

Actually, Mere Christianity remains quite popular. When I suggest Lewis as important reading, Mere Christianity pops up as the usual first choice.

I'm enjoying the blog, and that is high praise coming from a Newlyn man.

Roger said...

Charlie... I've re-posted your comments, and a link to your blog, on my Inklings website: www.oxfordinklings.blogspot.com

(Bit impertinent really, but I thought you would like a wider audience for your comments.

Love to meet sometime when we are visiting... I know a few of your old congregation in Dawlish.

Roger R (yes, David R's dad)!

Charlie said...

Thanks Roger. Any blogger welcomes a wider audience for their comments!
Look forward to meeting you, and we can discuss "those noble inklings".

Roger said...

Charlie... you might like to have a look at 'First Things' which intellectually and spiritually hits the right note again and again.

FT is published monthly in the States and comments largely from a "Traditional Catholic, Orthodox Jewish and Evangelical Christian" perspective. I am a subscriber (and have been for years). Often taxing to read, it is well worth the effort.

I mention this as an interesting piece, tangentally mentioning CSL, was published in the Nov-10 edition:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/10/go-with-god

Lewis for today? Society has changed of course, but my old tutor Alister McGrath. His latest book 'Mere Theology' is fun...

http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mcgrath/

... but as you know, there are many (many) others to chose from! His gift is to make complex things 'simple' (a la Lewis) and to gradually lead the reader into more technical areas step-by-step. (i.e. starting with Alister in the wrong place can be disastrous)!

Regards,

Roger R.