Archives For C.S. Lewis

If You Only Read One Love Story

Chris —  October 5, 2011

If you could only read one love story, you should read A Severe Mercy.  The book is the journey of Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, through romance,  courtship, marriage, infidelity, agnosticism, faith, and eventually death.  The book is best known for containing the author’s correspondance with C.S. Lewis on issues of faith and death.

The book begins with the couple’s meeting and romance in an ivy league college.  They define themselves as “high pagans,” seeking after the higher virtues of classical culture.  They believed that they could keep the “in love” feeling that couples experience early on when they share everything.  They share the details of their days, passionately explore the other’s interests, and even sail around the world together.  The uniqueness of their romance inspires Lewis’s words, and the title “A Severe Mercy.”

Unfortunately, Jesus messes this up.  As honest agnostics and intellectuals, they decide that someday they must look into the claims of Christianity.  When they move to Oxford they encounter intellectuals who also follow Christ, and they begin their investigation.  This result is a correspondance and friendship with C.S. Lewis, who helps personalize much that he his books discuss.  They both experience conversion, but their endless romance is never the same.  Vanauken candidly explains the strains this new faith took on their marriage, and how it took death to rebuild their relationship.

Much of the book grapples the illness and death of Davy, and how their new faith was affected.  Fascinatingly, the correspondence includes letters both before and after Lewis’s own experience with burying a wife.

It’s hard to capture in a blog post the beautiful, thought provoking and heart wrenching nature of this book.  It presents a picture of how faith can be intellectual, how romance can be meaningful, and how death can be accepted.  It is the story of a life well lived, and a love worth emulating.

Perelandra is possibly the greatest work of the towering twentieth century Protestant Scholar-Saint.  Like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe it uses allegorical fiction to portray Christian truths.  Yet it’s depth and maturity takes it further than Narnia ever could go.

The book is more in classic Science Fiction, in the vein of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne than modern space opera.  It uses the ideas of space travel to propel a conversation about the nature of humanity.

In many ways, the book is a re-imagining of the story of Adam, Eve and the Serpent, taking place on a foreign planet, and told through the eyes of a narrator remarkably similar in character to Lewis himself.  The book delves into the depth and the dullness of evil, the nature of temptation, and the tangible reality of the spiritual realm.

Perelandra serves in many ways as an overview of Lewis’ thought, touching on ideas addressed in everything from Miracles to Screwtape Letters to The Problem With Pain.  However, he accomplishes it in a way that no other writer can: he wraps fascinating theology in a fantastical drama.

Not only will you have fun reading Perelandra, but you’ll never look at Genesis or the night sky the same.

Check out this cool photostream of Perelandra sketches!

Was C.S. Lewis a Monotheist?

Chris —  May 13, 2010

As a suggestion for my 40 books in 2010, I found myself wading through C.S. Lewis’s Til We Have Faces.  It’s unlike any of his others: a fascinating retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche. 

Faces explores the reality of how our physical bodies can shape our character. Unlike the amazing Space Trilogy or Narnia, there is no hidden theology here.  Just a discussion of what it means to be human.

A dream/vision sequence near the end of the book shows the main character encountering several gods and perhaps a veiled reference to a God above gods.

It reminded me of the mind-blowing description of the heavenly creatures at the end of Out of the Silent Planet. This in turn reminded me of some of the powerful creatures, both good and evil, found in Narnia.

It made me start thinking something almost heretical:

Was C.S. Lewis a Henotheist?

A henotheist worships one God, but doesn’t deny the existence of others.  Maybe Lewis was on to something.

I’m not suggesting that any power beyond the triune God is sovereign, or that any being beside Jesus can help me find my way back to God.  But our modern scientific sensibilities lead us to ignore that there are other powers at work.  Lewis’ works portray angels that would scare us to death, and demons that trick us into worshiping them.

Lewis reminds us that these are creatures of enormous power, which should respected; as one respects the power of an atomic bomb.  It’s also a reminder of what we’ve found in Jesus Christ.

…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38