The CS Lewis Symposium at Westminster Abbey: Videos of Lectures and Panel

If you had the privilege, as I did, of attending the events at Westminster Abbey last November to honor C.S. Lewis, you know how excellent the Symposium lectures and panel were. Now, even if you weren’t there – you can watch the videos!

The Symposium was held on Thursday, Nov. 21st, 2013, the day before the Memorial Service in the Abbey itself, at which the Memorial to Lewis was unveiled in Poets’ Corner. These marvelous events, organized by Michael Ward, marked the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death in a way truly fitting to that great man. You can read an excellent account of the Memorial Service here.

The Symposium included two lectures and a panel, all of which are well worth seeing (and seeing again!)

The first lecture was by Alister McGrath, on “Telling the Truth through Rational Argument”:

The second lecture was by Malcolm Guite, on “Telling the Truth through Imaginative Fiction”:

The Panel Discussion on C.S. Lewis and 21st Century Apologetics was moderated by Michael Ward: it included Jeannete Sears, Judith Wolfe, Michael Ramsden, Peter S. Williams, and William Lane Craig:

 

I hope you enjoy watching these – it was a great privilege and honor to be able to be present on the day, and I’m appreciative of the excellent work  that’s been done on these videos to make these talks and panel available to a much wider audience.

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Dr. Holly Ordway is the director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, a poet, and the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (revised and expanded second ed., Fall 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

 

 

November 22, 2013: Honoring C.S. Lewis in Westminster Abbey – an expanded reflection

On November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, C.S. Lewis was honored with a memorial in the celebrated Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

I had the great privilege of being present at the Service, and it was a day I will remember all my life.

In my original piece, I set down a brief account; here is a fuller one that includes Dr Michael Ward’s eloquent explanation of the choice of text for the Stone, as well as links to the outstanding Symposium talks and panel.

CSL Memorial with flowers
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” From the essay “Is Theology Poetry?”

The Symposium

The day before the Service, Thursday Nov. 21st, was the occasion of a Symposium on C.S. Lewis. Prof. Alister McGrath and Dr Malcolm Guite spoke on the subject of Lewis’s apologetics and in particular on his use of Reason and Imagination – as you can imagine, this was particularly relevant for us at HBU, since our approach to apologetics deliberately integrates reason and imagination! Prof. McGrath’s talk was on “Telling the Truth through Rational Argument,” and Dr Guite’s talk was on “Telling the Truth through Imaginative Fiction.”

After the lectures and a service of Evensong at Westminster Abbey, we reconvened to hear a panel discussion on “What Can 21st Century Apologetics Learn from C.S. Lewis”, chaired by Dr Michael Ward. The panel included novelist Jeanette Sears, theologian Judith Wolfe, and apologists William Lane Craig, Peter S. Williams, and Michael Ramsden.

The Memorial Service 

There will never be another event like this one – at which were gathered many of the few still living who knew C.S. Lewis personally. The British people welcomed Lewis as one of their own, at last – though Lewis is popular in America and indeed around the world, it was most fitting that this great event in his honor was conceived of and organized by British people, and held in Westminster Abbey, the coronation church of England. More than a thousand people were in attendance on this cold November day.

Every aspect of Lewis’s life and work was honored in some way, in the choice of readings and indeed the choice of readers, in the music, the hymns, the quotes selected for the Order of Service.

The Service was also the world premiere of a new choral anthem, composed especially for the Service by noted composer Paul Mealor, who composed the motet for the Royal Wedding. The text is Lewis’s poem “Love’s as warm as tears” – and it was stunning. It seems certain that this will be a permanent contribution to the English choral repertoire.

Perhaps it was because we were in England, and because there were so many people there who knew Lewis in life, as well as all of us who know him through his writings, that there was such a deep sense that we were honoring a real man, in all his complexity; a man who loved, and was loved, who suffered and endured; a gifted man who not only taught us much, but who also encourages us to go further, to do good work of our own, to build on what he did, and – above all – to love God and our neighbor better and more fully, to grow in holiness.

I won’t try to say what it was like to be present at the Service. It was at once too solemn and too joyful to try to put into words that I know will fail me. It was a labor of love by Michael Ward, who led the effort from the beginning and attended to every last detail to the final minute, and with many others doing their part to make this Service something that would truly honor this great man, C.S. Lewis. It was perfect.

CSL Memorial Unveiling
Dr Michael Ward unveils the CS Lewis Memorial. Image from Westminster Abbey official site.

Fittingly, Dr Ward unveiled the Memorial stone itself, at the climax of the Service; Walter Hooper, who has done more than anyone else over the past 50 years to preserve and tend Lewis’s literary legacy, placed flowers on the Stone. Here is a short video recording of the unveiling, including Douglas Gresham (Lewis’ stepson) reading from The Last Battle, and Walter Hooper placing flowers on the Memorial.

Here is Michael Ward’s account of the significance of the text chosen for the stone:

***

THE C S LEWIS MEMORIAL STONE

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.

Of the countless fine phrases that Lewis spoke and wrote, this one has been chosen as the inscription on his memorial in Poets’ Corner. It links together many areas of his life and work.

The sentence comes from an address entitled ‘Is Theology Poetry?’ The answer Lewis gives to his own question is that although Christian theology is not merely poetry it is still poetic and therefore must be received with an imaginative, as well as a rational, embrace. Millions of readers who have moved about the worlds of Narnia, Perelandra, and Glome know the ripe fruits of his imaginative engagement with theological themes and the power of his poetic prose.

The address was one of many he gave to the Socratic Club, the forum for debate between Christians and non-Christians, of which he was President. Thus the inscription points to his role as an apologist who publicly—and not without professional cost—defended the faith, ‘following the argument,’ as Socrates said, ‘wherever it should lead’. Lewis was a rationalist as well as a romantic.

The sentence is straightforwardly confessional, marking the centrality of his faith at a personal level. ‘I never knew a man more thoroughly converted,’ remembers Walter Hooper, to whom thanks are especially due at this anniversary time for doing so much over the last half century to keep Lewis’s memory green.

The Sun is there, aptly enough, for ‘the heavens are telling the glory of God’, in the words of the psalm that Lewis regarded as the psalter’s greatest lyric. ‘Everything else’ is there too, because his vision was all- embracing. Angels, poached eggs, mice and their tails, Golders Green, birdsong, buses, Balder, the great nebula in Andromeda: all are there and all may be redeemed for us in Christ—as long as the Cross comes before the Crown.

That Lewis spoke these words at a debating society in Oxford reminds us also of his long association with that university and of his distinguished academic career. If Oxford could have been picked up and deposited in his native County Down, he said, it would have realised his idea of heaven. He lived in Oxford all his adult life—even while happily employed as a professor at Cambridge—and died there three years after his beloved wife, Joy, at his home, The Kilns, on this day in 1963.

The 22nd November is the feast of St Cecilia, patron saint of music and musicians. Lewis’s great comedic character, Screwtape, despises music as a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell. Lewis himself believed its joy to be the serious business of Heaven. He had, in the words of Donne, ‘tuned his instrument’ at Heaven’s door and knew with greater intensity than most the longing to cross the threshold and join the heavenly harmony. Fifty years ago, the door on which he had been knocking all his life opened at last.

‘Nothing makes a man so noticeable as vanishing!’ Lewis once observed, but he had not envisioned how true this would be in his own case. In conversation with Walter Hooper, he predicted that sales of his works would decline steeply after his death. Hooper countered, ‘No, they won’t. And you know why? Your books are too good, and people are not that stupid.’ It was one of the rare occasions when Lewis’s foresight failed him. Hence, it may be safely assumed that he would find today’s service completely surprising, but also—it may be hoped—not wholly displeasing.

Come, let us worship God, wonderful in his saints!

Dr Michael Ward

***

Continuing Lewis’s legacy: the closing collection at the Service goes to support a C.S. Lewis Studentship in Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. A total of £7,000 was raised, over and above the costs of the Memorial, which Dr. Michael Ward has now contributed to the Studentship fund.

You can hear the whole of the Service here (scroll down for the audio player), and follow along in the Order of Service here.

Here is an excellent round-up of links and reflections on the service, by Sarah Clarkson.

And here is a transcription of the outstanding homily by Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, courtesy of Arende Smilde.

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Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (revised and expanded 2nd ed. forthcoming 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

My Debt to C.S. Lewis

LWW-CSLI owe more to C.S. Lewis than I can ever express. On this day, Nov. 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of his death and the day that he is honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, I wish more than anything to say ‘thank you’ to this great man.

And so I decided to share a glimpse of how Lewis helped change my life. In my memoir Not God’s Type, I’d alluded to Lewis’s significance in my conversion to Christianity, but not gone into detail. In the revision, significantly expanded and revised, which will be published in 2014 by Ignatius Press (and tentatively retitled The Sword and the Cross) I write a great deal more about the role of Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles in my journey.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my forthcoming book.

At this point in my journey of faith, I had accepted the arguments for the existence of God; I had become a theist. But what about the idea of a personal God? And in particular, what about Jesus? I found myself struggling, resistant, terrified . . . and so we jump in as I wrestle with the meaning of the Incarnation:

***

I had rejected the idea of ‘talking to God’ in prayer – not from intellectual disagreement, but from a visceral reaction of fear and anger, and although the cause was new, the feeling of baffled rage was all too familiar. I had felt it when I was eight or nine years old, weeping over my long-division homework (and refusing to do it); in high school, my stomach in a knot as I stared at geometry proofs that meant nothing to me; as a college freshman, sick with frustration as I struggled with my chemistry problem sets. I knew that there was some meaning locked up in these figures, these equations and problems, but I was unable to see what the teacher (and the other students!) seemed to find so obvious, and my inability easily to understand made me both angry at myself and, eventually, dismissive of the subject.

The idea of a personal God was almost impossible for me to grasp to begin with, let alone the Christian claim that the Creator become a human person, flesh and blood like me, yet also fully God. The ‘watchful dragons’ (as Lewis calls them) of my rebellious self spoke up loud and clear, insisting, “It can’t possibly be true that the Creator of the universe would respond to you, or even be aware of your existence. Who do you think you are, anyway? And these Christians are obviously talking nonsense. How could it be that the First Cause of the universe would somehow become a man, an actual human being walking around, getting his hands dirty, getting killed. Ridiculous. Who can believe that?”

I had nothing to say.

These new philosophical ideas about God made rational sense of the world as I saw it, but they did not show me that the God of the philosophers would have anything to do with me as an individual – much less that His concern for human beings would extend to becoming incarnate, as the Christians said that He had. God’s morality might apply to me, yes, but like gravity, indiscriminately to all people; or like a law code, written down and handed over, with its authority coming from the Law-Giver, but at a distance. Surely He could not, would not, take notice of me: I was too small; He was too big. Surely He would not enter into His creation; it was grubby and messy and material, and He was spiritual and orderly and infinite.

I could understand the definition of the word ‘Incarnation’ but not grasp its meaning. It seemed unimaginable that God would come close enough to be touched, would become man.

Or was it? I began to recall glimpses of something I’d been intrigued by, yet had been unable to name, from an earlier, deeper vision.

What if the idea of the Incarnation did not have to be solved like a math problem . . . what if I could get hold of its meaning in a different way?

I picked up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: this time, not to analyze it for my dissertation, but to enter Narnia like a little girl again.

And I encountered Aslan.

First just as a name, a glimpse of hope – “Aslan is on the move” – and then as a hope fulfilled, the great Lion really present in Narnia, bringing an end to a hundred years of winter. Aslan was a force to be reckoned with: he led the Narnians into battle, and killed the White Witch himself; when he roared, “they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.” No tame lion, indeed.

And yet he was touchable, playful, personal. If I could have stepped through the wardrobe door and seen this character for myself, I don’t know if I’d have first run up and buried my hands and face in his shaggy mane, or fallen down before his great velveted paws with their terrible claws, afraid to look at him, but love and awe would have been mingled in both.

In Narnia, I found that the Incarnation was not a bizarre idea, out of place in the world. It infused the very atmosphere; I breathed it in and was strengthened by it. That God would join His creatures by becoming part of creation Himself seemed, here in Narnia, as fitting as the fact that winter’s end brought crocuses peeking brightly through half-melted snow; as right as the fact that sunlight warms chilled limbs and water quenches thirst.

In Narnia . . . but here, in real life? It might not be true that God was involved with His world; it might not be likely that Jesus was God incarnate . . . but it was no longer unimaginable.

From The Sword and the Cross – forthcoming, Ignatius Press, 2014

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Deo gratias.

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Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type (2010; revised and expanded 2nd ed. forthcoming as The Sword and the Cross, 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

 

CS Lewis: 25 Percent Apologist, 100 Percent Effective

I’m pleased to feature a guest post by William O’Flaherty, the creator and manager of EssentialCSLewis.com. This month (November 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death. On the 22nd of November, Lewis will receive a Memorial in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. In fact, William O’Flaherty has an interview with lead organizer Dr Michael Ward about the project, which you can listen to here.

The Poets’ Corner Memorial is still seeking donations to cover the  costs of the Memorial – so if you have been moved or inspired by Lewis’s work, please do consider making a donation! — Holly Ordway

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Lion_Witch_Wardrobe_1st_edWhat can a person who’s been dead fifty years teach us? Actually any of the famous people who died in 1963 could speak (for good or for bad) to our society. However, I’d place my money not on John F. Kennedy or Aldous Huxley, but on C.S. Lewis as the person with the best message. In fact, because Lewis was such a multifaceted individual with so much to say to us even now, it is a challenge to pick which component to underscore.

The general public recognizes Lewis as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. While those in the church also associate him with these books, they usually equally identify him as the writer of Mere Christianity. Yet before either of these books were released he was on the cover of Time magazine in 1947. How could this be? Those well versed in Lewis facts know that the latter title was actually composed of three previously published books that were based on four series of radio broadcasts on the BBC.  However, you don’t see a microphone accompanying Lewis on Time’s cover. It’s a devil on his left shoulder and angel’s wings on his right.  The article underscored his “special gift for dramatizing Christian dogma.” He earned this description because of his best-selling book The Screwtape Letters. Yet, it had only been released in the U.S. four years earlier. As a side note, it’s interesting to observe Lewis’s only cover story was 66 years ago this year.

It would be no surprised that the Time article additionally described Lewis as being “engaged in his full-time and favorite job.”  What was his full-time work? Readers here are likely aware that he was an Oxford don at the time, but those first learning about Lewis almost certainly did not. They would have been surprised to discover he wasn’t solely employed as a clergyman or at least a full-time religious writer. Even today, many are surprised to learn this fact. But, he wasn’t just an average lecturer and tutor at Oxford, he was so recognized as an expert in Medieval and Renaissance Literature that later Cambridge University persuaded him to leave Oxford to hold a newly founded Chair in just that specialty. Yet, despite being employed in such a “secular” position, he was considered as one of the most effective communicators of Christianity when he landed on Time‘s cover. Today, he is almost universally recognized as the best explainer and defender of the faith of the twentieth century.

So, as the half-century mark of Lewis’s passing occurs, of the many lessons that could be learned I wish to consider how or why he became the go-to person for defending the Christian faith. After all, it could be argued that he devoted no more than twenty-five percent of his energies on blatant Christian writings. If you exclude the books that Mere Christianity came from, it and two other titles, The Problem of Pain and Miracles, are his only works that directly defend the faith.

Of the rest of the titles written during his lifetime, Lewis only directly wrote on exclusively Christian themes two more times (excluding collections of shorter works). They were Reflections on the Psalms and Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. Regarding the shorter works, most of which are essays, a large percentage were not collected until after his death. There were three compilations of religious (or mostly religious) writings done prior to 1963, but many more were released posthumously. Even though a large percentage deal directly with Christianity, only a small amount would be considered apologetic in nature. So, to say that Lewis was an apologist twenty-five percent of the time is to err on the high side. How then can he be considered one-hundred percent effective if he was in that role for not more than a fourth of the time? At the risk of being over simplistic I’d say it was mostly because he didn’t have to earn his living in defending the faith as a key reason he was able to touch so many lives.

Not being a spokesperson for any particular church Lewis was able to reach those inside and outside the church. He took his faith seriously, serious enough that he saw he could continue to pursue things that were not seen a particularly religious. There is a mindset today that if a person really made their faith the most important part of his or her life that they would have to be a missionary or at least employed by the church in some way. Lewis’s example is to be “salt and light” wherever you are.

Another aspect that is related to that effectiveness is Lewis’s willingness to be wrong, or at least admit he possibly didn’t understand something completely and so if what he said didn’t help then he was okay with that. One example is a book that he finished just before his death but was published just afterwards, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. This work on prayer wasn’t a “straight” work. It was a series of twenty-two fictional letters that mainly focused on private prayer. In the third paragraph he identifies himself as a laymen. This short volume doesn’t set out to explain prayer, in fact we know from other writings by Lewis that he struggled with understanding the subject and that was why Malcolm was written in the style it was.

Equally, in his only book devoted to a book of the Bible (Reflections on the Psalms) he states he is writing “as one amateur to another.” At the end of the third book in Mere Christianity he begins by stating “If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once.” And there are many other places where his humility shine through in his writings. Thus, while reflecting on Lewis’s life on the 50th anniversary of his death can yield many lessons, learning from his example of how he lived his faith is one of the best.

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William O’Flaherty is the creator and manager of EssentialCSLewis.com, a site that includes a daily fact, quote and quiz on Lewis, along with a podcast show featuring interviews (mostly about books related to Lewis). During the day he works as a family counselor, but has also worked professionally in radio.

Three C.S. Lewis Links

As I post this, it’s just three weeks to go until the C.S. Lewis in Poets’ Corner Memorial is unveiled… have you donated yet? Details here – as of today, they still need about £4000. All donations, small, large, or medium are welcome!

Now, in honor of ‘three weeks to go,’ here are three interesting links for CS Lewis-related reading or listening. Enjoy!

How C.S. Lewis Lit the Way to Better Apologetics

Michael Ward has the cover story for this month’s Christianity Today – and it’s fantastic, touching on not just Lewis’s contribution to apologetics, but also pointing us toward an approach to presenting the truth that is more robust, more engaging, ultimately more convincing than propositional apologetics alone. (And this project of a new ‘imaginative apologetics’ is precisely what we’re up to, at HBU…)

He also points out why it is so fitting that Lewis will be commemorated in Poets’ Corner: 

In this older, deeper sense, there is no place Lewis more rightly belongs. Indeed, perhaps we should think of the celebrated Oxford novelist, literary critic, and apologist above all as a poet. For Lewis believed that knowledge itself was fundamentally poetic—that is to say, shaped by the imagination. And his poetic approach to commending and defending the Christian faith still lights the way for us today.

The rest of the article is for CT subscribers only, but well worth it…

Rendezvous with death…

C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley all died on the same day – Nov. 22, 1963. Tolkien scholar John Garth has written a fascinating exploration of the passing of these three men, reflecting on their views of death; it was first presented as a talk at the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. (A shorter version appeared in Oxford Today: you can read it online here; it starts on page 38).

That Hideous Strength:

It’s one of Lewis’s finest books, the third in the Ransom Trilogy but also a book that works very well on its own; a book well worth reading, and re-reading. In this podcast episode from The City, John Mark Reynolds and Cate MacDonald talk about the book, particularly focusing on the value of living a normal life.

Reversals: Poetry and the Heavens

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(Colossians 1:16-17)

 

What do we see when we look up into the night sky?

Darkness; scattered points of light; and the vast empty spaces between the stars. We are looking out, from a tiny little ball of earth and water and air, out into a void…

Or are we? C.S. Lewis, in his book The Discarded Image, reminds us that this is but one ‘image’ of the universe; it is not the way that people saw the world in medieval times. They were just as aware as we are that the earth is exceedingly small compared to the rest of the cosmos, but instead of looking up and seeing the cosmos as empty and vacant, a vast and frighteningly lonely place, they saw the seven heavens, arrayed with order and meaning.

Modern science would have us believe that we are nothing but clever mammals scrabbling for existence on a cosmically insignificant bit of mud and rock circling in the vacuum. One could see it that way – the same way that one can stare at a page of print long enough for the words and letters to blur into meaningless black marks on the page. One could see the cosmos as meaningless… but what if it’s not? What if we could blink and look afresh at the page, to see the letters re-shape into words, the words jump out with meaning?

We might catch a glimpse of the meaning of the heavens, a snatch of the music of the spheres – a hint of the way that “all things hold together” in the Word who made all things…

G CIEL 1_025

Gerard Manley Hopkins gives us such a glimpse in his sonnet “The Starlight Night.”

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!

  O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!

  The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!

Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!

The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!

  Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!

  Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!—

Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then!—What?—Prayer, patience, aims, vows.

Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!

  Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!

These are indeed the barn; withindoors house

The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse

  Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

 In the first line, Hopkins calls our attention upward: “Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!” Ecstatic, he calls the stars “fire-folk” and “circle-citadels,” compares them to windblown white flowers, “Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!”

And, having connected those bright points of light far above to the here-and-now of trees in a farmyard, to a “May-mess, like on orchard boughs,” he takes one more imaginative leap: these stars are a barn: “withindoors house / The shocks.” And this barn, with its “piece-bright paling” of stars, houses Christ himself, the firstfruits of the Resurrection.

A lovely image, but a distant one, it seems: Christ far above us in the heavens, separate from us here on the earth… but wait! Where are we in this sonnet? We are the saints, the souls made holy or ‘hallowed,’ to use the old term; and in a swooping change of perspective, Hopkins shows us, delightedly, that the stars are not walls shutting us out into the darkness, excluding us, but walls that surround us, making the whole cosmos into our own home:

…This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse

Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

A dizzying change of perspective: we are at the center, because Christ is at the center, and we are in him.

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This post first appeared on Transpositions, as part of a symposium on Poetry and Theology. The other poets who participated were Malcolm Guite (writing about his poem “Trinity Sunday”) and Timothy Bartel (writing about his poem “The California Condors.”)

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Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type (2010; 2nd ed. forthcoming, 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

The City Podcast 9: Dr Michael Ward on Higher Education, C.S. Lewis, and Imaginative Apologetics

A trio of podcasts from The City: this past spring, when Dr. Michael Ward was on campus, we took the opportunity to have a long (and meandering, and very interesting) conversation with him about all things imaginative – especially since at that point, he’d just signed on to join us full-time on the faculty of the Dept. of Apologetics, teaching in our MA in Apologetics program (which is now approved for 100% online delivery!). (You can click on the titles, below, to go to each podcast.) The conversation turned into a three-part series – enjoy!

Part I – Planet Narnia

Dr. Ward is the author of Planet Narnia, a book that shook Lewis fans and scholars alike by propounding the theory that the Chronicles of Narnia were thematically built upon Medieval cosmology.

HBU recently hired Dr. Ward to run the C.S. Lewis Centre in Oxford, as well as teach courses both online and in Houston. Suffice it to say that Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Ordway jumped at the opportunity to talk with their new colleague about one of their favorite authors.

Part II – C.S. Lewis in Poets’ Corner

Here the conversation turns from Narnia in particular to Lewis broadly. Along the way, Dr. Reynolds, Dr. Ordway, and Dr. Ward discuss tensions in higher education in both America and England.

Dr. Ward has led the project to memorialize C.S. Lewis in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. The memorial will be unveiled during a two day conference in November of this year. For more information, go towww.lewisinpoetscorner.com

Part III – Imaginative Apologetics

Dr. Ward has been hired to work full-time for HBU at the C.S. Lewis Centre in Oxford, as well as teaching both online and on campus classes. What will his work be on?

Imaginative Apologetics.

In this conversation Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Ordway talk about what Imaginative (or Cultural) Apologetics is and how it will serve the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

Red Booth Notes: The Place of Light and Hope

Red BoothIn the Old Testament book of Exodus, it’s said the darkness that once fell on the land of Egypt was “thick enough to be felt.” This vivid image, and phrase, comes to us from the time of Moses—a time that might seem long ago and far away—even mythical.

But for many today, darkness of another kind is all too pervasive. Some, by choice, are without God in the world, and are like the lost folk in Bruegel’s famous painting of the blind leading the blind. Ruin threatens because they renounce, or reject the way home. They are in darkness.

Belief lies at the heart of such a dilemma, and this was something the nineteenth century preacher D.L. Moody understood well. “The world is in darkness,” he wrote, “and the gospel offers light. Because man will not believe the gospel that Christ is the light of the world, the world is dark to-day. But the moment a man believes, the light from Calvary crosses his path and he walks in an unclouded sun.”[1]

Belief and light were matters of eternal moment for C.S. Lewis too. And one phrase from his writings is remarkably similar to Moody’s words above. “I believe in Christianity,” Lewis wrote, “as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[2]

Lewis

 

Moody and Lewis were, to all appearances, very different men. One had just four years of formal education—the other was an Oxford don. One was reared amid poverty in rural New England, the other raised as a gentleman’s son in Ireland and England. One published books largely because he had the assistance of stenographers who recorded his sermons and talks, the other was seldom without a pen in his hand—crafting classic works in an astonishing array of genres: autobiography, essays, scholarly studies, works of fantasy, letters and poetry.

Yet in one way, these men could not have been more alike. They gave us descriptions of light that richly compliment one another.

To return to Moody’s writings, I can imagine Lewis would have ardently approved Moody’s invocation of light as a metaphor in the following lines: “Truth never grows old; truth is as young today as it has ever been. Talk of the old truths wearing out! Don’t you enjoy the rays of the same sun which has been shining these thousands of years?”[3]

And, moving on from this, I don’t know that I’ve ever found a more graceful, or more illuminating definition of the word “revival” than one Moody once wrote. As he phrased it, revival “simply means a recalling from obscurity—a finding some hidden treasure, and bringing it back to the light.”[4]

Moody
D.L. Moody

I find it moving too that Moody and Lewis were kindred spirits in their reflections on the reasons for hope. Moody wrote: “You ask me what my hope is; it is that Christ died for my sins, in my stead, in my place, and therefore I can enter into life eternal.”[5]

Lewis pointed his readers to the cross in beautiful prose, saying: “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.”[6] He then completed this thought: “We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.”[7]

The place of light and hope. It was a realm two very different men knew well. Bless God for all that they told us about it.

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 An award-winning writer and literary historian, Kevin Belmonte is the author of Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton (Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins, 2011).


[1] See page 33 of Twelve Select Sermons, by D.L. Moody, (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1881).

[2] See page 140 of The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis, (New York: HarperCollins, 2001).

[3] D.L. Moody, as quoted on page 555 of Echoes from the Pulpit, (Hartford: A.D. Worthington & Co., 1900).

[4] See page 8 of To the Work, by D.L. Moody, (Chicago: F.H. Revell, 1884).

[5] See page 28 of Twelve Select Sermons, by D.L. Moody, (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1881).

[6] See page 54 of Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, (New York: HarperOne, 2001).

[7] See page 55 of Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, (New York: HarperOne, 2001).

Miscellany 51: Seven Heavens, and Seven Interesting CS Lewis Links

It’s a literary miscellany today, celebrating CS Lewis, so I’ve pulled together seven items in honor of the seven heavens of medieval cosmology, which provided those vivid planetary images that Lewis loved and found of ‘permanent spiritual value.’

First, CS Lewis among the greats!

The events around the CS Lewis Memorial in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey are getting more and more exciting. Michael Ward has just sent out an update from the Lewis in Poets’ Corner page, with some delicious details:

  • Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, will be the preacher at the Thanksgiving Service on 22nd November, during which the memorial in Poets’ Corner will be unveiled.
  • A Choral Anthem will be sung at the Service, a setting of Lewis’s poem, “Love’s As Warm As Tears” by a very prominent British composer who has agreed to the commission but whose name is still top-secret.
  • William Lane Craig, the noted philosopher and apologist, has agreed to join the Panel discussion on Lewis’s legacy in the 21st Century.

Please do consider making a donation to the Memorial fund, whether you can attend the event or not. No amount is too small, and each contribution is a way of showing how widely and deeply Lewis’s influence has been felt.

Michael Ward noted in his update:

Finally, if you haven’t yet contributed to the Memorial Stone, please do!  We have so far raised about half of the sum total and need another £10,000 to make the whole thing happen.  Though this sounds like a lot of money, remember that the Abbey is a listed building (probably Number 1 on the List!) and anything that affects its fabric has to be carried out to the highest standards in both design and materials.  Additionally, a small sum is required for the permanent upkeep of the memorial.  And lastly, some of the costs of the memorial service itself (e.g. printing of the Order of Service) need to be covered.  The Abbey has kindly agreed to close itself to visitors for much of Friday 22nd November, thus forgoing huge amounts of revenue from entrance charges, but without passing on that cost to the sponsors of the memorial project.

To make a donation, please visit www.lewisinpoetscorner.com

Second: it seems that the planets really do dance in a marvelous pattern: “The planets in the heavens move in exquisite orbital patterns, dancing to the Music of the Cosmos.  There is more mathematical and geometric harmony than we realize.” Go look at the article and prepared to be stunned at the beauty of the patterns formed by the mathematical relationships between the planets.

Third: Alister McGrath discusses Lewis’s use of imagination and reason in apologetics.

Lewis helps us to appreciate that apologetics need not take the form of deductive argument. It can be presented as an invitation to step into the Christian way of seeing things, and explore how things look when seen from its standpoint – “Try seeing things this way!” If worldviews or metanarratives can be compared to lenses, which of them brings things into sharpest focus? This is not an irrational retreat from reason. Rather, it is about grasping a deeper order of things which is more easily accessed by the imagination than by reason. Yet once seen, its intrinsic rationality can be appreciated. …Such an “imaginative apologetics” allows us to affirm the reasonableness of faith, while at the same time displaying its power to captivate the imagination.

Fourth: here’s an “essay chat” I did with William O’Flaherty of All About Jack, talking about one of my favorite Lewis essays, “Sometimes Fairy Stories Say Best What’s to Be Said.”

Fifth: an entry point into the medieval literature that Lewis loved: an online exhibition on “The Romance of the Middle Ages” from the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Sixth: speaking of the Bodleian, which is possibly one of the most inspiring libraries I’ve ever spent time in, here’s an interesting article reflecting on the aesthetics of libraries:

Seventh: how many books should you read? Lewis suggested balancing the reading of the old and the new (2:1 was his rule of thumb). Here’s a thoughtful article that examines the question of how many books total one should read in a year. Should one go for breadth or depth?

Enjoy!

***

Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type (2010; 2nd ed. forthcoming, 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

Literature, CS Lewis and Conversion: Holly Ordway and Laura Miller on Unbelievable?

In June, I had the pleasure of joining Justin Brierley, the host of the UK apologetics radio show Unbelievable? on Premier Christian Radio, in his studio in London to record a show on C.S. Lewis and literature. We were joined, via phone, by writer Laura Miller, who wrote The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, which I had read and enjoyed.

You can listen to the show here.

unbelievable show
In the Unbelievable? studio in London.

On the show, Laura and I discussed the experience of reading the Chronicles of Narnia and discovering – later – their Christian message; we then get into the larger issues of the merits of using literature to convey the Christian message, and the question of whether literature points beyond itself, to a transcendent reality. Can this be the case for Christians only, or for nonbelievers too? And can non-Christian authors have something to offer as well?

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and I hope you will too. You can listen to the whole show here: Literature, C.S. Lewis, and Conversion (the page with show notes) or with the direct link to the MP3 audio.

If you enjoy this, you’ll also enjoy the show from several years ago in which my colleague Michael Ward discussed Narnia with Laura Miller as well: A Skeptic in Narnia.

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Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type (2010; 2nd ed. forthcoming, 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.