RETROSPECTIVE: November 1st -10th

The following is part of a series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis. This is accomplished by summarizing various events or happenings during his lifetime for the noted period and may include significant events related to him after his death.

Highlights for the first third of November (1st – 10th) include: A two-part broadcast talk on “Faith,” a posthumous book on Spenser and the start of bus ride to an unknown destination.

Mere Christianity, as many people know, is a collection of three smaller books that were published in the early 1940’s. Before that they were individual broadcasts on the BBC. A person can pick any of them and gain insight from what Lewis shares. However, as I was reading over the two radio talks for this period I got to thinking that if out of all of the material he shared over the air I had to pick the best that these would be it. On the 1st and 8th in 1942 these messages in the book are now both given the same chapter title of “Faith.” That’s because he essentially gave a two-part message on it.

CS Lewis at WarWhat Lewis shared really showcases his ability to speak to the average person in explaining complex concepts in a way that can be easily understood. These talks in some ways explains a central truth about Christianity. Lewis shared both of his main points in the first talk, but provided greater details about his last point in the second message. Both were first in Christian Behaviour. In them Lewis initially explains how faith is one of the Christian virtues because our minds are not ruled by reason. When making his other point about faith in a second sense he brings in humility and then actually quotes from the Bible (something he rarely did because he wanted to show how Christianity made sense apart from it) when addressing the interrelatedness of faith and works. While an audio version of Mere Christianity has been available for some time, Focus on the Family has just released a new radio drama, C. S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story Behind Mere Christianity that includes a complete reading of the book.

Professionally Lewis created various writings on literary criticism and literary history. As Colin Duriez points out in The A – Z of C.S. Lewis, a title that came out on the 2nd in 1967 is his longest piece on the former. Spenser’s Images of Life came out four years after his death, but it was a book he had wanted to do himself. Edited by Alastair Fowler, who had been a graduate student of Lewis, the content is based on notes from lectures he gave at Cambridge on Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.

Socratic DigestBesides the talks Lewis gave over the radio, he often spoke at the Oxford Socratic Club. On the 6th in 1944 he delivered a speech on a topic he had been asked to addressed, “Is Theology Poetry?” The following year it was published in The Socratic Digest, No 3 (which is now reprinted in a book containing all of those digests). The most convenient way to read it today is in the revised edition of The Weight of Glory (which is the most common version available). In this piece we find some of Lewis’s views on myth along with an admission that the belief system of the Christian faith isn’t the most appealing. While the essay overall is not one of his best in terms of the flow and unity of thoughts, it does contain a line at the very end that is often quoted: “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.” You can hear an “essay chat” I did on this piece with Dr. Holly Ordway on my All About Jack podcast.

On the 9th in 1946 Lewis had published an article that was a response to a claim that the writings of G.K. Chesterton were “dated.” It appeared in the “Notes on the Way” column and was reprinted in On Stories as “Period Criticism.” The person criticizing Chesterton was novelist James Stephens and Lewis pointed out that Stephens’s own work could be labeled in the same way he was viewing certain books by Chesterton. However, Lewis stated not all of Chesterton’s works are the same; his imaginative works present ideas and personalities that are timeless. This is also an essay I did a chat on; Kevin Belmonte was my guest for it.

Letters written to Wormwood were coming to a close this month in 1941. On the 7th the twenty-eighth was published in The Guardian. In it we learn that Screwtape has to spell things out about death to his nephew: it really isn’t a “prime evil” and that survival isn’t “the greatest good,” but that is what devils want human to believe. The Great DivorceThree years later on the 10th and also in The Guardian the first installment of “Who Goes Home? Or The Grand Divorce” began. Today it is known as The Great Divorce. On that date the first chapter was presented and readers are only presented with a vague idea about what is going on as the narrator is presented as someone who doesn’t know why he is at a bus stop.



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