RETROSPECT: April 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 April (1st – 10th) include: Final broadcast from his last BBC series; preaching the same sermon for second time and the death of his grandfather.

Beyond PersonalityThe concluding BBC broadcast in the fourth and final series for Lewis stands out as the most noteworthy for this period. On the 4th in 1944 “The New Men” talk was heard from a recording made the previous month. It is the only surviving recording from the Beyond Personality series. When the book version came out it contained four additional chapters not heard on the radio (which are also found in Mere Christianity). When expanding the material for print Lewis actually modified the content of this talk and so what was actually heard that night is somewhat different than what is in the book. For the sake of simplicity I will treat the material from the book as if it was presented that day. In this final chapter Lewis uses the familiar concept of Evolution as a tool to express how transforming being a Christian is by suggesting that the “next step” in Evolution has occurred in Christ. He is careful to note how very different this “next step” is from that popular expression (that he is not endorsing). Among the five ways it is different includes the fact that it is voluntary and occurs at a different speed (the concept of time is viewed uniquely). A quote that summarizes part of his point is this: “To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves. Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go.”

Also on the 4th this month, but a year later (in 1945), Lewis had an essay entitled “The Laws of Nature” published in The Coventry Evening Telegraph. It dealt with the topic of prayer in relation to, or how some people view it, as opposed to the laws of nature. The article opens with a comment made by a friend at the start of a day before Lewis’s first student arrived. The friend expressed disagreement with something another said about her prayers being the reason her son was not killed by a bullet that nearly missed him. Before being interrupted the person concluded it “was simply due to the laws of Nature” and not prayer that it happen that way. Later when Lewis reflected on the matter he developed his argument for why upon careful analysis it isn’t just that simple. You have to consider the source behind these laws, something science is not able to explain. The essay is best available in God in the Dock.

“Miserable Offenders: An Interpretation of Prayer Book Language” was a sermon Lewis preached twice in 1946, on March 31st at his parish church, Evensong and on April 7th at St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton. It was also published that same year in a booklet called Five Sermons by Laymen. Lewis’s message was focused on three phrases from the Anglican Prayer Book, but even those who are not from this tradition will find what he said interesting. It was also reprinted in God in the Dock.

God In The DockSometime around Easter in 1945 (although an exact date is not known, Easter was on the 1st that year), Lewis spoke at the Carmarthen Conference for Anglican Youth Leaders and Junior Clergy in Carmarthen, Wales. His address was first published after his death in God in the Dock as “Christian Apologetics.” Even though his talk was given to a similar audience to the just mentioned sermon, the points he makes applies to all who want a better understanding of how to defend Christianity. Like the classic Mere Christianity material, he advocates focusing on the core truths of the faith and not one’s individual opinions.

Two other of Lewis’s shorter works were publish this month (but not on a particular day). Both appeared in The Review of English Studies and are reprinted in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature by Lewis. The first is “A Note on Comus” in 1932. It dealt with examining five manuscripts of this poem by John Milton and the alterations between them and what can be learned as a result. In 1936 “Genius and Genius” came out in the monthly periodical. It explored the dual role of “Genius” in The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.

The Great Divorce2A series almost finished around this time was the weekly “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce” in The Guardian.  On the 6th, the twenty-second installment that became part of the thirteenth chapter of The Great Divorce was published. In it was a reflection on what was observed between the Tragedian and the lady. Specifically, the question of why those in Heaven don’t try to go down to Hell and do whatever possible to make them happy is addressed. In answering this we also find out how small Hell is.

Finally, a sad event in the life of Lewis happen during this time period. On the 2nd in 1908 Lewis’s grandfather, Richard Lewis died. This was when Lewis was not yet ten and the family was dealing with the failing health of his mother, Flora (who would also die four and a half months later).

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