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Jack in Retrospect: March 19th – 26th

March 19, 2013

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

Retro Weekly 3-19Highlights from over the years in Lewis’s life this week include one of the most significant events in his personal life and three books getting published that were very different from each other.

As just noted it was during this time frame that a profound event happen in Lewis’s life. On the 21st in 1957 Joy Davidman became Mrs. Lewis, but it was for the second time! The first wedding occurred during the month of April and will be discussed later at that week’s time, but you can likely guess a key difference by my underscoring the fact that the one this week was an ecclesiastical ceremony. At the time Joy was in the hospital near death, thus the ceremony was done there. Father Peter Bide married them, but prior to this he prayed for her recovery from cancer.

The three books that came out during this week are The Last Battle, the final Narnia story, his first ever book, Spirits in Bondage and a collection of shorter pieces under the title Rehabilitations and Other Essays. Going in order of the date, The Last Battle is the first to discuss. It was published on the 19th of March in 1956 (just ten months after The Magician’s Nephew had been released). It’s the only book in the collection that wasn’t dedicated to anyone and on the cover of the first edition it also had the phrase “A Story for Children” on it. Many readers of this final story have commented how Lewis’s depiction of heaven is most fully developed here. The book was very well received and even won the Carnegie Medal in Literature.

On the 20th in 1919 Lewis had his first book ever published. Spirits in Bondage is a very small volume of poems published while he was only 20 years old, but many were written when he was just sixteen or seventeen. When initially released it was under the pseudonym of Clive Hamilton and was in a period of Lewis’s life when his primary goal was to be known as a poet. It is also a time when he wasn’t a Christian. Under present copyright law in the U.S. the text is now in public domain and can be freely obtained online here.

The last book released this week was on the 23rd in 1939 and was Lewis’s first collection of various shorter works. It is a collection of essays on English literature. Nearly all of them had not been published before. Rehabilitations and Other Essays is out of print now, but was one of the works that showed Lewis’s understanding of his professional field. Many were reprinted later in Selected Literary Essays.

Speaking of shorter works, there were several published in a variety of publications over the course of this week. First, “Dogma and the Universe” appeared in The Guardian on the 19th in 1943 and there was a second part (“Dogma and Science”) appearing the following week on the 26th. Both parts are available in God in the Dock under the initial title. This essay shows (among other things) Lewis’s familiarity with Modern Physics that was seeing many changes over the two decades before his article was written. The piece deals with a frequent objection (seen even more today) that because the Christian faith has beliefs that do not change (“dogmas”) how can it deal with the fact that “human knowledge is in continual growth”? Lewis also cautioned that even though there are some aspects of scientific theories support Christianity we shouldn’t rely too heavily on them because theories change.

Next, “The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version” is a piece that was actually first given as a talk on the 20th in 1950. Lewis spoke at the University of London on that date and later that year a booklet of the talk was published. Within his talk Lewis notes one should be careful to distinguish five (increasingly direct) ways the Bible has impacted or influenced literature. They are: 1.) Source, 2.) Quotation, 3.) Allusion, 4.) Vocabulary and 5.) Literary influence.

“Must Our Image of God Go?” initially appeared in The Observer on the 24th in 1963. It was a response by Lewis to an article published just the week before by Bishop Dr. John Robinson’s article that was called “Our Image of God Must Go.” The Bishop’s piece was actually a summary of a book he had written that year. Lewis’s reply starts by underscoring a key point made by the Bishop that was a false assumption. Lewis states that a “belief in a God who sits on a throne in a localized heaven” was “long abandoned.”  The essay is available in God in the Dock.

Another talk on the BBC, “Let’s Pretend,” was done this week that is mostly known as being a part of Mere Christianity. But it was also that same day, the 21st in 1944, that two more broadcast were recorded. The ones recorded were “Is Christianity Hard or Easy” and “The New Man” (the latter being the only surviving program.) In this week’s program he spoke of each of us continually putting forth an effort to be like Christ before finally noting that we don’t really do it in our own strength. This section also contains a quote that has one of my early favorites, “Surely what a man does when his is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is?”

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