Jack in Retrospect: May 8th – 14th
May 8, 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.
“Miracles” is among the many misused words in our vocabulary today. This was true even back in 1947 when Miracles: A Preliminary Study was released on the 12th this week by C.S. Lewis. Of course, Lewis was addressing more of an unbelief in the miraculous. In fact, as the inside dusk jacket of the first edition notes, the subtitle isn’t about Lewis giving his tentative thoughts on the subject, but rather the book is designed to be “a study preliminary to any historical inquiry into the actual occurrence of miracles.” That is, before any examination of specific miracles one has to believe that the miraculous can genuinely occur.
Miracles is also the last book Lewis wrote with any completely new apologetic material. As noted previous in an earlier weekly, Lewis was called to task about some material from this book and it resulted in him revising the third chapter. In the first edition it was called “The Self-Contradiction of the Naturalist,” but it was revised and retitled as “The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism.” That new edition actually came out this week, too, but 13 years later on May 9, 1960.
In Lewis’s personal life a very significant meeting occurred on the 11th in 1926. Prior to returning to the Christian faith Lewis met J.R.R. Tolkien, who not long after became one of two friends that were invaluable aids in Lewis’s conversion. They first met on that date in May at an Oxford English faculty tea, but Lewis wasn’t all that impressed my him. However, they soon became good friends once it was discovered that they each shared a love of “Northernness” and enjoyed Norse mythology. Because of their mutual interests they began getting together to discuss them (an ultimately their own writings) in what eventually became known as the Inklings. One of the outgrowths of this was for them to challenge each other to write a science fiction story from a Christian worldview. Lewis would write a “space-journey” and Tolkien a “time-journey.” Tolkien’s effort was never published during his life, but Lewis’s attempt resulted in Out of the Silent Planet, which was the first of three similar themed books. It’s interesting to note that this effort has some indirect ties to the distancing between Tolkien and Lewis. When the last of the trilogy, That Hideous Strength came out it was immediate recognized as being influenced by the writings of Charles Williams. It was Lewis’s close friendship with Williams that began the decay of the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien. Prior to all this, however, Lewis was a key factor in encouraging Tolkien to finish writing The Hobbit and seeking to get it published. He was also a vital influence in the follow-up, The Lord of the Rings.
Also on the 11th this week, but in 1959, Lewis gave a lecture to students at Wescott House in Cambridge. When first published after his death in 1967 in Christian Reflections the title was “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.” However eight years later it was the lead essay in another collection of shorter works by Lewis. Fern-Seed and Elephants, while a catchy title for a book (and essay) apparently didn’t impress readers in the seventy’s as that book is out of print. In the talk, given to theology students, Lewis gave four criticisms of modern theology; so you can imagine it is not a light-hearted read. However, despite being given to a specialize audience, any interested in Lewis’s views on the Bible will be especially rewarded with digesting the speech. Hear an essay chat I did with Reggie Gates on this talk in two segments (1st Part / 2nd Part).
Finally, two key happenings were on the 9th this week. The first was in 1941, when the second letter from Screwtape was published in The Guardian. As you may recall from last week this material was initially given without any explanation of the reverse perspective. In this letter, later available in the landmark book The Screwtape Letters, Lewis has Wormwood’s uncle provide some interesting thoughts about the Church and how it can be “one of our great allies” (recall that good is bad for the demons, so calling the Church an ally to Hell is a real slap in the face to the contemporary Church). This letter also introduces the idea (mentioned also in the ninth letter) that our enemy’s goal is just as much to keep our mind off of things as they are to suggest ideas. The other event was the broadcast of a recording Lewis had made a few months before in 1948. This very brief audio was an adaptation of the preface of The Great Divorce. From my understanding it was aired just before a dramatic version of the book was presented, but no recording of that radio drama was made.
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