Thinking About Change

ChangeHaving just moved to a new city, a new apartment, and started a new job, the subject of change has been on my mind lately. Change is hard: the times when I’ve transitioned to a new environment, be it moving across the country or going off to school, have been some of the most challenging periods of my life. Apart from practical and logistical concerns (Where IS the nearest grocery store? My, that is an impressive pothole!), when people move they often experience opportunities to let their faith change or, worse, slip away. The large portions of graduating high school seniors who walk away from their faith during their undergraduate years is well documented. So how do you remain faithful to your faith during times of change and challenge? Here are some suggestions. Continue reading

Speaking Through Stories

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.

BooksA friend of mine recently commented that he sees too many references to C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien in the blogging world. As someone who tries to stay connected to the conversations of the interwebs, I can confirm that there are indeed a plethora of perspectives penned on these great 20th century authors. Indeed, hardly a week goes by without seeing an article evaluating what Lewis would have thought about this, or the implications of Tolkien’s writings for that. Even here at Conciliar Post there have been a number of recent posts concerning these literary giants (see here, here, here, and here, for example). Clearly there is no lack of contemporary admiration for Lewis and Tolkien (and the rest of the Inklings). This friend’s comment, however, got me thinking: What is it about Lewis and Tolkien that cause us to revisit their works again and again? Continue reading

Facebook Trends and Book Lists

BooksThe past several weeks my Facebook friends have been swapping lists of their “Ten Most Influential/Important Books.” Now, typically social media trends don’t excite me and giving into peer pressure does not sound very enticing. But when it comes to books and reading, the bibliophile within cannot resist. So I gave in. But seeing all those lists got me thinking: we all have books we have read. What about books that we should have read? In other words, are there some books, or at least some types of books, that educated Christian men and women should read in order to understand who we are and how we have gotten where we are culturally?

As both a lover of books and creator of lists, I had made a “Ten Books You Should Read” list before (and, whatever else I’m about to suggest, we should all consult and read the “Canon” of Western Civilization). Never are my lists intended to be “closed canons”, but instead starting points. So I returned to and modified my list of books that every American Christian should read: Continue reading

Planet Narnia: Part Two

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.

dawn_treaderMy previous post introduced Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis,[1] in which he argues that the medieval conception of the Seven Heavens serves as the basis for the seven Chronicles of Narnia, with Lewis using the characteristic ethos of each planetary intelligence as the paradigm for his books. In this post, we turn to an explicit consideration of how the evidence of the Chronicles of Narnia fits Ward’s theory through consideration of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We also consider how these stories have been so popular over the past fifty years, and why no one previously mentioned the theme of the Seven Heavens. Continue reading

Planet Narnia: Part One

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.

Jupiter, 6 October 2010Some of my favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. While Lewis’s tales of the adventures of the Pevensie children (and later Eustace and Polly) in the land of Narnia are for many little more than entertaining children’s books, I find myself returning to this series again and again. And while I cannot claim to speak on behalf of everyone who has read Chronicles, I know there are many other readers, especially those within the Christian tradition, who have experienced a similar love for the Narnia story, especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Yet many of us cannot explain why these stories appeal to us. Why do so many adults enjoy reading these books, which, by all appearances, seem to have been written for children? Continue reading

Book Review: Heaven and Hell Are They For Real? (Hudson)

Heaven and Hell - Are They For RealIn Heaven and Hell: Are They For Real? Christopher D. Hudson seeks to provide answers to some of the most common questions regarding the afterlife. Books engaging heaven and hell have been fairly common since Rob Bell’s Love Wins, and Hudson offers another work from the broadly evangelical camp by drawing upon scripture, personal experience, and the perspectives of popular scholars.

Heaven and Hell is divided into (unsurprisingly) two major sections: the first addressing questions on heaven and the second concerning itself with hell. In the heaven section, questions are considered dealing with the moments after death, what life in heaven looks like, what heaven looks like, who is in heaven, and the like. The section on hell deals with questions such as how real hell is, if going to hell is a choice, what hell looks like, the final judgment, and contemporary challenges to the belief of hell. Continue reading

C. S. Lewis on Meaning and Joy

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

How many times have you sat down after a good meal and thought about how good it tasted? Or how often after an enjoyable evening with friends do you sit back and think about the true meaning of your conversations? While most do not consider themselves philosophers reflecting upon the deeper mysteries of the universe, many people contemplatively enjoy live in less abstract ways. We go through our days enjoying the food, the beauty that we see around us, and the pleasant conversations, while at the same time failing to explicitly contemplate why we enjoy certain things in life. Why does a good meal seem to make the world better? Why is a sunrise so appealing to us? What is it about well written poetry that makes it so good?

C. S. Lewis offers us an example of how we may reflect upon our meaningful experiences in his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” where he discusses the difference between simply enjoying an experience and the deeper contemplation of said experience. Lewis once was standing in a dark toolshed and saw a sunbeam come through a crack above the door. He says that while looking at the beam, he was “seeing the beam, not seeing things by it” (Meditation, 212). This is similar to many of our everyday experiences. We see activities and enjoy them for what they are without looking deeper. This is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy the pleasurable things in life, but we ought to examine our lives and experiences closely in order to capture more of the joy that they offer.

Lewis goes on to explain what he saw when instead of merely looking at the sunbeam, he looks through it, out into the world beyond the dark of the toolshed. He says, “Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun” (Meditation, 212). There is a difference between simply looking at an object or experience, and using that experience to see something greater, a facet or characteristic of an experience that would is often lost on us when we do not examine closely the lives that we live. Continue reading

Reflections on an MA

“A man who has been many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.” –C.S. Lewis
WFU Graduation

WFU Graduation

Monday marked the official completion of my Master of Art’s degree from Wake Forest University. It has been a long and interesting two years here in Winston-Salem (NC), two years of learning and joy mixed with heartbreak, pain, and uncertainty. Hayley and I have developed many good friendships while here in the South, grown together in our marriage, and learned much about balancing life, work, and education. While challenging at times, my time in the Wake Forest Religion Department was highly informative, and my work in the WFU Classics Department learning Greek and Latin was a blast (despite the long hours and frequent lack of sleep). Engagement with the perspectives of my colleagues and professors has been a formative experience that (I hope) has improved me as a person and as a scholar. Hayley and I have enjoyed having the time and freedom to enjoy each other’s company, to take long walks together, and to share the ‘Church Search’ experience with each other. We’ve been very blessed in doing life together here in North Carolina.

That said, we’ve also had some experiences which were not nearly as pleasant: the pain of church leadership devoted to their own agenda’s, the physical and mental anguish of an unknown health problem, and the uncertainty of what future schooling might involve. Nearly two years ago when planning the move to Winston-Salem, we purposed to make these years a challenge of sorts, seeking to experience life (married life, specifically) ‘on our own.’ There have been times when we felt this choice was a mistake. Our newly-married naiveté played into the church situation, though the developments in our own lives as a result of our Church Search have provided something of a silver lining to that pain. Hayley’s ongoing healthcare battle continues to weigh upon us both, though through a dear friend God has provided a doctor who is both professional and proficient. And despite months of uncertainty regarding where we were headed after Wake Forest and what we would be doing, we did finally receive guidance to our next stop in St. Louis. Continue reading

C. S. Lewis, Myth, and Fact

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

Most people do not like being told that they are wrong. This is especially true when it comes to politics or religious faith. Interestingly, a number of pundits and scholars have taken to calling religious faith “myth” in recent years, especially religious faith that for many adherents hinges upon certain events that claim to be historical. The work of Joseph Campbell springs to mind, as do more contemporary perspectives such as those espoused by Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins. For perspectives such as these (most admittedly devoted to philosophical naturalism) and others (one thinks of certain Historical Jesus scholars over the years), Christian claims about the resurrection of  Jesus of Nazareth cannot be categorized as anything but “myth,” the stuff of legend, or theological story-telling. And, as one might expect, most Christians do not appreciate being told that their deeply held religious convictions are, in a word, myth. While for many the term “myth” connotes feelings of falsehood or story, Christian thinkers such as C.S Lewis conceived of myth in other terms. In the essay that follows, we examine Lewis’ conception of “myth,” as well as his understanding of the relationship between “myth” and “fact” in the Christian narrative.

The idea of myth was an important one for C.S. Lewis, especially with regard to his conversions to theism and Christianity, and his later apologies for the Christian faith. Lewis came to define myth in perhaps a non-traditional manner, writing that “Myth in general is not merely misunderstood history… nor diabolical illusion… not priestly lying… but at its best, a real unfocused gleam of divine truth on human imagination” (Miracles, 138). Thus, one must understand that what Lewis refers to as myth is not some cleverly narrated story but truth wrapped in narrative which can, when properly understood, convey great truths to its readers. Continue reading