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

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