Part 1 His Life and Writings: Surprised by Joy



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  • The Real C.S. Lewis
  • Part 1
  • His Life and Writings: Surprised by Joy ( Mere Christianity, and other writings)
  • “You’ll never get to the bottom of him.”
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Paulo F. Ribeiro
  • MBA, PhD, PE, IEEE Fellow
  • March 7, 2004, AD
  • Grand Rapids
  • LaGrave Avenue
  • Christian Reformed Church
  • The joy of the Lord is our strength. Neh. 8:10
  • The Apologist's Evening Prayer From all my lame defeats and oh! much more From all the victories that I seemed to score; From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh; From all my proofs of Thy divinity, Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me. From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee, O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free. Lord of the narrow gate and needle's eye, Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
  • Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its wine. In it God shows himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary—not necessarily the most important one. What He does is learned from what He is.”
  • Introductory Words
  • Good Morning. Thanks for the opportunity
  • Presentation: Brazilian Style – Audience Participation:
  • Talking Points, Share our insights …
  • Why Lewis:
    • The most important Christian writer of the 20th century.
    • A man who has had, and is having, a profound effect on this world.
    • Lewis wrote about many different subjects with a truly integrated Christian Perspective (theology, politics, education, English literature, children’s stories, science fiction, etc.):
  • Politics: crime, obscenity, capital punishment, conscription, communism, fascism, socialism, war, vivisection, the welfare state, the atomic bomb, tyranny,
  • "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" has had an influence on theories of punishment. The prevailing idea was that prisoners were sick people who needed therapy. Sentences were open-ended, and the prisoner was not released until he was "cured.“
  • Lewis objected strenuously. Prisoners, he said, need to be punished, not "cured" in that sense. The sentence must be fixed, so that the prisoner knows at least the approximate date of his release. Treating the prisoner as a patient robs him of his dignity and constitutes an unwarranted assault on his personality and character.
  • Introductory Words
  • I discovered C.S. Lewis when in college (1974). Since then I have read and re-read almost everything he wrote. He has had a tremendous influence on me in several ways (just ask my wife). She says: “too much!”
    • -He has helped to overcome chronological snobbery and the temptation to be relevant.
    • -He has helped me to think more objectively by his rigorous, precise, penetrating logic, vivid, lively, and playful imagination.
    • -Made Latin dance – Taught English to sing (Augustine x Lewis): Brazilian Music - (I found the reason for my fascination)
    • -He always points me to the ultimate source: Christ.
    • -His theology may not be perfect, but the practice was exemplary.
  • Among the books I have read and enjoyed with much profit are: Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, Miracles, Pilgrim's Regress, Poems, Letters to an American Lady, Letters of C.S. Lewis, The Narnia books, Out of the Silent Planet, That Hideous Strength, Experiment in Criticism, God in the Dock, The Four Loves, The Weight of Glory, and everything else.
  • Introductory Words
  • I relate to C.S. Lewis' story in Surprised by Joy in many respects: the experiences of the painful, yet "joyful" longing (he calls sehnsucht).
  • Although the scenery was very different: tropical ocean, samba, soccer … “there is no sin on the south side of the equator,”
  • I still suffered from the stabs of joy… there was an immediate connection.
  • Several years later I found myself not far away from the land of Narnia (PhD at University of Manchester 1982-1985).
  • I became a “freak” (according to my children): house, cars, everything-Lewis-Narnia ….
  • Is this an American thing?
  • Then I am glad to be an American.
  • Introductory Words
  • Born in Belfast in 1898.
  • Educated in England (prep school then at Malvern College
  • and finally by a private tutor.
  • Enlisted in the army in 1917, saw front-line combat and was
  • Wounded in France. Returned to his studies after the war, graduated in 1922 and became a fellow of Magdalen college in 1925.
  • An atheist in his boyhood, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1929-31 and became famous as a result of his wartime religious talks on the BBC, and his children's books.
  • Lewis was part of the Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings, whose members also included J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams.
  • Married Joy Davidman Gresham in 1957, an American with whom he had corresponded for a number of years.
  • Died on November the 22nd 1963, the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
  • "The Christians are right; it is Pride that has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together; you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people. But Pride always means enmity - it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.“
  • Mere Christianity
  • His Main Battle Grounds
  • 1 – Needs of the West: Theology in Fiction: Aslan as Christ
  • 2 –Theology in Popular Language: Mere Christianity
  • 3 – The Devil: Screwtape Letters
  • 4 – Fighting Moral Subjectivism: (MC, Abolition of Man, Poison of Subjectivism)
  • 5 – Heaven: Surprised by Joy and The Weight of Glory
  • 6 – Hell: That Hideous Strength, Great Divorce
  • 7 – The Problem of Pain
  • 8 – Theological Modernism
  • 9 – Love
  • 10 – Fighting against the false, the evil and the ugly
  • (with Reason, Religion and Romanticism; the true, the good and the beautiful)
  • “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”
  • The Weight of Glory
  • Interesting facts about Lewis:
  • Accent: Oxford with an Irish tinge
  • Voice of Lewis
      • Number of books sold …
      • 1947 Time Magazine article
      • Declined honors from Winston Churchill
      • Adored In America
      • (and many parts of the world, I am working in Brazil …)

'When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.' The idea of reaching 'a good life' without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up 'a good life' as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and un-breathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are 'done away' and the rest is a matter of flying.

  • 'When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.' The idea of reaching 'a good life' without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up 'a good life' as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and un-breathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are 'done away' and the rest is a matter of flying.
  • "Man or Rabbit?"
  • The Many Sides of Lewis:
    • Lewis, the distinguished Oxford literary scholar and critic;
    • Lewis, the highly acclaimed author of science fiction and children's literature;
    • Lewis, the popular writer and broadcaster of Christian apologetics, the Knight of Orthodox Christianity (Champion of Mere Christianity);
    • Lewis, the soldier and faithful friend (from Arthur Grieves to Tolkien)
    • Lewis, the masterful teacher and tutor;
    • Lewis, the private man and with family problems (Father, Warren, Mrs. Moore)
    • Lewis, the romantic yet rationalist (Baptized imagination)
    • Lewis, the thoroughly converted man (The Pilgrim’s Regress)
    • Lewis, surprised by marriage (the “Joy” of his life)
    • Lewis, the aggressive debater and humble/gentle man
  • Lewis’s Appeal
    • Invitation to meditation
    • Natural point of contact: longing for meaning and joy
    • Avoidance of the technical jargon of the theologians.
  • Allow me to illustrate the power of the apologetics of longing with a testimony.
  • A few years ago I introduced CS Lewis to an engineer in Virginia who was going through an existential crisis. I presented him a copy of Mere Christianity.
  • …. After several months after reacting against some of the statements he came to me and said, I in the hall, Paulo ….
  • In another case, I presented a copy of the same book to a Brazilian Professor (nominal catholic) ….
  • Two months later, he could not control his excitement … he told me that he had introduced Lewis to another friend who was seriously looking for some spiritual answers.
  • Interdenominational Appeal
    • Almost Reformed
    • “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”
    • Is salvation by God's predestination or by human choice?
    • "I was offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. But I feel my decision was not so important. I was the object rather than the subject in this affair. I was decided upon... I chose, yet it really did not seem possible to do the opposite."
  • Interdenominational Appeal
  • Lewis on Calvinists and Puritans
  • "Whatever they were, they were not sour, gloomy, or severe; nor did their enemies bring any such charge against them. On the contrary ....
  • Calvinism was not too grim, but too glad, to be true.
  • It sprang from the refusal to allow the Roman distinction between the life of religion and the life of the world. Calvin's picture of the Christian was less hostile to pleasure, but then Calvin demanded that every man should be made to live the fully Christian life.
  • This will at least serve to eliminate the absurd idea that Elizabethan
  • Calvinists were somehow grotesque, elderly people, standing outside the main forward current of life. In their own day they were, of course, the very latest thing. Unless we can imagine the freshness, the audacity and the fashionableness of Calvinism, we shall get out whole picture wrong. It was a creed of progressives, even revolutionaries."
  • The Search For Joy
  • The Unifying Theme of C.S. Lewis’ Life
  • The Search for the inexpressible
  • "In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, . . . I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you - the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both . . . "
  • It was not until his Christian Conversion that Lewis understood what he was seeking
  • Lewis found joy in Greek and Nordic Mythology, Music, Literature, Nature, Friends...
  • Lewis calls "the shape of my early life."
  • Summary
    • Less an autobiography more an account of his religious ups and downs from childhood
    • From an almost lack of religion in his early experience ...
    • Of his hectic efforts in boarding school to create a satisfying spiritual realization
    • Of his retreat into atheism ..
    • The long and painful return through nature, spiritualism and philosophy to Theism and finally to Christianity.
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • The Chronology - The First Years
    • Born on November 29, 1898 at Belfast
    • Father, Albert James Lewis, was a lawyer and mother, Flora Augusta Hamilton Lewis, a descendent of clergymen, lawyers, and sailors.
    • Father - sentiment and passion
    • Mother irony, coolness and the capacity for happiness.
    • Lewis description of his father not very positive.
    • Lewis's mother died before he was ten, but she had already started him in French and Latin.
  • The Development of a Tough And Holistic Christian Mind
  • Surprised by Joy:
  • Surprised By Joy
  • Lewis and his brother (three years older) were left alone in a large house and spent endless hours in their respective imaginative worlds of Animal-Land and India
  • Lewis learned Sehnsucht (sen-zart), - longing from looking out of the nursery windows, but there were not genuine religious experiences.
  • The house was rich in books and the brothers read widely. They lived almost in their imagination.
  • One day the young Lewis stood beside a currant bush in flower there suddenly and mysteriously arose in him "as if from a depth not of years but centuries" the memory of an earlier happy morning. Though it happened in an instant of time, he felt that "in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison.“
  • It was the beginning of his search for joy.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • At ten, Lewis was sent to school in hated England. Under the tutelage of Oldie, who flogged his boys with and without excuse but taught them to think logically.
  • At twelve, he went to Campbell College, not far from the Lewis home in Ireland, but his stay was cut short by illness which gave him happy weeks on his own.
  • From 13 to 15 he was back in England at a small prep school he calls Charters. Here at last he began to love the English countryside, but here he also lost his faith, and his simplicity.
  • Other things which led him to atheism were the occultism imparted to him by a matron at the school, a natural pessimism, and particularly the reading of H.G. Wells, and Sir Robert Ball.
  • At fifteen he won the classic scholarship to "Wyvern" College, located in the same English town as Charters. The scholar on the making ….
  • Surprised by Joy
  • Though Lewis's brother had attended Wyvern and liked it, he himself concluded that this school, like most other such college in England, produced not the understanding and fraternal man described in its catalogue but rather a "bitter, truculent, skeptical, debunking, and cynical intelligentsia" dominated by social struggle and priggishness.
  • Arthur Greeves
  • One of the few valuable assets of Wyvern was Smewgy, a hard but courteous teacher and taught his boys to be scholars without being pedants.
  • In religion Lewis at this time suffered the conflict, as he says, of maintaining that God did not exist and being angry with him for not existing.
  • Lewis prepared for university entrance under the tutorship of a tall, lean shabbily dressed but ruthlessly dialectical man named W.T. Kirkpatrick in Surrey. He found this the happiest period of his life.
  • He read abundantly in literature of all sorts, including much of Homer and other Greek authors in the original. His atheism was strengthened.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • Lewis had been living two lives. One was filled with the bustle of ordinary pleasures and miseries while the other was secret, imaginative, and full of longing for Joy.
  • During his illness while at Campbell he had first found delight in fairy tales and fallen under the spell of dwarfs. Northerners and Norse mythology became part of his life. And of course there was plenty of King Arthur and early Britain.
  • Joy, "that central music in every experience," pressed its illimitable claims upon him and spread its glory in unbearable waves to the roots of his being. Yet the time came when Joy disappeared and the memory of it teased him.
  • Meanwhile his atheism grew bolder and Christianity came to mean ugly architecture, ugly music, and bad poetry, and God a great transcendental Interferer. He wanted to tell God and every body else that his innermost being was marked: No Admittance.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • At this time he says he was made up of two separate elements: one the longing for Joy, the other a fixed and certain belief in scientific materialism.
  • Then he discovered in Yeats and other men who while disbelieving Christianity yet thought there was a world behind, or around the material world, and he was temporarily persuaded to believe in magic and occultism.
  • It was at this point that he, came upon a copy of George Macdonald's Phantastes in a bookstall. Alongside the romantic elements in the novel, Lewis found something new, a bright shadow that he later discovered to be the voice of holiness.
  • Always in the past Joy had been separate from the ordinary world; in Macdonald he found, to his surprise, that the bright shadow transformed all common things while itself remained unchanged.
  • His imagination was baptized. It was the beginning of the road back.
  • “In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • Surprised by Joy
  • At 18 he took the scholarship examination for Oxford and was elected. But a war was in progress, and the day he was nineteen he found himself in the front-line trenches in France.
  • A brief illness gave him three weeks in an army hospital where he first began to read G.K. Chesterton and loved him in spite of his religious element.
  • He was wounded in April by a British shell falling short of its German target.
  • In January 1919 he was discharged from military duty.
  • He ridicules his experience of taking sixty German prisoners of war; what happened, he says is that they simply appeared with their hands up and ready to surrender.
  • Back at Oxford, he began to make friends who were to influence his future.
  • Just when the New Psychology was causing him to doubt his whole experience of Joy, some of his closest friends began to turn to Christianity.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • With Barfield in particular he debated violently and learned much. It was he who destroyed forever in Lewis the easy belief in "chronological snobbery,"
  • He also convinced Lewis that abstract thought can give indisputable truth and is therefore a different sort of from experience of the senses.
  • Finally Lewis was forced to conclude that logic itself participated in a cosmic Logos. He also became convinced of a cosmic Absolute but did not assume it would ever get personal.
  • Lewis was twenty-three when he finishes Greats and, because he could find no position, decided to remain for a fourth year at Oxford.
  • Almost immediately he was drawn to a brilliant young man named Neville Coghill and was shocked to discover him a Christian and supernaturalist.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • At the same time it dawned on him that all the authors on whom he could really feed (Macdonald, Chesterton, Dr. Johnson, Spencer, Milton) saw things through Christian eyes.
  • Even the most religious of the Pagans (Plato, Virgil...) had some of the same quality. They had roughness and density of life.
  • Magdalene College
  • He still thought Christianity only a myth, a good philosophical framework on which to hang Absolute Idealism.
  • He became a temporary lecturer for a year and was then elected a Fellow of Magdalene College in 1925, when he was 26 years old.
  • Christians now began to appear all around him - men like Dyson, Tolkien ..
  • He re-read Euripides' Hippolytus and Joy returned to his heart.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • A thought is not simply a thing inside one's head and isolated from its object.
  • Introspection can only find what is left behind and cannot operate while the original thought exists.
  • It is a terrible error to mistake the track left behind for the thing itself.
  • Immediately Lewis knew he was looking in the wrong place to find Joy he had sought, that his hope to find some mental content on which he could lay his finger was wholly futile, for this was and would always be simply the "mental track left by the passage of Joy.“
  • Not only must joy look to its object, but a desire owes all its character to its object, for the object is the very thing which makes it desirable.
  • He had always been wrong in thinking that he desired Joy itself.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • Now teaching philosophy at Oxford, Lewis began to have real troubles with the Absolute. He lectured on a philosophical "God" but distinguished it from "the God of popular religion" and insisted that there could be no personal relation with Him.
  • But now two hard blows struck him.
  • He read G.K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man and was shaken by its theistic rationale.
  • Shortly afterwards the toughest of all the atheists he had known sat beside the fire in Lewis's room and said, "Rum thing. All that stuff about the Dying God. It almost looks as if it had really happened once."
  • Surprised by Joy
  • Lewis thought that nobody could be safe from God if this man were not.
  •  
  • There followed a time in which all the strands steadily platted themselves into an invincible whole in which Lewis's inner being. It seemed to him that God was surely after him as a cat searching for a mouse.
  •  
  • You must picture me, he says, alone in that room in Magdalene, night after night, feeling whenever mind lifted even for a second from work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I earnestly desire not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.
  •  
  • It was in the Trinity Term of 1929 that he capitulated. As he knelt down in prayer and admitted that God was God, he felt himself the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.
  • Tolkien
  • Williams
  • That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?
  • This walk in the grounds of Magdalen College was the site of a long conversation between Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and Hugo Dyson, after which C.S.Lewis became converted to Christianity.
  • Surprised by Joy
  • Surprised by Joy
  • It was conversion to Theism only, not Christianity and not belief in a future life. They came later.
  •  
  • I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when I reached the zoo I did.
  • (What a coincidence? He joined the church when he entered a zoo )
  •  
  • Shortly after Lewis died, Clyde Kilby wrote that Lewis was "a man who had won, inside and deep, a battle against pose, evasion, expedience, and who wished with all his heart to honor truth in every idea passing through his mind."
  • Forty years after Kilby's words have been very verified through the detailed scrutiny of Lewis's life and writings.
  • "When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some concern for our welfare, but that we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. How should this be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes.”
  • CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Next Weeks (tentative schedule)

  • March 14
    • Mere Christianity, Morality, Ethics
    • Screwtape Letters
    • Theological Essays
  • March 21
    • Myth, Imagination
    • Narnia and Trilogy
  • March 28
    • Love, Pain and Suffering
    • Shadowlands
  • "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date."


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