BROADCAST TALKS presents ideas to cultivate Christ-like thinking and living. Each issue features a transcription of a talk presented at an event of The C. S. Lewis Institute. The following is adapted from John Lennox’s keynote address at the C.S. Lewis Institute’s 2016 Fundraising Banquet, held at the Fairview Park Marriott in Falls Church, VA on April 14, 2016.
adies and Gentlemen, I am greatly honored to be invited to this 40th-year celebration of the C.S. Lewis Institute.
I first met C.S. Lewis’s books through my father who kept copies of Mere Christianity in the glove compartment of his car to give to intelligent hitchhikers, no doubt as their guide, not to the galaxy, but possibly to its meaning and to that of life within it. I devoured these books as a teenager and had read, I think, every one of C.S. Lewis’s books, except the technical works of literature, before I left school in Northern Ireland, which was C.S. Lewis’s birthplace as well. So when I arrived in Cambridge in 1962, I was well aware that Lewis was there. Cambridge, I am glad to say, had been prepared to do what Oxford was not: give Lewis a Chair, which took some doing, of course, since first of all Lewis did not apply for the post, though it was advertised, and secondly, he declined it twice before his friend, Lord of The Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, engineered his reluctant acceptance. I was not aware in 1962 that Lewis was very ill and so felt that there would be many opportunities to hear him. Yet, he only had a year to live.
The Cambridge University Mathematics Institute was on Bene’t Street, made famous by The Eagle Pub, where Crick and Watson announced their discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. Just across the road from the Maths Institute were the English faculty lecture rooms, so it was relatively easy, both on one’s conscience and on one’s body, to occasionally slip away from the mathematics lecture to go across the road and sit at the feet of C.S. Lewis. So it was, over fifty years ago now, that I came to listen to the last lectures he ever gave.
Now, I want you to picture the setting: The English faculty lecture rooms, packed to capacity, with students on the windowsills and on the floor, thronging the area even around the lectern, and at the appointed time the double doors burst open and this burly man in an overcoat came in with a thick scarf and a hat – it was a cold winter – and started lecturing immediately as he opened the door. And as he proceeded through the room, he began to unwind his scarf and take off his hat and take off his coat, and by the time he’d done all of that, you’d have five minutes of a scintillating lecture already given to you. The interesting thing was that the lecture ended in similar but reverse fashion. That is, Lewis kept lecturing while he put on his coat and his hat and wound up his scarf, and his last words were uttered as he burst out through the doors into the street. There was no time for Q&A.
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