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EPISODE 07: The Neglected C.S. Lewis

Even the most devoted C.S. Lewis fans may not know of or have never read some of his most important works, such as The Discarded Image and An Experiment in Criticism. Jerry Root and Mark Neal sought to correct this problem with their helpful book The Neglected C.S. Lewis. In this podcast they introduce us to their book and many of Lewis’s books you’ll want to read after hearing about them.

Show Notes:

The Neglected C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Riches of His Most Overlooked Books by Mark NealJerry Root | Christian Book Distributors

Many Christians know Lewis as a children's writer or apologist---but he was also a literary historian and scholar. Neal and Root trace signature ideas in some of these critical works, including The Allegory of Love and The Discarded Image, and point out how they also appear in his more familiar books.

Transcript


Welcome to Questions That Matter, a podcast of the C.S. Lewis Institute. I'm your host, Randy Newman, and today, my conversation partners are Mark Neal and Jerry Root let me tell you a little bit about them and then welcome them to our podcast. Mark Neal is the vice president of a Chicago area marketing firm. Jerry Root is a longtime professor at Wheaton College. They have both lectured and written and spoken about C.S. Lewis and his work. Jerry has actually spoken and lectured about this all over the world, in at least 18 different countries. And they've worked together on a book called The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis. But today we're going to be talking about their newest book that they've worked on together, called The Neglected C.S. Lewis. So, Mark and Jerry, welcome to the podcast.

Jerry: Thank you, Randy.

Mark: Thank you.

The Cause for Writing

Let me start with you, Mark. Tell me, how did you guys decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this together?

Mark: Sure. Well, the best way to answer that question is to describe something that C.S. Lewis himself did. So C.S. Lewis engaged in what he called rehabilitation. That is, he would defend or re-conceptualize a period, a genre, or an author for which some sort of appreciation or critical understanding had been lacking. And so that gives you an idea of the sorts of pre occupations, literary and otherwise, that Lewis had, that he would be willing to bring these sorts of things back into people's minds, these authors that had been neglected.

And so what we are doing for Lewis is what he did for other authors. So we are ourselves engaging in a form of rehabilitation, in looking at some of these lesser known, lesser read books of Lewis. Now, the books that we look at in the book are almost entirely Lewis’s literary critical works, and many of them are also works on medieval and Renaissance literature. But again, as I said, these are works that are unknown or little known, even by people who claim to know Lewis really well. As you may well know, Lewis was a professor of medieval and Renaissance English literature at Cambridge, so this was a huge part of his life, a huge preoccupation. He wrote a lot of works on this subject. And we would say that you can't actually know Lewis if you don't know these books.

And Lewis writes a book, and Jerry will talk more about this, I'm sure, a little later. But he writes this book, English Literature in the 16th Century, and it's a book that took him more than 16 years to finish. And he says, I think somewhere, in a letter or something, he says that infernal book on the 16th century, he was just sick to death of it by the time he was finished. But what he says is that all of his other books were twiddly bits by comparison with this book. That means books like the Narnia series, Mere Christianity, Screw tape, his science fiction, and so forth. And so what readers of Lewis tend to neglect are the books that Lewis himself actually thought were his best.

Nice. I love it. I'm looking at your table of contents, and so the books that you go after in this book are The Allegory of Love, The Personal Heresy, Arthurian Torso, the book you just mentioned, English Literature in the 16th Century, excluding drama. Mark, you left that little part of the title off. Studies in Words, An Experiment in Criticism, The Discarded Image, and then Selected Literary Essays. Jerry, what are some of the themes that stand out to you in these books that you really want people who know C.S. Lewis to really grasp?

Jerry: Well, it's interesting, thinking about the C.S. Lewis Institute and your great work in discipleship and evangelism, Lewis made this comment once, “Most of my books are evangelistic.” He qualified it in another place, where he said, “We don't need more books by Christians about Christianity. We need more books by Christians on other subjects with their Christianity latent.” And what you see infused in all of these books is faith-integrated literary critical approaches. Faith-integrated what I would call liberal arts. And consequently, then, when Lewis talks about these things, he is opening more than wardrobe doors, as he's giving people opportunity to see the truth of Christianity as it's exhibited in hosts of other places. Something similar to that, too, as far as discipleship would go, I think, in so many of these books, Lewis is emphasizing a characteristic of medieval literature particularly. He said it was a kind of literature that had, as a feature, the idea of embellishment.

In the middle Ages, they would take an old book, and they would embellish it by maybe adding a new theme to it or trying to make a new point, and they would retell the story. We do it in our own day as well. You see things like West Side Story. It's basically the retelling of Romeo and Juliet. You see things like O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s a retelling of The Odyssey by Homer. You see Bridget Jones’s Diary. It's a retelling, basically, of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Clueless is Emma by Jane Austen. You see all these things. We embellish these stories. But Lewis understands that we get things from the past that can benefit us. And we look forward to the future, and that is because we are creatures who are developing. And if we're developing, we're people who need then discipleship. We need mentoring. We need to grow. And God didn't allow us to just be inert in our lives. And these books, I think every one of them highlights that concept, especially as he looks at his medieval works.

Mark: I would add to that, just if I can, quickly, the idea of us getting something from the past that Lewis desires. He also talks about this idea of chronological snobbery, which I think is very closely related, and it's the idea that our age is preeminent, and all others are somehow less or backward or behind the times. And the past just isn't valued as a way of understanding the present, and there's just not a respect or for the historical continuum. So every age has something, I think Lewis would say, to teach us, and we go and read these works, and we have to suspend our own worldview while we're doing that.

Jerry: Basil Mitchell, who taught at Oxford University as a philosopher there, he was one of my doctoral supervisors, and he wrote a book called Faith and Criticism. And he said that the person of faith needs the critic, lest a person's faith may become an extension of his own ideas, and he writes a “thus saith the Lord” across his ideas. But also the critic needs a person of faith, because the critic doesn't know everything. So his position is also a faith position. And Mitchell talks about the conservative and the liberal in this book. And he says the conservative is a person who's rooted in the traditions of the past, but those traditions will ossify if they're not open to fresh application in the present and future. And the liberal is a person who’s interested in the fresh applications, but they have nothing to offer to those fresh situations if they turn their back on the past. So Lewis models for us a guy who's very connected to the past and also looking very forward, hopefully, as a believer, hopefully looking forward, and with some substance to bring to those situations because he knows the past.

Mark: In his book, A Preface to Paradise Lost, which we don't cover in this book—it’s in the appendix, but just for space issues, we didn't have time to look at it. He references this great quote by G.K. Chesterton, and it's from the essay “On Man: Heir of All the Ages,” and Chesterton says this: He says, “Man should be a prince, looking from the pinnacle of a tower built by his fathers, and not a contemptuous cat who is perpetually kicking out the ladders by which he climbed.

The Discarded Image

“My, oh my! If ever there was a message that we need to hear today. Boy! I mean, Lewis spoke about chronological snobbery in so many places, but I think in these books that you’ve explored is where he dug into it the most deeply. Let me ask you about one particular book, his book The Discarded Image. What did he mean by that? What's the image that has been discarded? And how would it help us today if we recognized that?

Jerry: Well, he's looking at the medieval worldview. That book, in some senses, is an abstraction or a generalization. As he looks at the great body of literature of that era, he then starts to make some judgments and starts to help us understand. So if we read a medieval book, we're not going to project on it 21st century values and totally, by virtue of our projection, miss what was said. But Lewis makes a conclusion at the end of that book, after this glorious explanation of what he calls a great work of art, that the medieval worldview was not true. It was an abstraction. It was a generalization. And consequently, he reminds us that we have to remember that our own worldview, of this time and this place, is also an abstraction, and it will also become a discarded image. So I think one thing you can draw from this book is a great sense of humility, if you read it well, and you will start to look at your own time with less inflated, soaring expectations that somehow we've got it all figured out.

You know, you read about Isaac Newton. He borrows a comment from Bernardus Silvestris: “If I've seen farther than others, it's while sitting on the shoulders of giants.” That’s humility for you. But today, it's as if we're saying, “It’s amazing that I see as far as I do, given the pygmies that preceded me.” It shows that we're totally disassociated from those things, and we make judgments, and we don't read to have those judgments informed. In the English Literature of the 16th century: Excluding Drama, Lewis read every book written in English in the 16th century. He read every book translated into English and the original language it was written, Latin, Old French, Italian, so that, in his judgment of the translation, he could make informed judgments. That's the century of the Reformation. He's the only person I know who read thoroughly both sides. The judgments are more tender. He said that the Catholics thought the Protestants were all Antinomians. The Protestants thought the Catholics were all Pelagians. He said both were wrong. Certainly, you could find the Pelagians among the Catholics, and you could find the Antinomians among the Protestants, but you'd have to do your bottom fishing to find the worst example of the other side, rather than engage in discussion with the best. Lewis can make that judgment because he's informed. He read everybody. It's amazing.

Now, we could go off on a whole tangent, and maybe we will just for a little bit, because feel like we need to. I'm so challenged to read more and to spend more time in reading, and in particular, to spend uninterrupted time in reading. I find it's getting harder and harder not to check my phone or check a text or something, but just to disconnect from everything and just immerse myself for hours in a book. And that's where Lewis lived, so we need to just at least step back from this, don't we? And say we all need to dedicate ourselves to more serious, thoughtful, long-term reading. 

Mark: Yes, yes, yeah. It’s a helpful book, and I think I touched on this point, too, in the book. Just the idea that we're so far down the rabbit hole in our sort of... I hate to use the word addiction, but in many cases it is, to our screens and our devices and the ways that they’ve just been so integrated into every aspect of our lives that it actually is really, really hardtop just pull away, because these devices and these interfaces and this constant use has actually altered our brain in some way. So it is just sort of physically harder to do, to concentrate and so forth. But I think the effort still needs to be made.

Jerry: But in the process, too, Randy, I'd have to say as well that we should at least pick up from Lewis a relative humility, in that, if we haven't read as widely as we like to pretend, then we need to dumb down our judgments. It's like the student who was once asked, “Have you ever read War and Peace?” And he said, “No, but I wrote a book report on it once.” You see this even with books coming out about Lewis. There’s so many of them that are basically repeating the same stuff over and over and over again. I don't mind that. There’s always anew need for secondary source material for new Lewis readers that are coming up. And most of these books don't have a long shelf life, but you can tell the difference between the quality of the writer right off the bat.

One of them will say, “Lewis believed this,” and we've read enough Lewis that I can tell you that Lewis didn't believe that and that person has overstated, and it was misinformed because they had only read a part of Lewis. Another writer might say, “It would appear from this that Lewis believed that.” That’s an honest writer, and you hope that person writes more books. Why can't we say what we do know and not inflate and act like we know more than we do?

Jerry, this is getting way too convicting, so I think we're just going to end this right now. No, I'm just kidding. But let me ask you to elaborate on something: On page nine, you talk about that Lewis divided readers into two categories, receivers and users. Can you explain that and what he's trying to get at there?

Jerry: Yeah, so that's looking at the book, An Experiment in Criticism, which is actually one of his more accessible books that we look at. And the book really is Lewis's attempt to turn the sort of dominant literary criticism of his day on its head. It was a very evaluative criticism. So books were judged for their content. And what Lewis was trying to understand is if a book could be judged instead by the way in which it was read. And so, in kind of laying out this theory of reading, if you will, he does lump the readers into a couple of different categories. There’s the many, right? These are the people that kind of fall into the.... They read the popular books. They don't ever read something more than once. And then there's the group of the few, and these are the more literary-minded people. They love to talk about books. They love to think about books. They can't wait to get back to reading a book. And they reread a book many times, because as they grow and change, the book speaks to them in different ways. I think that... Do you have anything to add to that?

Mark: He says the mark of a literary person is that they read a book more than once. And that’s because usually a book that would be read more than once is a book that will take you into deeper and deeper layers. Just like the Bible, every time you read it, you see something deeper that you missed last time you read it. So, too, with a great book. You read Dante. You read Plato. You read Chaucer. You read Shakespeare. You can still go deeper and deeper with those books. Also, every year you read that book, you bring more to the reading, so you’re likely to get more out of it. And then I think these were also things that Lewis had in mind with the receiver. But the user is just a consumer, and he has one image in An Experiment in Criticism. You've got all these people at this cocktail party who are talking about the latest book they just read, and the only real literary person in the house is a little boy who went to bed a couple hours before. He’s upstairs in his bedroom, reading Treasure Island under his covers with his flashlight.

I love it.

We'll return to my conversation in just a moment. I do want to invite you to take a look at our website, cslewisinstitute.org, and avail yourself to the many resources that we have there. We have over 40 years’ worth of articles and recordings and events that can be tremendously helpful. Check out the different ways that we can help you share your faith or grow deeply in your faith. And consider also supporting the institute. If you click on the button that says donate, we would love to have you as a ministry partner. Now let's return to the conversation.

Yeah, there's one of his essays where he talks about reading, and what are we going to do with the person who thinks they've read a book if they've only read it once? And he describes how, when you read a book a second or a third or a fourth time, you're no longer wondering how it's going to turn out, so you can actually enjoy it more. You’re not just anxious or puzzled. You know where this book is going, and so you can read it more slowly. And then savoring it. I love that image.

Jerry: There's another feature in that too, Randy, and that's this: If it's a world that's been created for you in that book, when you go back to read, like you say, you know all the turns and twists of plot, you know the surprises and stuff, but he says, you go back, he believes, because you loved that world that was created. And he said, “It takes you to the place where you end up longing for the only other world you could ever really know.” He thinks it's a heaven longing. And it's like the child who hears a great story at bedtime, and what does the child say right after they hear it? “Read it again.

”Yeah. “Tell it again.” Yeah.

Mark: Well, getting back to that idea, too, of users versus receivers, Lewis wanted the experience of getting into the world of the book, to actually bask in and absorb it, and not just to mark it off a checklist, as it were, and say he's read it, but actually to immerse himself in the story. And he writes again in a preface to Paradise Lost that, in reading books of the past, we have to become an Achaean chief while reading Homer, or a medieval knight while reading Mallory, or an 18th century Londoner while reading Samuel Johnson. And so there’s a real sense in which to read this way is to hold our current worldview a little more lightly. And he has this great section at the end of An Experiment in Criticism, where he said, “I desire more windows,” right? “My own eyes are not enough for me. I would see with others ‘eyes. Even that's not enough. I would see what others have imagined. Even that's not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Gladly would I see how reality is presented to the eye of a bee or a mouse, or how it comes charged with the olfactory sense of a dog.

“And so he says that we live in these very narrow prisons of self, and reading in this way, in this immersive experience, can bring us those wider vistas, those wider horizons, and can let us into a whole new, wonderful range of experience.

Jerry: But, Randy, we don't want your listeners to feel guilty. If you come here to Wheaton College sometime, we have the Wade Center, which is the largest collection of C.S. Lewis material in the world, and we can go down to the stacks and pull out his copy of Don Juan by Lord Byron. And on the last page of that book, the inside back cover, he has written the date when he finished it, and right underneath that, he wrote, “Never again!” So Lewis did feel that there were some books not worth reading. Certainly, the telephone book. We don't need to read it more than twice.

But I think that what Lewis is saying is that there are some books that invite us to go back to them over and over again. You see a proliferation of those books that people tend to go back to, the kinds of books that actually a Western liberal arts education was built around. And that canon is getting bigger, because we're seeing these glorious books from other countries that are outside of what that earlier canon was. But these are books that have deep human themes in them. They're the themes where the quest for reconciliation and estranged relationships, the quest for having healed the brokenness that's in each of us, the quest for finding the thing that we've been looking for and searching for, that knowing of the heart and finding its perfect love, finding its perfect home, finding its ability to be remade and reformed. Those kinds of themes that we get in this great literature, in Western and Eastern culture, are the kinds of things that people go back and read and reread because they're trying to understand their own selves. It's very good, I think.

How to Grow Our Walk with the Lord by Reading the Neglected Books

Well, let me push you a little bit further in the direction you're already starting on. So we’re the C.S. Lewis Institute, and our calling is discipleship and helping people grow spiritually. How would reading some of these neglected books by C.S. Lewis, how would that help us grow in our walks with the Lord?

Jerry: Well, even in some of the themes in the book, Lewis marks certain development in certain periods of literature. I can think, for example, of The Allegory of Love. In that particular book, Lewis is recognizing that there was an understanding of marriage in early medieval years where, among the leisure classes, marriages were arranged. And so, consequently, adultery was held in high value because the person you really loved was not the person you married due to that arrangement. And so, consequently, he traces the development of marriage from something like “The Romance of the Rose,” where this quest of the lover—he hopes he could deflower this girl, but he's guilty about it. And Lewis says that’s an important moment. People realized that was wrong. There's development going on. And then you go to Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida, where there's fornication in that book. But Chaucer prays at the beginning for the reader to pray for him, that he might tell the story well. He prays at the end of the story. “Blessed Jesus, turn our loves to Thee.” There’s development there.

Then you get finally to The Faerie Queene, where, in The Faerie Queene, you have this exaltation of the Christian view of marriage, that the goal of love Spencer celebrates is the lawful carnal love within marriage. Lewis calls it a moral allegory because the whole feature of that kind of love is preserved by virtue, courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom. And you want to talk about development? You want to talk about discipleship? Those things related to virtue and the rewards of virtue. Virtue is not its own reward. Kant was wrong. Virtue leads to the life that God wants to give us, the high life, the life that He designed us for. And our hearts, as obviously he said, our restless till they find their rest, not only in Him, but in that life He offers us.

Mark: I'd say these books are also important because Lewis himself is pointing us to other works, right? And as Jerry said, Lewis opens more than wardrobe doors. And so many of these books are really guidebooks, as it were, to the literature of a particular age, and especially to the imaginative literature of a particular age. And so, focusing on the imagination for a moment and the value of that in accessing even our understanding of God. Jesus talked in parables, right? And what are parables? They're similes, and they're metaphors.

They're ways to understand using the imagination, something that is totally outside of our experience. And so I think this idea of imagination is very important when it comes to our Christian walk and our Christian worldview. Because maybe you could talk about the baptized imagination a little.

Jerry: Well, I would say this related to discipleship: There’s one book in The Neglected C.S. Lewis that we outlined called The Personal Heresy, and it was a literary debate C.S. Lewis had with E.M.W. Tillyard, who was a Master of Jesus College, Cambridge. It was over a literary point. And what you find in this discussion is a debate that breeds light, not heat. The debate that Lewis, who was a believer, and he allowed his faith to inform the way he engaged in debate and discussion. In a day where we're off the rails, where we just dismiss anybodywe disagree with, this becomes a model for us. And anybody who wants to be a true disciple of Christ, it seems to me, learns to enter into engagements, whereby if somebody disagrees with us, we don't just immediately dismiss them. We say, “Well, that's interesting. I have respect for you. Tell me about that.” We enter into real dialogue, and I think that's important.

Now, Mark was talking about the baptized imagination. That's the imagination that is informed by one's spiritual life, and consequently it seeks to see things with a faith-integrated approach to life. And I think, if you're going to have discipleship, you want to have faith integration.

As you're talking about the imagination, I think of the fact that, for me, when I became a Christian, it was pretty much led all by logic and reason. I read arguments in favor of biblical truth. I came from a Jewish background, and so I needed to be pretty intellectually convinced that this Jesus guy really was the Messiah. And so the front end was all very rational arguments, and I’m grateful for that.

But it was later that I started reading more imaginative stuff. And Lewis's... The Narnia books and Screw tape were so good for expanding my grasping of these truths, so that they weren't just things that I understood, but they were things that I loved, or things that I wanted to be repulsed by. When I read Lewis’s powerful story of Eustace becoming a dragon because of his own self obsession and his sin and then getting de-dragoned by Aslan, it's such a powerful story because it doesn’t just teach you the concept of, “Well, you know, if you focus on yourself, you're going to become really a horrible person, and you'll need to change.” But you're repulsed by the ugliness of sin, and you're drawn into the beauty of the power of God Himself transforming you. And that’s what Lewis does. And all of his talk about the importance of the imagination, he didn’t just talk about it, but he modeled it so beautifully in so many different ways.

Mark: Lewis himself struggled with this a little bit. He writes in his autobiography, “The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest contrast. On the one side, there was a many islanded sea of poetry and myth. On the other, glib and shallow rationalism. Nearly all that I loved, I believed to be imaginary. Nearly all that I believed to be real, I thought grim and meaningless.” The two halves of his mind are ultimately reconciled in the person of Christ, and so the imagination in that sense, just becomes a very important way of getting truth about reality that we can't get through reason alone.

Jerry: And picking up on that a little bit too, Randy. Sin estranges us. It's man playing god of his own life. It's self-referential. It estranges us from God, and it estranges us from one another. We become anarchistic, and anarchists make bad community people. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that Lewis writes about this in one of the books highlighted in The Neglected C.S. Lewis, and it's the Arthurian Torso, where he did a literary critical study of his friend Charles Williams’ Arthurian legend. And Williams has an image in there of a Bedouin shepherd coming along with a stone in one hand and a shell in the other. The stone represents reason, robust reason. The shell represents the life of the imagination and the longings and soon. And he's trying to fit the stone in the shell. And Lewis says of this image, “The first problem in life is how do you fit the stone in the shell?” So sin not only estranges me from God and others, it estranges me from myself, and it divides the head and heart. And Lewis, as Mark just indicated, Lewis recognizes that only Christ can bring these two things together. So I don't have to diminish my sense of desire for the mind, nor do I have to diminish my sense of longing of the heart. I need to bring these two together in a robust, holistic approach to life itself.

I want to take a moment to encourage you to check out our website, cslewisinstitute.org. We have so many resources there to help you grow in your spiritual life, to deepen your discipleship. We also hope you'll click on the link that says donate and that you’ll become a ministry partner with us. I do want to tell you about one particular resource. If you click on the link or the button that says resources, and underneath there, there’s another button that says C.S. Lewis's life and works. We have a booklet that we helped put together. It's called “From Belfast to Narnia: The life and faith of C.S. Lewis,” and it’s about C.S. Lewis and his life and work, but it also is a great lead in to the Gospel. And I hope you'll consider getting several copies of this and giving this to friends that you may have who are not Christians but who know of C.S. Lewis, who maybe have read The Chronicles of Narnia. Many people have a very positive view about C. S. Lewis but don't know the Lord that C.S. Lewis worshiped, and this booklet, we hope, can be a great link for that.

And even talking about it as the stone inside the shell that sparks the imagination. And you could talk about it in just academic or intellectual categories for a very long time before someone would grasp it, the way you say the stone has to fit inside the shell, or even the fact that you said sin estranges us, even that word estranges, it alienates, it divides. So it's not just this sin is, “Well, here’s a list of sins, and don't do them. And here are some ways to stay away from sin.” Okay, well, I mean, that's helpful, and we do have those parts of the Bible, too, in the epistles, but we have the parables and the stories and all of those images in the prophets. And again, Lewis was just amazing on both sides of that spectrum. And spectrum is the wrong word. I need a better imaginative term than that.

Well, let's go back to the collection of these eight works that you talk about. And I think, Mark, you said that Lewis's book, An Experiment in Criticism, was one of the more accessible books. Is that the one you might recommend that people start with? Or what are some other relatively easy entry points to these books?

Mark: That would be the easiest, absolutely. I can't think of one that... although I would say also The Discarded Image is a glorious book. I've read it multiple times, and every time I read it, I just love it because itself, it describes such an imaginative construction of the universe, and it's so beautiful. And the other really cool thing about it is that, if you read The Discarded Image, which is about the medieval worldview and the cosmology, and then you go back and you read The Chronicles of Narnia or you read The Ransom Trilogy, you will read those books with a whole new level of understanding. Lewis had a great preoccupation and a great love of the medieval model, and he put these things into those books, and you’ll see it when you read it. So it's a great thing.

Good.

Jerry: The other thing like that, too: All of Lewis's books are written with great clarity, so they're accessible. The only thing—I think it goes back to, Randy, what you said at the beginning of our time together. Many people are intimidated by these books because they lack the ability to block out distractions. But Lewis's writing is clear. His definitions are unequivocal, and consequently, too, he interjects imaginative depictions. And if you read even the English Literature in the 16thCentury, excluding Drama. It’s a massive book. It’s about 700 pages long. But you bust out in laughter throughout that book. He says things and you go, “Oh, my heavens! This is so clever.” And also you find you're reading some of these books, and you say, “I can't stop here.” I read Allegory of Love, and I said, I've got to read Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida, and I finished it on an airplane, and I'm weeping as I finish it. And then I have to read The Faerie Queene. I was a physical education major in college. I’m probably the only PE major in the world that's actually read The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser and loved it! But I wouldn't have gotten to it had it not been for Lewis. And again, Lewis’s books are not intimidating. If you will discipline yourself to stick with it, it will open up all kinds of windows for you.

And I think also, for our own discipleship, our own spiritual growth, we need to grow and read lots of different kinds of books. And there are some books that you pick up, and, “Oh, this is going to be light and refreshing. Great.” And then some other ones, “Oh, this is a book of theology. I'm going to have to work through this slowly, read this slowly.” And then other books, like these here in this list of these eight books, “Okay, this is going to be intellectually rigorous. I probably will have to read this more slowly than lighter fiction or one of Lewis's more popular books.” That's okay. I think we kind of gear ourselves up for different kinds of readings for different seasons in our lives or different expanding of our purposes. I love—you mentioned it earlier, Mark, that these kinds of books, they help us expand our knowledge of the world, because they’re expanding our knowledge of a particular subject. It's like they strengthen some muscles. And now we're able to take on more difficult topics and difficult tasks. I hope I didn’t Put words into your mouth. I hope that this is something close to what your book is about.

Jerry: Yes.

Mark: Yes. And I would say, to the point of reading the difficult works, if you're not challenged, and if you're not experiencing some state of disequilibrium, then you're not growing. And so reading those books is really that sort of a challenge, and people should be up to it, I think, because, in reading those works, we will stretch ourselves, and we will grow and be challenged, and that's part of their value.

Jerry: And we also, I think, live in a culture which has thought that graduation from college means that's the end of our education, rather than keeping in mind commencement, the graduation exercises in America, mean that all you did was lay a foundation for education. And now you will commence your education by building on that foundation for the rest of your days. We've got people running around today who think that, if they read a little bit of Dante in college that inoculates them against ever having to read Dante again. Or if they saw a Shakespeare play, “Oh, I saw that once, so therefore, I’m done with Shakespeare.” And that is just not the purpose of an education. It is to open up doors for us. It's to open windows. It’s to enlarge the soul. And if we enlarge the soul and if we encounter reality in more places, it should be breathtaking, because something of the hem of the garment of God is in evidence at that place.

Well, we could go on far more, but I'm afraid I'm going to be the bad guy and kind of call this to an end. I do hope people will read your book, The Neglected C.S. Lewis, and will read it alongside those Lewis books and the ones that lead to it. I also find that when I read challenging books, big, thick, challenging books, it helps me read the Bible better. I mean, the book of Jeremiah is a long book. The book of Ezekiel is a long and difficult book. But when I've got those muscles trained for reading long and difficult books, I get more out of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Isaiah and Revelation. And so these are not just periphery kind of things.

But let me ask you guys: What would be some last thoughts you want to share with our listeners about this book or about Lewis or any way you would like to wrap this up?

Jerry: I think what you just said was really important, because I've read literary works before, and they've awakened in me new questions. I've taken those questions then to the texts of Scripture, and those questions then bring me into depths of passages of Scripture where I see its wisdom in answering those very questions that I picked up from some literary text. So I think I would agree with you 100%. The other thing, too, I'd say, Randy, thanks for letting us be on this with you. It was a lot of fun. Mark?

Mark: Yeah, I would just add, in closing, too, that I'm convinced that many of these works that Lewis writes are really books to help kind of wake us up out of our lethargy, right? And he says, in The Weight of Glory, “You and I have needed the strongest spell to wake us from the enchantment of worldliness that has been laid on us for 100 years.” And so I think part of Lewis's effort is to help wake us up, to show us those wider vistas and so forth. And there's a great quote by Chesterton, and I keep referring to Chesterton, but I'll close with this, and he says this: He says, “In the darkest of the books of life, it is written.” He says, “If you look at a thing 999 times, you're perfectly safe. If you look at it for the thousandth time, you're in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.” To develop those sorts of eyes and ways of seeing the world around us that expands our horizon, I think, is what Lewis is attempting to-do through these books.

OH, that's great! That’s great. Well, Jerry Root, Mark Neal, it’s been a delight to have you be part of Questions That Matter, as we explored the question of what are some other books by C.S. Lewis we should read and why should we read them? We hope, to you, listeners, that this has been helpful for you in your walk with the Lord. And we hope that all of our resources at the C.S. Lewis Institute help you love the Lord your Godwith all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

 

Brought to you by the C.S. Lewis Institute and the Questions That Matter Podcast with Randy Newman.

COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

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