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By David W. Virtue, DD
January 31, 2023

I had the privilege of listening to seven brilliant academic minds lecture on the life and works of C.S. Lewis. I cannot possibly condense all their lectures into one single story, but their lectures will be made available to those who attended and I will post them to VOL's website when they become available. What follows are random thoughts by the speakers as they wrestled with Lewis as apologist, writer of children's books, explainer of pain and suffering, beauty and more. Nothing I write will capture the depth of the thoughts and words of these distinguished speakers. The main thrust of their lectures was Lewis as narrator of stories to bring us the gospel. Lewis' use of imagination in apologetics was key to understanding his thought and mindset. Over 900 attended the three day event.

The speakers included Alister McGrath, Peter Kreeft, Philip Ryken, Amy Orr-Ewing, Simon Horobin, Jerry Root and Michael Ward.

CHARLESTON, SC: In what can only be described as a rousing defense of the Christian Faith seen through the life and books of C.S. Lewis, British scholar Alister McGrath who has written 50 books, several on Lewis, said Christianity was a big coherent picture that embraced all of life.

"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," said McGrath, citing Lewis.

Under the banner of Longing for a more Beautiful Story, McGrath cited three key themes; longing, beauty and story as keys to understanding Lewis, and urged his audience to engage in what he called "our need for a bigger vision of reality."

The following are one-line quotes from the speakers:

Joy: a deep sense of unsatisfied longing.
A yearning for something that really satisfies.
Finding our heart's desire -- deeper than rational understanding.
You have made us for yourself...
We have a longing for a more beautiful story
Lewis found that Christianity was far more than mere excitement and he began with questions.
Truth may convince people, yet beauty attracts people. We can see it in the parable of the pearl of great price.

Lewis's 1941 sermon: "The Weight of Glory" revealed that he was the greatest Christian apologist we have ever known.

Lewis was able to leave atheism behind.

Lewis argued that there are many levels in which we can engage people.

Theological orthodoxy is the basis of renewal and growth.

Lewis shows us how we can use orthodoxy in rich, rewarding, imaginative, and deeply satisfying ways.

Showing what orthodoxy works, but not just telling us what it is.

Here is the difference it makes. Learn the language of the audience.

Conversion is a work of God.

St. Paul's thorn in the flesh was perhaps that he was not able to perform well and showed weakness and vulnerability.

"My strength is made perfect in weakness." -- Biblical quotation.

Many Christians do not understand the difference their life makes to others.



We are always longing for a more beautiful story.

How do we know that the Jesus story is both real and true?

Lewis was the soul of faith and practice. These writings are only inspired by the oracles of God, the authority of his word in a fractured world.

But his doctrine is less than orthodox. We need a secure foundation for our witness.

Lewis has become the Aesop and Aquinas of evangelicals.

Tell a gospel story that leads people to Jesus.

Lewis had three shortcomings. Lewis placed the inspiration of scripture on a continuum of several other gods of literary inspiration.
This caused him to underestimate the uniqueness of Scripture.
Lewis used Homer by invoking his muse.
All Holy Scripture in the same sense as the word of God.
Was it literary inspiration but not plenary verbal inspiration of the Bible.
Lewis believed there were contradictions and errors in the Bible.
Lewis expressed discomfort with verbal inspiration of scripture.
Apparent inconsistencies. Death of Judas.
Apparent inconsistency but not error as such.
Errors would not threaten core of Christian orthodoxy.
Lewis doubted or denied certain parts of the Bible as inerrant.
Historicity matters where it is plain.
The Bible becomes the Word of God when the Spirit of God makes it so.
Qualifier: Lewis was not a theologian but a literary critic.
Lewis's most serious reflection on Scripture is found only in his letters, not in his books.
Lewis describes his views as very tentative.
Lewis is not a theologian. He gave just tentative thoughts. He was unwilling to lead people astray.

In his writings he reflects his care for your soul.

The Bible has different kinds of literary genres.

Lewis rejected a fundamentalist doctrine of scripture not evangelical.

Common sense demands that he sees the parables as historical statements.

Lewis had no lack of confidence in the truthfulness of the Bible.

The Holy Ghost means us to have sacred myth, sacred history.

Lewis uses myth, the power of the beautiful story. Myth is what awakens the human imagination. The numinous.

Some myth is ultimate reality. Biblical story both myth and factual history.

Lewis loved mythology.

Found the true story of a dying and rising deity.

The resurrection myth had become fact. And there is nothing like it.

Myth become fact.

Christian doctrine should surrender to Scripture.
Theology, the Creeds, and historical theology aa all good, but the norm is the Bible.

Lewis referred to the Bible as Holy Scripture.

Lewis argues for the unity and consistency of the Bible.

Scripture interprets Scripture.

God is sovereign over human suffering.

In him is no darkness...

Lewis's submission to scripture. Affirmation of hell.

Pain has the full support of scripture.

Sensitive reading of biblical text.

Lewis read the Bible as literature.

Bible as more than literature but cannot be less.

Jonah is a romantic story, not history, but not historically false.

Bible must be read as history.

The Gospel of John is reliable history, either reportage or some other writers in the 2nd Century.

Lewis was steadfastly committed to biblical miracles. There is a history of Biblical miracles. He defended them against their many critiques.

To me, the real distinction is supernaturalism and salvation and watered down on the other.

The Bible is real true story.
We could see Jesus turning water into wine.
It was all or nothing for Lewis. Either a supreme being or nothing. He hated liberal or modernist interpretations of the Bible.

He was anti-critical on the authority of scripture.

Lewis was often labeled a fundamentalist.
Lewis: we need to include the miraculous.

Lewis drew a distinction between authentic and inauthentic faith.

Bible must be taken on its own terms.


PETER KREEFT. He is the author of 120 books and viewed Lewis as a prophet.

Lewis despised the demonic culture of death.

The two most important books of our time are the Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

What we call Christendom is now called Western Civilization.

Lewis is a prophet. He recognized 12 major principles of history. He was anti-Hegel.

There will be false messiahs till the end of time.
Contemporary relevance to eternal relevance.

Hell is discovered too late.

Technology has replaced religion as the new summum bonum of power and the new technique.

We are seeing the decline of the humanities more so than the decline of religion.
Truth for its own sake to truth for how I perceive it.

You can't repent if there is no moral stand...we live in a time of poisonous subjectivism.

Modernity; has it made us good or happy?

WE ARE SINOHOLICS IN DENIAL -- one of the best quotes of the day, IMHO.

Lewis offers 4 pieces of advice

1. We are all strangers and aliens in this world.
2. We must remember the greatest task more power in one atom in Christ body than all atomic bombs.
3. No doomsday determinists. Always hope. Appeal to free choice - prophets. Turn and repent. All over the world.
4. How can we work towards this civilization? Work for peace, concerned with peace and survival. Sodom and Gomorrah almost made it. We must be Abrahams. Save the world is -- to love the Lord our God and neighbor as ourselves to become saints. Please become a saint.



In A Grief Observed, Lewis watched his wife's death.

Foundation of our apologetic is both personal and incarnational.

Intellectual perspective and personal and intellectual come together.

Christian apologetics must be personal, intellectual and robust.

Pain is real in the experience of every person.

If our apologetics minimizes abuse, we should be careful about rushing in with intellectual answers.

Deep need for serious engagement.

Suffering remains deeply baffling.

Things are not meant to be this way.

Lewis saw the vastness of the universe.

If the universe is so bad, where on earth did humans get the idea of a good and wise creator?

Belief in a loving God who created us is central.

What it means to be human is to experience depression.

INTERSECTIONALITY. Intersectional injustice are the foundations of my personal identity.

Life is more than a collection of atoms.


JERRY ROOT: The Problem of Love

Lewis was an objectivist. A one world independent of our thoughts about it.

Truth is not reality. Reality is complex, any truth can be applied wider.

I can get a sure word, must be textured with humility.

Gateway to wonder and awe.

We want what is broken within us restored

Christian apologist. Apologetics must be a servant of the gospel message itself. Still must present the faith.

Lewis used imagination in Christian apologetics

Transposition and other addresses.

Lewis thought through the religious option... then theism and finally full belief in Christ and the Christian story.

How can we communicate well?

Lewis stands shoulder to shoulder with his reader.

World is infused with the presence of God


If our religion is objective, we must never avert our eyes from things that are repugnant or puzzling.

Reality is iconoclastic, a person who breaks idols.

The Pilgrim's Regress was the first book on Christian apologetics.

We are homesick for our homes. It is not the same. Those homes are longing for love.

Longing for ultimate first love

We want what is brokenness to be restored.

Surprised by Joy...reveals the deep longings we all have.

Apologetics is a servant of the gospel.

Apologetics points people to Jesus.

LEWIS ABOUT TO DIE gets a letter from a young girl called Joy. In response he writes to her: "If you continue to love Jesus nothing much will ever go wrong with you..."



Telling a more beautiful story.

Jack was sensitive of everything about beauty.

Lewis could find God in a piece of bread and butter.

Lewis was not aesthete.

Beauty can end badly.

Beauty can be idolatry.

There is beauty of the Christian story.

Lewis told story with reverence, honest and profound joy.

Reverently. True beauty can hardly be put into words. Beauty that is easily articulated becomes cheap and glib.

Lewis didn't wear his heart on his sleeve.

Lewis revealed his native British reserve. Emotional splurges frowned upon.

But grounded in proper reverence.

Lewis did not care for Pilgrim's Progess.

Lewis liked the Valley of Humiliation -- Bunyan's green valley.

Wounds even in heaven. Wounds will further the condemnation of the unbeliever.

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing -- From The Eternal Weight of Glory

To love at all is to be vulnerable. - Lewis

"God is love"- St john
"Love is tears" -- C.S. Lewis
Ergo: "God is tears...."


PANEL DISCUSSION: Random quotes from four of the speakers.

You can't argue people into the kingdom of God.
Lewis is recognizing the limits of reason.
You have to use stories and beauty. Lewis did not lose his rational credentials. Rationality does have its limits. We need to draw on truth, beauty and goodness. -McGrath.

Lewis is talking about a comprehensiveness of the Christian faith. Lewis is not retreating from rationality, ensuring the full range of depth is articulated.

Disobedience to conscience makes conscience blind.

People are amusing themselves to death; they are avoiding the big questions. Funerals confront the harsh reality of life. People still have a fear of death and ultimate accountability.

Christianity offers a culturally relevant, historically true view of reality and stability.

What is good news for Lewis "God loves you, Christ died for you and you are reconciled for your sins."

We step into this beautiful story because it is true and it is real.


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