C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy - Lesson 1
C.S. Lewis Course Overview
The purpose of the class is to directly engage Lewis’s philosophy and theology. He brings a Christian worldview to engage intellectual movements of his day. The trinity created us to bring us into the fellowship that has been going on with God forever.
C.S. Lewis Course Overview
III. Goals for the Course
A. Become amateur Lewis scholars
B. Develop theological sophistication in the tradition of Mere Christianity
C. Clarification of apologetics
D. Negative and positive apologetics
E. The inner life of God is communal
IV. C.S. Lewis Wrote in Multiple Genres
A. Genres of writing
B. Influence on culture
The purpose of the class is to directly engage Lewis’s philosophy and theology. He brings a Christian worldview to engage intellectual movements of his day. The trinity created us to bring us into the fellowship that has been going on with God forever.
The mind is the organ of reason, imagination is the organ of understanding. To understand what real truth is, the imagination needs to be a part of that. We are created in the image of God and are immortal beings. Ordinary people are extraordinary. The Christian life is most deeply about being transformed resulting in participation in the divine life. It's more than just having one’s legal status changed. There should be transformation in the culture as well as personal. God is in the process of redeeming a wounded universe, including the whole of knowledge and truth in all subjects.
There is a sacred quality to ordinary activities as well as symbolic religious rituals. Whatever is true in any field of study is God’s truth. The world is essentially good, but it’s been damaged. God has taken a great risk in allowing people free choice for good or evil. Evil has become present in many forms in the world and it is anti-creational and anti-human. We are not broken, but we are bent. God’s nature is relational because of the nature of the Trinity, so it makes sense that he would make a universe that is relational. We dwell in God and he dwells in us. As disciples of Christ we all share the single vocation of loving God and others.
Lewis wants to parlay theological doctrines into dynamic insights and track out their implications for intellectual engagement. He does is with a background of philosophical skill and theological understanding of historic orthodoxy. Instead of arguing about preferences, we need to focus on articulating the doctrines that are universal. Lewis’s ideas are expressed so they can be understood by people not formally trained in philosophy or theology but they have merit in the marketplace of ideas.
The probability of morality as we know it in the human community, given that theism is true, is more probable than morality given any other worldview. Morality at the human (finite) level is anchored in morality at the infinite level. Morality has its most natural fitting worldview home in theism. In using the analogy of light shining through boards in a tool shed, Lewis says, “I believe in Christianity, not because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”
In Hinduism, Brahman, the hidden inner essence of everything, is beyond human categories of good and evil. Brahman is the only reality. Everything we see is an illusion. The fundamental human problem is ignorance, not sin. Dualism is the idea that there is good and evil at war in the universe. Explaining morality in a dualistic framework is difficult. Dualism assumes good and evil are equal, so you would need a third element to adjudicate which one to choose, and that would be a higher standard. Otherwise you wouldn’t know which one to choose. Naturalism/materialism says there is no ultimate moral nature to the universe.
Lewis begins by discussing our common moral experience as a triggering point to reason toward theism. Then he reasons for a deity that’s interested in morality that’s also a supreme power. With naturalism, we come from a source that is non-rational, non-moral and non-personal, so it’s difficult to understand how you get beings that are rational, moral and personal.
Theism is intellectually at least on par, if not superior to, other conceptions of reality like dualism, pantheism and naturalism. If there is a God that theism describes, only one deity of the living theistic religions said that this God invaded our existence. The question is that in comparison to other alternatives, what is emerging as a reasonable explanation of the reality we face?
Our rationality being reliable assumes that we can produce a large preponderance of true beliefs over false ones by using rational faculties like memory, abstract reasoning, perception and the testimony of others. The role of philosophy is to analyze and explain the common sense beliefs of the human race about morality and the external world.
The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. Lewis thinks that we now do not have broad social consensus of Christian truth. He challenges individuals to have a more positive affirming attitude toward intellect and academics. In his view, Christians are ambivalent about the value of the life of the mind and using the gift of our intellect to serve him.
Premise one: every natural desire corresponds to one real object. Premise two: There exists in us a desire that nothing in the temporal world can satisfy. Conclusion is that there must be more than time, earth and creatures that can satisfy this desire.
The Supreme Being, behind the universe as we know it, is a personal being, eternal and the model for how we are to understand our personhood. We can’t understand our own personhood fully, the way it’s supposed to operate, unless we understand what God is, as a personal being. We are not projecting our understanding on God but learning about ourselves by finding out about God.
This is ultimately a book about a clash of worldviews. A worldview offers an explanation of the important features/phenomena of life and the world. In the West, the atheist worldview is often expressed in naturalism. Lewis argues for theism based on what is true internally of us, rather than argument from design. Discussion is not whether a particular miracle has occurred, but in principle, is it a possibility.
There is a supernatural power or being that is ontologically distinct from nature (transcendent). It is self-existent. Every world view must propose what is fundamentally real. For the naturalist, it is the physical world. For the theist, it’s a transcendent deity. Everything that is not God is dependent/contingent on God for its being. The theist says that the deity can bring about events that would not have happened by the regular operation of nature.
What’s important to Lewis is freedom of rational thinking, free from physical causes. Naturalism undercuts the power of reason because everything is determined by physical causes. If evolutionary naturalism is true, then the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable for truth is low.
If you believe in naturalism as a worldview, miracles are impossible. Since a naturalist worldview says everything is determined and thought is only adaptive, the ability to have free rational thought to logically evaluate naturalism undercuts the naturalist position.
Rational thought and moral consciousness are points of entry of the supernatural into the realm of the natural. It involves both. It’s not a dichotomy. Naturalists believe that the nature of human persons is limited to material processes. Substance dualists believe that mind and brain are two separate substances that are mixed for now, but at death one will cease to exist and the other will continue to exist. Emergentist sees the animal form taken to another degree of complexity by the natural realm getting increasingly complex and dualist in function as opposed to substance.
Scientific law is economical summary of what experience always reports: regular cause and effect. Laws are regularity based on coincidences. Causality is the basis of law. Hume says that laws are regularities based on coincidences. Hume says that you can only know regularity because that’s all the human mind is capable of. Peterson’s view is that a miracle is not changing a law of nature, it’s changing with the “ceteris paribus” clause – preventing all things from being equal and changing the nature of the item.
There is nothing about nature that makes miracles impossible. The naturalist can’t see nature accurately as a creature, not just an independent fact but it can’t stand or explain itself. The cosmological principle is that only concrete beings, not general things, have causal power. Causal laws don’t make things happen, only the beings acting within the laws.
If God is in fact a living determinate being, and is outside the natural system, he might insert events into the natural system. The laws that we observe in the natural system may be a subset of higher laws that govern the universe. What criteria do you use to determine if a miracle has taken place? Evidence plus intrinsic probability. Whether or not an event is a miracle is also part of the discussion of the problem of evil. Why would God intervene in some circumstances but not others?
In philosophy, it’s referred to as the problem of evil. Given a certain understanding of God and a certain understanding of evil, there is a tension explaining why evil exists in the world.
If God chooses to create a nature, this signifies a physical system which indicates a relatively independent nature independent from himself, it would make a lot of sense to say he is frequently intervening. The same laws that make nature a stable environment in which rational soulish life can emerge, are also the same laws that make us vulnerable. Pain is God’s megaphone to arouse a deaf world. He might whisper to us in our pleasures, but he shouts to us in our pain. Question about whether God initiates the pain or he set up a system which results in pain because of the way it’s structured.
Lewis describes the story of the Fall as a narrative that has symbolic elements that convey significant truth. The truth in the first couple chapters of Genesis is that we were created by God, sovereign and loving creator, and that our only fulfillment as humans is to center our lives on God. Our proper role as a creature is to rely on God, so when we ignore that and rely on ourselves, our relationship with God is broken.
God is his creation set forth the problem of expressing his goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents in spite of, and even by means of, their rebellion against him. The risk is for the possibility of relationship.
Aristotle would say that as a rational, moral being you build your character based on the hierarchy of good traits. From a Christian perspective, our natural destiny should be on the same trajectory as our eternal destiny. The spiritual and theological virtues are faith, hope and love.
As long as God chooses a stable physical order, that physical order will run by its own laws. Any system with have the possibility of pain. Created nature with natural laws provide a framework/structure in which souls can meet. Some pain is produced by the natural system without regard to the desires of the beings. That humans can inflict pain on other humans is a reflection of the permission by God that he permits this. The wide range of freedom makes it possible for great good or terrible evil.
Lewis thinks that God needs to pierce the shield of our ego and we are embodied creatures so pain is what does it by getting our attention by highlighting how frail and in need we are.
For Lewis, heaven is the unending joyous life of God, the life of the Trinity. The only way I can be fulfilled is to find its proper purpose and relation with God. Heaven is the restoration of created personhood, what it was always meant to be. When we are on the trajectory, we begin experiencing it now. Hell is the lack of fulfillment for which we were made.
Discussion of the movie Shadowlands. Discussion of the nature of relationships. Pain and happiness are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Lewis expresses anger toward God as part of his process of grief. Orthodox Christianity denies materialism which believes that your physical body is all you are, but it doesn’t require body-soul dualism where the soul is the real person that inhabits a shell. Whatever damage death completes in the reign of sin in this world will be undone and swallowed up by the resurrection. The restoration of human personhood will come after death.
Heaven and hell are dichotomous. Whether life is heaven or hell depends on your future trajectory. God is true reality, fixed and can’t be altered. In GD, true reality is God. The descriptions are not meant to be literal. Heaven is the Trinitarian life of God. It’s not a place, it’s a state of being in proper relation to the love and joy of the Trinitarian relations. Lewis describes it as a great dance.
Final comments about themes in The Great Divorce.
C. S. Lewis is an extremely good theologian who does his work for the thoughtful lay person. But his writings reflect his erudite understanding of the great classics of literature, historical theology, philosophy, and other disciplines. Lewis says in Mere Christianity that theology is like a map. We may get where we’re going without it, but it is much easier to use the map. The map of Christian theology is drawn over the early centuries of the church as the believing community interprets the Bible and its experience of God.
Of course, the ultimate goal of theology, according to Lewis, is practical: to draw us into the life of God, or St. Gregory of Nazianzus ((329-374 AD), called it, “the Great Dance.” I know no theme deeper or more pervasive in Lewis than our need to get the steps right, to join the dance once again.
In “Meditations in a Tool Shed,” Lewis says that there is a distinction between looking at a beam of light and looking along the beam of light. He is speaking of looking at reason or using reason—a passage that forms part of his great case that presence of rationality argues for the truth of theism. We will be doing a lot of looking in this course, largely, “looking at” Lewis himself. But let us also try to “look along” the same line of sight as Lewis, to see things—God, humanity, spiritual life, and a host of other things—as Lewis saw them. This means attempting to step inside Lewis’s worldview and learning to interpret fundamental realities the way he did and to deploy his distinctive strategies for engaging other worldviews. In effect, we will learn to think Christianly by learning to think along Christianly with Lewis.
In 2020, Dr. Peterson published the book, C. S. Lewis and the Christian Worldview. It is essentially his course lectures in written book form--covering Lewis on all key worldview issues--reality, knowledge, creation, trinity, christology, as well as issues of evil, religious pluralism, and the impact of science on faith. You will also see it listed in the Recommended Reading section.
Dr. Michael Peterson
C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy
C.S. Lewis Course Overview
Let me just open the class with a little thought or devotion that I've been thinking about. This is from first Peter 315. The Navy always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. I think probably no other modern Christian thinker fulfills this admonition from First Peter better than C.S. Lewis as he engaged in what we may call intellectual evangelism or pre evangelism or natural theology or apologetics. Those terms get us in the target area. I think of much of what he spent his career doing. Consider a well-known passage in Lewis two, juxtaposed to the passage in First Peter. This is from Lewis. If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated, but as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the church, whether it exists inside the church or not. To be ignorant and simple Now, not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground would be to throw down our weapons and have no defense against intellectual attacks. Good philosophy must exist if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work against the cool intellect on the other side. That's from his little essay on learning in wartime. Well, if his work was done in the forties and it's carried in the anthology The Weight of Glory. But I'm learning. Think about that. On learning in war time. Something very pressing and very practical was on everybody's minds. World War Two. And he's saying, You just can't say Pressing practical issues sweep aside the intellectual need to represent Christianity and Christian faith. So even though there's a war going on, there'll be a lot of practical responses to that war.
The life of the mind has to be cultivated and nourished and carried forward. And I think it's really interesting, not just the quote, but interesting point, that he's saying it in that context. Sometimes we say similar things in in other contexts, like the need for evangelism is so strong that there's no time to read books or get into heavy theoretical discussions. We need to do practical things instead. And Lewis basically is saying there should not be a dichotomy between the practical needs that are always able to be identified in any context and the need, for a theoretical reason, a cool intellect to understand the ideas at play in any era, any cultural context. So as much as learn, as much as evangelism and missions, for example, are urgently needed, so is learning and good learning guides, good evangelism and good and good missions outreach? Well, Lewis is saying here the Christian faith, not Another thing that's involved in what he's saying is a Christian faith has intellectual content. He's saying, if you can think about it, if their idea is to to understand more clearly and to represent against the ideas of other positions, that means it has genuine intellectual content. And it's not just a matter of choice or passion. It's those things, but it also has content, intellectual content. And that intellectual content can effectively engage the best information from all fields of knowledge as well as the best arguments in other points of view. Lewis His idea of Christian faith, which we'll talk about more a little bit later, is simply of broadly ecumenical, historic, orthodox Trinitarian Nicene Christianity. So he makes a real point, as we'll see at the beginning of Christianity, probably next session, not to be denominational and not to be sectarian, but to try to transcend and say, what is it that's universal and common among all Christian traditions in terms of belief, which is largely what we'll be talking about, but also in terms of practice of the Christian life, the basic practices.
That's why he calls his book Mirror Christianity Essential Christianity, which we'll get into in a little while. Well, that's my little meditation to kick off the Lewis course. Let's pray and then we'll get into other things that we have to deal with. Father, thank you for your presence in our lives. Thank you for guiding us to this point as we prepare for our callings, pursue the vocations that you have given to each one of us. You've brought us now to a time of thinking about a material that may have multiple different kinds of impacts in our ministries. Help us In the days ahead. We pray to have clear minds, strong hearts and passionate activity on behalf of learning and understanding and articulating Christian faith to a world in need in Christ. And we pray. Amen. Well, probably at any first session, of course, we need to discuss the syllabus. And I don't know if you've had a chance to look at the syllabus online. There's probably not a lot to say about it. It's pretty self-explanatory. But I do want to highlight a couple of things. One is that. The the course description in the early pages about Lewis and Christian faith. You know, they could go different directions. And here's the direction that I'm trying to say it's taking as I as I write this up in the syllabus, that there's a lot of material out there on C.S. Lewis. I mean, there's hardly any shortage. But speaking probably too simplistically, it falls into two broad categories in my thinking, two very broad categories. One is stuff on his fantasy and fiction, his literature, a lot of stuff. And then there's stuff on his biography, including his circle of friends, you know, things having to do with his autobiographical narrative.
And those materials are fine and fantastic. But what I see out there is the lack of any good work to speak of a little bit here and there. On his philosophy, and what I think Lewis really offers us is not just really an interesting biography, which he does, and and some really gripping literature. I mean, I love Narnia, I love the space trilogy. How could you not? You know, we're now buying scaled down versions for our grandchildren so we can expose them to Narnia a.S.A.P, and they love it. So at any rate, that's good material. But so much of who Lewis is is his. It's his ideas. And a lot of people don't realize what a skilled philosopher he was. Excuse me. I think partly because most of his writings, if they touch on philosophy at all or theology as well, they tend to be popularized and simplified for the ordinary person. Near Christianity is a set of radio broadcasts that went out over the BBC. So he's not trying to write academic, technical philosophy and theology, which we've been exposed to here in the seminary. And certainly that's a very legitimate level of doing philosophy in theology. But what he's known for, if he's known for whatever philosophical and theological ideas he presented, he's known for kind of popularizing, simplifying, and he's a communicator. And I think that's a great thing as we go through the course. What I want to do is is focused largely not on his biography, not on his literature per se, even though elements of those things may come in into play. I want to focus on his philosophical ideas tied to his theological ideas, but not to keep them at a popular, simplified level and make the point as we go.
Keep making the point that this idea or that idea or this argument or that argument can be given more sophisticated expression than what he did. And when it's given more sophisticated expression, it can stand on its own two feet against more sophisticated, opposing perspectives. As they stand. A lot of what he says can seem to some people who are mistaken in this, that he's not a very good philosopher or that he's he's just too simplistic and they don't get that he's deliberately simplifying and saying. So I think that's a really interesting insight in Lewis. I mean, he took he took top honors in philosophy as an Oxford undergraduate, which is not not something to discount, you know, something to take lightly. And so he just simply brings that philosophical orientation to everything he does, even his literature. It's implicit, sometimes explicit, in so many of the literary works he's known for. So the course C.S. Lewis and Christian faith then, is not so much about him coming to faith in his biography or his portrayal of things, of faith in his literature, but more of an explicit and and direct engagement with Lewis's philosophy and obviously his theology. Questions, comments so far. So when you read that description, that's what I'm trying to say in the description in the syllabus. I'm kind of a just in terms of my own approach. I'm kind of a framework person. So if it's C.S. Lewis and the Christian world in the Christian faith and we know it's going to be philosophically oriented, philosophically and theologically oriented, the content we talked about, the intellectual content can have a structure, I would call it a framework of ideas, principles, themes. And this framework is the large and general structure of of the Christian worldview.
So he's bringing the Christian worldview to engage a lot of intellectual movements of his day. It can be translated to engage intellectual movements of our day as well. So as I go, my approach will be to try to get a framework to emerge that we're working with and we're working within of his major ideas. One reason I do that that's kind of my style, such as it is, is because so much of learning theory says that without general frameworks, often called cognitive frameworks in the learning process, we don't absorb and retain and find useful things we do in class, things we do in our in our formal studies, and in fact, that they we lose them. So we're going to do a lot of of of of books by Lewis five complete works by Lewis in this course but but I want us to see them not just as beads on a string or the ideas we discuss in them as just beads on a string was having a kind of structure. Some ideas are going to be more framing ideas. Others are just going to be his tactics of how to get those ideas across. And as we see, that will begin to see the framework as well as the tactics and the and the articulation which he uses. So I'm a framework person, and the Christian worldview has a conceptual framework and other points of view. He'll engage naturalism, he'll engage cosmic dualism, He'll engage a lot of other points of view. Before we're done with this course, we'll interact with them. We all have a framework of belief as well. They have their intellectual content, and the point of a worldview is to be able to account for, to explain, to make good, rational sense of important features of life in the world, and of course, near Christianity, as we'll find out a little bit later, starts out with our moral awareness.
Our sense of moral obligation starts out right there as a point of traction. That's where he gets a foothold, if you like, or in in in the beginning of the reasoning process early on in Christianity. So anyway, that's that's just a little bit of a glimpse into how I want to approach things and we'll put. One role view and its content is framework over against what is emerging as Lewis's Christian worldview and interact them as we go. Questions. Comments. So far, that's kind of like the point of the course, my approach to the course. Most students feel like, Well, you haven't really talked about the syllabus until you talk to us about how to get a grade and because, you know, that's like learning in wartime. Yeah, that all sounds great, but how do I get a grade? You know, I'm saying, okay, my idea is this We have five graded assignments. One is participation. Just be here, laugh at my jokes, say something witty occasionally. We're good. Okay. No, I'm good. But just meaningful participation, prepared participation. And then for exams, the first three exams are going to be objective online. And then the last the final to be turned in at the end of the course will be an essay exam. And if you study the online classroom, which I like to use, I like to use that even if it's a on campus class, I really like using that online classroom, but resources up there and all that kind of thing. So if you study that, you'll see what the due dates are. I don't know if I have them handy. Maybe I do. Yeah, I do. The mere Christianity exam, for example, due September 30th. I'll open it up and it'll say in the online classroom when, but it'll be several days in advance, maybe five.
And so you've got a window of five days, that kind of thing, but have to have it done by the 30th. And likewise, for all the other exams, they'll open up, they'll be available. You figure out in your schedule when's a good time for you to do it. I don't think they're terribly burdensome. I don't think they're terribly long. But you can again read the description of them. They're relatively brief, but I think they're they get at the main points in each of the books they're examining over. So that's their that's five equal assignments in terms of their grade weight. And I can't do you know, one is worth 30% ones I can't do that so they're all worth equal. Laughing at my jokes is worth equal to to passing high on an exam and probably a valuable skill anyway. Okay. Are there any questions so far that we're doing good? I really don't have much more to say about the syllabus. I try in the class agenda part of the syllabus to break this course up in two weeks. And roughly what I think what I project will cover every week of our 13 instructional weeks and we might be off a little bit here and there and have to clean something up that we didn't touch one day, didn't quite get to it. We'll just pick that. But it was projected, so we'll just pick it up the next, the next time. And, and it works out well that way we'll we're fine. But least you get an idea. Number one of the kinds of topics in that our class agenda section the kinds of topics on the one hand and the assignments I'm linking to those topics on the other hand, they're all kind of in columns, so you know that you've probably looked at that.
Okay. Other than that, I can't think of anything more about the syllabus, can you? Okay. Now. We make out a syllabus? Would you plan a course? It's ideal if you have goals. So if I were going to articulate the goals, maybe a little more elaborate a way, then they're done. In the syllabus, I would say I have maybe five goals. I don't think the syllabus enumerates all of these. Number one, one of my goals for all of you is to become an amateur. Lewis Scholars and the uses are many for an amateur. Lewis Scholar in academics I think in Christian leadership, in preaching, in doing various teaching kinds of functions within a Christian setting. I've seen them done in non-Christian settings because you go in through the literature of Lewis, and even non-Christians are interested in Narnia because they've got children or whatever, you know, that kind of thing, or they grew up on it. So in our church, this is true. My wife's been associate pastor for sales for like 15 years. I think she's in 15th year and I'm averaging about two modules of of adult electives every three years. Sometimes I don't do one, but but every every three years I will have done maybe two modules. They do an evening, Wednesday, adult electives. I mean, adult education, if you take it seriously. It's powerful. And we've had a variety of topics and we've had auto mechanic. We'll run parallel classes, auto mechanics, cooking class people sign up to electives and they sort of weeks in advance publicized in the newspaper. Anybody community can come some could with auto mechanics but you've got a Christian person doing that and so they write I'll often put Lewis something by Lewis and always get a huge crowd to anywhere between 25 and 40.
It's amazing in word for county and a handful of just from the community, not from our church but I appropriate Lewis and auto mechanics and draw both crowds. It's what are we put Lewis's name on so amateur Lewis scholars number one goal number two that we develop theological sophistication in the tradition of mere Christianity. And I view that kind of theological sophistication as being able not just to recite the basic principles of classical, ecumenical, Nicene orthodoxy, but to think within its framework and think creatively and ritually within its framework in a way that's nourishing to oneself and spiritually nurturing to others. It's not dead orthodoxy. It's a living, dynamic, growing tradition where you don't reinvent the wheel, you don't reinvent the principles. But they're ever fresh in in the need to be reapplied, reincarnated within everybody's cultural context, generation after generation. And so it takes it takes more than just theological memorization. It takes learning to think theologically and having something that's really rich and deep, to think theologically with classical Trinitarian orthodoxy. I couldn't imagine why a person would want to go anywhere else. I think also a lot of people are interested in, of course, like this because of its apologetic value. I'm very conscious of that interest. I personally don't tend to use the word apologetics. I think its classical use is quite good. It's contemporary use I don't care to be associated with, and that's because it causes too many transactions. To clarify what I think apologetics is these days, and it's often perceived as a little bit aggressive or a little bit cocksure of itself or non-ideological. If I'm coming through and I'm not interested in any of those kinds of perceptions. So even though there are different ways of doing apologetics, grant all that, I have a book at home on the shelf, five five styles of apologetics.
It's a fairly recent book, and there really are some different approaches. But just the use of the word immediately, kind of. Peg you labels you and I don't care to have to be explaining myself. So I would rather say something like Philosophy of religion, which has had quite a revival and renewal in the last three or four decades in Anglo-American circles and or an intellectual interest in religion, so that you create a bit of a of a more neutral space, a more open space with people who may have stereotypes. If you use code words like apologetics or whatever. That's me. I actually think Lewis is there in the way his his spirit and the way his approach is is portrayed in his writings. It's generally not an in-your-face kind of thing. That's why I said at the beginning, when I read from First Peter and then read the passage from Lewis is going to take cool intellect. It's going to take good understanding. It's going to take a high level of education to deal with some of the ideas in our culture that are opposing Christianity. Make it hard for people to see their way clear toward faith because they see these objections and so on. But how you engage, I think, is very important. I just really do. So we want to make sure the apologetic values there in the classical sense, that would be the negative apologetics of being able to answer objections. And positive apologetics in terms of being able to give a a compelling or appealing or satisfying account of why Christianity is rationally preferable to other alternatives. That's a positive thing. Give an account and really get it out there. Why Christianity makes so much sense of the major areas of life in the world and other worldviews are trying to make their sense of major areas of life and major aspects of the world.
And so we all have the same goal as worldview proponents is to take our resources and address these things. As I mentioned earlier, Lewis is starting out more Christianity with moral life. Who gives a better account of that? This view that for you, they all have to take a shot at giving an account of why we're beings who have moral awareness. That's how I started my Christianity. And there'll be other aspects of life in the world as well. So I'm in some ways more interested in positive apologetics. They're both necessary, but can we really do it on a sort of a rational level out there in the open space in society? Maybe people in the church needing to hear, maybe outside the church a positive presentation. And then my the last thing I wanted to mention in terms of of goals would be that kind of a personal level, meditate more deeply, maybe even begin to say, yes, I appropriate this for myself, this idea, which is clearly the the dominant theme in C.S. Lewis. I can't even think of a theme as close to being so dominant in Lewis as this. And he gets it from Saint Gregory of Nazianzus in the fifth century. That the inner life of God is is communal. Is social that the Trinity created us to bring us into that fellowship. That's been going on inside the life of God forever. That's the ultimate goal of Christian life. It's not just being saved or getting fire insurance. Those are all good things. But to catch all these other things, we often say in in evangelical America about aspects of the Christian life. Catch them up and see them in a larger vision that we're being drawn into the life, the Trinity.
That's the great invitation. This echoes that. I don't know if you were in the convocation chapel yesterday. Super message by our president. Did you get this on tape? Get his audience on. Okay. Super message by our president? No, but do I know how to play this game? Oh, I'm echoing some of his themes, actually. And that the the Trinitarian ism of Lewis is not Lewis's is picking up an ancient orthodoxy that that he knows how to think with and to live in accordance with and is deeply Trinitarian and sees Christian life ultimately in that large context of being drawn into the divine life. So that's that's my, my goals. And I probably didn't put that elaborately in the syllabus. Now in terms of moving a little bit more toward a focus on Lewis, we're easing our way up to our study. Let me just say a few things which are in the online class notes. By the way, I didn't say this. I put all my notes online, so I'm not a PowerPoint person, but I do put all the notes online and I won't repeat them in class. Word for word. There's no need to, but we'll just touch the high points and discuss our way through the outline in the notes. So they're there, and you're certainly welcome to bring your laptop and have them in front of you all the time. I don't put the jokes on. They're just too fresh and spontaneous to do that with and too precious, you know, and say, Oh, I'm going to write that. And then you can write it in its own word, but you don't just put those out. You just lay them out there. Okay. Lewis is an amazing, comprehensive intellect, and I put in the notes areas that his writings cover.
And, you know, a lot of people are just trying to make it in one field, one narrow area. And that's what specialization is in academia a lot. But look at the look at the scope of where this person made a mark. His writings cover these genres children's literature, science fiction, theology, philosophy, Christian apologetics, autobiography. He wrote Surprised by Joy. He was an essayist. There are lots of collections of his different essays. Learning in wartime would be, you know, one essay that I read from earlier. He did novels, really, some really good novels. I really like Til We Have Faces. But so he's a novelist. He wrote poetry. And just in general, he in terms of his own official station at Oxford and Cambridge, because he taught both places, Oxford and Cambridge. He was a scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature. So, I mean, honestly, that's pretty impressive. That's that's a heck of an intellectual range. His influence on culture, even in our own day, is broad. He's provided decades of people with popular reading. He's inspired various films, as we know. When I was at the university across the street until about three and a half years ago, I think they tired of my humor and were just happy to see me on my way. But we were involved with a lot of those films, all of the Narnia films. There were three, and we were involved consulting Devin Brown across the street, particularly with the media department and myself, for a variety of reasons. But. So, which inspired the Narnia films? Shadowlands, you may or may not be aware of. That was Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger and super super film high level Hollywood production. And also, I don't know if you know this one, the question of God and the question of God puts Sigmund Freud and C.S.
Lewis. It's a two hour special on PBS. Public Broadcasting came out about eight years ago, maybe puts them in dialog. Freud believing that religion is an illusion. Right. That's the title of one of his books, The Future of an Illusion. It's not a good future. So then there's Lewis and back and forth on religious questions, our sense of morality, our sense of relationality. And it's a roundtable discussion of scholars from various disciplines on Freud and Lewis. And that's that's very excellent. He is known also in in terms of influencing popular culture, broad general culture for various sermons I think is best known sermon is probably the weight of glory. And that's the title of a that's the lead essay in a book by that title. Many other essays. Almost unaccountably many societies, organizations, fellowships and clubs devoted to some study of Louis or Louis and maybe some of his circle of friends. It's pretty amazing how many C.S. Lewis societies there are. And I did it once, did a little research on them, and I won't bother you with reciting them, but it was a long, long list and just a partial list. And I did that in order to pitch a book on Lewis to Oxford University Press about this time last year and just persuade them if if it needed if they needed persuaded that there's still high interest in Lewis, even though he's, you know, he died in 63 the same day JFK was shot and kind of overshadowed by the assassination of John F Kennedy. But same day, I don't think Oxford needed a whole lot of persuading, but I did that. And oh, San Francisco Bay Area has a big C.S. Lewis. They have their own published newsletter. I kind of like what they do is very high class stuff and but there are many others.
Then there are Lewis study centers. Wheaton has one, Seattle Pacific has one. You know these kinds of things. Then I in doing that research, I also found that at the turn of this millennium, that would be the year 2000. Okay. Just make sure. Roll on. Okay. Christianity Today magazine took a poll of the century's most influential books. They asked more than 100 of their contributors and best known church leaders who are involved with Christianity today to nominate the ten best religious books of the 20th century. And here's what they said in the survey. By best books, we mean those that are not only important when first published, but which also have been of enduring significance for the Christian faith and church. As it turned out, as the surveys were coming in, Lewis books were taking up the whole top ten. And I believe if I read the fuller description of how Christian they handled this was, six or seven of the top ten looked like they were coming in and mere Christianity banging out number one, number one recommendation on so many surveys and they said, we're just going to have to change the process to give other authors a chance. And because we know that there are other and I don't remember exactly what they did to generate that list, but Christianity came out, number one, and they were getting a little nervous that Lewis was going to take up too many different spots. It would seem like it was rigged or I don't know, but I thought was really kind of an interesting thing. Here's what they here's a quote from Christianity we could have included even more Lewis works. But finally we had to say, enough is enough. Give other authors a chance, unquote.
Our subscriber, our respondents described mere Christianity as, quote, the best case for the essentials of Orthodox Christianity in print. It's really when you consider all that's out there, you know, and would have been out there in 2000. Well, that's just a way of kind of walking around the automobile and kicking the tires and checking the price tag and all of the other features, you know, that are on the sticker before we get in and drive it. But I want to do that a little bit and give us a little orientation to Lewis. We really need to take a break and come back and we'll continue this. I actually have a little documentary, a mini documentary on Lewis that we created a few years ago at the university across the street. So ten minute break and come back and we'll we'll go on.