There is no secret, if you know me, that I have a love for Lewis, C.S. Lewis. I was raised on the hills of Narnia and drunk from the shore of Cair Paravel through his books and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. The many places and tales C.S. Lewis wrote about kept me longing for more, more than here, more than this current plane of existence. It moved me to believe that this world is a half life, a whisper ghost of things to come. I can’t help but get a bit emotional when I speak of Mr. Lewis because of the great impact his writing has had on my life and the gentle prodding toward the Gospel in my early years.
I love C.S. Lewis for his fiction, the characters that feel like real people and friends, that I empathize and root for and many times grieve over. The multi-dimensional way that even the most un-human of them seem the most and best human, namely a little mouse called Reepicheep or how my heart burns bittersweet for Orual in Till We Have Faces. Even in their failings some of the most broken see truth and dragon scales fall off to true new life, Eustace discovered that and we all know how unpleasant he was to begin with.
I first loved Lewis for his fiction but I best loved him for his non-fiction. I will say that the influence of Mere Christianity is what soothed many doubts and indifferences to Christianity and the Church, it was a tool toward deepening faith in my life. His essays, books, his prodding us toward joy in suffering, his loving correspondence with children, the way he wrote about and sought truth, the way he spoke of and loved the wife of his late life, Joy Davidman, all of it made him my best-loved author. But this is not an essay about his influence on me this is a review of the book the Romantic Rationalist, edited by John Piper and David Mathis
First I will admit that a book about C.S. Lewis already has a plus in my mind but of course it could be a bad book about Lewis then that would definitely make me change it. This book, the Romantic Rationalist is a plus, plus, plus. The book is a compilation of well-written essays by very intelligent men about Lewis and his influence, his writings, his insight.
I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of knowledge that the essayists had about the writings of Lewis and their insights became valuable as I compared my own thoughts I’ve had over the years. C.S. Lewis was, in my mind, an great example of Matthew 22:34 in his life and through his writing.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” – Matt 22:34, ESV
I believe this is what the title of this book represents. Someone who sees the bigger picture of the Gospel practically but not only that loves with a sweet affection that big picture story and can express it with words that flow beautifully from deep love and a moved and forever changed soul. I believe that if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis and love theology you will love this book. My favorite Essays were Undragoned by Douglas Wilson, which may have convinced me that C.S. Lewis was an undercover Calvinist ( joking). By John Piper and by Randy Alcorn. All essays are a wonderful and I would love to have witnessed the panel discussion that occurs in the back of the book. So read this book and if you are only slightly familiar with Lewis you may also find a benefit here while you look into some of his deep thoughts. I dare to say it would help you embrace his writing more. So I recommend this book wholeheartedly and love it for what it says about Lewis and the connections it makes.
So for the Lewis fans and all, I’m including some of my favorite quotes from the book to sway you.
When Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, it is for one person—the traitor Edmund. The great lion gave his life for one grimy, little boy. Now it is true that Tirian in The Last Battle says that it was by Aslan’s blood that all Narnia was saved, but while glorious, this is an application, an extension, an afterthought. The nature of the lion’s death as told in the foundational story is seen as a very definite atonement. It really has to be—Lewis held to substitutionary atonement, and as Garry Williams has clearly shown in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the two doctrines are logically intertwined. He who says A may not have said B, but give him time.
-Douglas Wilson, Undragoned
In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” This verse tells us what we will one day see in retrospect. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, wrote that “both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. . . . Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”13 The curse will be reversed. Lewis has Aslan explain the deeper magic the witch didn’t know about when he died for a sinner: “The Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”14 Retrospect enables us to see everything differently. It’s why we can call the worst day in all of history “Good Friday.” Faith is like a forward memory, allowing us to believe as if what is promised has already happened. One day we will see how Romans 8:28 was true all along, even in those moments we most doubted it. Joseph saw this in Genesis 50:20, the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Notice Joseph didn’t merely say, “God made the best of bad circumstances.”) -Randy Alcorn, C.S. Lewis on New Heaven and the New Earth
Lewis came to Christ on the converging paths of romanticism and rationalism. And as a Christian, he became a master thinker and master likener. This is who he was, and this is what he knew. And so this is how he did his evangelism. He bent every romantic effort and every rational effort to help people see what he had seen—the glory of Jesus Christ, the goal of all his longings, and the solid ground of all his thoughts. -John Piper, Romantic Rationalist
The sad truth is that many of us are, at best, only half awake. We think we’re engaged with the real world—you know, the world of stock markets, stock-car racing, and stockpiles of chemical weapons—but in fact we’re living in what Lewis calls the “shadowlands.” We think we’re awake, but we’re really only daydreaming. We’re sleepwalking our way through life—asleep at the wheel of existence—only semi-conscious of the eternal, those things that are truly solid that bear the weight of glory. We want to believe the Bible—we do believe it, we confess the truth of its teaching, and we’re prepared to defend it—but we nevertheless find ourselves unable to see our world in biblical terms, and that produces a feeling of disparity, an existential disconnect. If faith’s influence is waning, as two-thirds of Americans apparently now think, then it is largely because of a failure of the evangelical imagination. We’re suffering from imaginative malnutrition. -Kevin Vanhoozer, In Bright Shadow
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Crossway, my opinion is completely my own.
Ellie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.