Surprised by Sense

“If I were ever to stray into the Christian camp, it would be because of Lewis’s arguments as expressed in books like Miracles.”—Kenneth Tynan

I would not be a Christian if it did not make the most sense of the world.

It’s important to me that what I believe makes sense. I would assume it should be important to anyone, but we seem to live at a time when faith is seen as something for the weak, the needy and the unreasonable.

So I find it strange but necessary to say that I am an intelligent person, maybe even a reasonable one—not easily taken in by myth, magic or madness. But it is strange to thinking people that my confidence in the resurrection and the return of Christ is not simply by faith but because it makes the most sense.

I do not think, as some believing people do, that faith is for the heart—not for the mind.

It’s good for you to believe in something, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Save your mind the trouble to deal with difficult questions and just rest-easy in the lullaby-like love of God because life is difficult and we all need something to believe in to help us get through it.

Faith is like eating a bony piece of fish. When you get to a bone, pick it up, set it aside and return to enjoying the fish.

Yuck!

I think faith is a deliberate exercise of the mind and any love for God that does not involve thinking is like a man who gives his son a ribbon-wrapped box of Pillsbury Premium Cake Mix on his fifth birthday.

Thinking should matter to us because it matters to God.

So I find it tiring to hear the common refrain that believing people are not thinking people and thinking people are not believing people.

But when I am discouraged and disillusioned by believing people who do not think and thinking people who ridicule believing people, it is comforting to remember that the history of Christian thought is littered with the likes of C.S. Lewis.

This year I set myself the ambitious but exciting task of reading everything written by C.S. Lewis and watching everything made by Woody Allen—someone who brings the kind of wit to doubt, that Lewis brought to faith.

Whatever I have read and watched at the end of the year, I hope I will at least have an improved sense of humour and a sharper sense of comic timing.

My reading vision for the year includes books by atheists, existentialists, theologians, novelists and non-fiction writers, but here are a few reasons I think everyone should read C.S. Lewis—whether you think more like him or like Woody Allen.

Excellence

If you’re a writer you will understand easily why reading Lewis is a bitter pleasure. Like all masters of their craft, he makes it look all too easy.

He was an excellent writer and a world class literary scholar—not a clergyman nor a theologian.

As a student in Oxford University, he won a triple first, the highest honours in three areas of study—classics, philosophy and english. As a professional, he has a revered place in history as one of the masters of medieval renaissance literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he worked for nearly thirty years.

Because Lewis was at the heart of Oxford and Cambridge, which was really the heart of the english-speaking intellectual world, it is astounding how in the 1930’s and 40’s, he saw where western civilisation was going.

In The Abolition of Man he is remarkable at anticipating what now is called postmodernism. He is not a period piece intellectually…He really knew what was on the way and he is not talking to intellectual trends that are dated and gone now,” says Author, Pastor and self-confessed C.S. Lewis fan Timothy Keller.

When his reluctance to believe turned into eagerness to believe, his excellence as a literary critic and his insatiable appetite for reading gave him a sharp eye to see things in the Bible and show things from the Bible in vivid, imaginative and compelling ways.

As a teenager with doubts about my faith, Mere Christianity stirred my heart because it was not merely satisfying to the mind, it was captivating to the imagination. He gave me a way of seeing faith that gave me a desire to live by faith—not urging me to leave my brains behind but eagerly telling me they were a vital part of the journey. C.S. Lewis was one of the first writers who taught me how to love God with my mind.

Wonder

C.S. Lewis is a genuine writer’s writer, whose work has stood the test of time and is marked by a signature sense of wonder and humility.

Lewis regularly received letters from readers around the world and he was fond of replying to them. In a 1956 letter to Joan Lancaster, one of his young Narnia fans, he gave her some rules for writing, one of them being, “Don’t say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we’ve read the description.”

He was able to create that sense of wonder through simple but captivating pieces of literature like this one from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” said Beaver.

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…

…At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

Wit

Reading Lewis is a little like listening to Jazz—it thrills your heart, fascinates your mind, lifts your spirits and makes you marvel at how so much seems to be happening at the very same time.

None of his writing reeks of cold rationalism or suffers from impersonal intellectualism. He spoke to the mind as vividly as he wrote for the heart. His reasoning was coated with compassion and laced with subtle but generous helpings of wit, humour and wonder.

Whether you are enthused or suspicious about faith, reading Lewis may simply give you a sense that faith is not simply comfort food for the hurting, thoughtless rituals for the fearful or a wishful distraction for the anxious.

God has been a feast for the hungry heart but He is no less a thrill to the thirsty mind—a pleasure enjoyed by the brightest minds in history.

Harper’s Magazine once said, “The point about reading C. S. Lewis is that he makes you sure, whatever you believe, that religion accepted or rejected means something extremely serious, demanding the entire energy of the mind.”

More than fifty years after his death, Lewis remains a lighthouse for thinking believers lost at sea wondering why they were told to leave their minds behind.

Although his answers are not comprehensive, they are like the first breath of air after being held underwater by the firm hand of doubt. He reassures us that following Christ is not merely for weak hearts but strong minds.

While this may be a new idea to many believing people and a strange one to many thinking people, as far as Lewis was concerned it was neither new nor strange. It was simply true. It was merely Christianity.


Image Credit: peasap

 

Suggested Reading to Start Your Journey with C.S. Lewis:

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