This book is subtitled Exploring the Ideas of C.S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life.
I started reading this book with excitement. My excitement quickly calmed and eventually turned to disappointment. This had nothing to do with the content of the book, but the approach taken by the author. I had pictured a fictional set of scenes where dialog takes place between two characters, one of which would be Lewis. I am an avid reader of Lewis and thought this would be a great and fresh, though supposed, take on his thoughts. Instead, what I found is much like other works of the sort – a topic is given and Lewis’ writings on the topic are quoted.
Perhaps I will one day write the book I was hoping to read.
Once I got over my dismay with the intended presentation of the book. I found that the author, Alister McGrath, actually had some very worthwhile insights worth noting. Here are a few gleanings from the book (all are from Lewis unless otherwise noted):
I believe in Christianity as I believe the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Deep down within all of us is a longing to work out what life is all about and what we’re meant to be doing.Alister McGrath
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.Friedrich Nietzche
He (Lewis) gradually realized that atheism was intellectually vulnerable and existentially unsatisfying.Alister McGrath
Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring.
Every true artist feels that he is touching transcendental truths; that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil.G.K. Chesterton
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable reason is that I was made for another world.
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors… Our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
The success of the Inklings also helps us to see criticism in a positive light. There are, unfortunately, people who boost their own sense of importance by criticizing others as a matter of principle. Yet within this community, criticism was a mark of respect and commitment.Alister McGrath
Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as inducing them.
A good story, Lewis realized, captivates the imagination. It can sneak past the “watchful dragons” of a dogmatic rationalism.Alister McGrath
We live in a world of competing narratives. In the end, we have to decide for ourselves which is right. And having made that decision, we then need to inhabit the story we trust.Alister McGrath
The theories themselves are not the things you are asked to accept.
Aslan is at one and the same time an object of memory and of hope.Alister McGrath
Aslan offers a mirror in which we see ourselves as we truly are. Or a light which reveals what we are really like, no matter how uncomfortable this may be.Alister McGrath
Good does not triumph unless good people rise to the challenges around them.Alister McGrath
When he began his studies at Oxford University in 1919, Lewis hoped to be remembered as an atheist poet – someone who destroyed the plausibility of God through his verbal eloquence and the power of argument. Yet in the end, it was the plausibility of a dull and joyless atheism that crumbled before him.Alister McGrath
Power to translate is the test of understanding one’s own meaning.
Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.Austin Farrer
If worldviews or metanarratives can be compared to lenses, which of them brings things into the sharpest focus? This is not an irrational retreat from reason. Rather, it is about grasping a deeper order of things which is more easily accessed by the imagination than by reason.Alister McGrath
The reading of literature opens our eyes, offering us new perspectives on things that we can evaluate and adopt.Alister McGrath
For Lewis, Christianity is at its best when it is rooted in the past and engaged with the present.Alister McGrath
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great and theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.
Puzzles lead to logical answers; mysteries often force us to stretch language to its limits in an attempt to describe a reality that is just too great to take in properly.Alister McGrath
A failure to understand something does not mean it is irrational. It may simply mean that it lies on the far side of our limited abilities to take things in and make complete sense of them.Alister McGrath
Suffering does not call into question the “big picture” of the Christian faith. It reminds us that we do not see the whole picture, and are thus unable to fit all of the pieces neatly into place.Alister McGrath
Hope is rooted in the trustworthiness of God.Alister McGrath
Hope allows us to bid farewell to fear.John Milton
Hope is a settled state of mind, in which we see the world in its true light, and look forward to our final homecoming in heaven.Alister McGrath
It is more important that heaven should exist than that any of us should reach it.
If there is no ultimate reality, it’s pointless to think about how we might get there.Alister McGrath
The true believer is not someone who disengages from this world in order to focus on heaven, but rather the one who tries to make this world more like heaven.Alister McGrath
Our desires cannot be, and were never meant to be, satisfied by earthly pleasures alone.Alister McGrath