Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lewis Medley pt 1 (Books, Part 5)

It has been a LONG time since I've done one of these...over a year, in fact! But Wesley's asleep, and I have no other current responsibilities at this very second, and thinking about CS Lewis is always fun. So here we go! 10 Influential Books, Part Five, Subpart 1: Parts 1,23, and 4 here.

I'm not going to lie: This is a long one. You probably won't read all of it. But that's alright, because it's a lot of fun to write. 

This is the CS Lewis section. Like my last one, it's definitely cheating a bit, but I don't care. 

Chronicles of Narnia: I have to believe I'm in the vast majority in saying that the Narnia books were my first exposure to Lewis, years and years before I knew he'd written anything else. What can I say about the Narnia books? What can't I say about the Narnia books? They literally have something for everyone...whether you're 7, or 17, or 70, I think you will ALWAYS come away from a Narnia book with something new to think about. From the Christus Victor theology in Wardrobe, to Aslan the Lamb in Dawn Treader, to creation in Magician's Nephew, the books get deeper and deeper the more you read them. And I'd bet that The Last Battle has impacted more people's views of salvation and God's attitude towards us than any of Lewis' more scholarly works. And that's really the marvel of Lewis' creation...the theology "sneaks" in, unnoticed to small children, but impossible for the discerning reader to miss, and always offering something new: "Further up and further in," indeed. 

     Memorable Line: Impossible to narrow down. Go read it yourself, and if you've already done so, read it again

The Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength: This was my second experience with Lewis, and like Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books, I received them from my father, in the form of battered, falling-apart copies. I burned through Silent Planet and Perelandra immediately, and began That Hideous Strength, but quickly gave it up, as it was super boring and didn't take place in space at all. I was young and foolish then. However, at a later date (probably in high school?), I revisited the trilogy, and this time was able to power through the unhappy marriage that dominates the opening chapters of the third installment. 

The series as a whole is incredible, as is each individual book. It has that strange and amazing quality in which whichever of the three you're reading at the time is clearly the best of the trilogy. Silent Planet, of course, gives you the thrill of accompanying Ransom as he explores an alien planet, full of strange peoples and stranger customs. However, Ransom eventually discovers that in the cosmic scheme of things, he is the interloper and humanity the aberration. Perelandra, meanwhile, gives us a peek into how things might have happened in Eden, and offers a crapload of theology along the way. And That Hideous Strength is freaking Mr Toad's Wild takes the cosmology and theology of the previous two books, centers it on earth, and adds in a healthy dose of arthurian mythology...and much like cheeze-its and nutella, the combination somehow works. These books remain incredibly influential to this day, and I regularly reference passages from Perelandra to explain my views on Providence and theodicy. 

     Memorable Lines:
     Out of the Silent Planet: "No. Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside the heaven, and no message comes from it....It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world— he was brighter and greater than I— and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us....There was great war, and we drove him back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into.” 

This quote is so amazing because it takes all of earthly history and places it in a vast cosmological context, imagining what the Rebellion - all-encompassing and ever-present in our own lives - might look like from outside. And of course, MAJOR bonus points for tying it into Scripture: "the good news...things into which angels long to look."

     Perelandra: This one's's the one that I very nearly have memorized. 
     "I will tell you what I say, "answered Ransom, jumping to his feet. "Of course good came of [the Fall]. Is [God] a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever. The fist King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing, and He brought good of it in the end. But what they did was not good, and what they lost we have not seen. And there some to whom no good came nor ever will come."

Freedom and sovereignty. Actions and consequences. The eternal significance of temporal actions by finite beings. It all comes together simply and eloquently...two words which I suppose would describe nearly everything Lewis ever wrote. 

     That Hideous Strength: This was tougher than I anticipated, but eventually I remembered the bit that always amazes me when I read through it.

     ""Do you know, " said Ivy in a low voice, "that's a thing I don't quite understand. They're so eerie, these ones that come to visit you. I wouldn't go near that part of the house if I thought there was anything there, not if you paid me a hundred pounds. But I don’t feel like that about God. But He ought to be worse, if you see what I mean.” 

“He was, once,” said the Director. “You are quite right about the Powers. Angels in general are not good company for men in general, even when they are good angels and good men. It’s all in St. Paul. But as for Maleldil Himself, all that has changed: it was changed by what happened at Bethlehem.”

All that has changed...I wonder sometimes if we grow so used to the world as it is now, that we read that state of affairs back into the time before Christ. The least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than the greatest of the Old Covenant saints, and enjoys a greater communion with God - or at least, has access to that greater communion. Cur deus homo...why God became man? The simplest answer is to reconcile and rescue, and to restore us to a right relationship with himself. 

This is already quite long, so I think I will end subpart 1 here. For all I know, subpart 2 may well be up within the hour...or possibly not for several days. #wesleyisunpredictable. 

1: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

2: (Everything else by Chesterton: Manalive, Orthodoxy, The Ball and the Cross)

3: On the Unity of Christ by Cyril of Alexandria

4: The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country by Karl Barth

5: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

6: CS Lewis section (Space TrilogyChron. of NarniaAbolition of ManTill We Have Faces, The Great Divorce)

7: The book of Job

8: The book of Ecclesiastes

9: The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman

10: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

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