15 Quotes from the C.S. Lewis Conference

15 Quotes from the C.S. Lewis Conference

As we finish uploading all the audio and video of the C.S. Lewis conference online for you in the next few hours, here’s a sampling of fifteen quotes from the conference talks that caught our attention. These will give you a flavor of what to expect when you enjoy the conference recordings for yourself (soon).

UPDATE: All the conference media is now available.


Douglas Gresham, conference introduction video —

This year the conference is titled, “The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis.” Jack, my stepfather, would be pleased by your organization’s name: Desiring God. For perhaps the most important element that led to his own conversion was a strange and powerful longing that he felt throughout his life. Though for many years he did not know what this was a longing for, in the end, he came to see that all along it had been a desire for God.

John Piper, first plenary, “C.S. Lewis, Romantic Rationalist: How His Paths to Christ Shaped His Life and Ministry” —

What was Lewis doing in all his works? He was pointing. He was unveiling. He was depicting the glory of God in the face of Jesus. He was leading people to Christ. The two paths he knew best were the paths of romanticism and rationalismlonging and logic. So these are the paths on which he guided people to Christ.

Joe Rigney, seminar, “Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles” —

We are, all of us, en-storied creatures, living our lives in a narrative, which means our lives have directions, trends, and trajectories. And Lewis is mindful of the fact that these trajectories are governed by an Author who is not mocked, who tells us that we will reap what we’ve sown. … Lewis is clear: we are always sowing the seeds of our future selves. We are embarked, heading in a particular direction, and sooner or later we are bound to end up there. Edmund reminds us that we might not like the destination at the end of our road. When it comes time to reap, we may find ourselves tied to a tree with a dagger at our necks. But, of course, Edmund’s story isn’t a tragedy. Yes, it’s true; reaping always follows sowing, like night follows day. But in this case, Aslan reaps what Edmund has sown. Edmund’s treachery, Edmund’s spite, Edmund’s beastliness is thrown onto Aslan and the Lion bears it away in his death at the Stone Table. This is the Magic of substitution, the Deeper Magic that turns traitors into kings, that turns beastly boys into just and wise men, the kind of magic that changes our stories forever.

Devin Brown, small talk, “A Quick Look at the Best of ‘Screwtape’” —

Long before there was Narnia there was Screwtape. For the one and only time in his life, C.S. Lewis appeared on the cover of Time Magazine (1947), pictured with a devil over his shoulder. The Screwtape Letters is the book that put him on the cover.

Randy Alcorn, plenary, “C.S. Lewis on Heaven and the New Earth: God’s Eternal Remedy to the Problem of Evil and Suffering” —

Why does Reepicheep the mouse want to go to Aslan’s country? To be with Aslan. It is all about Jesus. We are made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person, heaven is the place — but the place is meaningless if Jesus isn’t there.

C.S. Lewis on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, as quoted by Piper in his first plenary —

I’ve never met Orcs or Ents or Elves — but the feel of it, the sense of a huge past, of lowering danger, of heroic tasks achieved by the most apparently unheroic people, of distance, vastness, strangeness, homeliness (all blended together) is so exactly what living feels like to me. Particularly the heart-breaking quality in the most beautiful places, like Lothlorien.

Kevin Vanhoozer, plenary, “In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship” —

For Lewis, waking is a way of describing conversion — a coming to new life. The Christian life is all about wakefulness. Theology describes what we see when we are awake, and discipleship is about staying awake. The sad truth is many of us are at best only half awake. We think we’re engaged with the real world — the world of stock markets, stock car racing, stockpiles of weapons — but in fact, we’re living in what Lewis calls the Shadowlands. We’re really daydreaming and sleepwalking our way through life, asleep at the wheel of existence. …

Theology ministers understanding, so that we can live out our knowledge of God. Theology is practical, it is all about waking up to the real, to what is, specifically to what is ‘in Christ.’ … The imagination helps disciples act out what is ‘in Christ.’ Theology exchanges the false pictures that hold us captive with truth and disciplines our imagination with sound doctrine.

Phillip Ryken, plenary, “Inerrancy and the Patron Saint of Evangelicalism: C.S. Lewis on Holy Scripture” —

Lewis’s doctrine of Scripture [inspiration/inerrancy] has often been regarded as sub-orthodox. But whatever deficiencies we find, they do not seem to have a devastating effect on his theology as a whole. Typically, such theologians downgrade other doctrines, they back away from the hard sayings of Jesus, or become skeptical about biblical miracles, or dismiss the deity of Christ. Lewis did none of that. He continued to give a robust defense of biblical Christianity.

Plenary panel discussion —

Phillip Ryken: [Contrasted to living authors who deny inerrancy] Lewis is very clear he wants to be in submission to the authority of Scripture. There are some people in the church today; you sometimes get the sense they’re standing a little bit in authority over Scripture. You don’t get that sense with Lewis.

Randy Alcorn: And a lot of people today who are Christian leaders are drifting; they have grown up holding to truths they’re now departing from, their trajectory is away from the gospel. Lewis came from atheism, moving to agnosticism, theism, came to a life-changing faith in Christ — he was growing in his life. He came from a world where he didn’t have the doctrinal reference points. His trajectory was, in my opinion, toward the gospel.

N.D. Wilson, small talk, “The Lie of Realism” —

Lewis wrote fantasy stories because he thought, correctly, that that’s what the world is really like. The lie of realism is that somehow we’ve let people name ‘important fiction’ in which there is no soul, no spirit, no supernatural — “realistic.” In realistic fiction, there can be no magic, no supernatural, no God, no soul to the character. … We’re on a rock, mostly molten lava, flying through outer space at about mach-86 right now, like a yo-yo being swung around a ball of fire in the sky. That’s our setting. What kind of story are we telling? We’re in the sci-fi fantasy section of the bookstore.

Douglas Wilson, plenary, “Undragoned: C.S. Lewis on the Gift of Salvation” —

I don’t feel safe around anything when Jesus is not the Lord of it. Calvinism without Jesus is deadly; it’s fatalism, it’s simply Islam. We need Jesus. When the precious doctrines [of Calvinism] are used to perpetuate gloom, severity, introspection, accusations, morbidity, slander, gnat-stringing, and more, the soul is not safe.

C.S. Lewis as quoted by Sam Storms in his small talk —

Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.

John Piper, final plenary, “What God Made Is Good — And Must Be Sanctified: C.S. Lewis and St. Paul on the Use of Creation” —

Eating food becomes worship by acts that terminate on God not merely on food. Thanking is for food, but to God. Believing is believing in God and his Son Jesus Christ. Knowing terminates on truth and ultimately on God. Eating is not worship. Eating becomes worship — through knowing and believing and thanking. The created world is not an end in itself. It finds its meaning when people, created in God’s image, use it with a mind that knows God, and a heart that believes in and thanks God. …

I’m suggesting, along with Lewis, that of all the possible ways that God could have revealed the fullness and diversity of the supreme value of his being, he concluded that a physical world would be the best. The material creation was not God’s way of saying to humankind: “I am not enough for you.” It was his way of saying: “Here is the best garden where more of what I am can be revealed to finite creatures. The juiciness of a peach and the sweetness of honey are a communication of myself.”

Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is a content strategist and staff writer for Desiring God and the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015). He hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts, and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and their three children.