This Fall, Desiring God will be hosting a national conference titled, The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis. The conference will be held in Minneapolis on September 27, 28, 29. Speakers include you, Pastor John, along with Phil Ryken, Randy Alcorn, Doug Wilson, Kevin Vanhoozer, among others. So Pastor John, why a national conference this year in honor of C. S. Lewis’s legacy?
November 22nd, 2013 marks 50 years since C. S. Lewis died in 1963 — the same day that John Kennedy died and same day that Aldous Huxley died — that is the reason for this particular year. But behind the occasion is the man and his extraordinary influence in so many different ways. This fall in November on the 22nd he will be honored by having a memorial put in the poet’s corner of Westminster Abbey along with the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, William Shakespeare, and Herbert Spencer. This is an extraordinary thing for a 20th century Christian apologist, writer of fiction, and scholar of medieval literature to receive.
If you search J. K. Rowling, who, of course, wrote the Harry Potter series, on Wikipedia, she talks about the influence of Lewis on her as a child and then on her writing of those phenomenally popular works. And everybody today now amazingly, because of the movies, has heard of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
“Behind the occasion is the man and his extraordinary influence in so many different ways.”
Tolkien was an inveterate perfectionist who never could get anything published and Lewis recognized the skills and the power of his story telling ability. He recommended him for a Nobel Prize, and he encouraged him along. In a sense, you could say that Lewis is kind of a grandfather of the Tolkien Lord of the Rings series that everybody loves these days.
He was a writer of fiction in his own right with The Chronicles of Narnia. 100 million copies sold in 47 languages and three successful movies. They were not as successful as The Lord of the Ring, but still they were remarkable influence in the 21st century of a man who thought his works would be forgotten with five years.
Defender of the Faith
Not only was he a writer of fiction and has an ongoing legacy that way, but he was probably most known for the past 60 to 70 years as a Christian defender of the faith — an apologist for ordinary folks. His book Mere Christianity has sold in the millions. Christianity Today ranked it third among the most influential Christian books since 1945, I think.
He made famous that liar, lunatic, and Lord trilemma (as it is called), where Jesus Christ cannot be viewed as merely the ordinary, upright, or moral teacher minus divinity because he said so many crazy things. He was either a Lord or a liar when he said in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was I am,” or he was a lunatic. In Lewis’s words, a lunatic on the level of a man who thought he was a poached egg. Lewis concluded, let’s have none of this nonsense about how we love the moral teachings of this wonderful man when, in fact, he should be in an insane asylum or in prison because of his lying immorality or his lunacy if you don’t think he is Lord. And that is an example of the amazing impact that he has in Christian apologetics.
We are hosting this conference because of the enormous influence on Christians, people like me. I would put Lewis in the top five people on the planet who have influenced me. And the folks that are coming to this conference, I don’t know if they talk like that.
“I would put Lewis in the top five people on the planet who have influenced me.”
I think Doug Wilson talks even more lavishly. I heard him say that C. S. Lewis has had a greater impact on him than the sum of all the other writers he has ever read. I mean, that is just stunning when you think what Wilson has read. I know Randy Alcorn in his fiction is profoundly influence by Lewis. Then there’s Kevin Vanhoozer. We are going to hear some surprising things from him, I think, about the theological way that imagination works that come over from Lewis. Phil Ryken, as a president of an institution, loves C. S. Lewis. We are doing this conference because we have a love affair with this man, and we have a debt to pay.