Undragoned: C.S. Lewis on the Gift of Salvation
Plenary 3 — 2013 National Conference
The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis
This message appears as a chapter in The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis.
It would be easy to represent what I am about to attempt here as part of an unseemly struggle over the body of Moses. Everybody wants a piece of Lewis — right? — and so here come the Reformed, late to the game, hindered in this particular footrace by the ball and chain of predestination. I would get rid of it, but I can’t help it.
Now, I don’t want to be a participant in any unseemly struggles, retroactively claiming somebody for “our side,” that somebody being now deceased. I don’t want to do that with anybody, much less over the venerable Lewis. I am reminded of what Lewis himself said in another context about the assured results of modern scholarship concerning the past — that they were only assured results because the men involved were dead and couldn’t blow the gaff.
So let me begin by noting what I am not seeking to do. I am not trying to represent Lewis as a doctrinaire five-pointer, or as someone in the grip of any precise system whatever. He was a churchman — not a party man, not a faction member. This disclaimer even includes the true system of doctrine that, as we all know, the archangel Gabriel delivered in 1619 to the Synod of Dort.
At the same time — and you should have known a qualification was coming — I do want to maintain that Lewis had a firm grasp of the true graciousness of saving grace, and that he knew that a recovery of this understanding was an essential part of the rise of classical Protestantism. In this chapter, I hope that you will see Lewis as at least a sympathetic observer of historic Reformation theology, or — at most — an asystematic adherent of it. This latter position is the position I hold. So was C.S. Lewis small-r reformed? Not exactly, and yes, of course.
“I hope that you will see Lewis as at least a sympathetic observer of historic Reformation theology, or — at most — an asystematic adherent of it.” Tweet
Keep in mind that Lewis’s thought developed over time. I am drawing largely from his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, which was his magnum opus, a product of his mature thought. And while Tolkien and Lewis were lifelong friends, their friendship was strained in the latter years. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and he saw this book as an example of Lewis returning to his Belfast roots.
One other quick point should be made at the outset concerning my qualifications even to talk about this. Am I Reformed? Am I a Calvinist? This is a point upon which I understand there has been some discussion. Well, in brief, I wish there were seven points so I could hold to the Calvinistic extras. You may count me a devotee of crawl-over-broken-glass Calvinism, jet-fuel Calvinism, black-coffee Calvinism.
Or, as my friend Peter Hitchens had it, weapons-grade Calvinism. No yellowcake uranium semi-Pelagianism for me. I buy my Calvinism in fifty-gallon drums with the skull and crossbones stenciled on the side, with little dribbles of white paint running down from the corners. I get my Calvinism delivered on those forklift plats at Costco. I trust this reassures everyone, and I am glad we had this little chat.
Asystematic? Or Just Muddled?
It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, C.S. Lewis is perhaps the most insightful muddler you will ever read. He, along with Chesterton, has the capacity to edify you profoundly at the very moment he is saying things to make you wrench at your head in exasperation. I am thinking here of a book such as Reflections on the Psalms. But when he is on, which is almost always, you can be done with the wrenching and just enjoy the edification. So there’s that.
Having said this, in The Screwtape Letters Lewis takes a jab at modern man, who is accustomed to carrying around a mass of contradictions: “Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together in his head” (The Screwtape Letters, 8). And Owen Barfield once said that Lewis himself was utterly unlike this, saying that what Lewis thought about everything was contained in what he said about anything.
I add this because I believe that there are many times when we are wrenching at our heads in exasperation over Lewis while the heavenly host is looking down on us, wrenching at their heads — if angels do that. There will be times when we are tempted to write off something in Lewis as a simple contradiction, when we are the ones who have not thought very deeply about what we are saying. Michael Ward has shown in Planet Narnia that Lewis could look like he was just dashing something off when he was actually building an impressive structure on deep foundations. So let us feel free to differ with him, but let’s also take care not to be patronizing.
Make no mistake, Lewis had an intentional project, and that project is still a gathering river, one which shows no sign of diminishing. It is already astonishingly wide, and it is only down as far as Vicksburg. We ought not to be patronizing in how we “forgive” Lewis’s little side ventures and do some more serious thinking about how he managed to pull off something like this massive project.
Peter Escalante has argued — in an outstanding presentation on Italian humanism and its cultural impact, represented by men like Dante — the following:
Can any of you think of outstanding examples in our own time of the Italian humanist style? Let me give a checklist: 1) a trained philologist devoted to comprehensive Christian wisdom, 2) exploring and expressing the themes of that wisdom in widely various literary genres and for a while abstaining from formal systematic presentation, 3) addressing the general public rather than a professional elite, 4) passionately concerned about the whole commonwealth, and 5) with a vision of the cosmos which has poiesis as its very heart? (Personal communication to the author)
Right. The answer is C.S. Lewis.
His Own Experience
With all of this said, in what might appear to be a somewhat desultory beginning, I think we should all exhort me to pull it together and try to bring in some razor-sharp focus. So let’s begin our discussion of Lewis’s view of salvation by looking at Lewis’s view of his own salvation.
The whole issue really boils down to how you understand the grace of God. Is salvation a cooperative affair, or does God simply intervene to bless us by taking the initiative? Was Lazarus raised from the dead in a semi-Pelagian fashion, with Lazarus pushing and Jesus pulling, or not?
Watch C.S. Lewis describe a moment in his own conversion:
In a sense I was not moved by anything. I chose to open, to unbuckle, to loosen the rein. I say “I chose,” yet it did not really seem possible to do the opposite. On the other hand, I was aware of no motives. You could argue that I was not a free agent, but I am more inclined to think that this came nearer to being a perfectly free act than most that I have ever done. Necessity may not be the opposite of freedom, and perhaps a man is most free when, instead of producing motives, he could only say, “I am what I do.” (Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life [New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955], 224–25, emphases added)
As Ransom discovered on Perelandra, freedom and necessity are actually the same thing. Lewis had this to say about freedom and grace: “When we carry it up to relations between God and Man, has the distinction perhaps become nonsensical? After all, when we are most free, it is only with a freedom God has given us: and when our will is most influenced by Grace, it is still our will” (Yours, Jack, 1st ed. [New York: HarperOne, 2008], 186).
Moving to the experience of conversion as it was experienced by others, Lewis describes the experience of conversion as it was felt by “an early Protestant” (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century [London: Oxford University Press, 1954], 33). He says this: “All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. And all will continue to be free, unbounded grace” (Ibid., 34). He is clearly in sympathy with this, for this is how he experienced it.
Can’t Tell the Players without a Scorecard
Now if we want to pursue this discussion, keep in mind that terms do not always stay put in history. When we refer to Calvinism today, we are usually talking about soteriology — the five points. Thus it is that a man can be a Calvinist and also be a dispensationalist, a charismatic, or even a Presbyterian. That last has been known to happen. I’ve met some.
But during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, identifying as a Calvinist was more about ecclesiology, including your view of the sacraments. In this sense, a bunch of the non-Calvinists (their sense) were all Calvinists (our sense). One of the historiographical fiascos caused by the Oxford Movement happened as the result of their vain attempt to pretend that the Church of England was not part of the Continental Reformed community of churches — but it manifestly was.
Lewis was a conservative Anglican churchman, who understood the Thirty-Nine Articles in their original context, and they were robustly Calvinistic. He was thoroughly sympathetic with theologians such as Hooker, Jewel, or Andrews who were not exactly Victorian Anglo-Catholics. They were Protestants, and Calvinists in a broad sense. They which were a key part of the Reformed churches of Europe, is exactly where they wanted to be.
Lewis, as a literary historian, knew what they were teaching, and he identified with them. But as a natural-born irenicist, he also wanted to keep the peace for the sake of contemporary inter-Anglican affairs. This meant that the precise historical nature of the founding of the Church of England sometimes got a bit blurred. But even with that said, Lewis is far more helpful on this period than many who ought to know better.
Speaking of ecclesiology, remember the vivid picture of the church “spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners” (Screwtape Letters, 12). And also remember that Lewis’s most famous phrase — mere Christianity — is taken from Baxter. This is plainly Protestant ecclesiology. Some staunch Protestants may be distressed by the fact that, at the beginning of Mere Christianity, Lewis grants the Roman Catholics a “room” in the great house of our faith, wondering why the Catholics get a room. But we shouldn’t forget that this conception of the house is a Protestant conception.
Now, there are places where Lewis is critical of the Calvinists and the Puritan party in England (E.g., English Literature, 49), but there are other places where he praises them earnestly. He refers to “the whole tragic farce which we call the history of the Reformation” (Ibid., 37). Here is his snapshot description of some of the historical theology of that day:
In fact, however, these questions [about faith and works] were raised at a moment when they immediately became embittered and entangled with a whole complex of matters theologically irrelevant, and therefore attracted the fatal attention of both government and the mob. . . . It was as if men were set to conduct a metaphysical argument at a fair, in competition or (worse still) forced collaboration with the cheapjacks and the round-abouts, under the eyes of an armed and vigilant police force who frequently changed sides. (Ibid.)
With his sympathies established, let me turn to a sample citation that seems to contradict the notion that Lewis could in any way be considered Reformed. Speaking of total depravity, he says, “I disbelieve that doctrine, partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved, and partly because experience shows us much goodness in human nature” (The Problem of Pain [New York: Macmillan, 1962], 66). But of course, in this he is actually rejecting a doctrine of absolute depravity, which not one of us holds. But if total depravity means total inability, which it does, it would be the work of ten minutes to show that Lewis does in fact hold to it — as we shall see in a moment.
In these sorts of formal rejections, Lewis follows his teacher Chesterton. And even Chesterton, who takes shots at Calvinism every third chance he gets, cannot stay out of the truth. For example, in Orthodoxy Chesterton writes, “Thus he has always believed there is such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also.” Well, hey, and amen. But the key to this is a series of statements in which Lewis acknowledges that the classical Protestant position was actually in some fashion a reiteration of the Pauline teaching. Look for that key word Pauline. Lewis uses it repeatedly in this context: under certain calm conditions, “formulae might possibly have been found which did justice to the Protestant — I had almost said Pauline — assertions without compromising other elements of the Christian faith” (English Literature, 37, emphasis added).
In a letter to a Mrs. Emily McLay, he uses an illustration from quantum physics:
I take it as a first principle that we must not interpret any one part of Scripture so that it contradicts other parts. . . . The real inter-relation between God’s omnipotence and Man’s freedom is something we can’t find out. Looking at the Sheep and the Goats every man can be quite sure that every kind act he does will be accepted by Christ. Yet, equally, we all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace. We have to leave it at that. I find the best plan is to take the Calvinist view of my own virtues and other people’s vices; and the other view of my own vices and other people’s virtues. But tho’ there is much to be puzzled about, there is nothing to be worried about. It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite. You know what Luther said: “Do you doubt if you are chosen? Then say your prayers and you may conclude that you are.” (The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, vol. 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950–1963, ed. Walter Hooper [San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007], 354–55, latter emphasis added)
Notice him citing Luther there.
Lewis held that the Pauline (Protestant) doctrine is obviously true in some sense but that we ought not to throw out other truths for the sake of our system. Again, amen.
And in this following citation, he thinks he has not tipped his hand, but I am afraid he has. “Theologically, Protestantism was either a recovery, or a development, or an exaggeration (it is not for the literary historian to say which) of Pauline theology” (English Literature, 33, emphasis added).
Lewis plainly does not believe in the Calvinistic caricatures, but neither do we. And when he speaks in his own voice, he says things that themselves are susceptible to the same sort of caricature: “You will certainly carry out God’s purpose, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John” (The Problem of Pain, 111).
Let me take a moment to conduct a very brief tour of the Narnian tulip garden — a place of fond memories for me because this is where I first learned my foundational lessons in the meaning of grace. Now I admit that these are Narnian tulips, so they don’t look quite the same as what we are used to — they are larger, for one, and they open to the sun more quickly than those that some of our stricter brethren have duct-taped shut. Nevertheless, we should be able to quickly recognize the gaudy splash of colors that characterize our floral theology. It is either the Calvinist tulip or the Arminian daisy — “He loves me, He loves me not . . .”
“Lewis plainly does not believe in the Calvinistic caricatures, but neither do we.” Tweet
Eustace was miserable as a dragon and discovered that he was utterly unable to heal himself or prepare himself to be healed. When he tried to remove the dragon skin by himself, all he was able to do was get down underneath his dragon skin — to the next layer of dragon skin. And you know while you are reading this passage, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that as long as Eustace was doing his own scraping, it would be dragon skins all the way down.
When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy arrive in Narnia for the fi time, they discover — among many other things — that four thrones were empty at Cair Paravel, empty and waiting for them. Not only that; there were prophecies about them. And in a later book, when Jill tries to explain to Aslan that they had called on him, he replies that if he had not called them, they would not have called him. The initiative is all his. “‘You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,’ said the Lion” (The Silver Chair [New York: HarperCollins, 1953]).
When Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, it is for one person—the traitor Edmund. The great lion gave his life for one grimy, little boy. Now it is true that Tirian in The Last Battle says that it was by Aslan’s blood that all Narnia was saved, but while glorious, this is an application, an extension, an afterthought. The nature of the lion’s death as told in the foundational story is seen as a very definite atonement. It really has to be — Lewis held to substitutionary atonement, and as Garry Williams has clearly shown in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the two doctrines are logically intertwined (Garry Williams, “The Definite Intent of Penal Substitutionary Atonement,” in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, ed. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013]). He who says A may not have said B, but give him time.
When Jill encounters Aslan in his high country, he is between her and the stream. The stream is living water, and she is nearly frantic for it. She is invited to drink, but the lion is in between. She asks if he could go away while she drinks, and is answered with a very low growl. She asks if he will promise not to do anything to her if she does come. “I make no promise,” Aslan said. She then asks if he eats girls. “‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion.”
She says she “daren’t come and drink.” “‘Then you will die of thirst,’ said the Lion.” She resolves to go and look for another stream. “‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.”
Now notice how Lewis brings this glorious tension to a close and how much like his description of his own conversion it seems — “and her mind suddenly made itself up” (The Silver Chair).
If this is semi-Pelagianism, then semi-Pelagianism has sure come a long way since I was stuck in it. This ain’t your grandma’s semi- Pelagianism.
When it comes to perseverance, many of us might think instantly of Susan. Is she not missing from that glorious reunion in The Last Battle? But I submit that this is a simple mistake. Susan was not killed in that last railway accident, and we shouldn’t speculate about her final destiny unless we want Aslan to growl at us for impudent guess- work about someone else’s story. And besides, if anybody wants to argue that the ultimate Cair Paravel in the center of the ultimate Narnia only had three thrones in it, well, I wish them luck. Bless me, it’s all in the Institutes — bless me, what do they teach them in these schools?
The Buoyancy of Grace
Lewis plainly understands the relief that real grace provides. One of the most compelling factors in this discussion, for me, is the fact that Lewis plainly knows how salvation tastes:
From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang. For it must be clearly understood that they were at first doctrines not of terror but of joy and hope: indeed, more than hope, fruition, for as Tyndale says, the converted man is already tasting eternal life. The doctrine of predestination, says the Seventeenth Article, is “full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.” . . . Relief and buoyancy are the characteristic notes. (English Literature, 33–34, emphasis added)
That’s how it tastes. So how does it taste in a story?
Story Always Wins
Writing a story involves high theology, and the good ones involve the kind of high theology we have been dealing with here. It may not seem like that, but there are many theological assumptions that have to go into a rollicking good yarn. Great writers will have reflected on the reality of this, and great Christian writers tie those reflections in with what God has revealed to us about the story he is telling.
There are so many directions we can take with this — and we really ought to spend the rest of our lives taking them all. Storytelling is tied in with the Trinity, with the doctrine of creation, with the incarnation, with death and resurrection, and with the great denouement of the eschaton — or to use Tolkien’s great word, the final eucatastrophe.
How could we not be storytellers? We worship God the writer, God the written, and God the reader. How could we not create? We are created in God’s image, and he creates. He created us so that we would do this. He came down into our world to show us how it is done; his name is Immanuel. God loves cliffhangers. He loves nail-biters. On the mount of the Lord it will be provided. Exile and return stories are everywhere. So are death and resurrection stories. So are the-elder-shall-serve-the-younger stories. And the whole thing will come together at the last day, as promised in Romans 8:28, with trillions of plot points all resolved and no remainder. And the great throng gathered before the throne will cry out, with a voice like many waters, saying, “That was the best story we ever heard.”
Only God creates ex nihilo. He speaks, and the cosmos springs from nothing. When we create, we are fashioning or reassembling. A carpenter works with wood, a musician with notes, an author with words. All of our material is part of the a priori givenness of creation. When Tolkien spoke of our storytelling as sub-creation, he acknowledged that we create from preexisting materials — we are not God.
“We worship God the writer, God the written, and God the reader. How could we not create? We are created in God’s image, and he creates.” Tweet
But if we are imitating him rightly, we are still imitating an ex nihilo creation. We are reaching for something that is out of our reach — which can be either arrogant or humble, depending on whether or not we were told to reach for it.
A creature cannot imitate the Creator, and yet this is precisely what we are told to do (Ephesians 5:1). Earlier in Ephesians, Paul was praying that the saints would be able to comprehend things such as “breadth and length and height, and depth” (Ephesians 3:18). He wanted them to know what couldn’t be known (Ephesians 3:19), speaking of the love of Christ. He wanted them to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), which is like wanting the Pacific Ocean in your little thimble. Think of it.
For reasons having to do with his good pleasure, God has put eternity in our hearts. This is why we cannot find out what God has done, and this is also one of the ways that we are used by him to make everything beautiful in its time. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Hack writers do not sub-create a world; they simply rearrange furniture in a glibly assumed (and largely unexamined) prefab world. If necessary, they make it an “other world” fantasy by hanging two moons in the sky or by naming their protagonist something like Shambilar. But this is just moving things around on the surface. There is no deep structure to it — the author is not exercising enough authority. He is being too timid. There is not enough deep structure because there is not enough deep imitation.
Michael Ward has cogently argued that one of the things that made Lewis’s fiction so compelling was the element of “donegality” in it, the ability to make a place really feel like that place. The name came from an observation Lewis had made about the “feel” of County Donegal in Ireland. It is the reason why Narnia tastes the way it does. And yet Lewis accomplished this by imitating the discarded image, the medieval model of the entire solar system. He went big.
If you try to create a place by simply attaching a label to it, a label that says something like “Narnia,” the result will be listless, flat. If you establish the donegality through deep imitation, that atmosphere can even swallow up things that don’t rightly belong there — like Mrs. Beaver’s sewing machine. The problem is not the use of tools but the use of tools that presuppose industrialization. But because of the donegality, this is scarcely noticed.
That imitation will be of the triune God, of the flow of redemptive-historical theology, of Israel cascading out of Egypt, of the Lord battering down the gates of Hades. You must know — going into it — that nothing you imitate can fit in your word count. But it will be a world your word count can fit into.
Several other points need to be made about this. The first is that storytelling represents a functional Calvinism. I have emphasized the word functional here, because clearly there are authors, many good ones, who are not Calvinists and who might be disposed to argue this point with me. Fine, but let me make it first.
Every author stands in a comparable relation to the world he has created as God stands with the world he has created. It is comparable because, as you recall, we are imitating God. A potter is imitating God when he shapes the clay. A playwright is imitating God when he inscribes life into his characters. This is why this human relation can serve as an illustration of the divine relation. Take this illustration from Lewis, for example: “God can no more be in competition with a creature than Shakespeare can be in competition with Viola” (The Problem of Pain, 49).
When we are talking about a character’s motivations, there are two ways we can address the question. One is internal to the structure of the play, and the other has to do with the will of the author. It makes no sense to assign 70 percent of the play to the writer and 30 percent to the characters. The apportionment has to be 100 percent and 100 percent. And the more Shakespeare writes, the freer Viola gets. And that is what God does for us. Even Screwtape sees it — God wants beings “united to him but still distinct” (Screwtape Letters, 38).
Our natural and carnal reaction is to kick against this, arguing that they are fictional characters without eternal souls, whereas we have hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We call this a poor analogy for we are much more important than the fictional characters in a play. First, this objection stands equally well (or not) against Jeremiah’s comparison of the potter and clay (Jeremiah 18:6). If this is a bad illustration, then so is that. Second, Lewis uses precisely this illustration. And, third, and far more important, such objections reveal why our defensiveness really arises. Nobody ever says that “this is a terrible way to illustrate divine sovereignty. God is much greater than Shakespeare.” But, in fact, the distance between Shakespeare and God is light-years greater than the distance between Dogberry and Douglas. There is a school of thought that maintains that the distance between Dogberry and Douglas is just a couple of yards.
So we are greater than pots? Fine. God is much greater than any potter.
But this leads to the next point. An author is sovereign over his story, but a good author respects the ingredients and antecedents. A good author has affection and respect for his characters, and the better the author, the greater the respect. Run this out — the almighty Author is not one who writes a novel with the flattest characters ever. No, it goes the other way. We do not have a choice just between the will of the author and the will of the character. We also must take into account the nature of the story.
And so this brings us to one last thing, a place where we modern Reformed can learn from Lewis.
Calvinism under Jove
Reformation Calvinism was born under Jove. It flourishes under Jove, and is spiritually healthy there. But for the last several centuries (at least), it has come under the baneful influence of Saturn. Am I revealing here that Lewis has gotten way too much of his discarded image into my head? Will I be having dryads leading our small-group Bible studies next?
Now for those who dismiss my “pagan tomfoolery” — planetary influences and theology indeed — with a sneer and say that they want a Calvinism under Christ, thank you, Calvinism without centaurs, the better to enable us to get back to our gospel-preserving debates about supralapsarianism, not to mention how many eggs your wife is allowed to cook on the Lord’s Day, several things have to be said. First, I would suggest (mildly) you haven’t understood the point.
Nobody around here has any sympathy for pagan unbelief and superstition. Christ is Lord, and only Christ. But when the point is misunderstood this way, folks haven’t understood it because they are under the baneful influences of Saturn. Jove and Saturn are metaphors, but they are not just metaphors. The fact that you can wring out the Westminster Confession of Faith like it was a damp washcloth does not mean that you don’t have a case of the saturnine jimjams. Speaking of metaphor, I fear I might be overdoing it. But I am almost done.
Second, this is not a minor issue. Just as Lucy and Susan wouldn’t feel safe around Bacchus unless Aslan was around, neither do I. But I also don’t feel safe around Calvinists under Saturn. Calvinism without Jesus is deadly. When these precious doctrines of ours are used to perpetuate gloom, severity, introspection, accusations, morbidity, slander, gnat-strangling, and more, the soul is not safe.
“Calvinism without Jesus is deadly.” Tweet
Third, the original Protestants, and the Puritans especially, were not at all under Saturn. Here is Lewis describing the Puritans, and it is worthwhile reflecting on why there are so many surprises in these few sentences:
But there is no understanding the period of the Reformation in England until we have grasped the fact that the quarrel between the Puritans and the Papists was not primarily a quarrel between rigorism and indulgence, and that, in so far as it was, the rigorism was on the Roman side. On many questions, and specially in their view of the marriage bed, the Puritans were the indulgent party; if we may without disrespect so use the name of a great Roman Catholic, a great writer, and a great man, they were much more Chestertonian than their adversaries. (“Donne and Love Poetry” (1938), in Selected Literary Essays [Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979], 116)
Where did that come from? It came from Lewis’s thorough acquaintance with the primary sources left to us by our fathers, and that legacy is a large contributor to my willingness to luxuriate in my quite oxymoronic goal of becoming and remaining a Chestertonian Calvinist.
And, fourth, with this as the good news, over the last generation there have been a number of indications that our self-imposed, saturnine exile may be coming to an end. Many Calvinists are again becoming jovial — which should not be reduced to a willingness to tell the occasional joke. The issue is much deeper than that — we are talking about rich worship, robust psalm-singing laden with harmonies, laughter and Sabbath-feasting, exuberant preaching, and all with gladness and simplicity of heart. The winter is breaking. This is not just a thaw but promises to be a real spring.
More Messages from Desiring God 2013 National Conference
In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination and Discipleship (Kevin Vanhoozer)
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