The Desiring God National Conference begins on Friday. It’s a conference dedicated to C.S. Lewis called the Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis. The fun starts on Friday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Pastor John, what do you look forward to from the speakers, and what will you be sharing at the conference?
World of His Own
The more I read and think in preparation for this conference on C.S. Lewis, the more excited I get. I know that Lewis had his flaws. The more I read, the more I know: personal flaws, moral flaws, relational flaws, doctrinal flaws. We won’t celebrate those, and we won’t ignore those, but here is why we turn to him, frankly, with deep-felt thankfulness and a desire to honor him fifty years after his death. Let me put it in a quote from Peter Kreeft in an essay that he wrote thirty years ago. I just love this quote and it will give the people a sense of what we are in for.
Once upon a dreary era, when the world of . . . specialization had nearly made obsolete all universal geniuses, romantic poets, Platonic idealists, rhetorical craftsmen, and even orthodox Christians, there appeared a man (almost as if from another world, one of the worlds of his own fiction: was he a man or something more like elf or Angel?) who was all of these things as amateur, as well as probably the world’s foremost authority in his professional province, Medieval and Renaissance English literature. Before his death in 1963 he found time to produce some first-quality works of literary history, literary criticism, theology, philosophy, autobiography, biblical studies, historical philology, fantasy, science fiction, letters, poems, sermons, formal and informal essays, a historical novel, a spiritual diary, religious allegory, short stories, and children’s novels. Clive Staples Lewis was not a man: he was a world.1
That is remarkable. And you read that kind of accolade over and over again for the last fifty years. What kind of man was this? What was it that caused people to write things like that about him?
I am really excited that Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton, is going to come and tackle the issues of Lewis’ view of Scripture, inerrancy, and Lewis as the patron saint of evangelicalism. I am excited that Doug Wilson is going to tackle the issue of what he really believed about salvation. Was he a Reformed person in his soteriology or wasn’t he? Kevin Vanhoozer from Trinity is going to talk about the role of imagination in theology and discipleship, and Randy Alcorn is going to tackle heaven and the new earth with Lewis as his help.
We don’t even have a second string in the conference. I mean, the seminars that you would say are second are not second string. N.D. Wilson will speak on Myth Wars: C.S. Lewis vs. Scientism. Colin Duriez will speak on the friendship of Lewis with Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. Lyle Dorset has just written and lectured extensively on Lewis in his care of souls, and Joe Rigney, who has read as much and thought as much about this as any young person I know, will speak on living like a Narnian. The lineup here is simply stunning. It is one of the conferences that I expect to learn heaps from.
As far as my own messages go, over the last weeks I have been so amazed at what I am seeing. My job on the first night is to say, “Why did we title this thing Romantic Rationalist?” And the deeper I have gone into what we mean by romantic and rationalist, and how that worked itself out in bringing him to Christ and in the way he did all of his ministry of teaching, writing, and speaking using metaphor and poetry and story, it is getting more profound the more I look at it.
The last thing I will do on Sunday morning in the setting of our worship service is an exposition of 1 Timothy 4:1–5, which has this sentence in it: “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” With Lewis’s help, I want to try to unpack how creation — sex and food particularly in this text — is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
I am really excited. If people haven’t signed up to come, I hope they will.
Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis: A Critical Essay (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969), 4. ↩