Category Archives: C. S. Lewis Book Club

A few years ago, I committed to reading C. S. Lewis for an entire year, so of course, I conscripted 7 friends to join me, in case I grew faint of heart. I was challenged mentally and spiritually, and after 13 books, I really need to read Lewis for another 2 years to finish. (The man was prolific!) You should really try it! Just read with your dictionary app up and running. He was a smart one.

Till We Have Faces

Or in this case, Till We Have Facials. Yes, my book club discussed the book Till We Have Faces under facial masks. (They would not let me post a picture of us!) No surprise: while tight and awkward, the masks restricted movement but not our ability to interrupt one another, talk at the same time, and laugh at each other. And they made us feel a bit like the book’s main character Orual, who wears an emotional and physical mask for most of the story. Sort of a modern Phantom of the Opera.

And our skin felt great afterward.

This month, we read C. S. Lewis’ last novel, an allegorical fantasy re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. The book was un-stereotypical Lewis, told in first person narrative, from the eldest sister Orual’s perspective. Orual is the cunning, obsessive, conflicted child of an abusive king, with an ugly face and massive insecurities and control issues. She grows up with the knowledge that she is too ugly to be a woman, that she will never marry, and that her two beautiful sisters deserve admiration as much as she deserves to stay hidden.

Psyche, Orual’s youngest and favorite sister, is angelic in face, form, and personality. She garners everyone’s attention, admiration, and love. Oral is especially protective and caring of her–Psyche is almost her alter-ego, even though Orual is a character who transforms into a self-aware and charitable leader. Continue reading

The Space Trilogy

My C. S. Lewis Book Club read the Space Trilogy over the summer, one book per month. (Well, it took me until late October to actually finish the third book, but at least I started it in August.) The 3 stories follow the adventures of an English professor, Dr. Ransom, who travels through space and time to bring the power of God back to earth.

The Space Trilogy is a 3-book allegory about the love of God.

A view of planet earth and the universe from the moon's surface. Abstract illustration of distant regions.

At least, that’s the simple synopsis. All books vary in voice and style, with the third reading dramatically differently from the other 2 (hence, the reason it took me 3 months. I found it a difficult read.) Lewis tackles a number of topics and theological questions in all 3 books–redemption, sacrifice, government control, propaganda, origin of the species, love, creation, sin & the fall, angels & demons, mythology, eternity.

Below is an amateur analysis of each book in the trilogy. I recommend the first two, but the last is only for the strong- minded.

Out of the Silent Planet–Dr. Ransom is captured and taken to Malacandra (Mars) by an evil university associate Dr. Devine and Dr. Weston, a physicist. The captors’ intention is to return to Mars, where they’ve been, for the purpose of exploiting the planet to steal their gold. They believe that they need to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the sorn, Mars’ dominant race. Ransom, because he is good and kind, learns the local language and interacts with the eldili, space’s version of spirits. As Ransom understands Mars’ social and spiritual layers, including a fall by the great spirit to earth and his deception of all he encounters. Thulcandra (earth) has been cut off from all the planets in terms of spiritual connectivity and communcation. Ransom makes decisions of forgiveness, salvation, and submission. The theme is perhaps hope for mankind via hope in the eternal. This is an allegory of the incarnation.

PerelandraRansom returns to space after a call from Oryarsa, the supreme eldili, but this time to Perelandra (Venus). This adventure mirrors creation and the fall, from the book of Genesis. The Venus creature Tinidril (Eve) grows wiser at Maelidil (God)’s words, until Weston, who arrives after Ransom, begins deceiving and wooing her toward his own purposes. A saga unfolds as Ransom repeatedly fights against a demon-possessed Weston, now called Un-man. The truth (real wisdom, not experience) is the ultimate goal for finding peace–and in Ransom’s case, for saving Paradise and uniting Eve with her true Adam, called Tor.

That Hideous Strength-Knowledge and power are the themes which which drive this heavily-allegorical WW2-era novel symbolizing the Tower of Babel and the book of Revelation in man’s arrogant struggle to become his own god. Several entwined, and at times, confusing motifs occur throughout the book. Mark and Jane Studdock, a university couple, are recruited to opposing sides of the government take-over. Satanic influence and possession control the evil side (their acronym is N.I.C.E.), which includes worship to a severed head and multiple murders, while Ransom assists the old establishment by recruiting an awakened Merlin to overthrow the enemy.  Themes from  mythology, the Bible, Nazism, and science (like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering) combine for a complicated plot-line. The drama ends with Ransom leaving this world for a preferred existence in the world beyond.

My simple conclusion is that I always appreciate a good allegory, I’m still not fond of science fiction, and the third book of any trilogy is usually not the best one. But I love Lewis. He seems to grow more intelligent with every month I read him, making me feel less intelligent. But maybe–hopefully–these thoughts are merely a reflection of my increased mental capacity: the more that my mind expands, the more aware I become of my inabilities to reason and prove difficult concepts.

Maybe that’s what Lewis intended. Can time and space be truly measured or explained? Can eternity be grasped? Or should we stand in awe and reverence of the unexplainable and just worship?

image from crestock.com

Miracles

Do miracles exist?

So do we really need to talk about this?  It seems pretty simple to me.

But apparently, it’s a deep theological question worthy of debate, because a lot of smart people have written really long books about it.

The existence of miracles is the premise of C. S. Lewis’ book Miracles–a lengthy treatise on the subject of the supernatural, as written to the highly intellectual, agnostic mindset. I am neither highly intellectual nor remotely agnostic, so this has been my least favorite of his works to read.

To me, the real discussion was not about miracles per se, but about THE MIRACLE–the mystery of Christ, which, of course, is the ultimate discussion once a skeptic opens the door to the possibility of miraculous intervention into the natural world.

To a child, miracles are a given. The wonder of a butterfly, the belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, the inexplainable cure of a mother’s kiss, the transition of cake batter into sweet, spongy satisfaction–anything in a happy child’s world could be labeled “miraculous.” The innocence of childhood is both delicious and fleeting–at times we adults all wish we still had it. Jesus understood the complexities that would arrive with reason, so He explained salvation as requiring “the faith of a child;” it was so simple, even a child could accept it. The paradox is that its simplicity could also prevent adults from comprehending it–those seeking answers would have to be satisfied with not completely comprehending the miracle of God’s love and Jesus’ incarnation.IMG_2373

Perhaps I have an immature mind. Throughout this book, I kept thinking, “Why are we even discussing this? You either believe, or you don’t believe.” Miracles, by nature, don’t have to be proven. If they could be proven, they wouldn’t be miracles–they’d be science. Miracles trump science. That’s their privilege. Of course, this perspective is held by a highly unscientific person.

Very simply, my reading of this volume concluded with these simple observations:

1. A miracle doesn’t need to be proven.

2. Inexplainable phenomena points to the existence of God, not the absence of God.

3. Science can’t replace faith. In fact, science also requires faith.

4. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle of all time, and it is likely the reason that skeptics discount other miracles they would otherwise gladly accept, because believing in Jesus demands the admission of my sinful state, my responsibility to worship Jesus as Savior, and my submission to Jesus as the Lord of my life. Anyone refusing faith in Him would logically rebel against the whole idea of miracles because disbelief in miracles in general supports disbelief in Jesus.

Do miracles exist?

Does does a baby’s smile fill one with wonder? Does a sunset over water cause the soul to rejoice? Does genetics, astronomy, biology, or any other science still prompt the question, “Yes, but why does that work?”

The miracle of God’s love. Unbashful, unreasonable, undeniable.