Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Creation (part 2) - Science & Nature

Today I want to focus on the aspects of SCIENCE AND NATURE as it deals with Creation: 

The theory of evolution was largely in the public’s eye at the time of C.S. Lewis’s writings.  If it is necessary to give a title, he could be described as a “theistic evolutionist,” which “left open the possibility for Lewis of accepting certain aspects of evolution into his theology.”[1]  Yet, rather than focus on these hot-button issues, Lewis chose to focus his studies and stories on more important religious questions in order to probe the reader to thought.  

Whether the biological theory of evolution is right or wrong was irrelevant to Lewis.  If it were found to be wrong or right, either way, it would have had no effect on Lewis’s Christianity.[2]  

Proving evolution correct or incorrect was not his goal, which is a strong testament to the character of Lewis.  Often people become so invested in a particular topic that they are unable to release the hold until a strong argument has been made.  Lewis took a different approach understanding “the Genesis account to be inspired”[3] and more in the form of a folk tale than historical fact.  He had no problem “accepting the idea that humanity is in the process of evolution, though he would prefer to say that humanity is in the process of being created.”[4]  This statement implies that Lewis assumed there was a Creator who is continually involved in the process of humanity.
Lewis was also accepting of the fact that it is possible, “and in no conflict with the Bible, that God raised one of the primates eventually to become human.”  While this may shock many of his followers, his argument was reached through Genesis 2:7 which states: “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (NIV).  It is clear that man is made from something else.  

Lewis took this notion a step further, however, and explained that the reason it did not shake his faith was because man is “called to be or raised to be something more than an animal.”[5]  This exemplifies that Lewis had no difficulties with the biology of evolution.  He merely understood that there was a reason for such evolution and that men were not meant to be part of the animal kingdom.  He believed the theological implications far outweighed the scientific suggestions in regards to evolution. 

Though there are a number of stances that can be indicated through his writings, C.S. Lewis never expressed a definite stance one way or the other.  He had “no quarrel with true science,” just a “number of reservations.”[6]  He believed it was quite possible for evolution to occur and could even back it up scripturally, but never allowed the science to overtake his belief system.  He believed “we must be cautious of building our case for Creation on any current scientific theory, for those theories change as quickly as the shifting sands.”[7]  Even though we rely on scientists to give us the correct information, much of that can be tainted.  It is the intentions behind such information that should be investigated. 

We see this enacted through Lewis’s portrayal of magicians (like Uncle Andrew) as scientists who always focus on their own outcome, and the Creator (like Aslan) who always keeps his subjects in mind when creating.  Lewis understood that “everything God has made has some likeness to Himself”[8] and therefore should not be exploited.  All beings are subject to Him and to one another and anything in contradiction to that is in conflict with the Creator.

The contradiction of Nature is unveiled through the depiction of Science, which is often linked with Reason.  In Narnia, he depicts those who attempt to manipulate nature as evil.  Jadis and Uncle Andrew, for example, are so consumed with power that they have no regard for the creation they are trying to control.  But it is important to question, “In what sense is Man the possessor of increasing power over Nature?[9]  Might there be a limit to this power?  After all, Lewis wrote in Abolition of Man how “the stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed” and when an object is treated as “an artificial abstraction…something of its reality has been lost.”[10]  

This attempt at control over nature is an ultimate loss of the essence of nature.  Uncle Andrew could not even see the significance of talking animals because he did not appreciate the oddities that come along with nature.  He wanted to control everything according to his own knowledge.  Lewis stated that “Reason can invade Nature to take prisoners”[11] which is displayed in the creation of the villains’ pursuit in the stories of Narnia.

[1] Will Vaus, Mere Theology: a Guide to the Thought of C.s. Lewis (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2004), 62.
[2] Ibid, 69.
[3] Ibid, 62.
[4] Ibid, 68-9.
[5] Ibid, 66.
[6] Ibid, 67.
[7] Ibid, 67.
[8] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1st Touchstone Ed ed. (New York, NY: Touchstone Books, 1996), 139.
[9] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man: or Reflections On Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools, 1st Touchstone Ed. (New York: Touchstone Books, 1996), 66.
[10] Ibid, 79.
[11] C. S. Lewis, Miracles: a Preliminary Study, 1st Touchstone Ed ed. (New York, New York: Touchstone Books, 1996), 37.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creation (part 1)

When I learned my summer vacation with the in-laws this year was going to be a trip to Wyoming, I was somewhat taken aback.  What was I going to do out West?  The only vacations I have ever taken have been either to the beach or to a big city - never somewhere as "out there" as Wyoming.  However, all that changed when I stepped off the plane a few days ago into the most amazing natural habitat I had ever seen. 

(my summer vacation) Grand Tetons

The mountains shot up toward the blue sky pointing to an even more amazing Creator.  As the days have passed on this trip, I not only appreciate the countryside, but all that is embodied within it.  I have seen bald eagles, elk, buffalo, and bears roaming their homeland.  I have climbed a mountain that literally took my breath away.  I have been immersed in an abundance of nature - and can fully appreciate it away from the city lights and busy lifestyle I typically use.

View from our Hot Air Balloon

All this contemplation of God's creation instantly made me think of Romans 1:20, which states "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (NIV).   By this immersion in such vast nature, I cannot understand how people are not pointed toward the Creator.  This made me think of a paper I recently wrote for a class on C.S. Lewis's theology of Creation in which I will share with you in 5 installments.

The creation story – and all it entails – is perhaps one of the most widely known stories in today’s culture.  It seems that everyone is familiar with the story of Adam and Eve as told through the visual depictions of a man and woman wearing leaves to cover their nakedness.  Even the un-churched person understands that by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was an avenue in which evil entered.  The implication of creation, however, is much more than just a cute drawing for a church bulletin.  It entails a look at the Creator, the created, and how to respond to such a creation.  

The beloved writer C.S. Lewis delves into the theological implications behind Creation through an objective lens as he writes stories like The Chronicles of Narnia as well as non-fiction works such as The Abolition of Man.  He suggests analogies “of the Christian scheme of things”[1] in his books rather than providing a straight-forward proposition; this helps the reader actively participate in the process of understanding his theology.  Though Lewis’s personal thoughts on the topic are never stated bluntly, they are creatively embedded within his writing through analogy and prose to help the reader formulate their own opinions.

[1] Clyde S. Kilby, The Christian World of C.S. Lewis (Grand Rapids, MI: WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), 116.

-part 2 to follow....

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Secret Theme?

I came across an article recently in which a Reverend claims to have found the "Secret Theme behind Narnia."  (The full article can be found here) According to Reverend Dr. Michael Ward, each of the Narnia books line up with a planet that made up the heavens in medieval astrology.

The article states:
"He claims Lewis' knowledge of medieval history, of which he was one of the leading scholars, made him familiar with the characteristics attributed to the seven planets during the period. Each of these planets gives one of the books its theme. Prince Caspian, for example, is a story ruled by Mars, who is manifested by soldiery and battle, while The Voyage of the Dawn Treader focuses on the Sun, with its light and gold themes. In The Horse and His Boy, based on Mercury, the planet that rules the star sign Gemini and is associated with the power of communication, the characters include twins and a talking horse."

While I do believe it is likely that there could be a secret theme behind the stories, I am a bit hesitant to take this theory to heart.

Lewis's Christian allegory runs thick throughout the Narnia stories and it is not hard to pick out these references, such as Aslan's depiction to Christ.  But a secret theme aligning with the planets seems a bit...well...out there.

Dr. Ward's book, Planet Narnia, and his official website can be found here: Planet Narnia

What are your thoughts? Could Lewis have been weaving in a secret theme throughout the Chronicles of Narnia without disclosing such information? If so, why do you think he would he have done such a thing?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Club meets tonight!

For anyone in the area, the CS Lewis book club will be meeting tonight at The Barrel Room in North Canton at 9pm. 
The Barrel Room
7901 Cleveland Ave NW, 
North Canton, Ohio 44720

We will be discussing "The Horse and His Boy"
Hope to see you there!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lewis's Mind Matters

In the plethora of books C.S. Lewis wrote, there is not only a diversity in topics and themes, but a unity woven throughout.  All his writing incorporates an underlying emphasis of Christianity (in the allegorical form throughout the Narnia series, and much more bluntly in non-fiction works like Mere Christianity).  Literature ranging from theological non-fiction to heroic fantasy is amassed in his resume, exemplifying the range of Lewis's imagination.  Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian (available here), states in his book that: 
"Lewis's mind was above all characterized by a willingness to be enchanted and that it was this openness to enchantment that held together the various strands of his life - his delight in laughter, his willingness to accept a world made by a good and loving God, and (in some ways above all) his willingness to submit to the charms of a wonderful story, whether written by an Italian poet of the sixteenth century, by Beatrix Potter, or by himself.  What is 'secretly present in what he said about anything' is an openness to delight, to the sense that there's more to the world than meets the jaundiced eye, to the possibility that anything could happen to someone who is ready to meet that anything.  For someone with eyes to see and the courage to explore, even an old wardrobe full of musty coats could be the doorway into another world.  It is the sort of lesson a child might learn - even a stubborn, independent child - if his mother has died and his father and brother are often away and he spends his days alone in an old house full of books, thinking and drawing and writing and thinking some more." (Jacobs, "Intro" The Narnian, p. xxi)
It is evident while reading any of Lewis's writing that he had an incredible mind and imagination.  The interweaving of Christian allegory in the Narnia books is no easy feat and he does it seemingly with incredible ease.  After all, the seven books in the Narnia series were written within six years of each other, leading me to believe that the stories encased in his creative mind were just waiting to be put to paper.

The following youtube clip is an excellent video on why C.S. Lewis matters. I encourage you to view it and discuss the thoughts given by some wonderful authors, professors, and speakers.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why Uncle Andrew Couldn't Hear the Animals Speak

When reading about the creation of Narnia in The Magician's Nephew, a number of things struck me.  The vivid depiction of a new world was first and foremost, along with the Biblical undertones.  Another aspect which stood out was Uncle Andrew's interaction with the animals.  The following is from a paper I wrote on this topic through the lens of Virtue Epistemology, utilizing the book "The Lion, the Witch, and Philosophy" available here
Kevin Kinghorn’s chapter in The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview focuses upon the conundrum which is Uncle Andrew and why he could not hear the animals speak in C.S. Lewis’ Magician’s Nephew.  Throughout this book, Uncle Andrew is portrayed as a magician who esteems rules and logic above all else.  His immersion into the magical world of Narnia is so different than anything he could imagine that he quickly seeks out the practicality the land may offer in the form of turning a profit.  This realism shuts him off from experiencing the magic that is found in Narnia.While the other characters in the book are amazed at the talking animals, Uncle Andrew only hears roars and growls.  He cannot comprehend anything outside of his realistic worldviews and therefore dismisses the possibility of a talking animal.  In fact, he is so set in his own beliefs that he does not give it a second thought when the children are talking with the animals.  “Uncle Andrew was blind to things that were perfectly obvious to his companions.”[1]  His concern for pragmatic overshadows the truth which is at hand.  Because of this, Uncle Andrew is able to look past what is so clearly obvious to his peers and miss out on the opportunities at hand.Kinghorn goes in depth into the philosophical ideas surrounding Uncle Andrew’s inability to grasp the unimaginable.  He uses Lorraine Code’s comments on epistemic responsibility to analyze Uncle Andrew and debate whether he is even at a place in life where sound decisions of truth could be made.  It seems that because of his internal selfishness and lack of virtues, Uncle Andrew is unable to join in the magic of talking animals and the creation of Narnia.  He is blind to the obvious because he does not value seeking out truth if it is beyond his comprehension.
            While reading The Magician’s Nephew, it is easy to see Uncle Andrew as the bad guy who is too far removed from childish imagination to see what is so clear in front of him.  Kinghorn’s essay describes Uncle Andrew interpreting “the actions of others in line with his own self-centered commitments.”[2]  But isn’t this what we do quite often in our own faith?  I think this is an important critique as it applies to our lives.  We are so focused on the realism of the world we know that we are quick to dismiss acts of God like miracles.  Think about the disciples – those whom were closest to Jesus himself – who did not quite grasp what was right in front of them.  They were too preoccupied with what was normal and real in their minds that it was hard to see the miracles being performed in front of them.            Kinghorn describes Uncle Andrew’s oblivion in light of virtue epistemology.  This is “a recent theory of knowing that seeks to reverse the traditional assumptions about how we determine whether a person is justified in his or her beliefs.”[3]  It is easy from an outside perspective to read The Magician’s Nephew and see Uncle Andrew as being wrong, but if we were in the same situation, would we possibly fall into similar thoughts?  After all, Uncle Andrew did not know he was wrong in his thoughts.  In fact he believed himself to be correct and everyone else oblivious to the truth.  He was creating his own truth, focusing on himself first.  The typical “virtue epistemologist takes an inward-outward approach and answers that, if the belief resulted from an appropriate intellectual virtue, then the person justifiably formed that belief.”  In Uncle Andrew’s particular case, he believed himself to be justified in the opinion formed about animals not being able to speak, and therefore created his own truth.            Kinghorn’s explanation of the philosophy behind epistemology is interesting but not entirely helpful at all points.  He describes the virtues as described by the philosopher Lorraine Code and uses her studies to figure out if Uncle Andrew “possessed the intellectual virtues needed to form justified beliefs.”[4]  I think attempting to analyze a fictional character goes a little too far in the philosophical game, yet I appreciate what he is doing.  While examining Uncle Andrew, he finds that he does not have the qualities to make a rational decision.  He is too selfish and does not value truth.  He also allows fear to dictate his beliefs and does not recognize his own limitations.  Therefore, Uncle Andrew is the epitome of someone not epistemological responsible.            One of my favorite lines from The Magician’s Nephew is “what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”[5]  I think this perfectly sums up what is being discussed throughout Kinghorn’s chapter.  Uncle Andrew was not able to hear the animals speak because he was physically standing in the wrong place; he viewed from a distance, as fear overtook his will to approach the creatures.  He also did not possess the particular qualities virtue epistemology dictates for someone seeking truth.  His focus was solely on himself and how he could either benefit from such a world as Narnia, or how he could preserve himself above anyone else.  His self-preservation is what in turn made him the victim of the animals just wanting to figure out what he was.  It is clear that C.S. Lewis wrote the book to portray the effects of selfishness in the creation of Uncle Andrew’s character, however Kinghorn’s philosophy may dig a little deeper than Lewis originally intended. 

[1] Kevin Kinghorn, “Why Uncle Andrew Couldn't Hear the Animals Speak,” in The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview, ed. Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls (Chicago: Open Court, 2005), 19.
[2] Ibid, 24.
[3] Ibid, 16.
[4] Ibid, 17.
[5] Ibid, 24.

Questions for Discussion:1. Why do those seeking answers and solutions often miss what is right in front of them?2. How do you see this happen with Christians in particular?  (Think about how dismissive many are with miracles and spiritual warfare)3. Have you found yourself in situations where you were “see and hear” things wrong because you were standing in the wrong place?