Magazine article Anglican Journal

C.S. Lewis's Fantasies Offer Window to Divine Mysteries: Writer's Fictional Works Are 'Art and Theology,' Says Scholar

Magazine article Anglican Journal

C.S. Lewis's Fantasies Offer Window to Divine Mysteries: Writer's Fictional Works Are 'Art and Theology,' Says Scholar

Article excerpt

Their unique appeal to the imagination allows the stories of CS. Lewis to reach us in ways that ordinary discourse about God often can't, attendees at a January 25 event dedicated to the writer of the much-beloved Narnia chronicles heard.

By incorporating elements of myth, fairy tale and fantasy, the fictional works of the English Anglican writer "offer intimations of beauty and darkness, of a reality that cannot be plumbed by reason alone," Edith Humphrey, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, told an audience gathered at the north Toronto convent of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.

"Luminous story," the kind Lewis wrote, is at once art and theology; "it enters by that back door of artistry into the fray of philosophical and theological exploration, tantalizing the reader with an unseen world," Humphrey said.

Lewis himself, said Humphrey, believed that myth and other imaginative forms of tale-telling are helpful to "hold back the demon of compulsive exposition," a tendency to over-explain that which to some extent defies explanation anyway; "they help the author who is dealing with mystery to 'say best what needs to be said,' " as Lewis himself put it, she said.

Humphrey, author of Further Up and Further In: Orthodox Conversations with C. S. Lewis on Scripture and Theology, was speaking at a meeting of the Toronto chapter of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, an international organization composed of Anglicans and Orthodox Christians.

Humphrey was herself a member of the Anglican Church of Canada--she served for a time on the Primates Theological Commission, which explored various theological questions in the early 2000s--before converting to Eastern Orthodoxy.

In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Humphrey said some Orthodox Christians have in recent years begun to take an increased interest in Lewis's writings, perhaps because he has a "sacramental worldview"--one that sees the world as rife with symbolism for us--that has much in common with Orthodox Christianity.

Also speaking at the event was John Bowen, professor emeritus at Wycliffe College and author of The Spirituality of Narnia: The Deeper Magic of C.S. Lewis. Lewis's way of writing fantasy, Bowen said, can work evangelisticalfy by drawing readers into a "liminal world" that challenges their assumptions about themselves and reality, leaving them open to a faith they may have previously dismissed. …

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