Magazine article Pastoral Music

Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis

Magazine article Pastoral Music

Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis

Article excerpt

Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis Edited by Paul F. Ford. 398 pages, hardback. HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-06-124059-1. $23.95.

In his classic Method in Theology (1972, second edition 1990), the Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan described four conversions-intellectual, moral, religious, and Christian-that undergird Christian living and theological reflection on Christian experience. It is fascinating to see, through the pages of Yours, Jack, how those conversions took on flesh and life in the daily experience of Clive Staples Lewis ("Jack," to his family and friends). Paul Ford's careful and loving arranging and editing of these letters, excerpted from three large volumes of Lewis's correspondence, assists the reader mightily in following Lewis's own spiritual development, carried on in conversation with (among others) his lifelong friend Arthur Greeves, his brother Warren, and Catholic friends like Bede Griffiths, and in his eventual though reluctant willingness to offer spiritual direction to correspondents who had been his students or, in many cases, readers of his books. Ford arranges the letters chronologically, which allows the reader to follow the development of Lewis's thought and prayer, but he also provides a fairly complete index so that readers can explore specific topics or themes.

The collection begins with a letter written in 1916 to Arthur Greeves, in which Lewis credits the Christian fantasy writing of George MacDonald (1824-1905) for sparking his imagination and opening a world of possibilities that had not appeared to him before then. By 1920 he had to "postulate some sort of God," but it took another nine years for Lewis to become a theist, though at the time he was "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." In 1931, after a long conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien and a colleague named Hugo Dyson, Lewis found himself accepting Christianity: "I have just passed on from believing in God to definitively believing in Christ-in Christianity."

From that point on, Lewis would become one of the major popularizers of Christian belief and theology in English in the twentieth century. (To describe him this way is not to make light of his contributions to Christian apologetics and spiritual writing; it is, rather to say that many of his works make Christianity and its understanding accessible in ways that academic theology does not.) His writings on Christianity range from fantasies, sparked by what MacDonald's fantasies did for him, to serious but very readable descriptions of spirituality and theology. His interest in writing popular defenses of Christian belief was engaged, as Lewis says in a 1947 letter, by reading G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man (1925), which he describes as "the very best popular defence [sic] of the full Christian position I know. …

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