C. S. Lewis and the Bright Shadow of Holiness / the Latin Letters of C. S. Lewis
Ryken, Philip Graham, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
C. S. Lewis and the Bright Shadow of Holiness. By Gerard Reed. Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1999, 190 pp., $14.99 paper. The Latin Letters of C. S. Lewis. Translated and edited by Martin Moynihan. South Bend: St. Augustine's, 1998, 126 pp., $17.95.
One of the secrets to the ongoing influence of C. S. Lewis is his popularity among widely divergent Christian traditions. Writing from the vantage point of Wesleyanism, Gerard Reed (who is professor of philosophy and religion at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA) has produced a theological and practical overview of what Lewis termed "the bright shadow" of holiness.
The book takes its title from Lewis's account of his life-changing encounter with George MacDonald's Phantastes: "But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately, I saw the common things drawn into the bright shadow." Lewis later came to identify this bright shadow as "Holiness"-the holiness of the Holy One.
C. S. Lewis and the Bright Shadow of Holiness is a wide-ranging book covering not only the divine attribute of holiness, but also the doctrines of creation, sin, salvation, sanctification, and the Trinity. It is really three books in one. The first is a compendium of C. S. Lewis quotations, generally on the theme of holiness, taken from a broad selection of the author's essays, books, and stories. The second is the location and reorganization of these quotations into basic theological categories from depravity to eschatology. The third is an articulation of the Christian life, including not only Reed's own explanations of Lewis, but also trenchant observations from theologians throughout church history.
It is not easy to weave three strands into a single cord, but Reed has largely succeeded. He faces the additional difficulty in this case of trying to incorporate the eloquent words of C. S. Lewis into his own prose. One sometimes senses that Lewis's own thought has been diminished in the process, for even when his quotations are not taken out of context, they are still dislocated from the flow of his original argument.
Not surprisingly, C. S. Lewis and the Bright Shadow of Holiness is somewhat difficult to categorize. It is not exactly an interpretation of C. S. Lewis; still less it is a theological critique, which in some ways would be more interesting. It is perhaps most usefully read as a survey of the Christian life. With his Wesleyan sensibilities, Reed often notices and emphasizes themes in Lewis that others might overlook or dismiss, such as his description of spiritual renewal as a "second conversion," or simply his stress on holiness as the goal of the Christian life. It may be going too far to call C. S. Lewis a "holiness theologian," as Reed does, but it is not surprising that his writings prove congenial to a Wesleyan reading. As the quintessential "mere Christian," Lewis resonates with most theological traditions. Reed notes, for example, that "Lewis's emphasis on `transformation,' the divine working of the Holy Spirit, infusing grace and conforming believers to the image of Christ Jesus, squares with the call to holiness that is central to the Wesleyan tradition. …