This podcast is a review of one of the wisest essays that C S Lewis wrote, The Funeral of a Great Myth. He looks at the “Grand Myth” of evolution, that is, evolution not as a theory of biological change but as an over-arching explanation of how the universe works. Lewis does not have any quarrel with the idea of biological evolution, as far as I can tell, but he strongly disagrees with extending that as a principle behind everything. In this Great Myth mode, evolution is extended to explain how everything in the universe came about, and how there always must be endless progress “onwards and upwards”. Lewis discusses how this idea developed and became entrenched in the imagination prior to the publication of The Origin of Species by Darwin. He then discusses the fatal flaws of this Great Myth and why it is still lingering on.
Category Archives: Theology
The Problem of Pain
CSL-2013-05-17 This podcast covers one of the important and helpful theological books that C S Lewis wrote, entitled “The Problem of Pain”. It was written to answer the intellectual problem raised by suffering and pain in world created by a good, all-powerful God. As Lewis puts it
If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy. If He were almighty, He would be able to do what he wished. But, obviously, the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.
He goes on to say that if the common means of “almighty” and “good” are the best or the only meanings that can be assigned to these words, then the problem is unsolvable. Therefore, he first addresses the meaning of almighty and how it should be understood and then the meaning of “good” when applied to God. Jack (Lewis went by the nickname of Jack) then discusses the nature of a world where persons with free will can make choices and the functions of pain in such a world. He includes important discussions of the pains of animals and heaven and hell in this book. As you can tell, it is well worth a read.
The show notes for this podcast can be found here. Show Notes
On Obstinacy In Belief – Faith and Evidence
This podcast covers one of my favorite essays by Lewis, titled “On Obstinacy In Belief“. It’s original title was “Faith and Evidence” and actually I like that better, but we’ll use the published title in podcast. It has been included in several collections of essays by Lewis and is well worth your time to read. It covers differences between faith, belief and knowledge and it was written to answer the question why Christians hold on to their beliefs in the face of strong contrary evidence.
The essay was originally delivered to the Oxford Socratic Club in 1953 under the title Faith and Evidence and then was republished in 1955 under the current title. Since the “target audience” was a group of Oxford professors and students, Jack included several allusions and quotations in languages other than English (such as French, Italian, and Latin). Fortunately we do not have to know these languages to get the main points of this essay. In addition, a gentleman in the Netherlands has compiled a helpful explanation of these allusions and you can obtain that via the link below.
The show notes for this podcast are found here.
Fern Seeds and Elephants
This podcast is somewhat a detour. I had intended to cover “That Hideous Strength“, the third and last book in C. S. Lewis’ space trilogy. However, I was invited to participate in an interview on my favorite C. S. Lewis essay, and I chose “Fern Seeds and Elephants” for my subject. I did some research to prepare for the interview, and the interviewer, William O’Flaherty, kindly suggested that a podcast on the essay would compliment his interview very nicely. Hence this podcast was born.
This essay arose from a lecture that Jack presented to students at Cambridge who were studying to become priests in the Church of England. Its subject is a type of Biblical criticism that was in vogue then (1959) and is still popular today. The proponents of this approach to understanding the Bible have concluded that much of what Christians have believed about Jesus is incorrect, and that many of the stories about Him in the Gospels are myths or legends, not history. (For example, the story of Jesus changing water into wine at Cana of Galilee is not a miracle but a parable). By applying their techniques and using their analysis, we are at last able to understand what the New Testament really means. Jack offers four major criticisms of their technique and assumptions in the essay. If you are interested in Biblical in interpretation or if you have ever wondered if books like “The Da Vinci Code” could be true, then you will find this essay quite interesting and informative.
You can listen to my interview with Mr. O’Flaherty at the link below. I recommend this as it will provide you Mr. O’Flaherty’s insights on the essay.
God in the Dock
This show covers God in the Dock, a collection of essays and letters by C.. S. Lewis. The title (God in the Dock) is taken from one of the essays and refers to the place where the defendant stands in the English court system. The essays cover a wide range of topics and show the scope of Jack’s work.
There are essays on theological topics, such as miracles, essays on ethics and essays on what the editor calls “semi-theological topics”. For example, the essay God in the Dock describes the difficulties that Lewis had (and the we still have) in presenting the Good News of the Christian religion to an audience of unbelievers. There are also interviews as well as some letters that Lewis wrote in response to questions and criticisms of his writings. All of them are very good, and you are sure to find several essays that appeal especially to you.
Since there is no theme or development in the book, we cover three of the essays in order to give you a sample of what they are like and what subjects they cover. We cover “God in the Dock”, as well as “Miracles” and “Work and Prayer”. You are sure to find others that appeal to you as you read the book.
Mere Christianity-3: Beyond Personality
This is the final podcast in our three-part series on C S Lewis’ Mere Christianity. It covers the last Section of the book, Book IV, which focuses on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and how it relates to salvation. Jack has no problem getting into theology. While he agrees that the experience of God is our primary goal, he points out that theological doctrines (like the Trinity) can function as maps or guides to this goal.
Salvation can be thought of in two ways. First, as a change in status whereby we go from being sinners and guilty before God to being forgiven and guilt-free. Second, as a process whereby our self-centered nature is replaced by God’s nature, that is, we are made fit creatures for Heaven. Jack emphasizes this second approach in this part of Mere Christianity, although he would most certainly agree that the other approach is also true. He discusses the nature of a super-personal God, a God that remains one and yet contains three personalities, and how we can actually participate in the life of this God, if we will it. Lewis also points out that this does really costs us ourselves as we currently are but results in our real selves as God intended us to be.
Jack also adds a helpful chapter on God’s relationship to time. (Essentially, how we get into difficulties by thinking of God as inside time as we are). However, we did not have time to cover it in this podcast
Mere Christianity-1: Right and Wrong
This is the first podcast in a series of three on Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. This book is probably Jack’s most popular non-fiction work and it has been an important milestone in many people’s lives, including my own. It developed from a series of short talks that Jack gave on the BBC during WW II and is orientated towards a popular rather than academic audience. In it he describes the essence of Christian belief and why Jack thinks that Christianity is true.
The book is divided into four sections as follows
(1) Right and Wrong as a clue to the meaning on the universe
(2) What Christians Believe
(3) Christian Behavior
(4) Beyond Personality
We will cover the first two sections in this podcast. As always, I recommend reading the book to get the full force of Jack’s arguments.
The Last Battle – Part Two: Endings and Beginnings
This is the second of two podcasts on The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis. This book is the last in the Chronicles of Narnia and tells of the end of Narnia and the discovery of the real Narnia in Aslan’s country, Heaven. From a theological point of view we cover the Last Judgment, Salvation, and Heaven as described by Lewis in this book. The tale contains some of his most beautiful writing as well as some of his best insights about human nature and God. Ultimately it is a message of renewal and hope. Nevertheless, we have to concede that it is unflinching in its insistence that all countries except God’s own must come to an end someday, and that everyone must undergo the experience of death.
The show looks at the forebodings of the end, the examples of treachery and betrayal in the tale, how beings are chosen to enter Heaven, and the salvation of a noble, God-seeking heathen who does not know Aslan.
The World’s Last Night
Today’s book is The World’s Last Night and Other Essays. It is a collection of seven essays from later in C S Lewis’ life, after he was 50 years of age. They were written during a of some significant changes in his life. For one thing, he switched universities, going from Oxford to Cambridge. For another, Lewis met and married his wife, Joy Davidman Gresham. (You might remember this story from the excellent move Shadowlands). These essays give us a good picture of Jack’s thoughts and beliefs at this time and provide us with some good material for our own reflection and learning.
We cover three of the essays in this podcast and leave the rest for your reading pleasure.
The first piece we cover is entitled “The Efficacy of Prayer” and reviews what it means to ask “Does prayer work”.
The second essay in the podcast is “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” and is a biting commentary on the modern educational system and its unfortunate results in society. It is presented as a speech a senior devil in Hell gives to graduates of Hell’s Tempters College and is well worth reading.
The final selection is “The World’s Last Night” and it addresses the idea of the Second Return of Christ, the sudden end of the world when God steps onto the stage. It is considered one of Jack’s best essays and needs careful reading and refelction.
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