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.
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
C. S. Lewis Letters to Children
This podcast covers a delightful and informative little book, C. S. Lewis Letters to Children. As Lewis became a well-known author, he started receiving letters from all kinds of people, and he felt obligated to reply. When he began publishing the Chronicles of Narnia, he began to receive and to reply to letters from children. This book is a collection of some of these letters. In addition, Jack (Lewis went by the nickname Jack) was a godfather to Sarah, the daughter of one of his pupils, and some letters from Lewis to Sarah are included in this collection. The letters in letters in the book begin in 1944 and end the day before Jack’s death in 1963. They were never intended to be published, so they show Lewis as he really was, with “his guard down”, as it were. They provide insights into his living conditions as well as into the Christian life, and are quite often amusing. This is a short book but well worth your time reading.
The show notes for this podcast are found at this link – Show Notes
Music Inspired By C S Lewis
This comes via a suggestion from Tim Parish, one of the folks who subscribe to our podcasts.
I am a regular listener of the podcast and had some encouraging news to pass on(in case you do not already know about this).
Heath McNease is a young Christian songwriter and performer that has an appreciation for CS Lewis, and has just released an album of songs based on various Lewis works. It is really cool to see a new generation taking up the banner…
Check it out at http://heathmcneasemusic.com/music/weightofglory/
You can view various YouTube videos where he explains each of the songs and lyrics. And then the album can be downloaded as well.
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.
That Hideous Strength
This podcast covers the last book in C S Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength. It is the most complex and, I think, the most enjoyable book in the space trilogy. While the story shares some common ground with the other two novels, it also has some new elements in it, especially elements from the legends surrounding King Arthur. This is probably due to the influence of Charles Williams, one of Jack’s best friends. (See this link – Charles Williams in Wikipedia).
The book is the story of an evil assault on nature and humanity by the demons who are temporarily in control of the earth. It tells how Ransom (the hero from the first two books) and a small band of followers thwarted that assault with the help of Merlin the magician from King Arthur’s time. At the same time it is the story of the temptation and conversion of two young English intellectuals, Mark and Jane Studdock. One of the most enjoyable (and perhaps most instructive) parts of the book are its character portraits of the villains, Dick Devine, Augustus Frost, and John Wither. Our podcast gives us an overall view of the plot and then looks at some of the character studies Lewis has given us in this novel.
The notes for this show are 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.
Professor Weston’s Ideas Live On
You may remember the ideals espoused by Professor Weston in “Out of the Silent Planet“, especially the one that for humanity to survive as a species we must find and colonize new planets. You may have thought that this was a bit of a stretch for Lewis to have a scientist believe in that view , and that no real scientists hold that philosophy now. In that case you’ ll be interested the short article below.
And I quote from the article……
Finding planets outside our solar system that can sustain life should be made a top priority, say Australian astronomers.
Understanding habitability and using that knowledge to locate the nearest habitable planet may be crucial for our survival as a species, writes Dr Charley Lineweaver and PhD student Aditya Chopra of the Australian National University in the Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
I wonder if these good folk have read Out of the Silent Planet, and what they would say in response to Jack’s description of their philosophy.
This podcast covers Perelandra, the second book in the Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis. Many reviewers consider this the best of the three books, and some say that it is one of the top three books written by Lewis.
It continues the story that began in Out of the Silent Planet. The protagonist is the same, Elwin Ransom, a professor of philology, and one of the same villains (Weston, the physicist) reappears. However, the story takes place on Venus (called Perelandra in this novel) not Mars. In this story as told by Lewis Perelandra is a paradise, an unfallen world that knows no evil. Essentially the story is a re-telling of what happened in the first chapters of Genesis in the Garden of Eden. Lewis begins by describing the paradise that exists and then tells how evil tries to corrupt this new world. The story is a fascinating study of how free will and temptation work.
Let’s sketch the plot. Ransom is brought to Perelandra by a mighty spirit, and arch-angel, that he met on Mars but is not told what he is expected to do there. Ransom soon meets the Eve of that world, who is named Tinidril and is also called The Green Lady. She walks completely with God and has free will, although she does not know it. She begins to learn from Ransom, but shortly after they meet Weston arrives on the scene. He begins to tempt her to prove that she has free will by disobeying God. Ransom realizes what is going on and tries to counter Weston’s arguments. Ultimately he realizes that he must prevent the temptations from continuing by physically attacking Weston so that Tinidril has some time and space to reflect and respond to the choice being offered her. He does so, and kills Weston after a long hand-to-hand battle. During the battle Tinidril decides to continue her walk with God, and Perelandra is saved from evil. Tinidril meets the Adam of that world and together they assume their reign over the planet. Ransom is then brought back to earth by the same arch-angel who carried him to Perelandra.
The book is worth reading to gain a new appreciation of what Heaven might be like, what humanity lost in the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and how a being with free will (like us) can be tempted to evil.
Out of the Silent Planet
This podcast is the first is a set of three that will cover the Space Trilogy written by C. S. Lewis, and it covers the book “Out of the Silent Planet”. This trilogy is from the science fiction genre, a genre that Jack read and enjoyed all of his life. (He even wrote several science fiction short stories as well as this set of three novels). The three books are, in order, “Out of the Silent Planet“, “Perelandra“, and “That Hideous Strength“. They are unified by their view of the universe, their presentation of good and evil, and the main characters. The first two take place on Mars and Venus while the third takes place on earth. Many consider “Perelandra” the best of Jack’s fiction, surpassing any of the Chronicles of Narnia. I myself prefer “That Hideous Strength“, but they are all worth reading.
The plot is of Out of the Silent Planet is fairly complex. It tells how two evil men kidnap a third man and travel to Mars to hand the third man over as a victim to one of the three races there, the Sorns. The hero, named Ransom, escapes from them on Mars and encounters one of the other races, the Hrossa. He is a specialist in language development and finds that the Hrossa are friendly and can speak. He accompanies the strange creature to its village, where he stays for several months and learns their language and culture. Ransom finds that all the 3 races on Mars are ruled by a spiritual being called the Oyarsa, and Ransom is summoned to meet this ruler, who can be thought of as an archangel. He delays responding, and as a result, Hyoi, the Hross who found him, is shot and killed by Weston. Ransom then goes to the Oyarsa and they have a long discussion about Mars and Earth. The Oyarsa has the Hrossa capture the two villains and bring them to him so that he can speak with them also. He finds that they are completely evil and compels them to take their ship and return to Earth, never to come back to Mars. Ransom reluctantly goes with them. When the spaceship lands, the villains and Ransom abandon it, for it disintegrates as Oyarsa has promised.
Lewis seems to want to make three points in his story. First, that the universe is not empty but full of life, light and spiritual beings. Second, that three utterly different races can live together in harmony. Finally, Lewis uses this story to repudiate the idea that humanity has the right to travel to other planets and colonize them, displacing the planet’s inhabitants if they are at a lower stage of cultural development.