The Land of Longing

I've always fretted so few original minds make their way into the Christian mainstream. We enjoy quoting men like Lewis and Chesterton, but where are today's versions of them?


 Professor, philosopher—and Lewis nut—Victor Reppert says it best:

"The way one honors Lewis's apologetic achievement … is not simply by repeating what he says, but by developing his ideas, asking probing questions of them and developing the discussion in ways that reflect one's own thinking as well as Lewis's." 

I agree. I don't think Lewis wrote so we'd quote him. I think he wrote to ignite something within each reader. Today, I apply Reppert's exhortation to Lewis's thoughts on sehnsucht, or longing.

The Other Place

To Lewis, beauty pointed to another place. "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them," he wrote in The Weight of Glory, "it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing." 

Our poetry and photographs, our music and films stir us with a beauty we struggle to communicate. "They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."

The apologetic of beauty seems abstract. Does the pointing finger of beauty finally rest on God himself? Can we really transpose the feelings we receive when we experience beauty into foundational beliefs—and belief in God, no less?

Made For Beauty

We watch the sun set. It stirs a desire within us. We can't quite describe the desire—we want some part of the experience. But what? Lewis says we don't want the sunset itself. Rather, we want to crawl inside of it and wash ourselves with whatever it is behind the sunset—an experience or interaction with its Creator.

An emerging field in science called neurotheology now tells us our brains are "hardwired for belief." We're made to desire that which cannot always be seen or fully known. "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy," says Lewis in Mere Christianity, "the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

In a BBC Sunday Feature Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King's College in London, said beauty is known best when it is giving the sense of home and communion. We find echoes of Lewis here. For Lewis always seems to be reaching for home in his writings, while at the same time aiming us at the sunset—content to leave us in the arms of longing.


Nuggets

George Sayer writes, "Sometimes when reading a book from his own library, he (Lewis) marked the end with the date that he finished it. Once or twice he added in his neat, fine script, "Never again" or "n.a."

Quote

"The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word "love," and look on things as if man were the centre of them." --C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. 

Answer To Last Edition's Question

Question: Which Lewis book was his least favorite to write?

Answer: The Screwtape Letters (Source: God In The Dock)

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Timothy Willard loves to sit with his wife by the bonfire and make up stories about Tom the Backyard-Badger for his three lovely daughters. When he's not carving up the Appalachian Mountains on his Salsa El Mariachi, you can find him busy writing a book, collaborating on a book, or reading a book written by someone dead and gone. Timothy studied beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis under theologian Alister McGrath. The author of five books, including Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society (Zondervan), Timothy is currently finishing The Life-Changing Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019), preparing his doctoral thesis for publication, and trying to find a publisher for his first novel The Tempest and the Bloom. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.