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.
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."
"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 is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.