THE SURPRISING IMAGINATION OF C.S. LEWIS – Jerry Root and Mark Neal (2015)

“We have seen, whether in his fiction or nonfiction, that Lewis is alewisgiven to depictions, creating windows and images, inventing stories, developing metaphors, and crafting illustrations so his readers can see what he saw and more. He did these things that readers might better see and understand the real world.” So says Jerry Root and Mark Neal in their fascinating treatment of C.S. Lewis.

The book is The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis.The authors survey the literary mountain of books written by Lewis and focus their attention on his attempts to spark the imagination of readers. From the non-fiction works, Surprised by Joy and Mere Christianity to his fiction works like The Great Divorce and The Chronicles of Narnia, Root and Neal work hard to excavate the “imaginative ore” from the deep recesses of C.S. Lewis treasure trove. Indeed, “Lewis’s use of the imagination makes it possible for us to enter into collaboration with things once outside of our vision of the world.”

Having read much of Lewis’s work, I was personally fascinated and and inspired by the authors attempts to highlight his imagination. For the works I was less familiar with, such as the Space Triology the treatment was more difficult to follow.
The authors write, “Ultimately, the imagination is a vital ‘organ of meaning’ that we must cultivate if we desire to live well, if we are to grow and change and expand our understanding of the world that God has placed us in. God calls us to know it, and to know it well.”

Overall, the authors succeed in their attempt to draw readers into the imaginative world of C.S. Lewis. They conclude on a high note by challenging readers to fight a falsified notion of the imagination: “We encourage you to fight the notion that the imagination is simply ‘make-believe’ and therefore not to be trusted. Modern science certainly has not helped to foster the imagination as a source of truth. Reason, intellect, and method are prized above all else, while imagination is patted condescendingly on the head.” In the final analysis, readers are encouraged to marry reason and imagination – all with the intention of glorifying God.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review.

 

IF I HAD LUNCH WITH C.S. LEWIS – Alistair McGrath (2014)

C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis is widely trumpeted as one of the leading Christian thinkers and apologists of the 2oth century.  His seminal works, Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain have equipped a new generation of Christ-followers.  Creative works like The Great Divorce have stimulating the imaginations of thousands.  And who could forget his landmark series, The Chronicles of Narnia which continue to sell like hotcakes over fifty years later.

Alister McGrath is a leading authority on C.S. Lewis.  Like Lewis, the author teaches at Oxford University where his interest in Lewis blossomed.

If I Had Lunch With C.S. Lewis is a basic introduction to the life and writing of the Oxford don.  McGrath arranges a series of imaginary lunches with Lewis where they chat about subjects that matter – friendship, story-telling, learning, theology, apologetics, and suffering.

If I Had Lunch With C.S. Lewis is a perfect introduction to entry level readers who are not familiar with the literary genius.  The book offers enough information to satisfy beginners but also contains plenty of fuel for readers more familiar with Lewis.

3.5 stars

 

SEEING BEAUTY AND SAYING BEAUTIFULLY – John Piper (2014)

1433542943_b“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”  So says King Solomon in Proverbs 25:11.  These wise words are the biblical basis for John Piper’s new book, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully.  Nearly fifteen years ago, Dr. Piper embarked on a series of books called, The Swans Are Not Silent.  The beauty of these books is found in a combination of brevity, historical narrative, and theological depth.  The books set out to introduce key figures in the history of the church – from Augustine, Calvin, and Luther to Bunyan, Wilberforce, and Cowper.  The newest volume introduces readers to George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.

The author’s aim, as he says, is “to probe the interrelationship between seeing beauty and saying it beautifully.”  And he accomplishes his goal by pointing to Herbert, Whitefield, and Lewis by demonstrating how these men pointed others to see the beauty of Christ.

Piper spends much of his time laboring over the poetic effort of these men: “Poetic effort is the effort to see and savor and speak the wonder – the divine glory – that is present everywhere in the world God made, in the history God guides, and in the Word God inspired.”

This is the sixth volume in the Swans Are Not Silent series.  Each book stands alone and is brimming with joy and hope, which are centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The newest edition is no exception.  John Piper continues to equip and encourage his readers.  Over and over again, he proves, the swans are not silent.

5 stars

THE REASON FOR GOD: Unbelief in an Age of Skepticism – Tim Keller (2008)

Some have compared Tim Keller to C.S. Lewis.  Other believe he is the C.S. Lewis for our generation.  One thing is for certain though – Keller’s book, The Reason for God is a terrific read.  I read Keller’s apologetic treatise when it first hit the shelves in 2008.  The second read was even better!

The title of the book is revealing.  The author aims at the heart at mind of the skeptic.  And he’s good at it.  He has a way of peeling off layer upon layer of unbelief.  His strategy is simple.  First, seven typical arguments are presented which appear to militate against the historic Christian faith:

1. There Can’t Be Just One True Religion

2. How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?

3.Christianity is a Straitjacket

4. The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice

5. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

6. Science Has Disproved Christianity

7. You Can’t Take the Bible Literally

Careful reader immediately notice that Dr. Keller gently unravels each of these arguments.  And this is what makes The Reason for God  such a compelling read.  Honestly, Keller’s arguments against skepticism are quite devastating.  But his approach is gracious and humble.  His knows how to interact with skepticism in a winsome way – without compromise, all the while instructing Christians to do the same.

Part two contains the heart of the book.  The author presents seven reasons for faith:

1. The Clues of God

2. The Knowledge of God

3. The Problem of Sin

4. Religion and the Gospel

5. The (True) Story of the Cross

6. The Reality of the Resurrection

7. The Dance of God

These reasons are soaked in Scripture and come face to face with real life.  Keller argues that there are sufficient reasons for believing Christianity – what he calls “critical rationality.”  Again, he reasons gently.  His arguments are convincing and compelling.  But he refuses to steamroll the unbeliever.

Keller is quick to criticize religion and prop up grace: “Religion operates on the principle ‘I obey – therefore I am accepted by God.’  But the operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by God through what Christ has done – therefore I obey.”  He continues, “It is only grace that frees us from the slavery of self that lurks even in the middle of morality and religion.  Grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.”  Herein lies the biggest strength of Keller’s work – the emphasis on grace and the gospel.  While the arguments are most helpful, his emphasis on the saving redemptive work of God in Christ make the book a must read for skeptics and believers alike.

4.5 stars