I’ll open up with a few questions.
- Does Lewis intend to teach children that a demon can be summoned by an unbeliever by invoking its name? Or is this a bit of gothic horror that children seem to like?
- Does Lewis actually believe in Platonic forms? I didn’t think anyone took those very seriously - even Plato.
I finished the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle. This final outing combines a gloss of Revelations with some end times theology and a depiction of heaven in terms of Plato’s Theory of Forms. Let us just say that C. S. Lewis did not suddenly discover subtlety in 1956. The ape, Shift, is a kind of false Anti-Christ, albeit a manipulated one. The dwarfs cannot experience heaven because they are trapped by their own closed minds (what are they doing in heaven if this is the case). Susan is no longer a “friend of Narnia” because she becomes interested in “nylons, lipstick and invitations.” If he was not writing Allegory then what was he writing? Parody? Metaphor? I am at a loss.
Any who - So Lewis is a second rate fantasy writer. No big surprise there. However, he also comes off as a bit of a crank in the Narnia series. He keeps taking cheap shots at those with whom he doesn’t agree. Those who suffer at the pen of the Greatest Christian Apologist of the 20th Century are:
- Educators – Over and over again, Lewis slams modern education, from Lord Digory’s exclamations of “What do they teach them at these schools!” to his depiction of the Experimental School where Eustace and Jill attend.
- Scientists – See here.
- Socialites – I find the argument that Susan failed to reach heaven because she “grew up” or matured sexually unconvincing. I think Lewis makes it clear that her problem was her turning toward superficial things of this world, appearing attractive and going to parties.
- America – Is it coincidence that the last reference we had to Susan’s activities before she is struck from the list of Saved is that she travelled to America with her parents? Is Dr Lewis taking a swipe at my own fair country?
- Liberal theologians – Any non-Mystical explanation of Christianity ever put forward seems to come under fire along with scientific approaches to studying religion (see scientists, above). Kind of ironic since Lewis himself attempted to use logic to prove the existence of God and the precepts of Christianity in Surprised by Joy and Mere Christianity.
- Dwarfs(?) – What to make of the black dwarfs in The Last Battle? Who is Lewis trying to get at here? Skeptics? The generally closed-minded? The parochial? The amoral? The short?
Overall, I am thrilled to have these books behind me. C. S. Lewis’ work does not hold up well after half a century. Even those views that were not anachronistic at the time of their writing are mostly so now, for instance, his depiction of Calormen (“smelling of garlic and onions”) or his glorification of warfare. In fact it is disturbing how much violence is portrayed as a fitting way to serve Christ. I would not encourage my children to read these books for any reason other than a college level study of the author.
My next read will be A Grief Observed. Let us see where Professor Lewis ended up. I only hope the hype does not bode ill for this book as it did the previous seven (eight if you count Mere Christianity).