Tuesday, June 21, 2011

‘The Soul of C.S. Lewis: A Meditative Journey through Twenty-Six of His Best-Loved Wriitings’ written and edited by Wayne Martindale, Jerry Root, and Linda Washington – Book Review

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An author who has long challenged me with his Christian worldview is C.S. Lewis. I was blessed with reading an excellent book highlighting his amazing mind, ‘The Soul of C.S. Lewis: A Meditative Journey through Twenty-Six of His Best-Loved Writings.’

Here is the synopsis of this lofty book:

C.S. Lewis opened more than just the wardrobe door… He also opened doors to new worlds of ideas, fantastic discoveries, and insights on the human experience. Author of the Narnia series, Lewis was the premier twentieth-century thinker on life, literature, and Christianity. His fiction and nonfiction continue to inspire readers and moviegoers today. Drawing from twenty-six of Lewis’s works – both fiction and nonfiction, his popular works as well as his lesser known ones – The Soul of C.S. Lewis encourages reflection on his key spiritual themes and opens a door, in its own way, toward our understanding the soul of one of the twentieth-century’s greatest literary figures.
The Soul of C.S. Lewis is perfect for the seasoned Lewis enthusiast, for those who want to be introduced to Lewis, or for anyone looking for personal growth. Written by Linda Washington and veteran Lewis scholars Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, among others, this book uniquely gets to the core of Lewis and does so by drawing from a wide range of his works.
Each chapter contains an introduction to one of Lewis’s works and tens meditations inspired by it. Rich in wisdom, these meditations highlight the interconnectedness of Scripture to life while challenging and inspiring readers to know God and live their lives well.

Here are the biographies of the authors/editors:

Wayne Martindale, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Wheaton College, Illinois, where he regularly teaches courses on C.S. Lewis. He is the author of Beyond the Shadowlands: C.S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell, editor of Journey to the Celestial City: Glimpses of Heaven from Great Literary Classics, coeditor of The Quotable Lewis with Jerry Root, and author of numerous chapters and articles on Lewis as well. Wayne and his wife, Nita, have taken students to Lewis sites in England and Ireland. They have also lived and taught in China.

Jerry Root, Ph.D., is associate professor of evangelism at Wheaton College in Illinois and visiting professor at Biola University in Southern California. He wrote both his M.Div. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation on Lewis and has been teaching classes on the British writer for more than thirty years. He travels nationally and internationally lecturing on Lewis and is the author of C.S. Lewis and a Problem of Evil: An Investigation of a Pervasive Theme. He is coeditor, with Wayne Martindale, of The Quotable Lewis.

Linda Washington is a senior project writer for Livingstone Corporation and has authored and coauthored more than twenty successful books. Linda received her B.A. in English from Northwestern University and has held positions as an editor for the American Bar Association, Cook Communications Ministries, and Ligature Creative Studios.

In the Introduction, the writers/editors explains the Scheme of this book:

The Soul of C.S. Lewis: A Meditative Journey Through Twenty-Six of His Best-Loved Writings draws quotations from Lewis’s writing. Limits of space as well as the authors’ and editors’ predilections narrowed the scope these readings. Nevertheless, each of the twenty-four chapters of this book highlight a particular Lewis source (or two, in a few cases). Each chapter is introduced with a one-page summary; this is followed by ten Lewis quotations and ten reflections. Each reflection ends with a Scripture verse that affirms the concept from Lewis. The chapters are bundled in groups of six within a topic that loosely generalizes a theme running through each book in that part. The four parts of the book are: Pilgrimage, Temptation and Triumph, Going Deeper, and Words of Grace. Each of these has an introduction explaining its general theme.
The purpose of The Soul of C.S. Lewis is to encourage reflection and thought. The selections are short; nevertheless, they are designed for the reader’s personal growth. Lewis opened up more than just wardrobe doors. To read and reflect upon his work biblically is to take a journey of discovery. He opens a door into the liberal arts – those liberal arts that allow people to think well in order to live well. He leads them into new worlds of ideas and imaginative discoveries. Furthermore, Lewis integrates his faith into the learning process, and this, too, provides a significant model for a reader’s own reflection. (p. xvi)

Christians are often accused of leaving their brains at the foot of the cross when they come to Christ. C.S. Lewis, in contrast, proved that a Christian can also be an intellectual and a scholar. Professor Lewis’s legacy is large, and we are so blessed that he came to know Christ. His incredible creativity and brain (in conjunction with the working of the Holy Spirit, of course) undoubtedly pointed many to Christ, and many lives have been saved for all eternity as a result.

Although I have read many of Professor Lewis’s work, I have certainly not read everything. This book is a terrific resource in summarizes the topics and steer us to works of his with which we may not have previously been aware.

A topic of great interest to me over the last several years is that of Grace. In the introduction to that section, ‘Words of Grace,’ the following is shared:

Perhaps no topic appeals more to the deep need of the soul than words of grace. There is something in Lewis that seems to appeal to that part of each man, woman, and child who longs to be loved. This theme of Lewis’s, though expressed throughout his work, finds one of its most endearing expressions in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan, the Christ figure, incarnates himself into Narnia: “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14, NKJV) in that world as it did in ours. Aslan, as an act of grace, gives himself to save Edmund and all Narnia. So great is the expression of this love that it is not conditioned on Edmund’s performance or capacity to earn it; in fact Edmund can do nothing to save himself from peril – nothing of merit. His neediness is met by Aslan’s love and sacrifice; nothing else can do. (p. 240)

In the Conclusion, the writers/editors explain how being involved with this book has changed their lives:

And this is only the beginning. Many of us have followed an interest in something Lewis wrote about and pursued it with a growing passion for the learning that is evident everywhere in his writing. After you finish reading everything Lewis write, you can set out to read everything Lewis ever read – and that’s a life’s work! Above all, may you be encouraged by this journey to read and so to draw strength from the Word of God, which is the very backbone of the books Lewis wrote and the life he lived. But the ultimate goal is not even to be a better reader of the Bible; it is to be a better follower of Jesus. Lewis did not want disciples. He would say of Christ a John the Baptist did, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30). (p. 317)

This book, as you can imagine after reading the credentials of the authors/editors, is extremely well-written. I have taken seminary classes in the past, and I pray the Lord allows me to take more again the future. For now, this type of book is a wonderful scholarly tome that is challenging, yet still within the grasp of most readers. It is a blessing to me that these books are published for the masses, and I thank Tyndale House for making this book available to us!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Tyndale House Publishers and provided by them for review purposes.


Zorro! said...
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Zorro! said...

Thanks for the review!
I have read most of C.S. Lewis' works, and I have this book sitting on my shelf but I have not read through it yet.
Have a nice day~

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