Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Great Malvern

Great Malvern (Wyvern in Surprised by Joy) is where C. S. Lewis spent a number of his school days as a boy. He began at Cherbourg Preparatory School (pictured above) and it was here that he lost his Christian faith and became an atheist, sometime between the age of 13 and 15.

From Cherbourg, Lewis won a scholarship to attend Malvern College (in the same town).

Lewis' rooms were in School House. Though the school is one of the best in England and quite beautiful, Lewis was unhappy here. Largely this was the case because the focus at the time was on sports and Lewis was never good at games.

One place Lewis did enjoy was the Gurney, the college library, where he drunk deep from the well of many ancient mythologies.

The other great blessing of Malvern to Lewis was his classics teacher, H. W. Smith. "Smewgy" passed on to Lewis a love of poetry and reading poetry aloud.

The Lewis brothers often visited Malvern in later life. They would usually stay with Leonard and Maureen Moore Blake or with George Sayer. They enjoyed dinner at the Foley Arms (above) and the Unicorn Pub (below).

Perhaps C. S. Lewis' greatest Malvernian joy was hiking the Malvern Hills to places like the British Camp.

View from the British Camp

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


This is the view from our hotel window in Donegal, Ireland, today. The last time I was here was 33 years ago. I was nineteen then and questioning many things about Christianity. By the time I reached Donegal, on my four week solo tour of the British Isles, I had a powerful head cold and outside my tiny B&B the rain was pouring down. There was nothing for me to do but lie in bed and read. So I picked up Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

When I read these words, I found many of my questions answered....
Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would he nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that. you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him, not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings. 
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
C. S. Lewis did not lead me to faith in Christ, but he did keep me in the faith at a time when I very much needed help. For that I am most grateful, as I continue to try to follow Jesus all these years later....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

C. S. Lewis' Ireland

For the past several days my friend Russ Head and I  have been touring C. S. Lewis' Ireland, scouting locations for a future CSL educational tour. I will share here a few of the sites we have seen, following as much as possible the chronology of Lewis' life. Lewis was born at Dundela Villas in East Belfast, Northern Ireland, on November 29, 1898.
Lewis was baptized by his maternal grandfather, The Reverend Thomas Hamilton, in St. Mark's Dundela, in January 1899.
In 1905, the Lewis family moved to this house which Lewis' father had built in what was then the countryside on the outskirts of Belfast. They named it Little Lea. Here C. S. Lewis composed and illustrated his first stories about Boxen in the Little End Room on the third floor. The window to that room is just visible in the photo above.
Lewis' boyhood imagination must have been stirred by the Irish landscape filled with castles like Carrickfergus (above) and the beauty of places he saw along the Antrim Coast where his mother often took him on holiday as a little boy.
Sadly, Lewis' mother died of cancer when he was just nine years old and his father sent him to boarding school in England. We will be visiting one of Lewis' schools later in our journey....

Monday, April 13, 2015

Taking a Break

Since we have finished up our study of The Apostles' Creed, far quicker than I originally thought we would, I am going to take a break from blogging for the next ten days or so.

Then I hope to be back with some posts from Ireland and England where I will be from April 22-May 8, scouting locations for a future C. S. Lewis Tour.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Last Battle

Reepicheep, the Valiant Mouse, in the New Narnia

To my mind, one of the most wonderful descriptions of everlasting life, outside of the Bible, is that written by C. S. Lewis in The Last Battle, the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. As most of my readers will remember, at the end of the book, Lucy, Edmund, and Peter, three children whom we first met in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, experience a railway accident in our world and suddenly find themselves in a strange land that is incredibly beautiful and breathtaking in its splendor. Within this land they discover many of the people whom they loved in their life on earth and in Narnia. While the children are still trying to figure out exactly where they are, they discover something even better about this special land; Aslan, the great Lion, the Lord of Narnia, is there.

Lewis writes,
The light ahead was growing stronger. Lucy saw that a great series of many-coloured cliffs led up in front of them like a giant's staircase. And then she forgot everything else, because Aslan himself was coming, leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty.... Then Aslan turned to them and said:
"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be." 
Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." 
"No fear of that," said Aslan, "Have you not guessed?" 
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. 
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are--as you used to call in in the Shadow-Lands--dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning." 
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
There is something so great about the life everlasting that no propositional statement can even begin to capture the essence of it; only a story will do. And God gives us the choice whether or not we will enter into that great story through Aslan, the Christ. As we trust in him and yield our little stories to him, I believe he will make us part of that great story which goes on for ever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Life Everlasting

In The Apostles' Creed we confess not only belief in the resurrection of the body but also in the life everlasting What is that life going to be like? To get a glimpse, one place we can turn for answers is Revelation 21:1-5....
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
“See, the home of God is among mortals.He will dwell with them;they will be his peoples,and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.Death will be no more;mourning and crying and pain will be no more,for the first things have passed away.” 
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
From this passage I think we can learn at least three things about the life everlasting:

  1. We will have a new environment.
  2. We will be with the Lord.
  3. There will be no more sorrow, pain, or death. 

So what about that new environment? Some have thought that the new heaven and new earth will have no connection to the old. However, Paul suggests in Romans 8:20-23 a transfiguration of the old heaven and earth into the new....

...for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Just as we groan and long to put on our resurrection bodies, so also all of creation groans and longs to put on the new heaven and the new earth. And just as Jesus' resurrection body was fashioned out of his old mortal body, so also, I believe, the new heavens and the new earth will be fashioned from the old.

However, more important than the manner in which God is going to create, or recreate, the new heaven and earth is the fact that we will be with the Lord. "The dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

I want to look at this topic a little bit further tomorrow, and share with you one of my favorite bits of writing from you know who ... C. S. Lewis.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Robert Schuller (1926-2015)

I thank God for the life of Robert Schuller who passed away last week at the age of 88. Yes, I realize that his theology stirred up controversy for some. Others lament the way Crystal Cathedral Ministries ended. But I still thank God for Robert Schuller and here is the reason why....

When I was twelve years old, in 1975, living in Southern California, my family did not regularly attend worship services in any church. However, I did watch church on television with my mother. And one of the people we watched was Robert Schuller. I will never forget the Sunday he preached on forgiveness. Suddenly, I understood for the first time in my life that Jesus died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven of my sin. I still remember some of Schuller's illustrations and sayings like: "When God buries the axe he doesn't leave the handle sticking above ground." I received Jesus into my life in a personal way that Sunday. I received God's love and forgiveness. Suddenly, I felt free. And what I received that Sunday determined the course of my life. I have given my life to Christian ministry. It has been my desire since that day to communicate the love of Jesus Christ to as many people as I possibly can.

When Schuller decided to build the Crystal Cathedral I thought it was a great dream. I decided I wanted to be part of it. I saved my allowance every week and in time I was able to give a thousand dollars to have two windows placed in that Cathedral. And they are there to this day and that Cathedral will continue to be used for Christian ministry. For that, I praise God.

Shortly after receiving Christ on that Sunday morning, we moved to a new neighborhood. Down the street there lived a boy my age. Sometimes he would follow me home from school. I remember one day when he and his friend followed me home, calling me names, and pitching little stones at me. I tried my best to ignore him. But somehow, in time, Jeff and I met on "neutral turf" so to speak, and we became friends. How that happened I do not remember. But I do remember learning that Jeff watched Robert Schuller on television just as I did. We could recite the Possibility Thinkers' Creed together:

When faced with a mountain
I will not quit!

I will keep on striving
until I climb over,
find a pass through,
tunnel underneath,
or simply stay and
turn the mountain
into a gold mine
with God's help.

Jeff invited me to go with him to youth group at his church one Sunday. The group was going roller skating. I did not want to do that. My mother urged me to go, but I refused. Then Jeff invited me again and I went. At that first meeting the youth group had a new youth pastor whom I liked very much. I attended from then on, not only youth group but Sunday morning services as well. Eventually, the rest of my family joined me at church. I have been involved in the Church and ministry ever since. At one point during my college years I even received training in counseling through the Crystal Cathedral.

So I am thankful for the life and ministry of Robert Schuller. I am grateful for the fact that he pointed me to Jesus Christ. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!