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The Table Video

James Houston& Bruce Hindmarsh

Past Watchful Dragons: Learning Spiritual Formation from C.S. Lewis

Emeritus Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
November 25, 2013

Bruce Hindmarsh (Regent College) interviews James Houston (Regent College) before a live audience to celebrate the 50th anniversary since the death of C.S. Lewis. James Houston knew C.S. Lewis well during their time at Oxford, and here he comments on the great impact of Lewis on Christian spiritual formation.


I have to say that I think you’re very very lucky to be here tonight. To be able to listen to Jim, and some of his reflections about CS Lewis. And Jim, I wonder, have you lectured much on CS Lewis? Have you made a career out of talking about CS Lewis?

No. I’ve rarely mentioned publicly any reminiscences about Lewis. The reason why is that very early on, when we started Regent College, we had Eberhard Bethge, who came to speak to us about his friendship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

And I appreciated his wonderful loyalty to his friend, and the fact that he wanted his name to be forever recognized. But I also saw a tragic aspect of it in that Bethge really had lost his identity. He was Bonhoeffer’s friend. And Bethge disappeared. And I think one of the important things about the Christian life is that God individuates us like nobody else. And that His kindness to us is to give us space to be ourselves. So, this adulation of Lewis mania almost as a cultural industry is just a bit overwhelming.

And so, those are the reasons why, when I was younger, and I didn’t think I was obviously a mature enough Christian to do it. I never really mentioned my connection with Lewis. That’s only recently that I gave two lectures at the CS Lewis Institute a few years ago. And that was really the only time. But never lectured on him at Regent.

And so my wife, who already of course was very cautious about this side of my life, because, we got married after Lewis went to Cambridge. And so she never really saw Lewis as I did. Oh, she says my claim to fame is that I once saw him at the bus stop. [laughing]

So Jim. CS Lewis though, was quite an inspiration for you in may ways, wasn’t he?

He was.

I’m trying to get the chronology right. When you were in Edinburgh, in your 20s, and Lewis was in Oxford, you’re an undergraduate in Edinburgh, and the BBC talks that became Mere Christianity, the broadcast talks, would have taken place during the war, and perhaps The Screwtape Letters would have been published. What was your first awareness of Lewis?

It actually wasn’t in Edinburgh. He was not really publicly recognized at that time. It was only when I went to Oxford in 1945, and then began to meet him on a regular basis after 1946, that I then discovered who Lewis was.

When did you first meet him?

Well, in my second year at Oxford, I shared an apartment with the head of the Orthodox Community, who was a professor of Russian history. His name is Nicholas Zernov. And he was a good friend of Lewis. So, when we shared our apartment together for the next seven years, we used to have Lewis over to our apartment with a group of other Christian dons at the university. About once a month, we would have a kind of potluck supper, on a Saturday evening, and he was a frequent member of that group.

What are some of your recollections of Lewis as a person, what was your impression of him, and what was his reputation around Oxford?

He was basically shy. But an Irishman has to have wit. But humor is a smokescreen to intimacy. And so, he didn’t let himself be known. In spite of all the, sort of, legendary ideas about his friends. It was a very artificial environment it was, Oxford, really, after the war. It was shaken up by the war, but it was still a pretty artificial environment.

And so, when you’re a bachelor don living in college, and you’re having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with your colleagues, you do create protective shields as to really getting known. And Lewis did this with humor. But one of his bete noirs, one of his enemies that really gagged him all the time at Maudlin, was AGP Taylor who was a professor of modern history.

And ironically, two of his nephews became strong evangelical young Christians and we used to have them for lunch every Sunday when they were students. So just in preparing for this talk tonight, I phoned up Dennis Alexander, one of the nephews who’s now just retired from a distinguished professorship in Cambridge.

And I said Dennis, why was your uncle so antagonistic to Lewis? Well he said, he almost complained to us that Lewis talked at breakfast. And there was a taboo in the common room that nobody spoke to each other at breakfast. [laughing] It was still certainly from the night before. And one of the Latin words that I delighted in, because my Latin was limited as a schoolboy, was the word crespula, which means the morning after the night before.

So breakfast was crespula time. But of course, behind that was also the outrage of an atheist who was militant about being an atheist. That there was a Christian there, speaking so vocally. And one of the things that we had in the common room life, both in the junior common room, but it was also verboten in the senior common room, never said, spoken about, but the undergraduates could be fined if at the dinner table they spoke about women, or they spoke about religion. And so religion was concealed like your kidneys. You don’t about your kidneys. And you don’t talk about your faith. And so, this outspoken polemicist of faith was an outrage to that culture.

Yeah. So Lewis more widely within Oxford, there was an antipathy toward him when he came out as a popular writer, and when he came out as an apologist for the faith.

Well, they looked upon it as cheap publicity. If he was a serious scholar, he wouldn’t be popular with the press, or with the public.


And so the outrage is that he really defied the canons of scholarship. And so three times over, he was passed over for a professorship. He was a fellow of the college, and he lived in a culture where you didn’t need to have a doctorate. When I started doing my doctorate, my colleagues rather snootily said, why do you need a scholar, why do you need a doctorate? A really bright mind doesn’t need a D.Phil. That’s for the second class. Teachers of the university. So there was all that kind of snobbery that was part of the culture that we lived in.

But Lewis, of course, he had three first class degrees. And he was trained of course in grades, which meant that he was trained as a textual scholar of Greek and Latin. That was his first first class degree. He was also trained as a philosopher, and when he first started teaching at University College, his first appointment after the war, he was a philosopher. But then while he was teaching philosophy, he decided he really wanted to do English as well. English literature. And so in one year, he went through the three year program and got a first class degree in literature.

And a first class degree for a North American audience, like a first class is not just like getting an A. That’s a first, is a very very distinguished award, isn’t it?

It really is, yes. It really is.

You have talked before, Jim, about how Lewis’s talk to the RAF pilots, and his broadcast talks, that need to be seen within the context of the war, that everybody had their war work to do.


Is that what you think drew him out as an apologist, and as a lay Christian leader?

Yes, I think those of us, for example, as a student in Edinburgh University, I did my war work by going onto the roof of the university with a helmet and a bucket of sand, and a scoop of a spade to remove any incendiary bombs. And that was my war work.

Well, Lewis had been wounded in the first war, so he was legitimately exempt from the second war. But his first bit of war work was to be a home guard, which after the debacle of Dunkirk meant that, home guard against invasion, didn’t have anything more than brooms, and sticks. I mean all the armament was lost in the debacle of Dunkirk, meant that we were pretty defenseless.

So, we all, as men, did our own, women too, running ambulances and other services. We all had to do war work, whether we’re in the army or not. And so Lewis did life, he used to in the early mornings, go round the streets of the high street, on home guard duty. It was pretty dull stuff, because there was nothing happening.

And then he decided that he would do further war work, which was to boost the morale of the air force during the Battle of Britain. And he had one of his alumni, who was an Anglican priest from Sydney, Australia. Babbington, Canon Babbington as he became later. And he said Lewis, we need you to do your war work by giving spirited addresses at the Sunday morning chapel at the airfields.

And so knowing that these chaps were going to fly up, perhaps, on Monday, and never come back again in the Battle of Britain, it was serious business. And so, when his colleagues asked him what war work he was doing he said, well, my preaching is really war work. So that’s the kind of thing that also created a very different person, Dr. Lloyd Jones, was Harley Street specialist, actually assistant to the King’s physician, Lord Horder.

And he did his war work by commuting as a Welshman, back to Wales, to do pulpit supply on Sunday. He never had any seminary training. He never preached a sermon in his life. But in the exigencies of war, you did your war work. I mean, those of us handling incendiary bombs had never handled them before, but we did war work. And so, what Lloyd Jones did was to start preaching.

And then after the war, decided that he was much more called to be a congregational preacher than he was to be a doctor. Brilliant as he might have been as a doctor. But you see, within that, those categories, we’re also compartmentalized. And so to the end of his life, Lloyd Jones wasn’t very convinced whether really, CS Lewis was a Christian. And the irony of speaking to you tonight is I spent all my time as a senior member of intervarsity from 1949, to 1970, and never once was I able to convince the intervarsity that Lewis could be a speaker. And the graduate’s fellowship of which I was chairman also, again I tried to woo them, but they had an evangelical mentality. Lewis was really not quite orthodox as a Christian. [chuckling]

I bet they regret that now. [laughing] Jim I wonder if one of the lessons for spiritual formation from Lewis is, if war time exigency is in a sense, called him out into ministry, and into kind of the ministry that in a sense, his apologetic ministry that would have such an impact, there were some very, in a sense, quiet, silent years between his conversion in 1929, and the emergence as a public Christian intellectual, a public writer, in which he faithfully went to chapel.

In which he was faithful to Christian disciplines. And in which, he wasn’t a convert that was immediately put on the platform. But there were years, there were many years there where he just went about the business of faithfully being a Christian.

Yes. Well can I, before we get into that question, because, this is reminiscence, and so I have to be sharp and disciplined in what I’m responding to. We need to start combining his war work in Mere Christianity, because that’s a very important part of his identity today. But Lewis was called upon by the BBC, before the war, to give some lectures, and he did.

But in the war, the head of the religious broadcasting had read his book, The Problem of Pain, which was published in the spring of 1940. And the motivation for writing The Problem of Pain was the pain of the blitz. Was the pain of Dunkirk. Was the whole tragedy of the suffering of people who were bombed out of their homes. And many losing their lives. So in the context of The Problem of Pain, the head of the BBC, religious section, said, well, Lewis, we need you to boost the morale of the nation.

So that should be your war work too. And so, rather cajoled, because he was not willing to do this, he didn’t want to be a public figure. Lewis then did a tentative series of talks on good and evil, in a universe that makes sense. And, it was those first broadcast talks that then he was cajoled to do a second series, which he then did on council, he thought, well, we have to communicate, what is the Christian faith?

So he called upon a Roman Catholic, and a Presbyterian, and an Anglican, and a Methodist. Senior pastors, to really collaborate with him on what would be ecumenically, vocalizing the central truths of Christian faith.

And then the third section, or the third time he spoke on the air for these broadcast talks to boost the morale of the nation, was on the subject of Christian behavior, on the ethics of Christian living. Well now, you have to realize that all this was in the milieu that we were fighting what we thought was a right war. And that we were against evil.

And that Nazism, and even though we were not aware of the Holocaust taking place, nevertheless, there was a strong sense that we were fighting the forces of evil. And so when you read Tolkien’s work, or when you listen to this Mere Christianity, that Lewis communicated, both of them echoing two devastating wars, but especially the second war was the war of evil against Nazism. So we go back now to the other question.

Okay. Well I’m just wondering your sense of Lewis’s own formation, is often with a figure like Lewis, there’s a period of sort of impression and expression, of formation, where a sort of quiet preparation so that when the time came, he was ready. When he was called upon to speak, he was able to speak.


And it seems to me that there were years there where he was just quietly faithful.

Yes. He was. And I think all of us need to recognize that one very important part of our spiritual growth is that seeds are sown as they are in the garden. Don’t remove them by psychoanalysis. Let them grow. And so seeds sown in childhood will mature in adulthood. And so, I think that what was an echo right through Lewis’s life, was that he had an evangelical grandfather on his mother’s side.

And the echoes of being an evangelical never left him. So he had that echo within him. He reacted against it, as we all do when we’re young, against the heritage that we’ve had. But certainly that was one seed that was sown. And then I think another seed that was sown was his mother’s love. And he loved his mother. And the tragedy that Lewis felt when at the age of 10, he was left without a mother.

And a week later, he was shipped off to a private school 1000 miles away from no one else there. Into England, to get a proper accent. Crazy. And so, Lewis said of that period of his life, it was as if the continent of Atlantis had slipped under the waves. And I stood on an isolated, heaving rock in the middle of a dark ocean. And then there fell over him this great cloud of alienation and loneliness that marked a great deal of his life, for the rest of his life, until he discovered the wonder of marriage, but that came very late.

So, those were some of the seeds, and so when he goes through this phase of deism, before he reaches theism, deism really was the religion of his father. And the frustration that he had with his own prayer life as a small boy, when he went to boarding school, where he had been taught to have the discipline of saying his evening prayers, was he said, I used to articulate my prayers as if I was hearing my father’s voice, who himself was a frustrated lawyer that wanted to become a politician.

So when the two boys were caught stealing apples as Augustine, they’d been obviously caught stealing apples. So Lewis and his brother were caught stealing apples, they would be brought on the carpet, and their father would start to reprimand them. And then forgetting that he was addressing small boys, thought of himself as being in the House of Commons, giving a speech, like Burke. And quoting Burke, for the rhetoric of what he was communicating to small boys, well the small boys thought that they had been forgotten and they would slink off. And then roaring like a bull, father would remember what he was really doing.

So, when Lewis started his prayer life at school, his prayer life was saying his prayers properly. And he could never properly address God. And so, that was his father’s voice, and so, like Lewis, many of us discover that our initial devotional life, later in life, needs a sabbatical. So, when people ask me, what do I do with my neurotic prayer life? Well forget it. Take a holiday. [laughs] And then perhaps later you can start again.

And that’s the kind of thing that I think Lewis did in his personal life. But when you listen to him in his book on the prayers that he addresses to Markham, and that was published posthumously, this was very humorous. You can hear the echo of all the things that he had struggled with himself.

I wonder if that’s a real theme in his life, is his unanswered prayer of when his mother was dying. The inability to pray at, was it at Malvern? At school. And then all his life, he was fascinated with causality and prayer, and how do we understand how prayer, our actions change God’s actions and so on. And then, he tried several times to write on prayer. And then finally he happened upon this idea of writing a series of fictional letters. There’s a way that you can understand his whole biography as the loss and recovery of prayer.

Yes. So as a good Anglican, of course he loved a prayer book. And he didn’t want modernizing clergy to change the service. So, he was a man of the status quo, as far as the sacramental use of the prayer book was concerned.

He said he believed in liturgical change, one or two words a century.

Yes. [laughing] That’s right.

Can we just, before we leave the theme of Lewis’s suffering.

Of what?

Before we leave the theme of Lewis’s suffering.


You’ve spoken of some of his suffering and his relationship with his father. I’m thinking also of his alcoholic brother. And you’ve talked about the context of the war. But, what was the role of suffering, do you think, in forming Lewis as a mature Christian?

Oh I think Lewis goes through a very clear, radical changes in his attitude to suffering. From an academic study in the don’s room on the problem of prayer, even though when he’s talking, doing about this during the war. And then, recent, then afterwards with the death of his wife, his second book, which was so passionate. And it was so intimate. And it was so, just so explosive, almost volcanic.

The Grief Observed?

About The Grief Observed, yes. So, it’s light and day, the range through which he went through suffering. So I think that, I don’t think that Lewis would think of himself as a sufferer. I think all of us normalize suffering, this is just who I am, it’s normal for me to have an alcoholic brother, it’s normal to have an absentee father. Although he felt the tragedy of the fact that he rarely ever saw his father after the war, in fact, one of the most poignant letters that Lewis wrote was when he was wounded, having been invalid out from the trenches. And was in a London hospital. And he said, dad, we’ve been somewhat distant to each other, and I expect it’s our public school education that does it. Because, you know, when you have this public school life, it’s totally distinct from the home life.

So he was recognizing that that was a source of estrangement with his father, too. But he called on his father for his, to come to him. For six months, his father never replied. And so, although at the end he was very tender hearted, when his father was dying of cancer, and was nursing him toward right at the end of his life, in between, there was a blank between son and father. So, yes. That was the real suffering I think that Lewis went through. But there was all the suffering of living in a hostile environment, an artificial environment, which Oxford was for many of us.

He also wrote of course about joy. What was the role of joy, and what did he mean by joy? When he wrote about it?

Well it started as a joy of a child. The joy of doing things that he and his brother could share together. I think the joy of recognition and common emotions is a source of joy. But when you read of course, his book on joy, you realize that he philosophizes and develops it later. But I think that primitive joy is the joy of being recognized when you have a companion as his brother was. It’s like my grandson, we used to have a, in our garden, two Japanese maples, and they had low branches, and you could hide there. It was lovely for our grandchildren to hide in these branches.

But one day, my six year old, Stephen, said grandpa, I’m hiding here. Yes, I know you are, you’re playing hide and seek. Oh it’s no fun playing hide and seek if you’re not found. And so a child needs the experience of being found. And so, the question that we ask about Lewis is childhood with his brotherhood, it was close together. Was, were they ever found? So all this stuff about the ethic, and all the stories that took place upstairs, away from the parental world, is all, I think, expressive of what became formative in his imagination later, yes.

But he also talked about joy in the sense of homesickness and longing, and a kind of desire that finally would lead him to Christ.

Well of course, when you’re a child, in a public school, and you’re living most of your year in that kind of environment, you’re not at home. So Lewis didn’t know home life like many of us know home life. ‘Cause he went from public school to university, well, to the trenches, and then of course to academic life, and so, Lewis never had a normal home life. And when he did have a home in Oxford, that’s another story, but he had a hell of a life. [laughing] With his… his so called adopted mother.

Mrs. Moore. Jim, coming back to some of your own recollections of Lewis, you were quite inspired by him as a, as a lay Christian, and in your own life, you have been very devoted to seeing lay people be articulate about their faith. Was Lewis quite a key influence in that calling for you?

He was immensely influential. Because, here I saw a man who was as intelligent in his faith as is he was in his professional skills. And I’ve seen the converse as the norm in our church life. Where people with high intelligence, professionally highly successful, are playing Mickey Mouse with their faith.

And this to me, gives me more anger than anything else I’ve ever had. What a waste to the community of God’s believers, of the body of Christ, that our professional identity matters more to us than our identity in Christ. And because it matters more to us, that’s why we pursue professional skills, rather than have intelligence in thinking theologically. Thinking hard about our faith. And thinking with discipline about our faith. So the great attraction that Lewis now has for you, is that he is not only the mere Christian, but he is the iconic Christian that you want to be in your generation.

You want to have a faith that is as intelligent as what you have in the marketplace. Perhaps more so. Because you have such pressures in the marketplace. So Regent was set up not to be a seminary. It was set up to say that intelligent Christians need intelligent education. As Christians, to be Christians.

Was the example of CS Lewis part of what inspired you to leave Oxford for the vision of doing something like that at Regent?

Not really, no. No I think I was on a different journey. Which I really couldn’t share with anybody at the time. What happened to me was that was a debacle of the war, we were put into circumstances that would be quite unusual for other times. And so, my first job, when I volunteered for RAF intelligence and my professor had selected me to do this. They had their quarter that day, and I was the end of the interview.

So curiously after finishing my degree, which I was permitted to do under those circumstances. I was then drafted to be the first geographer to a regional planning authority in Britain. And that was the client valley authority where the client had been bombed, and the ship building yards. And so, the replanning of the west of Scotland for the brave new world after the war, was the beginning of regional planning.

But very quickly, I saw that, in the circumstances that none of us had been trained in, for regional planning as a profession, that my colleagues were more anxious to support the legitimacy of the profession, than the legitimacy of the jobs that they were supposed to be doing. And so I got disenchanted with regional planning after just 18 months. So, I wasn’t going to be a professional in regional planning.

Then I go to Oxford, and the school of geography is in a mess because it had been hijacked by the war to be the headquarters of naval intelligence. And so the geographers were all producing handbooks for naval intelligence. Now they were busy trying to build up their professional identity, having been hijacked into the military needs, you see. And so now geography was, they were repeating the same thing that I saw with the planners. And so, from the very beginning, I decided that if my professional pursuit was to uphold the professional status, then it was empty. And so, in 19… Oh, it was in the mid 50’s, that Bertrand Russell was invited to be the distinguished professor of philosophy at U York. City University.

And the dean thought he had gone aplomb. A distinguished professor. But this distinguished professor was an atheist. An avowed atheist. And the board of governance still had the lingering of a Christian origin, as a Christian university. Oh, we have to rescind it. And so, the chairman of the board rescinded the appointment of Bertrand Russell. Well, he was of course furious.

And so with his pride so piqued, he then revived an essay that he had written in 1929, which was called, Why I Am Not a Christian. And now he makes it into a book with a lot of other essays, Why I Am Not a Christian.

And the professor of classics in New Zealand, Auckland, was a friend of mine, was visiting us in Oxford. And he said, we need to have 12 Christian professionals to write on why within our professions, we’re still Christians. So the book is called Why We Are Still Christians. Well as I started writing I said, no, I can’t. I can’t write that. It’s not that I’m defending my profession as a Christian. I’m a person. In Christ, that’s my identity. And so really, my profession is not significant, for that particular journey of my own spiritual life. And so, my long, lonely struggle, has been to be a person, and not a professional.

Now, that doesn’t mean to say you don’t have professional skills, you don’t have the significance of the academy behind you, you have all that. But in a sense, that was a different journey and that’s why, eventually, I left Oxford. But there were others, which were too detailed to quote here.

Well I remember you saying once that you thought what we needed was to raise up 10,000 CS Lewises.

And so now, that’s what we want. We don’t want you to adulate Lewis any more. Be another Lewis.

Jim, you’ve also talked about the importance of genre, that Lewis wrote in so many different genres. And that this is necessary to the communication of the gospel. What’s most important about that?

I think the importance about that, Bruce, is that shallow truths require a shallow genre. So, two and two make four. And the genre is mathematics, okay. Fine. But the deep truths about the encounter between God and man are so deep, so mysterious, that we need all the human genres by which to communicate our Christian faith.

So the deeper is the communication of truths. The more diverse have to be the genres of communication. And so this was a wonderful way in which, because of his training as a classical scholar, as a philosopher, as a literary critic, in all these areas, Lewis was prepared to express all the genres. Poet, essayist, scholar writer of very profoundly significant books like his Oxford volume on the 16th century.

His study of Milton, these are profound scholarly works. But he also writes children’s stories, he also writes science fiction. He also multiplies his faith through letters. We were awed, in the period that I knew him between ’47 and ’53, at the fact that he was always responding, it was well known to us that Lewis was always writing faithfully to every correspondent. In fact, Lewis’s dread every morning was the tramp of the postman’s feet at the door.

Bruce: The daily postal inquisition.

The daily post. And the daily burden of dealing with his correspondence. But that’s Lewis, you see, and that’s why you love him, because, there isn’t a genre that you love to live in that he hasn’t communicated to you.

Related to that, there’s this sense of the role of imagination in the Christian life. And of a mythopoeic imagination, a sense of not just genre, but also, this large sets of fantastic mythopoeic imagination. Why is that so important for the spiritual life?

Saul Bellow, in one of his later novels, when he was yearning about the boredom of his humanist professional life, and it’s tragic that he died, really, disenchanted with all his life and his career as a Nobel Prize winner in literature.

Gives us this pathetic picture that the contemporary person is like a little bird on a fence, twitting away, explaining everything. Explanation cannot explore mystery. The language of the soul is the language of allegory. And symbolism are sky hooks, that give us awareness of transcendence. So, we have to be aware that God in creating us in His image and likeness, is the source of mythology. But, and this shocks evangelicals.

How can you talk about Christianity as being mythopoeic? Well, because you can’t explain it all. And we have to recognize that therefore, God has so created us that he’s created us to be aware of worlds beyond our canon. Of mystery beyond our understanding, and that’s what the mythopoeic world is about, so, it’s common to all people and to all religions, because we are all created in the image and likeness of God, whether we believe it or not. So it’s part of our human constitution, to be mythopoeic.

I wonder, you may not like this question but I’ll ask it anyways. What for you is Lewis’s most important book? If you were to go to a desert island and could only take one book, which book would it be?

Well, I did have the privilege of asking Lewis, when he was leaving Oxford, to go to Cambridge, and I was getting married, and therefore was moving out of this arrangement with Nicholas Zernov, and so, prudently I knew I wouldn’t see much more of him. And so, even though we parted in ’53, it was about ’56, I think it was the autumn of ’66, the fall of ’66, that I saw Lewis. And I said you know, there’s a thing I’ve always wanted to ask you.

What do you think is the most important message that you wanted to communicate in all your writing? Oh, no reflection needed, immediately he said, well, it’s all contained in my three lectures that I gave at Newcastle to the faculty of education on the abolition of man. It’s all there. In other words, when you read that, he’s against reductionism.

And of course he saw it with logical positivism as a form of major reductionism in philosophy, there was, really the atmosphere of Oxford at that time, you couldn’t be a philosopher unless you were a logical positivist. Except there were one or two who sort of sneaked out of it Isaac Berlin, that went into history of ideas, from cover, to take cover from that. But, there was also of course, the reductionism that was taking place in literary criticism.

And that’s what he was immediately attacking. And then he said, and long with that little book, is also my last novel, Till We Have Faces. And I think he was still suffering from what had happened in ’53 when he wrote it, because the publisher said, oh Lewis, you may have done alright with previous writing, but, we’re not going to circulate more than 1000 copies, so they never printed more than 1000 copies while he was alive. And they didn’t sell.

And so, it’s long after Lewis that people have begun to appreciate the depth of his insights in Till We Have Faces. In other words, you have to become like Psyche, that has given your life to another, in order to understand what he was talking about.

It’s interesting that he wrote that too, after he was married, isn’t it?

Yes. And I think we see, in a veiled autobiography, of Lewis himself, as Orual, to begin with. And of the slave as the academic Oxford don, who was all rationalism. And then of course, there is this amazing Christ figure, of Psyche, that also is to be identified with his wife, and her suffering, and her death. So I think all of that is veiled in the novel. There are layers and layers within the novel.

Back for a moment to The Abolition of Man and reductionism, he talked in The Abolition of Man of men without chests. That we become shrunken creatures, when we lose an ordinant response do the world.

Yes. Well he would say that men without chests, are those Christian psychologists today, who are saying, remove the category of the soul. In other words, when you focus on physicality, and forget the soul, or forget the person, you’ve lost an element that is so significant for the sheer mystery of being human.

One of the other areas where I think Lewis has been so enormously important for evangelicals, is the recovery of the sense of the great tradition. I’m thinking of his introduction to the Sister Penelope’s edition of Athanasius on the Incarnation.

Where he uses those phrases, he talks about the need to have the clean seabreeze of the century boring through our minds. He talked about history as the great viaduct that runs across the ages that looks, you know, so high up in the valley, so low from the mountaintops. What is the importance for Lewis, of being formed in the great tradition, and what can we learn from him?

Well, I think for Lewis, to be in the great tradition was at the same time, to live very much a balanced life. So yes, he was in the communion of saints. Yes, he could appreciate what his spiritual director, because that’s really to all intents and purposes, what Sister Penelope was, she was one of his closest spiritual friends, that he disclosed secrets to that he disclosed to no man, I don’t think, other than his wife, later, perhaps. But she may not have had time to tell, his wife, what he told Sister Penelope.

So I think the great tradition was his understanding of the continuity of the Christian faith through history. But he was also a man of the foothills, he tells us. Not very high, not very low. He didn’t climb the heights, in mysticism, and he certainly didn’t climb the depths and the kind of facticity of faith. So, he modestly says, I’m a man of the foothills. That’s why he was a mere Christian. But the mere Christian was of course, a Christian in continuity with all faiths.

What did he mean by chronological snobbery?

Chronological snobbery was that everything that’s modern is fine, and anything that’s medieval is passe. And so, he despised the young scientists who had no sense of history. In fact, there was a lot of social snobbery in Oxford against science.

There wasn’t in Cambridge, but there was in Oxford. And so it’s ironic that it was an Oxford scientist that became Lord Cherwell. Actually, Lord Cherwell, who became the scientific advisor to Winston Churchill, has revolutionizeD warfare because, never has science and technology been more harnessed to war, than to place. And so it was the war that suddenly erupted where all these young scientists come into Oxford, and they had no fellowships. We couldn’t place them in fellowships. Because the fellowships were all preempted, most of them, by the humanities, you see. So Lewis lived in that culture. And so, when he is, what’s the novel that…

That Hideous Strength?

That Hideous Strength, is very much the talk of the young scientists in the common room, coming from Australia and New Zealand, totally brash about what Oxford was or Oxford manners were.

And of course it was these, and also, it was young Americans who were beginning to get married to dons, for the first time, and it was they who started the whole notion of having a mixed college. Anathema. When I said in 1950 I was going to get engaged, oh, Houston. We’re so sorry. [laughing] We thought better of your scholarship than that.

Oh my goodness.

That was a monastic world, you see. So, both against science, and against women. That was the world, that Lewis was brought up in.

Jim, the theme this evening, we’re talking about CS Lewis, but also about spiritual formation. I wonder just, what would be some of the key things that you think we can learn about CS Lewis, in terms of spiritual formation? If there’s anything we haven’t touched on, are there things that you can particularly learn from him?

Well, I think spiritual formation for Lewis is an anachronism. If Lewis was here tonight, and you were asking him, now tell me, Lewis, what have been the stages of your spiritual formation? He would look at you and say, what in the world are you talking about?

Un self conscious.

So there’s a cliche that we’ve developed about spiritual formation, that is very much post war. I think what we were facing in war was much more the radicalism of living with good and evil on a cosmic struggle. And so therefore, the therapeutic need for us to change our feelings is a post war, American culture.

It’s not part of that vocabulary that we find. I know this is very disappointing to those of you who want to make Lewis an icon for spiritual formation, but of course there’s a sense in which we all need spiritual formation, so, yes, our maturity in Christ, we all need to see. But Lewis would probably say don’t make a big deal of it. Now that’s shocking, isn’t it?

Jim one last question before we open it up to others for questions. And this in a way is very personal for me, is, no other writer besides maybe Richard Baxter has helped me long for heaven.

And so I’m thinking about Lewis on heaven. His sermon, Transposition, his sermon The Weight of Glory. The Great Divorce. The Last Battle. I remember when my wife, before she became a Christian, a non Christian had given her the Narnia series. And when she closed The Last Battle, she cried because she wished it was true. But there’s something in Lewis that excites, I think, a longing for heaven. What can we learn from Lewis about heaven?

Well I don’t think it’s an accident that he got his clue about Mere Christianity from Richard Baxter. ‘Cause it’s Richard Baxter who first uses the phrase. And I don’t think it’s an accident that he has such an angst for heaven, when you reach, when you read The Saint’s Everlasting Rest. So, Baxter, and this is a new Ph.D for somebody, never done before. Explore how Baxter’s influenced Lewis. Tough job, but I’m sure it’s there.


So, that’s one element of it. But I think, heaven for all of us is when we’re on pilgrimage. And the metaphor of pilgrimage is very much the metaphor of Lewis’s life. So, you know, Pilgrim’s Regress is a good example of his start into that. But the theme of pilgrimage that he got from Bunyan, of course, is also very clear.

But what lies behind Bunyan’s own metaphor of pilgrimage, is the… The pilgrimages in the middle ages, they were literally to Jerusalem. So you have this remarkable culture of pilgrimage, when you get, for example, the sister of the King of Sweden leaving her palace to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And I think the impulse for heaven is that we live in pursuit of the good, to only then find that we’re in pursuit of the better, to only then find that there’s no destiny except the best.

And that pursuit of the good to the better to the best, is the impulse for heaven. It’s an impulse for pilgrimage. Here we have no resting place. Our hearts are restless. ‘Til we find our rest in Him, so, there’s this Augustinian element as well, that lies behind that.


Moderator: We want to open it up for questions, and answers, so, we have a mic over here, and I have a mic here, and we will come to you, and just raise your hand, and you can ask a question, I have our first person here.

[Male Audience Member] I was wondering if you might comment on Lewis’s views about hell, and specifically what he believed about purgatory and The Great Divorce, and what he might have thought in that area.

Well. You know, the designation, the qualification of the messianic servant in the old testament, is the one who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity. The great love requires a great hatred. And so hell is the condemnation of those who do not love. And so, Lewis was not speculating about hell, in some kind of theological way.

He was just recognizing, that when you are struggling as he did, in those first addresses that he gave, the BBC addresses, on good and evil. He saw that just like the parable of the rich man, and he’s in hell, he’s in Hades. There was a big divide that was inseparable. Now, where did he get this sort of imagination, also, about hell? Well, I think he got it from Dante.

I think that the Purgatorio, the Inferno was a very vivid picture for him, and he was teaching Dante as a regular program. So there’s a Dantesque source, you might say. But there’s also a contemporary source, which he had in Charles Williams, we haven’t talked about him, but, probably, the imagination of Lewis was more influenced in many ways by him, than by Tolkien.

Tolkien created his own private imagination, but there was a more collective imagination that was related to the life of the church that we find in his other friend. And perhaps the somewhat coolness between Tolkien and Lewis towards the end of their life was, that first of all Tolkien thought he had imitated too much from what’s his name.

Bruce: From Williams?

From Williams, yes. That he had domesticated things too much at Shinny Cross, you know, taking the bus. So the metaphor of the bus to hell, you see, is very much Williams, you see. That’s not Tolkien. So there was that influence that he had on him. How much more? How much more do we need? I think that would really be enough to say, explain why, it was such a reality. In other words, in our therapeutic culture, we’ve lost the notion of sin. IF you’ve lost the notion of sin, you’ve lost the notion of hell. Yeah.

Over here.

[Male Audience Member] Thank you, thank you so much for your words, I look up at the screen and I see this theme, past watchful dragons, and I’m kind of enamored with that metaphor. And I guess I have kind of a two fold question. How do you see Lewis’s writings tiptoeing past watchful dragons, and now 50 years after his death, do you think that it still has the same power of sneaking past those watchful dragons?

Well, I think Paul speaks of principalities and powers. I think that Lewis gives them a kind of human dress by calling them dragons, you see. But it’s the same reality. And he also of course, lived with a period of significant cultural change. And it’s in periods of dramatic change that perhaps we live more apocalyptically. So this apocalypticalism that we find in the Book of Revelation, is also part of the apocalyptic imagination that we see in Lewis. And I think that world is a world that, where cosmic forces are challenging that Christ is lord of all. Yes.

[Female Audience Member] I think you mentioned that what would it look like to have 10,000 Lewises today. What is that, what do you believe that looks like?

Can you say, I’m sorry.

[Female Audience Member] You mentioned earlier that you believe that our world today needs like, 10,000 people like CS Lewis. And I was gonna ask you, what do you think that looks like for our generation, with our current technology and genres?

What would it look like today to have 10,000 CS Lewises?

Oh yes, yes.

For this generation.

Yes. Well I think your interest in Lewis is the beginning of that. So let the interest grow from being a spectator of Lewis, to being a companion of Lewis. Become his friend. You see, life is not lived on the balcony. Life is lived on the road. So walk the road of Lewis.

There we go.

[Female Audience Member] What about, what did CS Lewis talk about the trinity, and the holy spirit?

You’ll have to tell me where that went.

About the holy spirit?

Moderator: What did Lewis think about the trinity, nature of the trinity, and also the holy spirit in particular?

What did Lewis think about the trinity, and the holy spirit?

Well, Lewis wasn’t a charismatic. [laughing] But Lewis was Trinitarian. [laughing] But, he wasn’t involved in the post war resurgence of interest in the trinity. So we have to remember, that we have to place Lewis in his own cultural context, and of the trends that have taken place since Lewis, you see?

So one of the concerns that I would have, is don’t so readily adopt Lewis for our own times. Set Lewis, appropriately, in his own times. And we have to say to our shame, that there was a kind of sleep over the trinity at that period. Now, there were a few murmurs about it. We had a few academic dons in theology, but it wasn’t a big voice with which they spoke. That came after the 80’s. In fact, the British Council of Churches, only published in 1982, The Recovery of the Trinity, in British theology.

So, we have to remember that we’re blessed by consciousness of things that that generation was not so conscious about. Now it wasn’t that he was asleep about it. But it just wasn’t an issue of the time. Should have been. But then, lots of issues that we should all be awake to, as well.

Hi. There’s a sense in which the passing of CS Lewis was overshadowed, at least here in the States, by that of JFK. I’m wondering if you can talk about what that loss was like to the community at large, outside of maybe the context of the United States.

You know, two weeks ago when I was in, a week ago when I was in discussion with friends, I suddenly realized I wasn’t hearing what they said. I’m still hoping that it’s wax that’s plugging my ear. Because I probably need to get an ear test. So I need to hear.

It was a question about JFK, the death of JFK overshadowing the death of Lewis. And I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the rest of the question.

[Male Audience Member] I just wanted to know what that looks like outside the context of the United States, and at large, how they received that. ‘Cause unfortunately, it’s not ignored, but JFK obviously was a bigger news headline than CS Lewis.

Did that overshadow things in the UK as well?

Oh yes, and I think what we have to realize is that this has happened again, because with the death of Princess Diane, she totally overshadowed the death of Mother Theresa. So the culture is very selective of who are our icons.

But, it’s very interesting, and you know that some writing being done on this now, on these three deaths on the same day of November 22nd, of Aldous Huxley and other Englishmen. And what does his death represent? Well he had heard about the death of Kennedy, but almost immediately after that, he asked for a final shot of LSD, for his drug addiction. So he’s the icon of the drug culture that we’re trying to run away from.

So we don’t remember Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. And then you think of the other icon, which is the Kennedy icon, with all the womanizing of poor Kennedy. But we’re still preferring all that adultery as really celebrating the joys of our culture, instead of somebody who was so much more faithful to what we believe is truth.

[Male Audience Member] What do you see as the connection between, think of the hero’s journey mythology, Narnia, between the seeking after good, the better, and the best. And not seeking after a spiritual formation. So, for CS Lewis, is he about going on a journey, like into Narnia, a mythical hero’s journey, instead of a spiritual quest, for spiritual formation? What is the connection between seeking the best, and the better, with the hero’s journey, and like, Narnia? And the whole idea of journeying somewhere, versus trying to better oneself? Through spiritual formation.

I think there’s a contrast or a connection between spiritual formation and what you spoke about. It sounds like the spiritual journey, when you spoke about moving from the good, to the better, to the best, and also seeing a connection to the hero’s journey in Narnia, as opposed to the transformation of some of the characters in Narnia.

Well of course, what lies at the heart of all of this is that we’re destined to an eschatological fulfillment of being born and birthed in the image and likeness of God. So there’s a future to that. And that future is to be transformed by Christ, into His image and likeness.

And so, if that’s the truth of the gospel, it’s truth in all sorts of cultures and all sorts of ways that we may communicate in. So if that’s what spiritual formation is about, that we’re wanting to be transformed into the image of Christ, let’s go for it. All speed.

[Male Audience Member] How do you obtain that? If not through spiritual practices of bettering oneself, acting on emotion, how does one obtain that image?

Well, that how question is because you live in a technological society. And we need gadgets for everything. So the questions that we ask are how to questions.

[Male Audience Member] Well, that’s not what I mean. That’s not what the hero’s journey’s about.

No, but what I’m saying is, that’s our mentality. Give me the tools, and I’ll do the job.

[Male Audience Member] What is the experience of the journey?

Well, I think the first thing is, that spiritual formation is the slowest change that you can ever experience in life. So it’s not instant coffee. It’s not stirred out at Starbucks. It’s something that takes a lifetime.

And at the end of life, we really don’t believe we’re yet Christlike enough. So, there’s an infinitude to it. There’s no end to it. This side of eternity. And that’s why I like to think there’s an eschatological perspective about God’s purpose in creating us in His image and likeness.

We’re not yet there. We’re in process. So Godliness, of all the speeds of human life, is the slowest speed of all. In other words, my dilemma has always been, that I speak, that I think. I think faster than I can speak. I speak faster than I can actualize. And therefore, I’m totally inconsistent.

[Male Audience Member] You can imagine being a better person, faster than you can become.

Beg pardon?

[Male Audience Member] You can imagine being a better person, want to be a better person, faster than you can be one.

Oh yes, thank God for that God-given desire, to be a better person, yes.

Moderator: We’ve got another question here.

[Male Audience Member] Thank you. I know a lot of Christian movements, and evangelicals are guilty of this too. We try to kind of claim CS Lewis as one of our own and fit him into our box. I’ve heard Catholics saying no, he was gonna convert to Catholicism, or Greek Orthodox people saying, he was pretty in line with what we believe. Was it true that he was wholly an Anglican, or was he really kind of in a category of his own? [laughing]

I’ve told you he was a mere Christian! [laughing] Neither high nor low. [laughing] So in the light of that, we have to say that if we ever thought of being a Nicaean Christian, Lewis is on the threshold of introducing us into Nicaean Christianity. Now what does that mean? It means being post Protestant, and post Catholic. And post everything else.

But Jim, would it be important to say though too, that in the beginning of Mere Christianity, he talked about that mere Christianity as the hall, that he said you must go into the rooms where there are the meals, and the fires. I’m just thinking of the temptation in our culture, to live in a kind of undifferentiated Christianity without making commitments to particular communities.

Well you should say more about that, Bruce, because that’s so… [laughing] [audience clapping] You know, your voice has not been heard very much. This is your chance.

No, I ask the questions. [laughing]

No, I think that’s very very true. You know, we want to be computer easy, so we have easy ways of using computers. We’re wanting to have easy ways of being Christian. And the cross makes it impossible. God forbid that I should boast saving the cross of our lord Jesus Christ.

So at the moment, we still have these labels of being Presbyterian or Baptist or Anglican and, you know you go to Texas and I was there last week, and was at the temple of the Baptists who were really saying that this temple is sighted in Texas so that all Texans will be Baptists. Well, that’s a noble cause, but, it’s perhaps, we may have other causes than that. So yes. The fact that we have denominational loyalties, in some ways, is saying that as a Christian I don’t want to be spaced out. I want to be in place.

And place is not space. So in the particularities of where I live, this is my community, this is my loyalty. This is my denomination. And so, in that sense, having denominational labels is like loving the neighbor. That in space and time, the contingency of my life is, this is the space that I’m in. But, I don’t claim that that space is gonna last eternity. But in heaven, I’m going to be a Baptist, you see. [laughing] Yes?

[Female Audience Member] Can you tell us a little bit more your own spiritual journey? Share with us.

In two minutes flat? [laughing]

[Female Audience Member] I’ll wait.

No, I’ve told you my journey. My journey is the transformation of life as a person in Christ. That’s all.

Moderator: We have another question right here.

[Male Audience Member] Dr. Houston, hi. Lyle Dorset wrote a book about the spiritual formation of CS Lewis, and in that book he talked about the importance of correspondence, how, through correspondence we were able to see CS Lewis and his spiritual formation.

My question is, in today’s age of social media, different kind of platforms that are inherently reductionistic, what do you think about correspondence and do you think that’s something that we need to return to, and in what sense? As it relates to our faith.

Did you hear that?


He’s asking a question about Lewis as a correspondent.


And how much we learn about Lewis, and how much Lewis and others were shaped through letter writing. And how do we recover that today in the age of social media? People don’t write letters any more. And how do we recover sort of what Lewis experienced as a letter writer?

Well I think the whole cultural atmosphere that we’re in in scholarship, in the humanities is, that we’re discovering how important letters are.

That if we’re seeing a biography as portraiture, like the classical world saw their great heroes as portraits. That portraiture of biography today, is recognizing you need to know the inner life of a person through their letters. And so you really don’t know somebody unless you have read their letters as well.

You don’t know me for example, unless I can tell you that in my distant courtship with my wife who was in Glasgow and I was in Oxford, and she wrote to me, you know Jim, I don’t think I’ve had enough love to get married. And so we still have those love letters I wrote to her and said, but my darling, I think I’ve got enough love for us both. So, letters are so crucial. [laughing] [clapping]

So, a few years ago, a task that Bruce knew all about, because he’s contributed to the collection. I collected letters of faith and devotion, which are letters throughout the whole of human, of the church’s history, today, with a lot of contemporary letters of people in exigencies, that are quite remarkable for our time, you know, the letter of a Holocaust survivor.

How she learned to communicate forgiveness to enemies that she never could face, but she sang to, because she learnt by going into a Lutheran choir from Budapest, where she was a psychiatrist, she could go to Germany, and she could sing her forgiveness to audiences that she knew must contain some of the survivors of the death squads.

Well, the importance of letters continues. And so, you know, I can’t stop, all day long, doing e-mails. E-mails are a form of letter communication. So, let your communication still be a letter. But let it be on e-mail. But of course, it takes time to write a letter. But it takes time to mature a friendship. But yes, I think, look at the letters of the church. Look at the letters, or the Book of Revelation. Look at all the letters of the apostles. What are they? The letters.

The communication of faith has been strongly in the life of the church. And this is what dear Bruce is too modest to tell you, about his researches, but he’s done terrific research on the letters of the 18th century. You should hear him, have a special session on that. [laughing]

One of the things we’ve talked about is the way the letter, your concern has been for the recovery of the personal. And that letters are uniquely personal, because you can’t just address a topic. The writer is present, the reader is present, and the subject is present.


[Female Audience Member] You spoke about having intelligent faith. And not just… You spoke about having an intelligent faith, and how that may have been lost recently, with our desire to be intelligent about our careers, and everything else. But can you speak about how that might spill over into actuality, into living an intelligent faith? Not just having one, or receiving an education about one?

What does it mean to live an intelligent faith, not just to gain an education, and when you spoke about having an intelligent faith.

Well I should have perhaps talked about a holistic faith. So yes, intelligence matters. But I think there was a generation of evangelicals where the mind matters. And now I think we live in a generation where we see the heart and mind matter together.

So that we need emotional intelligence, as well as rational intelligence, as well as spiritual intelligence. So intelligence is far more holistic than simply make it cognitive. So, what we’re realizing is, how can the evangelical be transformed from being a hyper cognitive believer, to being a truly holistic, intelligent believer? That’s the mandate that we have today. Now there was another question, yes, at the back there.

Moderator: We have one here first.

Okay, alright.

[Male Audience Member] Dr. Houston, I wonder if you could connect your experience at Regent, and CS Lewis, in two ways. One, maybe, what do you think CS Lewis would say is needed most in theological education today? And what do you think is most needed in theological education today?

What would CS Lewis say is most needed in theological education today, and what do you think is most needed in theological education today?

I think Lewis would demure and says, but I’m not a theologian. [laughing] I can tell you what a Christian needs. And so, yes, I think that all we can project is, how did Lewis use his voice against his culture, in his day, and then, use that as a projectory of how you could interpret it might be used today. But I suspect we would have 100 different interpretations. Because we’re always seeing things from our point of view. That’s the difficulty.

So we could all claim him. But Lewis would probably say, well I don’t know any of you. [laughing] This is the thing about Lewis. He lived with a strong sense of humor, and this annoyed his enemies. Because even in the Socratic club, when he was debating there, and of course he got trounced on one occasion, by…

Bruce: Elizabeth Anscombe.

Elizabeth Anscombe was a young girl, and he had to revise his third chapter on miracles because of that debate that evening. But the human side of Lewis was that every pursuer chasing after him, he would throw banana skins, and of course they would skid on the pavement. And these banana skins that he sort of skidded them on, was just his incongruous sense of humor.

Mugridge was very similar to Lewis that respect. Mugridge was also a great humorist. Now, the significance about medieval humor that’s different from American humor today is that you need to live in a structured universe, you need to live in a world of right and wrong. Evil and good.

To understand the appreciation of incongruity. And so, Mugridge on one memorable occasion when I was ahead with him. I was observing what’s going on and all of that. This high crusade of evangelicals. But he said, Jim, do you notice that there are no gargoyles on our high rises in our downtown skyscrapers?

Whereas every medieval cathedral had its gargoyles at the drainage point of the roof. And they’re carved at the end of the pews, so even looking at the high alter, you had a little giggle. Now what he was saying was that we need humor in order to celebrate a structured universe. And therefore, to give structure to our morality. So there’s a place for humor in the Christian life. Well that may be a diversion from the question.

But it was a good journey.

[Male Audience Member] So, thank you for being here. My question’s on The Screwtape Letters, specifically, actually Screwtape Proposes a Toast. I was just kinda thinking like, being young, it seems like there is really great foresight from Lewis in that, when he tackles democracy and education.

What do you think that he would say to us as a society, and as students, if he were here today, kind of like how he was projecting the demon’s point of view, their objectives, with democracy and education?

I’m not sure I heard that either, I’m sorry, but I think it’s about The Screwtape Letters?

[Male Audience Member] With Screwtape Proposes a Toast. When he’s giving the speech to the graduating demons. He’s kind of tackling democracy and education. And I was kind of curious like, as a young person, seems like incredible foresight with the way that he kind of says how the demons are gonna use democracy and the education to kind of lead us to their side. What do you think Lewis would say today? About the, kind of like, if he were speaking to us now, with that foresight? What do you think gave him that kind of foresight?

What would he say about what?

[Male Audience Member] Well it’s kind of about democracy, education, Screwtape Proposes a Toast.


So in Screwtape Proposes a Toast, the senior demons, they address the issues of democracy and education. And our questioner sees what he wrote there as quite prophetic. And so, it’s another question about what Lewis would have said about, what would he say about democracy, education today? Given what he said on that occasion that seemed so prophetic.

Yes, because you see Lewis, himself was a convert from deism. And so he knew all the landscape of deism. And knew it very well.

And what we don’t realize is our culture is founded on deism. Our human sciences are founded on deism. And the abstraction of God inevitably leads to the abstraction about man. And so, these abstractions that we call democracy, or that we call human rights, or whatever, that we may focus upon politically, don’t have a personal faith. So how do we express them, in such a particularized, personalized kind of way?

That they reflect the personeity of God himself, you see. That’s the dilemma that we’re facing. So, one of the things that we need radically to recognize in the 21st century as Charles Taylor has already started to show us, in The Malaise of Modernity, is that we radically need to have new foundations for our human sciences, and indeed for theology as well. It’s a bit scary.

Moderator: We have one more question here, and then we’re gonna close.

[Male Audience Member] The pressure’s on me to come with a good one here. Many of us here at Biola want to go onto become Christian scholars, to influence the university, outside of Biola, outside of the seminary.

But you spoke on the temptations of narrow minded academic professionalization. I was just wondering if you could give us disciplines or share ways we can avoid that pitfall, in keeping our identity in Christ, for those who go on to do work in say, a secular environment.

For those that are going on, Biola students who are going on and want to make an impact in their world, and want to make an impact on the world outside Biola, how do they do that, and not become captive to professional identity, but maintain a holistic sense of their identity in Christ? Still with a strong sense of mission, wanting to go out and make a difference, and advance their education, and the world of scholarship.

Well, we all privately, and it’s not legislated at all. Can’t be legislated. But the Christian life has to be a sacrificial life. We have to count the cost. So, what is the cost of discipleship for each one of us, like it was for Bonhoeffer, you see. Now, we can’t necessarily volunteer for martyrdom like he was prepared to go.

But unless we live under the shadow of the cross, we’re not communicating the gospel. So, that is a personal inwardness that we have to recognize. And it’s not that we’re masochistic. In other words we don’t volunteer, in a masochistic kind of way, to suffer, and make sacrifices. But when we recognize the truth, then we buy the truth at a cost, and we sell it not. So, the truth that’s communicated is always costly truth. It’s not easily gained.

Now, again, when we’re more self conscious about being educators, and self conscious about the ministries that we’re doing, that’s when we find that we have to say, let God’s spirit be in this classroom so that the way I’m teaching is that prayerfully, on my knees before I ever get into the classroom, I’m praying that the communication that’s given today is something that is already contributing to their transformation. So I’m not imparting information.

I’m seeking for His spiritual transporting of heart and mind. So the way we communicate is appropriate to the truth that we’re communicating. And that we don’t begin a dichotomy between how we teach, and what we teach. But it’s embodied. This is a person, that’s in front of you, and he’s communicating his experience in his life, of what he’s teaching. Those are the kind of people that will change the world. So, it begins with a teacher. And then he pupil follows. Isn’t that so?

I think so. [laughing]

We’re gonna end there this evening, let’s thank Dr. Houston and Dr. Hindmarsh. [clapping] [uplifting music]