The Table Podcast

Peter Kreeft

Surfing on God: Peter Kreeft on Surfing, Science, Sanctification, and C.S. Lewis

“We must re-mythologize. We must see myth not as the flight from reality, but as the flight to reality. And if we thus love and value myth, we will make them because we are creators made in the image of the Creator. And that’s what Lewis did. That’s what Tolkien did.” Peter Kreeft is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and has written upwards upwards of 75 books of philosophy, theology, apologetics, essays, reflections, and more, not to mention his frequent public lectures and articles, though he considers his own approach to philosophy as no more than a shell full of water in the shoreless sea of God’s infinity. Dr. Kreeft’s reflections here, each felt like their own short and yet quite expansive essays, spanning from surfing and sanctification to C.S. Lewis and mythology. Rather than presenting it conversationally, we’ll just queue up each topic and let Peter Kreeft be Peter Kreeft.

Show Notes

  • 3:30—Peter Kreeft on Peter Kreeft
  • 3:46—On surfing, the ocean, and heavenly life.
  • 4:06—“Surfing, I think, is preparation for heaven. Because if you’re a soul surfer, instead of a hot-dogger, you just follow the wave and you become part of the greater being and in heaven we’ll surf on God.”
  • 5:38—“In Perelandra, the wave is a symbol of God’s will… so you simply follow the wave of God’s will, that’s the secret of sanctity.”
  • 6:04—On sanctification, perfection, and the summum bonum.
  • 6:59—“That process looks different for everybody because everybody is different. The road, the story of everybody is different. That’s why God created billions of different people, not just one. And that’s why heaven is going to be endlessly interesting because we’ll share each other’s stories and enter into each other’s stories.”
  • 7:17—On Gabriel Marcel, being, goodness, and personhood.
  • 8:44—On becoming a saint.
  • 9:53—“I personally believe that when we get to heaven we’re going to be very surprised at who’s there. How did you get there? Your theology was all askew. Well, yeah, but God saw deeper than that. He saw a heart that sought Him, and He Himself said, “All who seek me will find me.””
  • 10:28—Ad Break: “Charting a Course Through Grief” A free 8-week ecourse with a variety helpful resources on grief.
  • 12:24—On psychology and modernity.
  • 13:43—On the soul, Henri Bergson and mathematical bees, science, and what human persons are.
  • 17:32—“The soul is not physical, but it is the soul of a physical body, and the body is not spiritual, but it’s a body of the spiritual soul. Whenever you touch one, you touch the other. Just as you can’t change the meaning of a book without changing its words, or change the words without changing the meaning. Anything that affects the body as a whole affects the soul too, and anything that affects the soul also affects the body.”
  • 18:39—On intellectual virtue and civil discourse. “I think the two most important virtues of the mind are also moral virtues, honesty and prudence, or the fanatical search for truth on the one hand and practical wisdom on the other hand.”
  • 19:53—On love.
  • 20:44—“Only if you love somebody do you really know them. This is why God is so wise because He loves. Love opens the eye, the eye of the heart, the deepest eye.”
  • 20:57—On suffering, Victor Frankl, and the necessity of meaning.
  • 21:54—“It’s not just the will to live. It’s a belief, a faith, a trust that all of life, including suffering, has a meaning, has an outcome.”
  • 23:22—Ad break: “Seeking Christian Wisdom for Life’s Biggest Questions” via Biola LEARN (15% off your next course).
  • 24:56—On Clive Staples Lewis and his legacy.
  • 26:13— “Lewis has done more for welding Christians together and helping them to understand each other, especially by that book Mere Christianity, than anybody else has done. He has shown us what’s important and what’s less important. He’s given us a sense of perspective. 50 years later, he remains utterly up to date, utterly relevant. He’s not dated because he deals with the perennial things.”
  • 27:25—On Lewis, literature, and telling the truth through fiction.
  • 29:02—“Lewis tells it like it is. A lot of people hate him for that. He offended people in his own day. He continues to do so. In fact, if you’re not offending anybody, you’re not saying anything very important.”
  • 29:15—On Peter Kreeft’s favorite works of C.S. Lewis.
  • 29:45—On Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, Christianity, and mythology.
  • 30:41—“Lewis, like the medievals, was fascinated with allegory and symbolism and thought of this not merely as a literary device but as something in the structure of the universe because things are also symbols. God writes with things as we write with words, and therefore the dispute between let’s say the modernists and the fundamentalists about whether the Bible is symbolic or literal is a silly one. It’s both. The one does not exclude the other.”
  • 32:06—On why dark places are holy places, and how C.S. Lewis embodied that truth. “The holy places must be dark places for two reasons. One, because the darkness is in our own souls, and we project that on to the God that we try to find. The second reason is that there has to be faith. There has to be trust. God can’t reveal Himself totally to us and still elicit from us the loving trust that He wants, above all.”
  • 33:29—On what we find when we remove our armor and let down our defenses.
  • 34:25—On sharks and vending machines: linking the darkness of the ocean with holiness, faith, and the risk that life is.
  • 35:14—“Faith is a risk. Love is a risk. Life is a risk. It’s a very dangerous thing, being born, but it’s an adventure.”

Credits

  • Hosted and produced by Evan Rosa
  • Resource of the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which is sponsored by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and The Blankemeyer Foundation
  • Theme music by The Brilliance
  • Production and Engineering by the Narrativo Group. More info at Narrativogroup.com
  • Edited and mixed by TJ Hester
  • Production Assistance by Kaleb Cohen
  • Follow: @EvanSubRosa / @BiolaCCT / cct.biola.edu

Sandro Botticelli, "Vision of St Augustine", c. 1488 Tempera on panel, 20 x 38 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Evan Rosa:  “The Table Audio” is made possible by the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust.

[background music]

Peter Kreeft:  We must re‑mythologize. We must see myth not as the flight from reality, but as the flight to reality. If we thus love and value myth, we will make them because we are creators made in the image of the Creator. That’s what Lewis did. That’s what Tolkien did.

ER:  I’m Evan Rosa. You’re listening to The Table Audio, a podcast about seeking Christian wisdom for life’s big questions.

Since the Middle Ages, there’s been a popular myth told about Saint Augustine, going back at least as far as the 15th century hagiography, the book about the lives of saints. One by Jacobus da Varagine is called “The Golden Legend.” It recounts the story.

Augustine is walking by the ocean. Some versions say he’s with his mother, Monica, pondering the mystery of the Trinity. As he walks barefoot through the waves, he sees a little boy running back and forth between the ocean and a pool that he’s dug, using a shell to transport water. “Son, what are you doing?” It’s hard for me not to imagine my three‑year‑old, Ben, doing just this.

Child:  Can’t you see? I’m going to put this ocean in this hole I dug.

ER:  [laughs] “Son, that’s impossible,” says Augustine. Then the child pauses and looks up and says to Augustine…

Child:  I’ll put this ocean into this small pool much sooner than you will fit the mystery of God into your head.

ER:  Gobsmacked, Augustine looks up in wonder. When he looks back down, the child is gone, vanished, like ocean water through beach sand.

Child:  Dad, I’m tired of this.

ER:  [laughs] OK.

[background music]

ER:  Peter Kreeft often introduces himself and his approach to philosophy with reference to this story, that his contribution of upwards of 75 books of philosophy, theology, apologetics, essays, reflections, and more, not to mention his frequent public lectures and articles, is no more than a shell full of water in the shoreless sea of God’s infinity.

I interviewed Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, in 2013, after a full day of surfing, driving, meetings, and a public lecture that has become one of our most watched resources we’ve ever produced. Honestly, who cares about the clicks. I took Peter Kreeft surfing. [laughs] It was as cool as it sounds.

This story about Saint Augustine might be mythological, but as Kreeft is quick to point out even in this interview, that doesn’t prevent the story’s being true.

I find that it’s beautifully true with respect to Kreeft’s own approach to the love of wisdom and love of God, which is philosophy at its best. As he describes his journey of swimming, and surfing, and growing in the shoreless sea of God’s infinite being and limitless love.

A final note, Kreeft’s reflections here, each felt like their own short and yet quite expansive essays. Rather than present it conversationally, I’ll just queue up each topic and let Peter Kreeft be Peter Kreeft. It’s a glorious thing. Enjoy. On Peter Kreeft.

PK:  Peter Kreeft, I impersonate a philosopher. Since roughly the Jurassic Age, I think. Started teaching in 1962.

[music]

ER:  On surfing, the ocean, and heavenly life.

PK:  A bad surf session is better than a good day anywhere else. It’s always fun. The water is magic, it heals you, it makes you forget all your troubles. It kisses your booboos like Big Mommy. Even little grade C waves are a lot of fun.

Surfing I think is preparation for heaven, because if you’re a soul surfer instead of a hotdogger, you just follow the wave and you become part of the greater being, and in heaven we’ll surf on God.

I surf, therefore I am. I was trying to show anybody that they could use a body board, and be a surfer, and have enormous fun. Just imagine the whole world surfed, including all the leaders of all the countries in the world. It would be the end of war. I think it’s psychologically similar to religion, in that you find yourself in the grip of a greater power, far greater than yourself.

The first impression everybody has when they catch their first wave is the power of it. The only time anything relating to surfing is mentioned in the Bible, it seems to me, unless you’re a modernist and believe that Jesus walked on water by using a hidden surfboard, is in the book of Revelation where it says there will be no more sea, which is a very deeply threatening verse for a surfer.

I think that it simply means there will be no more this sea, but the sea in heaven will be even more surfable because it will be made of God. Water is the second thing God created. Next to light, it’s the most mystical thing in the world. How did I start surfing, that’s almost like how did I start breathing, I don’t know.

From the time I was a little kid, we went to vacations on the New Jersey shore and fell in love with the water. My father introduced it to me, I introduced it to my son, we’re passing it down through the generations.

In Perelandra, the wave is a symbol of God’s will. The green lady, the innocent Eve on Perelandra is forbidden to stay on the fixed land overnight because that symbolizes security, and your own will, and predictability. So she lives on these floating islands which are always on waves, so you simply follow the wave of God’s will, that’s the secret of sanctity.

[music]

ER:  On sanctification, perfection, and the summum bonum.

PK:  It is to say that you agree with Jesus who says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You must be perfect as my father in heaven is perfect.” As usual, He meant exactly what He said. He is the Son of the Father and the revelation of the Father, and He shows us that the Father, though He is very easy to please, He is very hard to satisfy.

He will not give up until we’re perfect. Everything is a part of that process. All things work together for that good, to those who love God.

In temporal creatures like ourselves, it is attained only at the temporal end. In God, it’s there from the beginning. He’s Alpha as well as Omega, but we have to move from Alpha to Omega.

The summum bonum is the final end. That process looks different for everybody because everybody is different. The road, the story of everybody is different. That’s why God created billions of different people, not just one. That’s why heaven is going to be endlessly interesting because we’ll share each other stories, and enter into each other’s stories.

[music]

ER:  On being, goodness, and personhood.

PK:  There’s an amazing sentence in the philosopher Gabriel Marcel, he says, “I think the secret to ontology is sanctity, the study of the saints.” That’s a very strange juxtaposition, but it’s explainable when you realize that for him, the secret to understanding being is understanding your own being. That’s an inside job, so to speak.

The secret to understanding your own being is to understand your final end, your purpose, your goal, your good, and that’s sanctity. To understand the saints is to understand the human being in his supposed normal condition.

What’s normal here is abnormal in God’s eyes, and to understand that is to understand the nature of being as such because we’re the closest thing we know to being as such. Much closer than a rock or a rabbit. Personality is built into being.

Thomas Aquinas says somewhere, “Person means that which is most perfect in the whole realm of being.” Persons are more real than anything else. Persons are more real than animals, animals are more real than plants, plants are more real than chemicals, chemicals are more real than elements. Elements are more real than numbers. There are degrees of reality.

[background music]

ER:  On becoming a saint.

PK:  When you think of the word saint the two primary references are first of all Jesus Christ Himself, who reveals us to ourselves. He reveals who the true man is, as well as who the true God is, and all the saints in heaven. Saints are not just a special class of people, they’re all the saints, all the redeemed.

I think the first step in becoming a saint has to be some sort of passion. If you don’t care, you won’t move. That’s why saints are often made out of great sinners, they at least have passion. They’re moving in the wrong direction, but to move a car from the wrong direction to the right direction is much easier than to start it up when it’s stalled.

The next step is to know something about God. You must know Him in order to seek Him. Then once you understand the difference between you and God, you realize that you need to repent. Unless you know that, you don’t know the true God or you don’t know the true self.

Then finally the last stage is the positive, the redeemer, faith, something that lets divine grace in. That comes in many forms that can sometimes be anonymous.

I personally believe that when we get to heaven we’re going to be very surprised at who’s there. How did you get there? Your theology was all askew. Well, yeah, but God saw deeper than that. He saw a heart that sought Him, and He Himself said, “All who seek me will find me.”

When Jesus said, “All who seek, find.” What was He talking about? He wasn’t talking about all who seek money or health, or glory are going to find it. He meant all who seek my Father will find Him.

[music]

ER:  Stay tuned. After the break, Peter Kreeft reflects on soul, body, science, love, and suffering.

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ER:  Hello friends, thanks for giving us a place at your table. It’s a gift for us to bring these conversations into your life, and we hope you find them meaningful and memorable.

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Again, that’s cct.biola.edu/grief, and of course thanks for listening to The Table audio. Now back to our conversation.

On psychology and modernity.

PK:  I think psychology is to sanctity what matter is to form, what grammar is to poetry, it’s the content. If you don’t understand something about human nature on a secular level through good psychology, it’s difficult to understand the perfection of human nature which is re‑formed by God.

That’s why it’s a good thing to do when you have spiritual problems, to first of all clear up your psychological problems, because the problems might be in the matter rather than the form. They might even be in the chemistry rather than in something spiritual.

I think the biggest difference between the pre‑modern and the modern mind, is that the pre‑modern mind is like the mind of a small child, it’s objective. What’s that? What’s that? What’s that? The mind of the modern is like the mind of a teenager. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? What do I feel like inside?

You need both. You naturally grow from the child‑like to the teenager, and then hopefully to the adult that integrates both of them together. What does it look like? It looks like the completest, holiest, most genuine person who has it the most together that you can imagine. Ultimately it looks like Christ.

[music]

ER:  On the soul, science, and what human persons are.

PK:  The word soul means first of all, life, in the broader sense everything in life has a soul. The soul is that which moves the thing from within rather than from without. What distinguishes a plant from a crystal, which grows by accretion rather than by growth from within.

In a secondary sense, the soul means that which can feel, can relate to its environment. In that sense, animals have souls as well as people. But in the usual sense of the word, soul means self‑consciousness.

Not just consciousness of the world, which animals have, but self‑consciousness. Once you have self‑consciousness you have moral responsibility, you have identity crises, you have rational thought, and you have the ability to relate to other persons, including God.

A whole new world opens up there. The specifically human soul, what the ancients called the rational soul, reasoned in a very broad sense, is the soul that’s conscious of itself.

I don’t think you can use the data of science to prove or disprove there’s existence of a soul any more than you can prove the existence of the beauty of a Beethoven symphony by counting the notes. Bergson has a fable about mathematical bees who claim that they could explain any picture by reducing its elements to numbers.

The philosopher said well, here’s a masterpiece, explain this. The bees made a formula, thousands of pages long. It was totally accurate.

The philosopher said, “You missed something.” “What, did we mistake on our equations?” “No.” “What did you miss?” “Well, you missed the whole thing. You missed the picture, you missed the whole.” Analysis is very useful, but without synthesis, it is not fulfilled.

You pull things apart in order to put them together again, but it matters enormously whether the soul is immaterial, because if it’s material, it’s mortal. Only if it’s immaterial, is it unaffected by material death. If it’s the same sort of thing as water, then it will evaporate with the rest of the water, so to speak, of the body.

If it’s a different kind of thing like oil, then there may be a way that souls can die too, let’s say by fire, but not in the same ways that bodies can die. By the way, in Christian theology, hell is not a place where souls go to live in torture, it’s a place where they go to die. Whether that death is annihilation or something else, is not too clear.

Obviously, souls and bodies are different kinds of things. You can’t use the categories of one to understand the other, any more than you can understand, let’s say, the grammar of a book by understanding the beauty of its poetry, or vice versa. It’s not connected to the body, that’s assuming that there’s a soul over here, and a body over here, and then you somehow bring them together.

That would be like assuming there’s a piece of meaning over here, and then there’s some words over here, and then you somehow make the words to have meaning by connecting those two things. The relation is one of identity. The body is that which thinks, and feels, and chooses. The soul is made of flesh and bones, the soul is the form, the body is the matter.

We are one person, one substance, one being, one entity. We have two dimensions. It’s more than just two aspects because aspects are perspectival. Very epistemological. I think it’s one ontological thing with two ontological dimensions. I think form and matter give it a clearer concept than anything else.

The soul is not physical, but it is the soul of a physical body, and the body is not spiritual, but it’s a body of the spiritual soul. Whenever you touch one, you touch the other. Just as you can’t change the meaning of a book without changing its words, or change the words without changing the meaning. Anything that affects the body as a whole affects the soul too, and anything that affects the soul also affects the body.

Poor Socrates didn’t know that. He was so excited by the discovery of the soul that he ignored the body. He thought that a good man cannot possibly be harmed by a bad man because he can only harm my body and that’s not me. It’s a noble thought, but it’s not true.

New Age psychology is full of Gnosticism. Spirituality is a form of Gnosticism. It’s a heresy. It, first of all, denies the goodness of matter in the body. Secondly, it assumes that spirit as such is good, which is a ridiculous mistake. Satan is a pure spirit, but he’s certainly not good. And it misunderstands God’s great creation in His own image, ourselves.

[music]

ER:  On intellectual virtue and civil discourse.

PK:  I think the two most important virtues of the mind are also moral virtues, honesty and prudence, or the fanatical search for truth on the one hand and practical wisdom on the other hand.

I suspect that perhaps what the New Testament means by the unforgivable sin is deliberate dishonesty, deliberate saying no to the truth once it’s known. Because seek and you shall find applies to God, but it also applies to that which God is. Two things we know God is is total truth and total goodness.

I think the most effective way to promote any virtue to other people is by example. Virtue is winsome. If you find somebody that’s totally honest, you can’t help admiring him. If you find somebody who’s radically unselfish, you can’t help admiring them.

There’s other stuff in you too that says, “I don’t want to be like that. That’s not fun.” But at the same time, there’s something in you that was programmed not by the media and not by Harvard or Hollywood but by heaven that said, “That’s me. That’s what I’m supposed to be.”

[music]

ER:  On love.

PK:  Best definition of love that I’ve ever seen is Thomas Aquinas’ very simple one. To love someone is to will their good. Love is an act of will. That’s why it can be commanded.

Most of us think of love as a feeling. In that case, Jesus is a very bad psychologist because then when Jesus commands us to love, He’s saying, “I command you to have nice, sweet, loving feelings,” which is impossible. Love is a verb.

I’ve heard of a Christian counselor who has healed some marriages that couldn’t be healed by anyone else. Couples come to him. They say, “Our problem is we don’t love each other anymore.” His answer is a single syllable, “Do.” “What do you mean do?” “Do love each other.” Love is a verb. Love is an act. Love is a choice. You can do it.

Only if you love somebody do you really know them. This is why God is so wise because He loves. Love opens the eye, the eye of the heart, the deepest eye.

[music]

ER:  On suffering.

PK:  Suffering doesn’t destroy meaning. Suffering presupposes meaning. As Viktor Frankl says, “If life has meaning, then suffering has meaning because suffering is an essential part of life.” A life without suffering would be not life at all. It wouldn’t even grow because to grow is to suffer, to leave the past.

Suffering is like an operation. God has to get in there and do heart surgery. It can’t be merely an addition. It has to be a subtraction. He has to take out the cancer cells.

Viktor Frankl discovered in Auschwitz that the prisoners that survived were not necessarily the healthy ones or the privileged ones. They were those that had a meaning, especially a meaning to their suffering. He concluded that a man can endure almost any how if only he has a why.

It’s not just the will to live. It’s a belief, a faith, a trust that all of life, including suffering, has a meaning, has an outcome. You can argue, for instance, that the good things in life are obviously meaningful and purposive and teleological. Our desires for good things and attractive things and beautiful things are satisfied by all sorts of good things in the world.

If the desire for a better world, a more perfect world, a more just world is meaningless, then the deepest desire in our soul is meaningless and all the other ones are meaningful. In other words, all the appetizers, all the little desires have real satisfactions, but then when it comes to the main course, there is no such thing.

What we’re really hungry for, most deeply, doesn’t exist. That makes no sense at all. If every natural and innate desire says something about the world as well as something about us, if every hunger points to some food, then the implicit hunger for God in heaven, which even atheists often admit is innate in a human soul, that points to the reality of it.

[music]

ER:  Don’t go anywhere. This final segment of my time with Peter Kreeft is deep, maybe even 70,000 fathoms deep. He reflects on C.S. Lewis, the connection between darkness and holiness, and the need to re‑mythologize Christianity, in just a moment.

[background music]

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On Clive Staples Lewis and his legacy.

PK:  Well, he’s just the best Christian apologist of modern times. He gives you the true, the good, and the beautiful. He’s brilliant and trustable. He gives you the true. He’s a very honest and good man and he shows you the good.

And he’s beautiful. The object of desire is beauty. He appeals to that as a very effective writer. I don’t know anybody who’s got more tools in his tool chest than Lewis. It’s divine inspiration, clearly. I don’t mean something miraculous. I think that God just prepared this vessel.

The only two writers that I think have a similar range of skills, that I can think of, are Augustine and Kierkegaard. They can talk to anybody. They have a passionate heart and a passionate head. They’re poets as well as philosophical analysts.

I love the medieval statues of Augustine. They almost have an open book in one hand and a flaming heart in the other. I suppose there have been some people who have had a more brilliant head but not at the same time a more passionate heart. There’s probably been some people had a more passionate heart, but not at the same time a more brilliant head.

Lewis has done more for welding Christians together and helping them to understand each other, especially by that book Mere Christianity, than anybody else has done. He has shown us what’s important and what’s less important.

He’s given us a sense of perspective. 50 years later, he remains utterly up to date, utterly relevant. He’s not dated because he deals with the perennial things.

When I realized that Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley all died in the same afternoon and had three fundamentally different world views, probably the three most popular in the world, namely Christian theism and Eastern pantheism on the part of Huxley, and, as I interpret Kennedy, modern Western secularism, I just imagine them having a conversation, starting with who Jesus is.

We’re still arguing about the same issues as we were 50 years ago. Those same three options are available and popular to people in our civilization. Which of them prevails is going to largely be the determiner of what our civilization’s future is going to be.

[music]

ER:  On Lewis, literature, and telling the truth through fiction.

PK:  I know that modern literary criticism is very suspicious of any narrative that sounds didactic, but I don’t find didacticism an obstacle as long as it’s natural and not intrusive. Renaissance literary criticism said that the purposes of literature are to please and to instruct. Lewis fulfills that criterion very well.

He captures your attention. He’s clear. He’s beautiful. He’s attractive. But then he uses that to instruct. You see. It’s not just that this one character who spouts philosophy and he’s right and everybody else is wrong. That’s much too crude. It’s the plot and the characterization themselves that teach you.

You see. You are shown rather than preached at. Once in a while, Lewis stoops to preaching. He’s got so much to say. In something like Till We Have Faces, that’s perfectly constructed. It’s the story itself that preaches.

If you ask me for favorite Lewis stories, I come up with a very silly one. It’s kind of personal because Lewis was very absent‑minded, like myself. Once he and Tolkien were walking at Oxford in a garden. It was spring. The snow was melting. He saw what seemed to be an animal in the melting snow on top of a bush.

He said, “What’s that? Is that a squirrel?” It wasn’t moving. He got a little closer. He said, “No, that’s somebody’s hat. What an ugly thing.” He took it out and shook the snow out of it. He said, “Oh, that’s my hat,” and put it on his head.

Lewis tells it like it is. A lot of people hate him for that. He offended people in his own day. He continues to do so. In fact, if you’re not offending anybody, you’re not saying anything very important.

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ER:  On Peter Kreeft’s favorite works of C.S. Lewis.

PK:  My favorite, I think, in memory is Perelandra because it’s so beautiful. My favorite in judgment is Till We Have Faces. That’s a masterpiece that will last forever. My favorite instructive piece, I think, is The Great Divorce. That’s a wonderfully easy version of The Divine Comedy. That’s Dante brought up to date in about a hundred pages.

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ER:  On Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, Christianity, and mythology.

PK:  It’s about so many things. It’s about the problem of evil. It’s about what a saint is. It’s about faith. It’s about different kinds of love. It’s about myth. It’s about paganism. It’s about mystery, why must holy places be dark places. And it’s about salvation history.

He would say and did say that myth does something nothing else can do. It can deal with something universal but in a concrete way. Philosophy deals with the universal in an abstract way. Realistic stories deal with particular things in a concrete way.

Myth gives you a universal on two feet, so to speak, a kind of a Jungian archetype incarnated. Myth become fact, yes. It has not lost its mythic nature in becoming fact.

Lewis, like the medievals, was fascinated with allegory and symbolism and thought of this not merely as a literary device but as something in the structure of the universe because things are also symbols.

God writes with things as we write with words, and therefore the dispute between let’s say the modernists and the fundamentalists about whether the Bible is symbolic or literal is a silly one. It’s both. The one does not exclude the other.

We must re‑mythologize. We must see myth not as the flight from reality, but as the flight to reality. If we thus love and value myth, we will make them, because we are creators made in the image of the creator. That’s what Lewis did. That’s what Tolkien did.

It probably came about because we simply ignored our heart and our intuition, because our head got so bright and so powerful, it’s like a laser beam. You almost have to ignore all the other light in order to concentrate only on the laser beam.

The name of the laser beam is science, which is a very honorable occupation, and nothing wrong with it, but when you develop one power to such an extent that you want to go with it all the time, you almost inevitably ignore the other ones. We’re all spotlight and no floodlight, all laser beam, and no big picture.

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ER:  On why dark places are holy places, and how C.S. Lewis embodied that truth.

PK:  The holy places must be dark places for two reasons. One, because the darkness is in our own souls, and we project that on to the God that we try to find. The second reason is that there has to be faith. There has to be trust. God can’t reveal Himself totally to us and still elicit from us the loving trust that He wants, above all.

That’s why He has to appear as arbitrary. That’s why He has to say to Adam and Eve, “See all these fruits? They’re good to eat. It’s perfectly rational. Here’s one fruit that, for no reason at all, I’m going to say you can’t eat. You just got to trust Me on this.”

Romeo does not propose to Juliet in syllogisms. He comes to her and says, “Trust me.” God does the same thing to us.

Well in his autobiography, he said that, at the moment of conversion, he felt like not somebody that was adding something, but someone that was taking something off, as if he was stripping off an old snakeskin or a suit of armor, and that means trust and vulnerability. Here is God that says, “Take off your defenses, and let me come in,” and Lewis did it.

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ER:  On what we find when we remove our armor and let down our defenses.

PK:  Everything. Truth, goodness, beauty, everything.

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ER:  As my conversation with Peter Kreeft came to a close, we came around full circle, to the ocean.

Kierkegaard writes in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments, “If I wish to preserve myself in faith, I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over 70,000 fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.”

That is, doubt is not opposed by certainty, but belief. He further notes that it is in fact suffering that makes up those 70,000 fathoms of ocean water beneath you.

We closed by linking the darkness of the ocean with holiness, faith, and the risk that life is. Also, sharks and vending machines.

PK:  Let’s think about the movie “Jaws.” Why is that movie so scary? Very few people are killed by sharks. In fact, more people in any given year around the world are killed by vending machines than by sharks. This is statistically true.

Why are people terrified of sharks? Because they come out of the great deep, the darkness, the mystery. They come from down there below, so when you surf, you have to trust the ocean. Keep watch. If there’s a shark fin, leave, but there’s always a chance that some hidden shark will come up and destroy you. It’s a risk. You have to take risks.

Faith is a risk. Love is a risk. Life is a risk. It’s a very dangerous thing, being born, but it’s an adventure.

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ER:  The Table Audio is hosted and produced by me, Evan Rosa, and is a resource of the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which is sponsored by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and the Blankemeyer Foundation.

Theme music is by The Brilliance. Production and engineering by the Narrativo Group. More info at narrativogroup.com. Edited and mixed by TJ Hester.

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