The life and work of C.S.Lewis will be brought to life at year’s Archbishop Blanch lecture by Professor Alister McGrath. Read our interview below.
Alister has written many books including an award-winning biography ‘C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet’. We asked him why he is particularly interested in the life and work of C.S.Lewis?
“I'm interested in CS Lewis for many reasons, not least his remarkable ability to communicate some core elements of the Christian faith in ways that connect up with contemporary culture. I first began to read Lewis about two years after my transition from atheism to Christianity. I had experienced problems in trying to find clergy who were able to answer some of my emerging questions about the Christian faith and was recommended instead to read CS Lewis. I find in him an intellectually persuasive account of the Christian faith, along with lots of powerful images and stories that helped me (and still help me) to get my head around some of Christianity's central ideas. And having discovered him, I found that Lewis was one of those few writers who reward you when you read him again and again. If I had to single out three aspects of Lewis that I find especially helpful in my own thinking about the Christian faith, they would be the following: first, his ability to translate the vocabulary of the Christian faith into ordinary language; the importance of appealing to the imagination in our engagements with contemporary culture; and the value of telling stories as a way of explaining central Christian ideas.”
The life and work of C.S.Lewis will be the subject of this year’s Archbishop Blanch memorial lecture. We asked what we can expect from the lecture and what he hopes attendees will take away with them?
“I expect to engage these three themes in the lecture, showing how Lewis developed his approach, and exploring how we can develop his approach further in preaching, apologetics, and teaching people about Christian faith. But I will also be talking a lot about Lewis as a person, and exploring his journey from atheism to Christianity. I'll be looking especially at his idea of "mere Christianity", and how this allows us to value our distinct denominational identities, without becoming obsessed with them! And, of course, I will talk about Narnia, and how Lewis is able to convey some central Christian ideas – such as the incarnation and sin – using beautifully crafted stories.
I hope that those attending this lecture will find it enjoyable and interesting. Lewis is certainly a very engaging thinker, and I'll be doing my best to try and give my audience lots of food for thought. Specifically, I hope that those present at the lecture will take away a sense of encouragement about the intellectual and spiritual richness of the Christian faith, lots of ideas about how we can explore and explain the Christian faith in contemporary culture, and perhaps even more importantly a desire to read more of CS Lewis himself in taking all these things further.”
Finally, we asked, apart from C.S.Lewis, which other theologians or authors have interested and inspired Alister?
“I'm one of those people who reads very widely and is a bit like a magpie – always picking up ideas from other people, and working them into my own way of thinking. Lewis is one of my favourite writers, and I keep coming back to him. Partly it's because he is so interesting, but it's also because he writes very well, and so challenges people like me to improve our writing in speaking styles. But there are many other theologians and authors who I find engaging – not necessarily because I agree with them, but because I find them stimulating and helpful in thinking through things for myself. That means I will read contemporary Anglican writers like NT Wright and Rowan Williams, while reaching into the past to rediscover the riches of people like Athanasius, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. I also think it is important to read works by the New Atheist writers like Richard Dawkins, because it helps me to figure out both the questions our culture is asking about faith and forces me to develop answers that could be given to those questions. I also greatly enjoy fiction, and especially Christian writers such as Marilynne Robinson. Maybe because I'm aware of the darker side of human nature, I read a lot of Scandinavian detective novels, which are very often grim and gritty, offering me lots of ideas about how I could develop the idea of sin in my sermons!”
About Professor Alister McGrath
Alister McGrath is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University, and associate priest in the Shill Valley and Broadshire Benefice in the Diocese of Oxford.
He has written many books, and is best known for his international bestseller ‘The Dawkins Delusion?’ and for his award-winning biography ‘C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet’. He is also the author of the world's most widely used theological textbook, Christian Theology: An Introduction, now in its sixth edition.