Core Authors: Sitting and Soaking...

With C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
More than twenty years ago, I came across an idea from Bobby Clinton that not only confirmed what I had already been doing, but which set me even more firmly on that path. Bobby Clinton, emeritus professor i the school of world missions at Fuller Theological Seminary spoke on the great value of having Core Authors.

A Core Author is an author who so resonates for you, who so powerfully and compelling writes and addresses the themes of greatest interest - that you should read AS MUCH AS YOU CAN by these authors.

As you read more and more by these authors, not only do you learn about what they think, but you begin to learn WHY they think the way they do, and most important of all - HOW they think. Their way of thinking, seeing, interpreting, making meaning, etc. begins to imprint on your own way of thinking and seeing.

I have now been in a C.S. Lewis mode for over about a year and a half. I really anticipate spending at least another year reading books by Lewis and books about Lewis. In the past I had read 18-20 books by Lewis. But there were several important ones I had never read. I re-reading all the old ones and looking forward to the new ones.

Previous books that are getting a re-read in the near future:

  1. The Problem of Pain
  2. A Grief Observed
  3. Reflections on the Psalms

The new books by Lewis (which I had never read):

  1. The PIlgrim's Regress
  2. Miracles
  3. An Experiment in Criticism
  4. and maybe - The Discarded Image
  5. The Three (massive) Volumes of Collected Letters (I am about 1/2 way through the first volume, which is the least interesting to me and it is still good.)

I am also doing extensive reading of studies about Lewis. I have recently discovered Houston Baptist University professor, Louis Markos. I really enjoy his insights on Lewis, especially in the way he uses Lewis as an apologist to guide our own similar work today. Another of my favorite Lewis scholars is David Downing of Elizabethtown College (only 30 miles from where I live).

As I soak in Lewis, (1) I find his thoughts constantly coming to my mind.  (2) I am more than ever committed to the combined use of reason and imagination; logic and affections; careful thoughts and evocative images. (3) I am thinking differently about free will and the responsibility of choice. (4) I am thinking more deeply about the nature of heaven and hell. (5) And of course, the theme of desires and joy is going deeper as well. This is only a start.

There are several things I do to engage with Lewis beyond the act of reading.

By far, most important is that I collect his great quotes, find good images to use and create my own images/words of Lewis at my blogsite: The Wit and Wisdom of C.S. Lewis. I have daily posts on Lewis. That means I am constantly thinking about Lewis, how he inspires me, what images he generates for me and how I can pass them on to others. If you want, subscribe to the daily posts. I give only brief comments on the quotes, allowing the quote and image to speak for Lewis.

I incorporte into every lesson, sermon and many theological posts, insights from Lewis. What is interesting is that I don't have to sit down and more and wonder - what would C.S. have to say about this. I am automatically remembering his wisdom and seeing how he can provide clarity and desire on almost every topic on which I teach.

I do a fair amount of journaling on my spiritual journey, and now the insights of Lewis are a part of that journaling process. So I go deeper with Lewis as he speaks to my own personal situation and need.

I am writing several longer essays on parts of Lewis that are of interest to me. I want to take my time and do this well. I was quite far through a first draft on C.S. Lewis as Spiritual Direction, when I put it on hold. I realized I had to do a lot more reading in his Collected Letters to have more insight for the way he provided spiritual direction via his ministry of letter writings to those who sought his spiritual guidance.

A second essay I have started is on Lewis as a Saint. This one is really intriguing for me. Lawrence Cunningham wrote an outstanding book in 1980 (The Meaning of Saints) on our need for a new paradigm of how saints function for us as paradigms and exemplars that can guide our own spiritual growth and journey. I think Lewis may be among the best examples to be found on this. The problem will be the tendency to hagiography (sanitized and sensationalized versions of saintliness) that already exists about Lewis.

And I talk about Lewis with my friends who love Lewis as well.
My spiritual friends are our own version of Inklings. That sounds way too generous! Well, how about The Scriblings? Still too much! Okay, then let's call ourselves The Stumblings, for we are stumbling with faltering steps in the pursuit of Chirst. But we all enjoy Lewis and find him a reliable friend and guide.

If you would like a nice introduction to C.S. Lewis, among the many I have read and would recommend, I think right now I am most inclined to suggest:

The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis by Terry Glaspey, or

A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis by Devin Brown.


Now, in addition to this deep and wide work on Lewis, I am also digging into Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well.  I will pick up with Bonhoeffer tomorrow and finish off with a few thoughts about Core Authors.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International