The Romantic Rationalist contains six essays on C. S. Lewis. I don’t know the authors apart from John Piper. It’s a good introduction to C. S. Lewis, probably one of the most famous Christian authors in the whole world. It took me several attempts to get to know Lewis through his books: I tried to read The Great Divorce and to translate A Year with C. S. Lewis (as a personal project) – both failed. Then I read John Piper’s brilliant book Don’t Waste Your Life and saw how much influence Lewis had on Piper on his journey in Christ – I was intrigued again. I found this book The Romantic Rationalist and the authors talked about Lewis like an old friend. This was exactly what I needed: people who have read all his published books, unpublished manuscripts, obscure and little-known essays, personal letters, lecture and sermon scripts and who have the Christian maturity to be able to explain Lewis’ view on God, the Bible and Christian life critically, fairly and lovingly, in a zoomed-out view. This book totally did that, I loved it and learnt lots.
I particularly like the explanation of Lewis’ use of imagination for theology and discipleship in chapter 4. The comparison between a Christian being half awake to the reality of God, for Christ, in the hope of heaven, and the enchantment of the Witch in The Silver Chair became so alive and vivid. Jesus’ command to “stay awake” suddenly has a deeper and more real meaning to me. Many illustrations in The Chronicles of Narnia (which I read all seven subsequently) spoke so directly to my heart that the heavy and dry doctrine which is usually a headache to decipher or to digest suddenly become simple and obvious.
The second thing I like best is the explanation on Lewis’ emphasis on heaven in chapter 5. I read in a book that monks (I can’t remember where or when) used to stop everything at hand at every hour of the day to think about heaven. I don’t think this would be the most effective way for me. But there is very little teaching on the new heaven and new earth in our teaching programmes and my personal reading. How can I look forward to it when I don’t know or think about it? I know that it will be a place where God lives with us, with no pain or death, with streets paved with gold and gates adorned with precious stones. But no one described it to me as a place as exciting and desirable as Lewis did in The Voyage of Dawn Treader or in The Last Battle. Suddenly heaven becomes a lot more attractive and “to die is gain” becomes a sentence that is a lot more agreeable.
I also enjoy the conversation between the six writers in the appendix. They talked about the reasons they love C. S. Lewis, the ways that Lewis has shaped them, their less-known book recommendations of Lewis, their writing and their hope for the younger generations. For example, it’s really encouraging for me to hear one writer who quoted Lewis as saying “you really aren’t a reader if you only read a book once and leave it at that”. For a person who has to read almost every book at least twice (me) and always think she is at a disadvantage, what a comfort!
I even read the acknowledgements at the very end of the book. There David Mathis talked about Desiring God National Conferences, the series of eleven books (which are now all on my reading list – it’ll be a great joy to read them if they’re as good as this one), the new venture “Look at the Book” (which I have been benefiting from for a little while along with the series of “Ask Pastor John” – some questions are shockingly honest!). What shall I say apart from that I’m grateful? I pray that God will enable me to see him clearer and walk the path of discipleship with Jesus, crucified and risen, through the lens of his servant C. S. Lewis, John Piper and Desiring God ministry.