Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farewell Into the Wardrobe

UPDATE: I was told last night that it's only the forums that are being shut down

Tomorrow, my 35th birthday to be exact :-( , the C.S. Lewis fan website "Into the Wardrobe" will cease to exist.
I can understand the reasons, not least because it's moderator is finding it difficult to maintain, but many of us will be sad. It was the first website I regularly visited and where my first article was published online (have reprinted it below) so I am feeling a little sentimental and hoping a similar website will take it's place.
Anyways, below is the article, and please excuse the shoddiness in it, it was written some twelve years ago when I was, in some respects, a different person, although I think the points are still valid:


Demolishing Another Idol

Paul Burgin
Reprinted with permission of the author
This year (1998), is the centenary of the birth of C.S. Lewis, a renowned Christian apologist, children's storyteller, Science Fiction writer, and Professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature from 1954-1963. Considered one of the great Christians of the twentieth century, alongside such people as Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Corrie Ten Boom, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Pope John XXIII, and John Wimber. It is increasingly becoming the case, that more books and articles are being written about Lewis, than the amount of books and articles existing, that Lewis wrote himself.
This seems to be rather ironic on two counts. The first, is that Lewis isa known to have expressed his wish, that nothing was to be written and published about him in his lifetime.
Only Chad Walsh managed to do that with his 1949 book: 'C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics.' The second irony is that by writing this, I am adding my contribution to the pile. But is it not surprising, when one looks at the sheer amount of people, (and I am one of them) who revere much of his work! His brand of 'Mere Christianity' (sticking to basic Christian teaching, which means that Christians of varying denominations, cultures, and backgrounds agree with him), means that Lewis is popular with a wide audience. This year alone, many people will be attending seminars, conferences, and lectures, which expound on C.S. Lewis's Christian teaching.
But amoungst all this wonderful clamour, two groups are hatching plots. The first group are not so much hatching a plot, but following a divine order, sent from the heartland of Heaven. The order (carried along with divine flowing music, which is possibly unfit for the human ear) is controlled by the Holy Spirit, one of the blessed trinity which control the Universe. This command is telling people to use Lewis, so as to bring people closer to a relationship with Christ, or indeed, to deepen that relationship.
This is so that people might use the legacy of C.S. Lewis, as one of those doors that lead people into the hall of Christianity. The hall is the same hall, which Lewis mentioned in the preface to his book 'Mere Christianity.'
The second plot is a sinister, evil, and loathsome plan. One which might be working in many souls already. One can almost imagine a senior demon, writing a letter to his 'nephew', with instructions on how to carry out this plan. The plan is simple, but in some cases, possibly effective. It is simply this: To tempt people into putting C.S. Lewis before Christ.
Is it possible? Indeed it is. If anyone who reads this is a committed Christian, or even someone who believes in Heaven or Hell!, then you can perhaps see how this might be the case! The routine, which would build up slowly over a period of time, is to end up reading Lewis for spiritual help, but to just about completely neglect the Bible. To just about worship the ground Lewis walked on, but to ignore, or even sneer at other Christians (even those who have only been renowned for handing out Bibles at a Church door!), who have been a great help and comfort to others. To excuse Lewis for his faults, but to show lack of love and compassion for others, because of their faults.
The Lewisian idol, or any Idol, is one which Christians ought to examine, and see if it exists in their lives (and I am not altogether sure if it doesn't exist in my life!) and if it does exist!, to then smash it. Of course, Lewis is also revered by groups of non Christians, whether they are fans of Narnia etc.... and to some of you who identify yourselves as being in that group, and are reading this, but do not see any problem! I would say this. You are still doing Lewis a disservice, because by worshiping the Lewisian idol, no one, and I mean no one, will be able to see Lewis, or his work, in all their glory. None of those people who worship the Lewisian idol, will notice as much (if at all) in his work, which would be of great help and benefit to all concerned, than if they otherwise did so.
Lewis himself went through this problem in 'A Grief Observed', although it is more of a heartfelt and painful experience, as it is a book in which describes his coming to terms with the death of his wife. As one can see from the forthcoming quotation, Lewis's own struggles with idolising was a painful experience. Perhaps it is wrong to make the comparison here, as it is more personal and heartfelt. But I believe we can learn from it:
"I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.
"Images, I must suppose, have their use or they would not have been so popular. (It makes little difference whether they are pictures or statues outside the mind or imaginative constructions within it.) To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images-sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not"
Now I am not saying that we must disregard Lewis. To stop buying books on him, or by him. To stop going to the conferences and seminars etc.. One might not be following the first plot if they did so. All I am simply suggesting, is that we put it all into perspective. Otherwise we will be doing ourselves a disservice, our peers a disservice, the legacy of C.S. Lewis, and C.S. Lewis himself a disservice. But most of all, we would be doing the Lord God Almighty, a great disservice. And to do that would be tragic.

3 comments:

Will Vaus said...

I just received an email from John Visser who maintains "Into the Wardrobe". The site will continue on, it is only the forums which are being shut down.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, Paul, the forums are shutting down, but the Lewis-related material is remaining public in a "read only" format.

The rest of the web site isn't going anywhere.

~john (Founder of Into the Wardrobe)

Paul Burgin said...

Thanks for the clarification