C.S. Lewis once referred to certain kinds of books as "mouthwash for the imagination." With his children's classic, Lewis tries to rinse out what is stale in our thinking and rediscover what it means to meet the holy. His great achievement is to enable readers to encounter the Christian story "as if for the first time." 128 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams offers fascinating insight into The Chronicles of Narnia, the popular series of novels by one of the most influential Christian authors of the modern era, C. S. Lewis.
Lewis once referred to certain kinds of book as a "mouthwash for the imagination." This is what he attempted to provide in the Narnia stories, argues Williams: an unfamiliar world in which we could rinse out what is stale in our thinking about Christianity--"which is almost everything," says Williams--and rediscover what it might mean to meet the holy. Indeed, Lewis's great achievement in the Narnia books is just that-he enables readers to encounter the Christian story "as if for the first time." How does Lewis makes fresh and strange the familiar themes of Christian doctrine? Williams points out that, for one, Narnia itself is a strange place: a parallel universe, if you like. There is no "church" in Narnia, no religion even. The interaction between Aslan as a "divine" figure and the inhabitants of this world is something that is worked out in the routines of life itself. Moreover, we are made to see humanity in a fresh perspective, the pride or arrogance of the human spirit is chastened by the revelation that, in Narnia, you may be on precisely the same spiritual level as a badger or a mouse. It is through these imaginative dislocations that Lewis is able to communicate--to a world that thinks it knows what faith is--the character, the feel, of a real experience of surrender in the face of absolute incarnate love.
This lucid, learned, humane, and beautifully written book opens a new window onto Lewis's beloved stories, revealing the moral wisdom and passionate faith beneath their perennial appeal.
Rowan Williams is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. A poet and theologian, he is the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England.
''Reading Rowan Williams on C. S. Lewis is like watching two old friends in animated discussion of great, powerful themes. It helps that both are (of course) highly literate: Shakespeare, Thomas Merton, Augustine and others flit across the pages. It helps more that both write with lucid and engaging clarity. But what really counts is that we constantly sense a third presence, that of the Lion who will not let us rest in our own little self-deceits but who constantly challenges us to discover the larger joys of his new creation. Those who have loved Narnia since childhood will here discover fresh and sometimes disturbing depths of meaning and power. Those who don't know it will be stimulated to read the stories for themselves. Those who have tried to debunk Lewis and his children's books will find Williams more than a match for them, not as an uncritical apologist but as a wise and humane expositor.'' ---N. T. Wright, Research Professor of New Testament & Early Christianity, St Andrews
''I have often thought there was more to Lewis than is often noticed by his enthusiastic readers. Now he has Rowan Williams who helps us see that Lewis, who certainly had his limits, was an extraordinary imaginative mind who was able to "rinse out what is stale in our thinking about Christianity." Williams' account of the Narnia Chronicles, therefore, helps us rinse out any too-easy criticisms of Lewis. And together Lewis and Williams enable us to imagine what it might mean to see God in the everyday. We are in Rowan Williams' debt for this deft reading of C.S. Lewis.'' ---Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, North Carolina
"The Lion's World
merits close reading, opening up as it does fresh vistas on tales that, the very moment we think we know them, surprise us again in a thousand new and astonishing ways." --Reformation 21
"...Williams's interpretation of the Narnia books provides new insight on what might appear to be an old, worn out topic. In doing this, Williams provides his readers with not only a fresh vision of Narnia, but with a new model for understanding themselves." --Mythlore