With their Christianity Latent: C. S. Lewis on the Arts

Introduction: Last Fall 2011 on sabbatical, I had the privilege of being a scholar in residence at the Kilns, C. S. Lewis’s old home in an outlying residential area called Risinghurst, just about three miles from Oxford and Oxford University. I didn’t know it when I arrived, but about three days into my time there, I found out I was staying in the room in which C. S. Lewis died. It was somewhat spooky, especially when I received an email from a friend which included this line, “Please say hello to C. S. Lewis’s ghost for me.”

There might be more to that, I thought, than he realized. Here’s the story of Lewis’s death, as I was told of it. On November 22, 1963, at about 4:00 p.m., Lewis’s brother Warnie served his brother his afternoon tea. About 5:30 p.m., about an hour and a half later, Warnie heard a crash, boom, bang coming from Lewis’s room. He rushed in, only to find Jack, as he was known to his family and friends, lying on the floor, unconscious. Scooping him up into his arms, Lewis remained unconscious and then died in his brother’s arms. Kidney failure, I understand, was the cause.

That would have been about 11: 30 a.m., North Texas time. About an hour later at 12:30 p.m., the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated on the streets of Dallas. I was in fifth grade and heard the word from my teacher, Miss Watkins. To be sure, the Kennedy assassination overshadowed the news about Lewis’s death.

Also, on the same day, Aldous Huxley also died. On his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife Laura for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular”. According to her account of his death in This Timeless Moment, she obliged with an injection at 11:45 a.m. and another a couple of hours later. He died, aged 69 on November 22, 1963, several hours after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Media coverage of Huxley’s passing was also overshadowed by the news of the assassination of JFK on the same day. [2]

The coincidence of the deaths of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Clive Staples Lewis and Aldous Huxley was the inspiration for Peter Kreeft’s book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley. [3]

But, of course, this paper is not about the deaths of these three notables, but to share with you a few insights on art from the mind and pen of one who died that day, C. S. Lewis. Though I must say, that staying in the room in which CS died did creep me out a bit — there was a lot of talk about fairies, spooks, demons, angels, and the supernatural in general around — I knew my accommodations in that room would make for a much better story. So I remained. Indeed, one letter of his I read while there stated that if he came back to haunt anyone, it would be at Cambridge. That enabled me to breathe a sigh of relief.

Lewis spent more time doing art than talking about it. Perhaps Lewis would have identified with this rather scathing statement from American artist Barnett Newman (1905–1970).

“Aesthetics is for art as ornithology is for the birds.” [4]

Regardless, Lewis, as a Christian, was a connoisseur of the arts and was himself was artistic, though I understand there are two different attitudes about his perspectives on the arts. Either he was a highbrow, elitist according to some, or a lowbrow philistine according to others. In my mind, there may have been room for both. Perhaps this is because he sought to be Christian in his approach. For example, though he valued art and culture, Lewis did not see it as a final good — an end in itself, an idol or a god that could save us.

The excessive elevation of the arts to a religious status was dangerous. “Art for art’s sake” was “balderdash” according to Lewis, though many in the twentieth century, like Friedrich Nietzsche, Wallace Stevens, and John Gardener, however, thought it could save us. Insurance executive and poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) once famously and rather naively said, “After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption.” [5]

That, of course, is a fatal mistake. It amounts to idolatry, as the Apostle Paul states in Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (ESV).

For Lewis, art and culture were second things that must be preceded and domesticated by first things, namely, by and under God, if they are to be meaningful. As he said in an essay in God in the Dock, “You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.” [6]

Similarly in a letter to Dom Bede Griffiths, Lewis wrote, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” [7]

For Lewis, a work of art was always a sub-creation, which I (not Lewis or Tolkien) define as a creative work made under God the creator — a sub-creation — for his glory and human good out of very good things God had already made. God created ex nihilo; we create ex creatio, out of previously existing, created material. As Lewis stated in Letters to Malcomb, “We — even our poets and musicians and inventors — never in the ultimate sense, make. We only build.” [8]

Thus, Lewis did value the creation of culture and art in God the creator; and with this order in mind, let’s take a walk with C. S. Lewis and see what he has to say about the arts and aesthetics specifically. If we were walking with him side by side, say along Addison’s walk under the shade of its beautiful trees, I think he would share at least these five things.

First, the beauty (along with truth and goodness) in art and aesthetics is objective.

That is to say, Lewis did not believe that the way things are, reality as such beauty included (along with truth and goodness), was merely in the eye of the beholder in some sort of poisonous, person-relative, subjective sense. Rather Lewis believed in the existence of an objectively true reality, the way things really are. He called it the Tao — a Chinese word he used to convey the notion of an objective natural law that constituted reality and was spread over everything, beauty included (along with truth and goodness).

Morality is rooted in God and his character. The Ten Commandments reveal His holy character; the ten words also clarify and declare what He expects from us morally. Similarly, beauty is rooted in God and his character. Yet we don’t have ten aesthetic commandments since, apparently, we are to work these out culturally in the working out our aesthetics. We have settled on ideas such as order, balance, proportion, brightness, clarity and so on as essential aesthetic and artistic properties.

Lewis, I think, would agree. For example, he said in The Abolition of Man that true truth or true beauty, and education in true truth and true beauty should enable the student to discern the objectively existing sublimity that exists, say, in a waterfall. Such recognition was not merely the subjective state of the observer, a view in ethics called “emotivism.” Rather, as Lewis stated in The Abolition of Man, “It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” [9] The beauty (along with truth and goodness) that comes through creation can be accepted or rejected, depending on the inner state of the observer. This is seen in the alternative responses of Digory and Polly in comparison with Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, people who respond to Aslan’s creation with two very different kinds of hearts. [10]

It was an empty world when Digory and Polly first arrived, very much like nothing. But then in the chaos, a Voice began to sing in the most sonorous tones imaginable. All at once the blackness overhead was ablaze with stars who joined in on the chorus, though in lesser voices. As the main Voice reached a crescendo, the sun was born, laughing for joy as it arose! In the fresh light of the young sun stood the Lion Aslan — huge, shaggy, and bright as it was singing the new world into being. As his song continued, the valley grew green, trees were born, flowers blossomed, and then, as a stretch of grassy land was bubbling up like water in a pot and swelling into humps, out came the animals great and small.

Then in a solemn moment, there was a flash of fire and Aslan’s fiat: “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters” (116). Aslan then said to them: “Creatures, I give you yourselves. . . . I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself” (118). Thus, the creation of Narnia was then complete.

However, all this looked totally different from Uncle Andrew’s perspective (not to mentioned Queen Jadis, for she also hated it). When Uncle Andrew first heard the Voice, and the stars shone, and the first light of the sun was revealed, Uncle Andrew’s mouth fell open, but not with joy like Digory and Polly. He did not like the Voice.

It was that song of the Lion’s that he detested more than anything else. It made him think and feel things he just did not want to think and feel. So he convinced himself completely that it was nothing but an ugly roar.

He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the Beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, bayings and howlings. And when they laughed—well, you can imagine. That was worse for Uncle Andrew than anything that had happened yet. Such a horrid, bloodthirsty din of hungry and angry brutes he had never heard in his life (126).

But why did Uncle Andrew interpret the founding of Narnia by Aslan’s song in such a dreadful manner? What was it about him that gave him such a different view of this enchanted world? Lewis’s answer was this, right there in the text: “For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” (125)

Unable to see the true, objective, God-given truth, goodness and beauty of things, Uncle Andrew, to use expressions from The Abolition of Man, was simply a trousered ape, and an urban blockhead. And since he also lacked any inward desire or emotion or unction to observe and do the right things, he was, as Lewis also offered in Abolition, a man without a chest.

A trousered ape, by the way, Lewis said was the kind that could only conceive of, say, the Atlantic Ocean as so many million tons of cold salt water.

Artists of various kinds, can fall prey to the same condition as Uncle Andrew: they, too, can be trousered or skirted apes, urban block heads, and chestless human beings who are not really human at all, failing to see and express the glory in things and lacking ordained affections and just sentiments as well. Or artists can stand and see and be like Digory and Polly, and discern and celebrate and express artistically the true objective truth, goodness and beauty in the whole of creation. So, the first thing we learn from Lewis is the objective nature of truth, goodness and beauty in culture and the arts. We must see it, seek it out, capture, and express it.

Second, art and aesthetics can be signposts pointing to God and true joy.

Multiple experiences he remembered, of nature, art, and literature may evoke within him, and us, an experience of intense longing and desire for joy. The Germans, Lewis says, called this longing and desire Sehnsucht, described by Lewis in these words in the preface to the third edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress.

That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of the falling waves? [11]

In Surprised by Joy, Lewis says it …

… is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic… in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. [12]

The interesting thing for Lewis was that the existence of this need communicated as it was through art and this world was not to be confused with art or this world that is, by the means of communication (many sadly do this, however). Rather, art and this world pointed to God as the source and solution of this needed joy. Hear Lewis in perhaps his most famous book, Mere Christianity:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire [like Senhsucht] which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world. [13]

Philosopher Peter Kreeft puts this together in what he calls an argument for God existence from desire, augmented for our aesthetic purposes just a tiny bit by yours truly:

Premise 1: Every natural, innate desire [artistically prompted] in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.

Premise 2: But there exists in us a desire [artistically prompted] which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.

Conclusion: Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire. This something is what people call “God.” [14]

Again, artistic objects and the world itself can easily be confused for the true, heavenly object it points to, namely God. We don’t want to make that mistake. Instead, artistic objects and world may point us to God who can satisfy our desires, the source of true joy. It did for Saint Augustine. “It did for C. S. Lewis.” [15] May art do that for us. May our art do that for others. Point to God and joy thru your art.

Third, art and aesthetics must be incarnational.

If we use Lewis language, we would say the TAO became flesh and dwelt among us. Or to put it more accurate terms biblically and theologically, as the eternal Son of God and second person of the Trinity, the Word or Logos of God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). In other words, Jesus bought a house and “moved into the neighborhood,” as Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14 in The Message. Jesus’s “divinity-in-humanity” or “humanity-in-divinity” is the mystery of the incarnation (1 Tim. 3:16a) and this has all kinds of artistic and aesthetic implications for Lewis.

But first there was a problem for Lewis and the problem was this: many worldwide mythologies speak of God becoming man and of that incarnate god dying and rising again. Why is Christianity or the Christian mythology any different? As you probably know, Lewis was convinced by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson that this mythology had become fact in Christ. As Lewis writes in his essay “Myth Became Fact,”

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. [16]

For Lewis, the incarnation was, indeed, as he called it, “The Grand Miracle,” the central miracle asserted by Christians; it is the chapter on which the whole of God’s story turns; it illuminates all of history and nature. [17]

  • It was the wedding of heaven and earth, the earthy and heavenly together;
  • it meant that God had encountered humanity and humanity had encountered God;
  • it meant that the supernatural and natural met and married;
  • it meant the enchantment or re-enchantment of the world;
  • it meant valuing the mundane;
  • it meant valuing the miraculous;
  • it meant the meeting and valuing of both of the mundane and the miraculous … together.

Hear Lewis on how he pictured the incarnation in these evocative words:

… one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, the up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but, associated with it, all nature, the new universe. [18]

For Lewis, then, the incarnation meant the transformation of human nature and all nature or creation. Both now shimmer with life and glory and this must be depicted artistically. Thus, according to Lewis, all of art and aesthetics must be informed by this “Grand Miracle” of the incarnation. As one writer has said, “The Incarnation was, after all, Lewis’ chief source of inspiration, and he devoted most of his life to letting it work its peculiar magic in his mind and craft.” [19]

It what way did the incarnation of the TAO, of the eternal Word or Logos of God, have artistic and aesthetic repercussions for Lewis? I think it was this: he saw divinely ordained, objective beauty embedded in ordinary things of everyday life. Life was sacred, sacramental, holy. The challenge, for him and us, is to represent this artistically and aesthetically. And almost every page of Lewis’s art of writing does exactly that. So should ours. Like Dawn Water’s skies and trees and in her book, God in my Paint. [20]

For example, in Surprised by Joy, Lewis offers us a phenomenology of books in which he sees “splendor in the ordinary” [21] –

One other thing Arthur [Greeves] taught me was to love the bodies of books. I had always respected them. My brother and I might cut up stepladders without scruple; to have thumb-marked or dog’s-eared a book would have filled us with shame. But Arthur did not merely respect, he was enamored; and soon, I too. The set up of the page, the feel and smell of the paper, the differing sounds that different papers make as you turn the leaves, became sensuous delights. [22]

This valuing of the ordinary reminds me of Francis Schaeffer’s point in Art and the Bible that all creation as God’s creation is thus legitimate subject matter for the artist. Schaeffer states:

Christian art is by no means always religious art, that is, art which deals with religious [biblical] themes. Consider God the Creator. Is God’s creation totally involved with [so-called] religious subjects? What about the universe? the birds? the trees? the mountains? What about the bird’s song? and the sound of the wind in the trees? When God created out of nothing by his spoken word, he did not just create [so-called] “religious” objects. And in the Bible, as we have seen, God commanded the artist, working within God’s own creation, to fashion statutes of oxen and lions and carvings of almond blossoms for the tabernacle and temple. [23]

Schaeffer continues to declared a bit later:

Christian art is the expression of the whole life of the whole person who is a Christian. What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life. Art is not to be solely a vehicle for some sort of self-conscious evangelism. [24]

Remember, then, the incarnation/al. And Lewis would heartily agree. As we continue our walk with him near Magdalene College, Oxford, we hear him offer his next point – number four:

Fourth, art and aesthetics are not just for pragmatic and didactic purposes, Christian or otherwise.

From Lewis’s book An Experiment in Criticism we learn first of all that Lewis believed that true art wasn’t meant to promote an ideological agenda, whether Christian or some other outlook. If we did, we would butcher art as art. Instead, art is meant to enable us to see with other’s eyes, and to experience by way of other’s experience. He writes in Experiment in Criticism about the question of the value and purpose of literature (and by extension, other arts, too):

The nearest I have yet go to an answer [about the question of the value and purpose of literature] is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself. …

To acquiesce in this particularity … would be lunacy. … We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. We are not content to be [windowless] Leibnitzian monads. We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even doors. …

In love we escape from our self into one other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. … The primary impulse of each is to maintain and aggrandize himself. The secondary impulse is to out of the self, to correct its provincialisms and heal its loneliness.

We therefore delight to enter into other men’s beliefs … even though we think them untrue. And into their passions, thought we think them depraved. …This, so far as I can see, is the specific value or good of literature [and other arts] considered as Logos; it admits us to experiences other than our own. [25]

To use art merely to promote a practical or didactic purpose, even a Christian one, would strip the work of art of any aesthetic qualities it may possess and offer, and reduce it, possibly, to a boring anesthetic. Rather, then, our first response to art was to understand it in the sense of standing under it, enjoy it, receive from it, and experience the experience, know the story, see the colors, taste the realities, and enjoy the pleasures it offered. He writes, “The first demand any work of any art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.” [26]

Submitting ourselves to the art-work, therefore, is our primary responsibility. In this same book An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis rejects the idea of only looking for truth in an art-work, by merely probing it for its underlying philosophy or worldview. Hence, he rejects worldview analysis as the exclusive way to approach a work of art, especially fiction.

To value them [works of art] chiefly for reflections which they may suggest to us or morals we may draw from them, is a flagrant instance of “using” instead of receiving. … One of the prime achievements in every good fiction has nothing to do with truth or philosophy or a Weltanschauung at all. [27]

In short, Lewis values literature and the arts apart from their utilitarian purpose. Artistic and aesthetic sensibilities are lost – the powerful imaginative dimensions – if worldview analysis becomes the primary way of approaching art. In other words, we can become myopic, narrow-minded, bigoted, prejudiced, and intolerant. Food and cooking, for example, is more than mere nutrition, and there is more to art and aesthetics than worldview underpinnings. We need flavor!

Though he does not reject worldview analysis entirely (as is made clear in his essay “Christianity and Culture” [28]), he would couple it with other basic artistic and aesthetic concerns and the entertainment, play, fun, and leisure that should accompany good art. In any case, avoid propaganda.

The final point Lewis would make on our walk with him is this one:

Fifth and finally, art and aesthetics can convey Christian themes, but the Christianity within a work of art is best if it is “latent” or indirect.

This was Lewis’s strategy in the creation of his fairy stories, Narnia included. The Christianity within it merely “bubbled up.” He did not, I repeat, did not start by asking himself how he could present the Christian gospel in a way children and others could understand. He did not produce a list of Christian teachings and then developed the idea of presenting them through fairy tales. NO. Rather, he came up with the artistic idea and the Christianity which was in him came through … naturally. That he started with Christianity and then contrived a literary, artistic way to portray it, he says, is “all pure moonshine.”

I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord. It was part of the bubbling. [29]

In advocating art as art with its Christianity latent, his argument is something like this: just as God’s very good creation is God’s very good creation in and of itself and without need of so-called “religious” justification, so we live in an intrinsically good world and we create creatively and imaginatively as something very good in and of itself without need of pragmatic or didactic justification because we are made in the image and likeness of a creative and imaginative Creator. Christian doctors, dentists and coaches shouldn’t neglect or ignore the importance of good medicine, dentistry, or coaching just in order to do evangelism and so on. Such would be a serious misuse, even a prostitution, of their God-given crafts and calling. They should be excellent first and foremost as doctors, dentists, and coaches; the gospel will follow. Indeed, it will “bubble” up.

So it should be with Christian artists: their or your first priority ought to be excellence and delight in the craft itself first and foremost, as a painter, musician, poet, writer, and so on, else the artistic craft suffer misuse and abuse. The kingdom content and implications will then be there … naturally, latent, even if indirect, bubbling up. This would be true if we look at it in reverse. As Lewis writes in his essay on “Christian Apologetics”:

Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books.[30]

I read the New York Times newspaper on Sunday, and often I observe and feel the latent, naturalistic assumptions that are informing just about everyone of its stories and reviews. Now what if Christian assumptions informed the cultural artifacts to which we were regularly exposed? It could create a critical mass. It just might be the best apologetic of all. Hear Lewis on the matter in full:

I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any direct apologetic work…. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted…. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.

In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. [31]

Along these lines, I am reminded of a key notion of J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary. In an essay titled, “Christianity and Culture,” he wrote:

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root. [32]

Indeed, to destroy this obstacle at its root, we best follow Lewis’s advice: create works of art (among other things) based on Christian assumptions, with the Christianity latent. … or bubbling up. This may just be the best apologetic of all. Thus artists who do this just may be the best apologists of all. In a sense, this means a smuggling in of Christianity into the cultural bloodstream and mainstream. Actually, I think this is biblical. The incarnation itself may have been the “Grand Miracle,” but it was not carried out on a grand scale, with pomp and circumstance … a really big show.

Rather, Jesus came to this earth in humility, obscurity, and anonymity. Furthermore, when Jesus would perform a major miracle, he would often follow it up by telling the recipient of the mighty deed to tell no one. See Luke 8:55, for example. Mark 8:30 is another where after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, Jesus commanded his disciples not to tell anyone. It’s known as the Messianic secret. Artists, then, can be God’s smugglers. [33] Thus, you artists, let your Christianity be latent and allow it to “bubble up” … naturally.

What, then, has Lewis shared with us on this walk with him today along Addison’s Walk? Five things total:

  • First, beauty (along with truth and goodness) in art and aesthetics is objective.
  • Second, art and aesthetics can be signposts pointing to God and true joy.
  • Third, art and aesthetics must be incarnational.
  • Fourth, art and aesthetics are not just for pragmatic and didactic purposes, Christian or otherwise.
  • Fifth, art and aesthetics can convey Christian themes, but the Christianity within a work of art is best if it is “latent” or indirect.

Hence, I say to you as an artist in your art …

1. Affirm the transcendent objectivity of beauty (and truth and goodness).
2. Point to God and joy in and through your art.
3. Remember the incarnation/al (and its many implications)
4. Avoid propaganda.
5. Smuggle. Be latent. Let your faith bubble up in your work.

May the Holy Ghost, and the ghost of C. S. Lewis, haunt your work as an artist as your work is informed by Christian faith.

Dr. David K. Naugle is chair and professor of philosophy at Dallas Baptist University where he has worked for 21 years in both administrative and academic capacities. He earned a Th.D. in systematic theology, and a Ph.D. in humanities with concentrations in philosophy and English literature. Dr. Naugle is the author of Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans 2002), which was selected by Christianity Today magazine as the 2003 book of the year in the theology and ethics. He is on the “Creative Council” (Board) of Art House, Dallas – http://www.arthouseamerica.com/dallas-home/ and has a forthcoming volume titled Philosophy: A Student’s Guide due out Sept. 2012 (Crossway).



[1] With a hat tip to Charlie W. Starr and his essay “Aesthetics vs. Anesthesia: C. S. Lewis on the Purpose of Art,” available at: http://library.taylor.edu/dotAsset/e0530ce0-be3c-4980-ba6a-c3ed39e810b3.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2012.

[2] From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley. Accessed May 23, 2012.

[3] Peter Kreeft, Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1982). The book is described at the Amazon website in the following words: “On November 22, 1963, three great men died within a few hours of each other: C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley. All three believed, in different ways,

that death is not the end of human life. Suppose they were right, and suppose they met after death. How might the conversation go? Peter Kreeft imagines their discourse as a modern Socratic dialog–a part of The Great Conversation that has been going on for centuries. Does human life have meaning? Is it possible to know about life after death? What if one could prove that Jesus was God? Combining logical argument and literary imagination, Kreeft portrays Lewis as a Christian theist, Kennedy as a modern humanist and Huxley as an Eastern pantheist. Their interaction involves not only good thinking but good drama.”

[4] Barnett Newman, quoted by Arthur C. Danto in The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, (Peru, IL: Carus Publishing Company/Open Court Publishing, 2003), 1.

[5] Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, ed. Milton J. Bates (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), p. 185

[6] C. S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 280.

[7] April 23, 1951, cited at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/07/28/the-first-things-first-principle/. Accessed May 15, 2012.

[8] C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcomb: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1963/1964), p. 73.

[9] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2001, originally 1944, 1947), p. 18.

[10] The following summary is abbreviated from my own book Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 1-3. Page numbers in parentheses are from C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, with pictures adapted from illustrations by Pauline Baynes (New York: Collier Books/Macmillan Publishing Company, 1970, 1955).

[11] C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958, originally, 1933, 1943), pp. 9-10. For a discussion of the notion of Sehnsucht in C. S. Lewis, see Corbin Scott Carnell, Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C. S. Lewis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974).

[12] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, A Harcourt Brace Modern Classic (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1955), pp. 15-16.

[13] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958), p. 106.

[14] Peter Kreeft and Ronald T. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), pp. 78-81. This material is also online at: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/desire.htm. Accessed May 15, 2012.

[15] From Charlie W. Starr, “Aesthetics vs. Anesthesia: C. S. Lewis on the Purpose of Art.” Available at: http://library.taylor.edu/dotAsset/e0530ce0-be3c-4980-ba6a-c3ed39e810b3.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2012.

[16] C. S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 66-67.

[17] See C. S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 80-88; and Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1947), chapter fourteen.

[18] C. S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed., Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 82.

[19] Philip Harrold, “Smuggling for God: What the Emerging Church Movement Can Learn from C. S. Lewis’ Incarnational Aesthetic,” Available at: http://www.cslewis.org/journal/smuggling-for-god-what-the-emerging-church-movement-can-learn-from-c-s-lewis’-incarnational-aesthetic/2/. Accessed May 15, 2012.

[20] Dawn Waters Baker, God in My Paint: Little Truths I’ve Learned While Painting (Blurb.com, 2011).

[21] Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (W Publishing Group, Thomas Nelson, 1998, 2003), p. 185

[22] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, A Harcourt Brace Modern Classic (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1955), p. 158 (emphasis added).

[23] Francis A. Schaeffer, Art and the Bible: Two Essays, rev. ed., foreword Michael Card (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), p. 88.

[24] Schaeffer, Art and the Bible, p. 90.

[25] C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, Canto edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961, Canto edition 1992), p. 137-38, 139.

[26] Lewis, An Experiment, p. 19.

[27] Lewis, An Experiment, pp. 82-83.

[28] C. S. Lewis, “Christianity and Culture,” in Christian Reflections, ed., Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), pp. 28-29. Here is the thought I am to which I am referring: “the real beliefs may differ from the professed and may lurk in the turn of a phrase or the choice of an epithet; with the result that many preferences which seem to the ignorant to be simply “matters of taste” are visible to the trained critic as choices between good and evil, or truth and error. And I fully admit that this important point had been neglected in my essay of March, 1940. Now that it has been made, I heartily accept it. I think this is agreement.”

[29] C. S. Lewis, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said,” in On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, ed., Walter Hooper (New York: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1966/1982), p. 46.

[30] C. S. Lewis, “Christian Apologetics,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed., Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 93 (emphasis added).

[31] C. S. Lewis, “Christian Apologetics,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed., Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 93 (emphasis added).

[32] J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” The Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913): 7.

[33] See Philip Harold, “Smuggling for God: What the Emerging Church Movement Can Learn from C. S. Lewis’ Incarnational Aesthetic,” available at: http://www.cslewis.org/journal/smuggling-for-god-what-the-emerging-church-movement-can-learn-from-c-s-lewis’-incarnational-aesthetic/. Accessed May 23, 2012.

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