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The original cover of Spirits in Bondage.

Perhaps, when you are unsure of where to start, the best answer is “somewhere” over “nowhere.”  I hope to pick back up with my previous post stream when I can, but I would rather work on something Lewis related than let the blog languish again.

To that end, I picked up a copy of Spirits in Bondage, which is Lewis’s first attempt at fame.  It is, rather obviously, a book of poetry and Lewis hoped that it would be the vehicle that launched him to lyrical glory and fame.  He had written most of the  poems in his spare time while working with William Kirkpatrick (the “Great Knock”, on whom he later based the character of Professor Kirke) and in the army during World War I.  It was initially published under the pseudonym “Clive Hamilton” by William Heinemann in 1919.   This book differs greatly in tone and style from the later works that we know better.

It is important to remember that it was composed while Lewis was an atheist, and it doesn’t take much to figure out Lewis’s views.  In fact, he doesn’t so much as wear his atheism on his sleeve as pick it up and slaps you in the face with it.  He is fascinated with Milton and the characterization of Satan held therein.  Consider the following verses directed at God from “XII De Profundis”:

Yet I will not bow down to thee not love thee,
For looking in my own heart I can prove thee,
And know this frail, bruised being is above thee.

Our love, our hope, our thirsting for the right,
Our mercy and long seeking of the light,
Shall we change these for they relentless might?

Laugh then and slay.  Shatter all things of worth,
Heap torment still on torment for thy mirth-
Thou art not Lord while there are Men on earth.

I’ll have more to say on these later, but I want to finish the book first.  (So far, I’m about halfway through.)  In general, I am very underwhelmed, which is a strange thing to hear me say about Lewis.  My disinterest isn’t due to his atheism at all as it is his tone and composure.  Frankly, his flailing against God seems hollow–very like the petty tantrum of a spoiled child.  Perhaps others will find him more profound and I am simply a barbarian who cannot appreciate good poetry, but to me he has the same tone as any insecure religious believer who thinks that he or she can me more sure of his or her own faith by shouting at others over theirs.

Historically, the book was not a success and it did not secure Lewis a place as one of England or Ireland’s foremost poets.  I begin to see why….

P.S. Spirits in Bondage is the first of Lewis’s works to enter the public domain.  You can pick it up for free in various places, including the Kindle store.  Here is the link to the book from Project Gutenberg.

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Well, many moons after I intended to return to this blog, I am finally back at it.  This is a difficult to pick back up.  My workload is no lighter than it was before, and my studies here had previously been so detailed and specific that, frankly, it is no mean thing to figure out how I’m supposed to get up to speed and continue from where I left off.

Perhaps the decision to keep blogging here is mostly bravado, but I will dare it.  My workload was just today doubled again after having already been more than was practical.  I suppose this is my stubborn streak.  I feel that Lewis is important not only in his own right but as an influence desperately needed in a Christian church that is rapidly spiraling down into further absurdity, becoming in many cases the stereotype the world has tried to make of it.  There is so much to learn, so much that we, as a body of believers, have forgotten about what it means to be thinking Christians that we all must make a start somewhere.

I may not be able to do much–even a post a week will be difficult–and no one may read it, but I will do what I can, by the Lion’s mane!  I claim to be a “teacher,” an “associate professor of history.”  But I will sit at the feet of Lewis, a far greater teacher than I, and I will learn what I may from him.  If I can pass along a crumb of what he received from the Teacher, then I think my effort will be justified.

And now a gallop.  The ground between the two armies grew less every moment.  Faster, faster.  All swords out now, all shields up to the nose, all prayers said, all teeth clenched.  Shasta was dreadfully frightened, but it suddenly came into his head “if you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life.  Now or never.”

–Shasta in The Horse and His Boy

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I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.

–C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock

Here, Lewis is hitting on one of the very significant mistakes that people make when it comes to religion in general and Christianity in particular.  (He had a knack for that sort of thing.)  Since the rise of theological liberalism in the 19th century, there has been an over-emphasis on the comforting aspects of the faith to the detriment of Christianity as a whole.  This results in the idea of religion as a “crutch” to help us limp through a hard world we fear to face.   That has been reinforced in recent years by the wave of affluence we’ve experienced in the western world since the end of World War II.  Today, no one wants to accept a religion that has hard things to say about them or the way they live their lives.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your position), the Truth of Christianity is far harder than the world around us.  It shows us things about ourselves that no one wants to admit–after all, a real relationship with Christ begins with a knowledge of our own sin and with the admission that “we’re not all OK, myself least of all.”  That is precisely the converse of the message being broadcast by the modern world.  In reality, religion–Christianity–is not simply an easy expedient adopted by the weak to protect themselves from harsh naturalism.  It is the acceptance of the even harder path that leads the weak to become strong through Him.

Christianity isn’t a warm, fuzzy blanket that we wrap ourselves in when we feel the cold of the universe.  It is far more than a get-out-of-Hell-free card.  It is the Universal Sovereign’s attempt to set us back to rights after we have so thoroughly injured ourselves and His creation that He would be justified in simply doing away with it all.  The Truth of Christianity restores us to proper balance with Himself and with His creation as a whole.  That affects our entire life in different ways, some comforting, some hard, but all good.

Just try to balance all that on a simple crutch!

__________

 Interested in more about writing and reading from a Christian perspective?  Check out While We’re Paused–the official blog of Lantern Hollow Press.

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