After Lunch, followed the second part of the session, which was opened by Dr. Laura Carmen Cuțitaru, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Linguistics, at the English Department of the University in an essay called “ From C.S.Lewis’s Joy to Nicolae Steinhardt’s Happiness. This was also a confession on how Mrs. Cuțitaru became a Christian after reading Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” and Steinhardt’s “Jurnalul Fericirii” [read about Steinhardt here].
The concept of joy is not new for Christianity but for the Orthodox Christians it means something else, a feeling that accompanies the faithful. Haydn was questioned on why was his music joyful and not ceremonial. “Because whenever I think of God, I’m joyful”.
Professor of English and American Literature and culture at the University of Paderborn, Germany, Till Kinzel gave a lecture on “ The Contemporary Significance of C.S. Lewis as a Literary Scholar”, a very academic, intellectual lecture that met the needs of many people present.
Different from the other teachers at Oxford, that taught in much detail, C.S.Lewis approached things in a more appealing way , because he saw the bigger picture. “If I cannot get out of the dungeon I might try to look behind the bars, it’s better than sitting in a corner on a haystack. At least, this way, I can see something…” –C.S. Lewis
After the coffee break,Michael Ward had his second session, in which he tackled the subject of “The Imagination and Reason in Lewis’s Christian Apologetics”.
Surely, Lewis was the most successful Christian apologetic* that our days has seen. In the 1930’es the Christianity that Lewis presented was with imaginative approach and reason. Reason can only be used if there is reasonable material to talk about. So he used imagination. Yes, imagination can be a slippery term, but according to Lewis, imagination is the organ of meaning. This definition appears published for the first time in 1939 in a very important but much overlooked essay called “Bluspels & Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare”.Its main concern is how the metaphors are created and used and what is the opposite of meaning? Is it error? No. It is not. The opposite of meaning is not error, but nonsense. In order to see if something has been rightly judged to be meaningful, we need to see if it is true or false ( ex: Why is someone lying to me?-even a lie must have a meaning ). Only the nonsensical things mean nothing.
Reason is the natural organ of truth(allowing room for Supernatural). Imagination is the organ of meaning and meaning itself is the antecedent condition of both truth and falsehood. Reason can operate without imagination but if you take it away, reason is just floating there and cannot work on its own. Take reason away and imagination will stay there where it was, but it’s now free from having reason report its findings to any higher cost. It’s unrelated to rational supervision. In Lewis’s terminology, this sort of imagination is what we call the imaginary.
Lewis’s own imagination was “baptised” when he became a believer, awakening his capacity for appreciating holiness and sanctification.It was through imagination that his reason and will was transformed. HE became a Christian after a long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien on “Christianity, metaphor and myth”. For him, it wasn’t a difficulty in believing but a difficulty in what Christian doctrine** meant. The primary language that Christians believe in is historical, living.Doctrine is a product of an analytical dissection, they’re not as meaningful but thinned down, so that you can put them in a column. The lived narrative of Christianity was the primary idea of true Christianity.
Christianity is a true myth (God’s myth) whereas mythology is man’s myth.
C.S.Lewis found in the pagan myth what Jesus said you can see in the stories of the Old Testament.Thus, he passed over from being almost certain that Christianity is true, to being certain (after talking to Dyson and Tolkien).
Reason cannot operate without imagination.
As a boy, Lewis was told that Christianity was 100% correct while mythology was 100% wrong. Once he became a Christian he understood that we should not be ashamed of the presence of mythology.Paganism should be there as a flicker, because God is the Lord of Light.
Divine wisdom spoke not only on the Mount of Olives but also on Mount Parnassus. Paul quotes the Greek god Zeus when he says that “we are his offspring” [“We are his offspring” Acts 17:28 A poem in which Aratus gives an overview of the origins of the stars.] Rather than saying “you are 100% wrong” he says “you are partly right” meeting the men of Athens where they are. He doesn’t denigrate nor diminish their incomplete theology. “You’ve got something here, but there is more to it”. Paul meets them where they are.Where else can they be met?
Respect (look back at) for paganism is the proper way to approach it. Reason depends (cannot work without) on imagination. C.S.Lewis communicates the heart of his faith through the Chronicles of Narnia, using words that not only tell a story but are resonant. He didn’t want to turn pagan myths into cold prose.
Reason can’t work without imagination but imagination can work without reason. The myths are too imaginary and not so imaginative.
Imagination is the most vulnerable and it serves reason and together serve the will. The will itself can be turned and converted when the realm of apologetics is annulled and we can go into the Evangelical realm- the Word of God.
The session ended and we then had panel discussion where we could ask questions to Michael Ward, Till Kinzel, Dănuț Mănăstireanu, Mrs. Laura Cuțitaru and Rodica Albu. This was the end of the symposium, but not yet the end of the evening.
It was a great honour to attend to a concert at the Arts University played by tenor Ruben Mureșan, Ken Tucker(piano) and Luminița Ciobanu (viola) in “Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola and Piano” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
After the concert, those who missed the Evening with C.S. Lewis by the Searchlight Theatre Company in the previous night, could attend to it now.
To conclude, this symposium was a feast for the mind and soul that I really enjoyed! Many thanks to those who organised it [ see here ] and looking forward to next years event . I hear it is very promising.
*Apologetics= a reasoned defence
**Doctrine= translations into our concepts and ideas of something that God already said.