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Lewis Agonistes: How C.S. Lewis Can Train Us to Wrestle with the Modern and Postmodern World Paperback – September 1, 2003
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Chapter 1 offers an accessible biographical account of Lewis that highlights the key personal and intellectual influences in his life. At less than 30 pages, it is the finest short overview of Lewis's life that I have ever read. Chapter 2 shows how Lewis's thought can assist Christians in critically assessing the worldview of modern philosophy and science, particularly its naturalist assumptions and anti-supernaturalist biases. In the process he gives Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud a run for their money, effectively unpacking Lewis's conviction that there are at four features of human existence that could not have evolved in a purely naturalist or materialist fashion: "joy," morality, rationality, religion. Chapter 3 does the same thing with respect to new-age paganism, in a bracing analysis of the retrieval of the medieval worldview that Lewis achieved in THE DISCARDED IMAGE. Chapter 4 takes up the problem of evil, in an instructive study of THE PROBLEM OF PAIN that focuses on "God's Free-Will Experiment" and in a sensitive treament of Lewis's deeply personal A GRIEF OBSERVED. Chapter 5 confronts the arts and deconstructionism. In a section titled "The Death of Language" Markos gets around to one of the few truly POSTmodern (as opposed to modern) movements covered in the book: the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida. He also deals with the metaphysical status of the arts, in a theological meditation titled "The Aesthetics of the Incarnation" and follows it up with a look at Lewis's imaginative fiction as the work of a "sub-creator." Chapter 6 brings the volume to a close, fittingly enough, with a discussion of heaven and hell that explores "the psychology of sin" that Lewis unfolds in THE GREAT DIVORCE.
In every chapter, Markos gives readers incisive summaries, generous quotations, and thoughtful analyses of the full range of works in the Lewis canon--his apologetic nonfiction (MERE CHRISTIANITY, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, and MIRACLES), his overtly religious fiction (THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS and THE GREAT DIVORCE), and his imaginative fiction (the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, the PERELANDRA space trilogy, and TILL WE HAVE FACES).
If there is anything that Markos could do to improve this book, it would be to write a sequel that delves deeper into current developments in science (e.g., recent trends in cosmology and quantum physics; the intelligent design movement; and the theistic evolutionism of scientists who accept and even celebrate evolution from a Christian perspective). In a sequel, Markos might also look more intently at recent developments in philosophy (esp. epistemology), linguistics, and other disciplines. My sense is that even though C. S. Lewis was engaging modernism (Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud), his work has implications for critiquing more recent developments in postmodernism.
What most impresses me about LEWIS AGONISTES is that, although Prof. Markos is obviously a committed evangelical Christian, he writes as a Christian humanist who values science, philosophy, literature, the arts, and other aspects of culture. His ultimate aim is to get believers to engage these disciplines as thinking Christians, on the conviction that all truth is God's truth and that creation (including culture) is fundamentally good but fallen and in need of God's redemption in Jesus Christ. He encourages not a world-denying or other-worldly brand of Christian piety or spirituality but a faith that is committed to God's renewal of THIS world as His creation. Like Lewis, Markos makes Christianity attractive--not only spiritually meaningful but intellectually fulfilling and exciting.
This book would lend itself well to classroom use or small-group study. Its relative brevity (174 pages) and approachable style commend it. In fact, I plan on adopting it as THE collateral text in a course on C. S. Lewis.
Louis has produced a book that is worthy of Lewis, and he deserves the gratitude of thoughtful Christians everywhere.
Peter Jaensch from Dresden, Germany
This book is a great tool for organizing and understanding the prevalent ideologies that tend to sweep us away in this tumultuous era. Further, it is a hub from which we can explore the immense depths of what C.S. Lewis can teach us about our times, and our timelessness.