posted February 18, 2008

Book Views Teaching in Lewis’s Christian Writings

 With the live-action, big-budget film "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" scheduled for release on Friday, May 16, a Hope College professor's book offers insights building on a key scene in "Prince Caspian," from C. S. Lewis's famous fantasy series.

Dr. Peter Schakel of the Hope English faculty is the author of "Is Your Lord Large Enough? How C. S. Lewis Expands Our View of God," published recently by InterVarsity Press of Downers Grove, Ill. The book began with a Hope College chapel talk in 2001 and was extended and refined in a number of Senior Seminar courses at the college.

In "Prince Caspian," Aslan, the great Lion and Christ figure, says to the young girl Lucy, "Every year you grow you will find me bigger." Schakel's book uses that sentence as the starting point for an examination of how Lewis's writings provide help for readers seeking growth in their Christian lives through an expanding, deepening understanding of God.

The book stresses Lewis's role as a teacher in his Christian writings. Lewis is often praised as the most important Christian apologist - defender of the faith - of the 20th century. But Schakel argues that equally important in his Christian writings, he was a teacher, always seeking to help believers deepen their Christian formation and broaden their vision of God and the Christian faith.

In 12 chapters covering such areas of potential struggle as prayer, suffering, doubt and love, the book draws principles from Lewis's nonfiction works and shows how the subjects are explored also in the Chronicles of Narnia and his adult fiction.

The book is designed both for personal reading and for group discussions, with reflection questions concluding each chapter. Chapters on Lewis's life and his thought conclude the book.

"My motivation in writing this book was to pass on to others some of what I have found particularly helpful and valuable in what I have learned from Lewis," Schakel said.

"Publishers Weekly" has said that "Is Your Lord Large Enough?" is "A valuable summary of Lewis's thoughts on Christian living. Readers new to Lewis will find the book approachable, and longtime fans will find something new or be reminded of passages they love." Author and critic Marjorie Lamp Mead has praised the book as "an excellent overview of various ways that C. S. Lewis employs images--in both his fiction and nonfiction--to illuminate theological matters... an engaging work on aspects of Lewis's religious thought which is at once both instructive and devotional in nature."

A member of the faculty since 1969, Schakel began reading Lewis's works in the early 1970s as a Hope professor, and began teaching them in a freshman composition course that he taught in 1974. He has taught courses on Lewis regularly since then. He is the author of four books on Lewis's fiction, most recently "The Way into Narnia" (Eerdmans, 2005).

"Is Your Lord Large Enough?" is available at the Hope-Geneva Bookstore located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center and at other local bookstores.