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Deep magic, dragons & talking mice

By Alister McGrath
October 2014 | Review by Andrew Wheeler
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • ISBN: 978-1-444-75030-0
  • Pages: 208
  • Price: 14.99
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Deep magic, dragons & talking mice

Alister McGrath
Hodder & Stoughton
208 pages, £14.99
ISBN: 978-1-444-75030-0
Star Rating: 4

This book engages with C. S. Lewis’ thinking. It has chapters on the meaning of life, friendship, Narnia and stories, Aslan and the Christian life, apologetics, education, suffering and heaven.

The eight-theme format was suggested by the eight-week terms of Oxford and Cambridge, where Lewis taught, and McGrath likewise at Oxford. McGrath imagines meeting Lewis once a week for a term, each encounter covering a different, broad theme (a device flagged up by the book’s American title, If I had lunch with C. S. Lewis). However, it is not a book of imaginary conversations. His representations of Lewis’ ideas are well referenced.

The ‘imaginary meeting’ device may occasionally intrude for some, for example with statements like, ‘Lewis felt very strongly about this. He might have hammered our lunch table with his fists in frustration’ (p.110). But the engagement with Lewis’ thought is the main thing.

McGrath has reflected on Lewis’ work for many years; he published a major biography of him last year. He is well equipped to engage with Lewis at a deep level, uncovering some of the undergirding in different areas of Lewis’ thought — areas which, superficially, might seem unrelated.

A case in point is Lewis’ view of the imagination. McGrath shows how Lewis twinned imagination and reason. Here’s a taster from chapter five: ‘Perhaps … apologetics is at its best when it makes people wish that Christianity were true — by showing them its power to excite the imagination, to make sense of things and to bring stability, security and meaning to life’ (pp. 98-9).

McGrath makes clear in the preface that he isn’t writing because Lewis is always right, but because we will profit from engaging with him. He generally writes clearly, though perhaps a little long-windedly at times. Occasionally the theology suggests a troubling laxity (e.g. ‘we, as sinners, tend to rebel against God’, p.139), but these are not the main focus of the book.

This should prove stimulating to those who have known and loved Lewis for years and to those new to him.

Andrew Wheeler

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