UTPB lecturer to offer study on Lewis

A longtime affinity for C.S. Lewis has led University of Texas Permian Basin English lecturer Clark Moreland to offer a 14-week study of the author and his writings.

Called “The Cross before the Crown: An Introduction to the Practical Theology of C.S. Lewis,” the studies will be held each Wednesday night starting Jan. 12 at First Baptist Church, 2104 W. Louisiana Ave. in Midland. Times are 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

There will be 12 meetings through April 13 with a week off for spring break and Midland ISD intercession. Forgiveness, friendship, heaven, love and many other topics will be covered.

Activities will include discussions and producing a short piece of personal reflective writing at the end of the course. Coffee and snacks will be provided at each meeting.

Moreland, who is also director of the Heimmermann Center for Engaged Teaching, started reading Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia as a youngster.

In college, he picked up one of Lewis’ apologetics books called The Problem of Pain. Moreland said it covers the central problem of how God can be benevolent, but at the same time, allow for human suffering.

“… I read that and then I started reading everything else he wrote. It took me 10 years, but I think I’ve read everything. I found in Lewis a model of an academic who could balance my faith and my convictions with my intellectual quest,” Moreland said.

Lewis (born Nov. 29, 1898, Belfast, Ireland, now Northern Ireland; died Nov. 22, 1963, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England). Raised in the Anglican Church, Lewis became an atheist in his 20s, but returned to Christianity in his 30s, the Britannica website said.

For Moreland, and a lot of Christian academics around the world, Lewis became a model. He also is talked about by local clergy in their messages.

“… I just really enjoyed reading his work, and then I discovered his scholarship. … He was a really prolific writer; he wrote a lot. (JRR) Tolkien made fun of him for writing so much. … He would write three or four books a year … and they’re all wonderful. They’re classics. In 1942, he wrote The Screwtape Letters, and he wrote Perelandra. The next year, he wrote The Great Divorce; he wrote The Abolition of Man and he wrote his … study Paradise Lost. He did it all in one year and this was in the middle of World War II. On the weekends, he was one of the Oxford Home Guard representatives because he had fought in World War I and he was in the middle of the war, and so he and another guy would go out in the middle of the night on a Saturday night and just walk around the town to make sure that there weren’t any bombers coming in or the Blitzkrieg. … He was teaching and doing all the other things he did, and he was really prolific in the midst of this awful period in their history. … Meanwhile, his best friend JRR Tolkien, was trying to finish up the Lord of the Rings. It took him forever because all he wanted to do was write Hobbit talk. … Lewis was the one who was pushing him and telling him keep writing, keep going. And yet Tolkien was always like you’re writing too much you need to slow down and be more careful. … He wrote a lot and about 10 years, but I think I’ve read everything he wrote …,” Moreland said.

This includes Lewis’ letters, fiction, novels, apologetics, literary criticism and poetry. Moreland said Lewis was a “masterful poet.”

Academics, Moreland said, have periods in their lives where they focus on certain topics or authors. For Moreland, it was Martin Luther King Jr. and C.S. Lewis.

“… I’ll be studying them for the rest of my life …,” Morleand said.

He added that he’s been talking about King for years at UTPB and published scholarship on him.

“But I’ve never done anything on Lewis, like a study of Lewis here. He seeps into everything I do as a teacher here. … When I’m teaching writing, I quote Lewis; his thoughts on originality and composition … He was an English tutor at Oxford. He was a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge. He was an academic. … He was a writing teacher. He worked with students all the time. Whenever I talk about teaching pedagogy, I bring in Lewis’ thoughts about that. And of course, when we’re talking about literature, particularly the literature that Lewis read and wrote about, I’ll quote him, but I’ve never taught this class here … and I’ve been eager to do that,” Moreland said.

He didn’t have an avenue for doing the class at UTPB.

“And then I remembered that there’s a book of Lewis’s sermons and speeches, mostly from World War II, called The Weight of Glory. … That title is actually the title of his most famous sermon. But there’s all sorts of other pieces in that little collection … which cover a variety of different topics on life as a Christian. So I began thinking, this could be a study,” Moreland said.

He thought it could be offered “cafeteria style” with different topics every week so people could pick and choose.

It would be a way for people to learn how to read Lewis and the works Moreland has chosen are fairly accessible, he said.

Moreland said Lewis was a genius with a photographic memory and could sometimes be hard to understand so reading him is an “acquired art.”

He said Lewis talks about how important it is to read old works because they are “not trapped in our own cultural and historical sort of assumptions like what we think the world is. They thought a different way.”

Moreland added that every discipline teaches you how to read, so he thought he could offer that at his church as a way to engage people and enjoy getting to share Lewis and “kind of crack open Lewis and show these great treasures that are there to get them past that initial … stage of fear.”

“That’s what I’m going to try to do,” he added.