Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life: Part Eleven

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Ben: One of the upshots for me of reading your engaging book is that it confirms that I am a literary dinosaur fixated on close reading of primary sources, and a man of Renaissance reading habits, since I underline and star etc. real books still with regularity, including yours. I am wondering what you think Lewis would say to our Internet surfing and Googling students of theology were he asked to comment on this increasingly ubiquitous phenomena even in seminaries and doctoral programs? Have our post-modern students lost the art of good reading and researching?

Alister: I fear so, although I hope not. Lewis was very good at absorbing the deep structure of the works he read, which enabled him to lecture on them with remarkably insight and clarity. My concern is that many of my students know snippets from texts, but don’t know those in their proper context, or have a good sense of the structure and flow of the arguments or plots of major works – such as Athanasius’s treatise on the incarnation, or Augustine’s Confessions (to mention just two works that Lewis liked). There’s also the issue of serendipity. What I mean by that is that you’re reading a book to find out about a certain point, and you come across something interesting that is unexpected, and leads you into all kinds of interesting places. That happens to me a lot, and it depends on being willing to read books in their entirety! But that just shows that, like you, I am a dinosaur who has been around for too long.

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