Mathew Block asks me to give an example of imaginative apologetics. So I talk about how this is what C. S. Lewis is doing, in addition to his rational apologetics.
CL: Can you give us a practical example of how imaginative apologetics has been done before?
C.S. Lewis is a great example. He’s mainly known in the 20th century for making a rational case for Christianity. Even so, his writing is filled with description, filled with analogy, filled with an excitement that connects with people and awakens in them the desire to pay attention to and respond to his more rational apologetics.
But Lewis not only wrote books like Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain; he also wrote works of fantasy: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Until we Have Faces, and so on. These are works of the imagination; they appeal to the imagination as all novels do. But they also have an apologetic effect too. These works of fiction have played a role in helping many people understand the Gospel.
Lewis converted to Christianity later in life. But as he himself notes, his father took him to church and he went through Sunday School as a child. He wonders as a result why he didn’t see how mind-blowing and wonderful Christianity is when he was first taught it. Part of the problem, he says, is that it wasn’t taught in a way that addressed the imagination. He marvels how it is possible to make the story of God-becoming-flesh and dying for sinful man so boring. But that’s how it was presented to him as a youth. It took him much later to embrace Christianity.
C.S. Lewis wonders why he didn’t see how mind-blowing and wonderful Christianity is when he was first taught it as a child. Part of the problem, he says, is that it wasn’t taught in a way that addressed the imagination. He marvels how it is possible to make the story of God-becoming-flesh and dying for sinful man so boring. But that’s how it was presented to him as a youth.
For this reason, Lewis says that part of his goal in writing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is to present Christian truths through an imaginary world, in the hopes they will steal past the ‘watchful dragons’ of the mind which try to keep out these truths. In this book, Lewis writes about an imaginary world of talking animals where, to save talking animals, God becomes a talking animal. He writes about a Lion who becomes a substitute for a rotten little kid (Edmund) and dies in his place. But the Stone Table breaks and He rises from the dead. He defeats the Witch who has made everything frozen and cold. He’s portraying the Gospel in unfamiliar terms so that it comes as fresh and appeals to the imagination. But at the same time, he’s nevertheless still pointing to the actual Gospel in real life. It’s a great example of imaginative apologetics. Lewis was a master of both rational and imaginative apologetics, and made them work together.