To many American readers, it probably doesn't seem strange that a British Christian leader would write a book about C.S. Lewis's Narnia. But as former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams himself notes, Lewis's children's stories have always been more popular in America than in Britain, especially among intellectual elites. Williams has published several significant volumes of theology and poetry, but earlier this year he released a relatively slim volume on how the Narnia books can reinvigorate readers' understanding of the Christian message. While working as CT's editorial resident, Melissa Steffan interviewed Williams as she reported a separate story on new interest in Lewis in the UK. (Meanwhile, the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College is today hosting a conference on why Lewis has had more influence in the U.S. than in his own country. Audio will be available shortly.)
Why write one more book on Lewis and Narnia?
The book began with three lectures in Canterbury while I was archbishop, trying to explain what I thought was going on in the Narnia books and what the main themes were. I wanted to emphasize two things.
First, the Narnia books were mostly designed to give you a feeling for what it's like to be a Christian—not to make an argument or create an allegory, but to give a sense of what it's like to respond in faith to Christ, what it's like to be in a world where all your understanding is decisively shaped by that faith. Second, I take up a theme that comes up many times in the books, which is that we learn from our relationship with God to identify much more accurately how dishonest we are with ourselves about ourselves. Quite often you come back to the theme of stripping away the comforting story we ...1