Class aims to put writings of C.S. Lewis in context

Tabor College is offering a weekly course this fall about the life and writings of C. S. Lewis, literary scholar and award-winning 20th-century author.

Lewis, an atheist from boyhood through his early adult life, embraced Christianity in his early 30s and became an articulate apologetist of the faith.

The class begins Sept. 3.

“I have a deep personal interest in C. S. Lewis,” said Douglas Miller, associate professor of biblical and religious studies, who teaches the course. “I’ve visited his boyhood home in Northern Ireland and the cemetery in England where he’s buried.”

Miller himself has taken an undergraduate class and a seminary course about Lewis. He said he first taught the course at Tabor during the spring semester of 1998, and a second time during fall 1999.

“The course originally was offered as a topics course,” he said. “Now it’s listed in the catalog and taught alternate years.”

Miller said he gears his class to students who may have variety of experiences with Lewis’s writings. In past years, some students had read Lewis extensively, while others had minimal experience.

During the semester, Miller plans to cover about a dozen books written by Lewis. The reading list includes Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and several books from the Chronicles of Narnia, a series written for children.

Miller also plans to include a section of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, a contemporary of Lewis. Both were members of the Inklings, an Oxford literary group that met for about 15 years.

Students in the class should plan on reading about a book a week. The format will include discussions about the assigned readings and input from Miller about the works and the context in which Lewis was writing.

“I’ll put the particular reading into the bigger context of Lewis’s writing as a whole, Christian theology and literary studies,” Miller said.

Carol Dick of Hillsboro audited the class two years ago. She said her son Chris, who teaches English at Tabor, encouraged her to take the class.

Before joining the class, Dick said the only Lewis works she had read were books in the Narnia series.

“I really enjoyed the class,” Dick said. “Even though I had read very little of C. S. Lewis before taking the class, I didn’t find (the amount of reading) to be overwhelming.”

Randy Claassen, also of Hillsboro, audited the class the same year as Dick. He said he decided to take the class because he originally had intended to read several books on the reading list.

“I loved the class,” Claassen said. “The teaching offered new insight I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

He said Miller conducted the class in a way that encouraged conversation about the readings.

Claassen particularly enjoyed studying Mere Christianity.

“It’s a work that uses logic to arrive at Christianity rather than starting with the Bible,” he said.

Both Dick and Claassen said the biographic information about Lewis’s life enhanced their understanding about the books themselves.

As part of the biographic aspect of the course, the class will be viewing “Shadowlands,” a BBC TV play about Lewis’s relationship and marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham and produced in the mid-1980s.

Miller said his minimum expectation for those auditing the class are “to read the materials and come prepared to talk about them.”

Miller will begin the semester with the first book in the Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

“Students taking the class should come the first night having that book read,” he said.

The class will meet Monday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. in the Solomon L. Loewen Natural Science Center. The cost per hour is $30 to audit, $176 for continuing education credit and $264 for credit.

For more information, contact or 947-3121, ext. 1077. To enroll, call the Registar’s Office at 620-947-3121, ext. 1044.

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