Two New C.S. Lewis Books – Review
“Countless people who are caught off guard, children especially, fall in love with Aslan and they often say ‘I love Aslan more than Jesus. Is that bad?’ And Lewis’ answer of course is ‘No. Aslan is Jesus.’ You feel toward Aslan, spontaneously, how Jesus’ contemporaries felt towards Him.” – Peter Kreeft
I was elated as I opened a recent package and discovered two new compilations of writings by C.S. Lewis. Lewis, after all, is one of my spiritual and literary heroes. The first book, “A Year with Aslan” (HarperOne, 480 pages, hardback), contains selections from Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” series, with a particular focus on Aslan, the Jesus-like Lion at the center of the tale. The second book, the long-awaited “C.S. Lewis Bible” (HarperOne, 1,568 pages, hardback) is a beautiful set of NRSV Scriptures with Lewis’ commentary scattered throughout.
“A Year with Aslan” features 365 selections from the Narnian series, designed to be read as a daily devotional. Enclosed in beautiful hardback binding, each section contains quotes from Aslan or some story that exhibits Aslan’s character. And in line with most devotionals, each section concludes with some reflection questions to help with meditation.
Aslan has long been one of my favorite literary characters. Lewis was able to do with Aslan what almost no other author in history was able to accomplish: create an alluring, fictional representative of Christ who generates both wonder and fear. “A Year with Aslan” wonderfully highlights these characteristics, drawing the reader close to Aslan and, therefore, closer to Jesus.
Before I opened the book, I wondered how the compilers could come up with 365 selections centered around Aslan; I didn’t think Aslan was featured that many times in the Chronicles. Well, as it turns out, he wasn’t.
Despite the book’s title, a number of the selections don’t feature Aslan at all, but instead highlight general stories from Lewis’ series. This isn’t necessarily a downside, just something to be aware of before purchasing a copy.
I recommend “A Year with Aslan” to Aslan-lovers who have already read through the original Chronicles, but would hold off for those who haven’t already visited Narnia. Since some of the selections lack context, it would be helpful to understand the background for each character and story before reading.
With hundreds of study bibles available today, why do we need another one? And what good is a study Bible whose commentary is filtered through a single person or theme? I’ve long been leery about these types of study bibles. Whether it be the Joel Osteen bible or the American Patriot bible, the Reformation study bible or the Grandmother’s bible, you can find a study bible centered around many religious celebrities and themes.
(Check out this blog for a whole list of crazy-themed bibles.)
In one sense, these bibles can be beneficial. They recall the ancient Jewish tradition of following a particular Rabbi, diving into his school of thought, and adopting his interpretations as your own. Focusing on a singular teacher or theme can advance you far in the spiritual life if that person or theme offers deep of truth.
But this can also be dangerous. Our diverse selection of study bibles allows anyone to personalize their Scripture study to their own tastes. Instead of grasping the dens texture of Scripture—as Fr. Barron is fond of saying—we are left with a filtered, partial faith. Instead of receiving the Word of God as it is, we become consumers who pick and choose interpretations that satisfy our own tastes.
Lewis, of all people, understood this well. I think Lewis would be somewhat embarrassed to have a study bible with his name on the cover. He had a profound love and honor for the Bible, but never would have considered himself enough of a theologian to provide worthy commentary.
With all of that said though, the “C.S. Lewis Bible” deserves to be reviewed on its own terms. Despite my general concern toward study bibles, this really is one of the better ones I’ve come across–truly an impressive effort. The book’s advisory board is a “who’s who” of Lewis experts, and it’s clear that they combed each of Lewis’ works to unveil each reference to Scripture.
The “C.S. Lewis Bible” includes over 600 readings from Lewis’ works, and also a scriptural index in the back. The index makes it easy to find what Lewis had to say about different scriptural passages.
Interestingly, the “C.S. Lewis Bible” doesn’t just include selections from Lewis’ non-fiction works, but also his Narnian chronicles and personal letters to friends and strangers. Narnia’s creation story is highlighted alongside Genesis’ and Lewis’ personal letters are juxtaposed with Paul’s.
In terms of design, this is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read recently. The typography and page design give the book an antiquated, literary feel, recalling Lewis’ post as an English professor at Oxford. You can almost picture Lewis sitting in his study, Bible on one side of his desk, ink and blank paper on the other, jotting down his commentary with exquisite penmanship.
If you’re hunting for more serious theological commentary, you should definitely look elsewhere (I strongly recommend the Ignatius Study New Testament as an excellent alternative). But if you are a fan of Lewis’ writings and appreciate his unique thoughts on Scripture, you will surely be intrigued by the “C.S. Lewis Bible”.