Wise-ed-ness and the New C. S. Lewis Movie

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt.  Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

  • Genesis 41:8

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.  You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.  Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

  • Genesis 41:39-40

When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.
She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.  But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes.  Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.  How happy your people must be!  How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!  Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel.  Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”

  • 1 Kings 10:4-9

“’When I’m older I’ll understand,’ said Lucy.
“’I am older and I don’t think I want to understand,’ replied Edmund.”

  • C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

About a dozen days ago, I was watching the weather on television.  The young meteorologist made a comment about how we should be wise and use our “wise-ed-ness” when dealing with severe weather situations.  Someone off-camera said, “I think the word is ‘wisdom.’”  The on-camera meteorologist continued without blinking.  Did he understand or did he think that he did not want to understand?

When you have such little wisdom that you do not know the English word for it, when English is your primary, maybe only, language, do you simply have a lack of knowledge or is there a lack of wisdom involved?

I ask that question because that very afternoon, I took my wife to see a movie in the theater for the first time since before I took my wife to Tennessee to babysit our youngest grandchild, months before the lockdown started, possibly over two years ago.  We are not big movie watchers, but we usually go 3-4 times each year, documentaries, docudramas, and action movies mostly.

We went to see The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C. S. Lewis.  The title is bizarre in that Max McLean, and the writer of the original novel, David C. Downing, used the words of C. S. Lewis himself in writing and adapting what became a one-man play blended with a biographical drama of how C. S. Lewis came to a faith in Jesus.  The story was told, but I guess you get the curiosity seekers when you state that the story is “untold.”  In a way, that extra word in the title falls in line with how Lewis came to faith, but was it the telling or the understanding of what was told?

My wife thought that the “Making of the movie” segment that is shown before the movie begins was unnecessary, but I think it added to the movie on two points: 1) The movie was produced during the pandemic lockdown, and part of the goal was to give people Hope.  And 2) It made the movie make more sense when the elder Lewis, played by Max McLean, walks in and out of the drama while he is narrating the story.  After one second of a crew member assisting Max McLean with something, then the camera pans back beyond the other camera, and while Max McLean is talking, he walks from one room into a building on the far side of town, movie magic.

A note on Max McLean: I listen to the NIV on Bible Gateway often, voiced by Max McLean.  He also has an ESV and KJV version on the website.  Max McLean, an award-winning actor, producer, writer, is the founder for the Fellowship for Performing Arts, dedicated to producing stage and movie productions from a Christian point of view.

The story ends with C. S. Lewis stating that he “believed.”  I guess that is no spoiler, but the scene in which the statement is made is poignant, and I will not spoil that.  My wife was disappointed in that she wanted to know more about how Lewis met and eventually married Joy Davidman.  That episode of Lewis’ life was long after Lewis’ conversion to Christianity.  I was a bit disappointed that the elements were all present in the movie, but could people connect the dots?  They emphasized the key points, but even I, who read all the books from which they quoted, had difficulty in connecting the dots, trying to use their logic.  Difficulty, that is, until I got home, mulling over what they presented in my mind, and maybe that is the beauty of the movie, the beauty and the flaw as it may turn out.  It makes the points tangentially without “offending,” and the points stick like glue until you figure it out, if you have an inner voice that urges you to think.  Sometimes, that method is the best work that the Holy Spirit performs.

As a result, I would wholeheartedly suggest the movie as a must see.

One of those key points was stating that William T. Kirkpatrick, The Great Knock, was possibly the most influential teacher in C. S. Lewis’ life.  Lewis, in the film, describes The Great Knock, as his students called him.  Lewis calls him a Presbyterian atheist.  He was an atheist, but having grown up in the Presbyterian church, when he gardened on Sunday, he “gardened in a different, and slightly more respectable, suit” (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy).  How can an atheist lead someone to Jesus Christ many years after his tutelage?  Simple, and it is what is missing in society today.  He made Lewis think.

The first encounter with the Great Knock was dramatized in the movie, minor spoiler alert here.  Lewis tells the Great Knock that the train ride was amazing.  The countryside leading to the station seemed to be so “wild.”  Mr. Kirkpatrick pounced on the word “wild,” demanding that the youngster produce an argument that supports the word “wild.”  Lewis was astounded in that William Kirkpatrick would not accept any basic conversation, unless everything said was based upon substantiated fact.

Thus, when Owen Barfield becomes a Christian, later in the movie, he argues with Lewis and Lewis, remembering his tutor’s technique, dug into the facts.  Lewis reluctantly accepts the idea that there might be a god, but no further.  Then the movie shows a bit of the late-night argument between Lewis, Hugo Dyson, and J. R. R. Tolkien.  Each time, Lewis argues with his friends, but then digs into the details of what was said.  He tries to refute the Christian’s argument, but then eventually accepts the argument as cogent and fact.

The actual moment of conversion has always interested me.  Lewis admits that he does not know “how.”  In the book and in the movie, since the movie quotes Lewis’ books, Lewis claims that he got into the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle and Warnie drove them to the zoo.  When he entered the sidecar, he did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  When they arrived at the zoo, he believed and knew that Jesus was his Lord and Savior.  I have always been fascinated by that statement.  How recklessly was Warnie driving?  Sadly, that is not dramatized.

There was only about four or five old couples in the theater for the early bird discounted special showing (first showing of the day), but the folks on the back row applauded.  My wife made a comment that she had not heard applause at a movie in a long time.

God is real.  God is in this world today.  God is sovereign.  And if we work though any argument about the existence of God, the truth of the Bible, or how God works within us, you will find God, if you dig hard enough and the Holy Spirit guides you.  There are two strong examples of that coming to my mind: C. S. Lewis and Lee Strobel.  Both have written books about their process in investigating the facts.  I am sure there are others.

But has that ship sailed?  That ship of thinking and digging to get to the truth?  Are we so apathetic that we wave the argument off?  Is it too hard for us to even think any more?  Say it is not so.  We may not find God without the help of the Holy Spirit, but too much is at stake to wave the hand and dismiss it as a fairy tale.  As Tolkien told Lewis, “You enjoy reading the great mythologies of the world, but have you ever thought that the ‘myth’ of Jesus is actually true?”

I did not write anything that day, having already written enough to be ahead in my writing.  A day of not writing anything was well spent at the movies, and afterwards, digging into the facts.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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