I arrived in Oxford on Saturday afternoon for the 2008 Oxbridge conference, and things have been great so far! Saturday night I attended a small dinner/reception at The Kilns, the lovely home of C.S. Lewis which is now owned and maintained by the C.S. Lewis Foundation. There's something truly magical about being in this place--the gardens and study where Lewis found his inspiration to write such classics as The Chronicles of Narnia among most of his other pivotal books. Its a comfortable place, quiet and stately, very English but not at all pretentious. You can almost feel his presence here.
Other highlights of the conference so far include:
- A beautiful opening worship service at St. Mary's the Virgin Church in Oxford, in which the preacher, Derick Bingham (of Christ Church, Belfast) quoted a glorious passage from C.S. Lewis' famous sermon, "The Weight of Glory," which Lewis delivered in the same pulpit 67 years earlier.
- A plenary address by Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Seminary) which included him joking about being happily Calvinist and yet deeply respecting the ideas of Lewis (who tended toward Arminian thought). Mouw also showed a clip of Mick Jagger and made references to Derrida, Gergen, and other "postmoderns" in a way that was suprisingly not so tiresome.
- An amazing theater performance in which the famous "Addison's Walk" conversation between C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Hugo Dyson was reenacted. This was the walk (in the gardens of Magdalen College) where Lewis supposedly was convinced that not only was there a God, but that Jesus very likely was his true son. Lots of great, theological dialogue inspired by Tolkien's notions that in ancient myths we see the divine preparation for the one True Myth (Christ's death and resurrection)... a sort of working-out through the arts of God's mystical revelation and incarnation.
Overall the conference is just as magical as it always is, what with the towering spires of this ancient land and the spirit of Lewis hovering over it all... But most of all his legacy, which includes such great ideas and articulations of the Christian (nay, human) experience. Take this quote from "The Weight of Glory":
"Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised by the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
It's nice to be reminded that as dire as our human condition is and as corrupted as our desires may be, there is still a spark within us--a longing--that pushes us towards a higher satisfaction. You can feel glimpses of that here at this conference, and as such it's an event that beautifully embodies Lewis' legacy.
Many more great things to come in the next 10 days, doubtless. I'll try to post another update soon!