Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal

I had no idea how essential imagination is to our lives. Reading this book, even though it is an investigation of Lewis' use of imagination, made me aware of how we all use imagination.

This book could be considered an introduction to C. S. Lewis through exploring his use of imagination. The authors identify many different styles and uses of imagination. There is realizing imagination, shared imagination, penetrating imagination, material imagination, primary imagination, generous imagination, just imagination, transforming imagination, and many more. The use or function of each kind of imagination is identified and then how it has been used in Lewis' writings.

I was surprised by several aspects of this investigation into imagination. Spiritual growth requires imagination as we must imagine the stages beyond where we are. Imagination helps us understand the complex world we live in, a world more complex than our capacity to understand. Imagination allows us to view an issue from many viewpoints, like looking at something from a variety of angles, helping us understand it better. Imagination helps us sort out sensory data, making sense of experience. We can use imagination in an attempt to shape reality, seeing the world as it should be. And those are just a few aspects of the exploration of investigation.

I was amazed at the importance and power of imagination in Lewis' writings. He was a master at helping us develop a deeper grasp of something through imagination. That imagination can give us fresh insight toward understanding a complex or illusive idea. Imagination can be used for evil just as powerfully as for good, as he clearly showed.

I was impressed with this book for two reasons. The first reason is the fresh understanding I received about the importance of imagination. I use my imagination when I plan my garden for next year or plan a dinner for this weekend. Imagination helps me make sense of change, having a fresh application of old ideas to new challenges. My church board uses imagination when they contemplate a new ministry and how it will meet the needs of the church members or the surrounding community. I've come to the conclusion that we use imagine much more than I had ever thought.

The second reason I like this book is because if gave me a new appreciation for Lewis and his writing. He was very effective in his use of imagination to communicate a concept. There are scenes from The Great Divorce that have stuck with me since I read the book decades ago.

This is a good introduction to the writings of Lewis. People who want to understand why Lewis wrote the fiction and nonfiction he did would do well to read this book. The book would also be of good use in a literature class as it helps us understand the use of imagination in fiction and nonfiction too. The authors have included an extensive bibliography for those who would like to study further.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jerry Root is associate professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. He also teaches in the Christian Formation and Ministry department and is the director of the Wheaton Evangelism Initiative, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

Mark Neal is the vice president of digital marketing at a Chicago-based marketing firm. He is an independent C. S. Lewis scholar, writing and publishing on Lewis and other topics. You can find out more about him at

Abingdon Press, 280 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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