Asbury Celebrates 'the Extraordinary Life of an Extraordinary Man'
WILMORE, Ky. — In a presentation both touching and humorous, Douglas Gresham and Dr. Devin Brown introduced a crowd at Asbury University on Monday evening to aspects of famed author C.S. Lewis most had never known before.
Gresham, Lewis’ stepson and creative director of the C.S. Lewis Company, joined Brown, Asbury professor and author of “A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis,” onstage at Asbury to offer the audience a glimpse of “the extraordinary life of an extraordinary man.” The event continued a visit with students and faculty that began with a Chapel address by Gresham Monday morning.
A life-long academic, Lewis — also called “Jack” by those who knew him well — served on the faculty of both Oxford University and Cambridge University in addition to publishing fiction and Christian apologetic literature. Lewis’s quick imagination delighted children, and his towering intellect delighted Gresham’s mother, whom Lewis married after initially striking up a friendship through correspondence.
“He was an outgoing, social man,” said Gresham. “You could always tell where Jack was by the roaring of laughter. If you really are a scholar you don’t have to try to look like one or act like one. Jack actually looked like a father.”
Gresham and Brown’s presentation at Asbury was the first of three free, public events this week. On Tuesday, they will speak at 7 p.m. at Vineyard Community Church (Tri-County) in Cincinnati, and on Wednesday, they will speak at 7 p.m. at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville.
“It was a great opportunity to hear Douglas Gresham,” said Phyllis Pendleton of Versailles, Ky. “I appreciated that it was free and open to the public, and it was interesting to see the clips from the Narnia movies and see his reaction to them.”
Brown’s book, “A Life Observed,” is the latest in a growing body of work for both scholarly and popular audiences. Brown has published numerous essays and scholarly articles on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and has written chapters for six books, including a major chapter on “The Screwtape Letters” for the four-volume series “C.S. Lewis: Life, Works, and Legacy” released by Praeger Publishers in 2007. In 2008 he served as Scholar-in-Residence for the Summer Seminar held at The Kilns, the Oxford home of C.S. Lewis.
Brown’s own book “Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was published by Baker in 2005 and is currently in its sixth printing. His second Narnia book, “Inside Prince Caspian,” was released in 2008. His third Narnia book, “Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” came out in 2010.
“When Dr. Brown asked if I would be interested in introducing Douglas Gresham at Chapel, I was so excited,” said Sheridan Swathmore, an Asbury freshman who first “met” Gresham via email as a 14-year-old Narnia fan. “I got out of English class and came to meet him, and I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning.”
For junior Katie Oostman, hearing Gresham share about Jack’s world of Oxford studies and intentional Christianity was particularly meaningful. She spent the summer studying in Oxford herself, and the environment in which Lewis practiced his faith was fresh on her mind as she listened to the discussion at Asbury.
“Having the two worlds connect was really powerful,” she said. “The fantasy world that Lewis created is all about living richly, and that’s exactly what Gresham encouraged us to do in Chapel this morning.”