Dorsett, Lyle W. and Mead, Marjorie Lamp (1985).
Editors. C. S. Lewis Letters to Children.
Great Britain: HarperCollins. 120 pp.
C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia have fascinated the minds and touched the hearts of numerous children. The evidence of that captivated impact could be seen in the lively dialogue between him and his avid readers through letters. The book is a representative sample of letters with questions mainly centred on the Narnian books. Each letter is a joy to read to catch a little glimpse of the "child" in the Narnian writer,
Of those small animals I think Hamsters are the most amusing --. And, to tell you the truth, I'm still fond of mice. But the guinea pigs go well with your learning German. If they talked, I'm sure that is the language they'd speak (p. 57).
And the "childhood" privilege of the young and inquisitive to ask and never failed to receive an answer from Uncle Lewis,
I am so glad you like The Last Battle. As to whether they knew their Creed, I suppose Professor Kirke and the Lady Polly and the Pevensies did, but probably Eustace and Pole, who had been brought up at that rotten school did not (p. 61).
The content of the book is the creative work of the author in unfolding the beliefs of Christianity in an "imaginary world, stripping them of their stained glass and Sunday School associations" to bring out their "real potency" (pp. 6 & 92). Initially, it was an unintentional effort but the "Christianity that slipped quietly into the story" (p. 6) did work in the imagination and capability of children to grasp spiritual truths,
If you continue to love Jesus, nothing can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so. I'm so thankful that you realized [the] "hidden story" in the Narnian books. It is odd, children always do, grown-ups hardly ever" (letter to Ruth, p. 111).
And a letter to Philip (pp. 113 & 114),
Thank you for telling me that you like my books, a thing an author is always pleased to hear. It is a funny thing that all the children who have written to me see at once who Aslan is, and grown ups never do!
C. S. Lewis, a brilliant scholar, teacher and writer could choose to be arrogant. But, the letters are testimonies to his character marks of being a disciple of Jesus Christ and a follower of the Lord's love for children who was described as a "kind man" and "he was never more compassionate that when he wrote to young people. He remembered well the
fears, questions, and joys of childhood, and he understood his young correspondents" (p. 6). He was also humble to learn from a child's insight, "I think I agree with your order for reading the books [Nardian Chronicles]…. Lewis later reaffirmed his preference for Laurence's sequence" (p. 68). He treated them with respect and talked to them as "man to man" and met them on "common, universally human, ground" (pp. 4 & 6). The children responded, if not, the book would never be written.
Sound Christian literature can play a strong influential role in the spiritual formation of children and they must be made available in libraries in the home and the church. However, buying books and exposing children to Christian literature must be accompanied with opportunities for the young to inquire to form a Christian worldview. In that regard, C. S. Lewis believed that "answering thousands of fan letters from his young readers of The Chronicles of Narnia. . . . was a God-given duty, and his replies reflect the concern and care that he brought to the task" (p. 4).
(Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng)
What was King Belshazzar of Babylonia doing when he saw the scary hand, writing on the wall? Daniel 5:1 tells us that he was hosting "a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles". Isn't this remarkable? According to the historian Herodotus, Babylon, where Belshazzar was, was besieged by a large
Medo-Persian army at that time!
So why was Belshazzar so relaxed and confident? Was it because Babylon had city walls 100 metres high and 25 metres wide, surrounded by a wide moat kept full by the great River Euphrates? Was it also because Babylon had stockpiled many years' supply of food? Yes.
But something else was giving Belshazzar this overflowing confidence. During the banquet he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets [Dan 5:2] that an earlier king,
Nebuchadnezzar, had looted from the Temple in Jerusalem several decades ago. These were holy vessels for sacred use in the worship of
YHWH, the God of Israel. So why did Belshazzar have them brought in? Was it a sudden decision?
Hardly. Would a host make 1,000 nobles wait for hours while a decree was issued for the State Treasury to be opened at night, while a large number of servants were rounded up and sent there to carry large numbers of gold and silver goblets to the palace banquet hall under armed escort, and while the dusty goblets were washed and dried? Weren't all this done earlier? Belshazzar had done everything beforehand, hadn't he? But why?
Is the answer not in Daniel 5:4? It says, "As they drank the
wine [out of the gold and silver goblets] they praised the gods of gold
and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone", that the Babylonians
worshipped. What did this imply? Was it not that the gods of
Babylonia were superior or more powerful than the God of vanquished
Israel, and would protect Babylon from the Medo-Persian army
outside? To boost his people's morale, was Belshazzar not
Was that not why Daniel, when he arrived at the
banquet, told Belshazzar "You have set yourself up against the Lord
of Heaven!", instead of humbling himself before the Most High God,
the God of Israel, as Nebuchadnezzar had done.
God reacted swiftly. Even as Belshazzar
drank from a sacred gold goblet, "Suddenly, the fingers of a human
hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall near the lampstand in
the royal palace". Why was the lampstand mentioned?
Would the great lampstand not be near the king to put him in the best
light? So the fingers were near him? How near?
Daniel 5:5 has the answer: "The king
watched the hand as it wrote" [NIV]. The respected Hebrew
lexicon BDB says that the Aramaic word pes, translated as
"hand" in the NIV, "part of the hand" [KJV] and
"back of the hand" [NASB] actually means "palm" -
and nothing else. Now, for Belshazzar to see the palm clearly
wouldn't it have to be somewhere above his head? Coupled
with the sacrilegious use of the goblets, it was clear that the writing
was directed at Belshazzar.
So now we understand why "His face turned
pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked and his legs gave
way" [5:6]. Actually, the Hebrew text says his legs gave way
and then his knees knocked together, and this is correct. Try
knocking your knees together when your legs are straight. Now try
again with your knees bent.
God cannot be mocked and belittled. "That
very night Belshazzar was slain" [5:30]. In a palace
coup? No. According to Herodotus [1:184], Ugbaru the Persian
general had quietly diverted the waters of the River Euphrates into an
old channel built by a previous Babylonian ruler, Queen Nitocris.
The water level dropped quickly below the level of the river gates and
Ugbaru's troops waded under the gates into the city, unnoticed. It
was one of the most brilliant victories in military history, but is
largely unapplauded - because no great battle was fought?
Wasn't it folly on the part of Belshazzar to
presume that his city was impregnable and to call for a great
banquet? Would history have been different if the 1,000 nobles had
been manning the city walls ready for battle instead of getting drunk
with Belshazzar? Wasn't it foolish of Belshazzar to belittle God
while praising his own so-called gods?
By the way, didn't Daniel foretell Belshazzar's
imminent fall? He said, "God has numbered the
days of your reign and brought it to an end" [5:26]?
And in 5:28 he said, "Your kingdom is divided and given
[not 'will be given'] to the Medes and Persians". Aren't
these among the quickest fulfilled prophecies in the Bible? What
bravery to say them to Belshazzar!
Say, did you notice
the miracle at the end, between 5:29 and 31? Belshazzar was killed
that night. But Daniel, appointed the third ruler of Babylonia
after the absentee King Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar, and dressed by
Belshazzar in royal purple, was unharmed by the Persians. In fact,
they appointed him one of the three administrators over Babylonia [6:2].
Godhad not only protected Daniel, from Belshazzar and the Persians, but
also prospered him against all odds. Wow…..
Chapel last week (October 16) was set on the theme of fear and
leadership. The speaker began with a brief explanation as to why
it was entitled "An Untheological Rambling on the Nature of Fear
and Leadership", which was that the audience could feel excused if
they found what they heard either incomprehensible or disagreeable!
the message was focussed on handling fear. Many Christians are too
afraid of too many things so that it seems as if we are retreating from
secular society, instead of engaging it. The speaker cited J.K.
Rowling (she, of the Harry Potter fame!), and Bertrand Russell
(atheistic philosopher from an earlier era) as some of the authors
Christians are afraid of reading.
Then he went on to share with us two
influential figures in his life who taught him by their mental attitudes
vital lessons on dealing with fear. One was his first music
teacher who helped him grapple with the fear of playing the piano for
church. And the other, his first pastor, who encouraged him to
face up to ideas alien to his adopted faith.
Their influence opened up for the speaker
vistas for growth and development in areas sometimes avoided by
Christians - reading "dangerous" books, or pioneering projects
for outreach or Christian service.
Chapel ended with the challenge to move from
the mediocrity of seeking safety and security to a "spiritual
entrepreneurship" of penetrating unredeemed sectors of secular
society for Christ.
Chapel speakers for the current (23 Oct) and
following week (30 Oct) will be Dr Philip Satterthwaite and Dr Quek Swee