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Can We Please Let CS Lewis Be Weird?

Let us assume a scale which runs from 1 to 10. A 10 means “very conservative” and a 1 means “very liberal.”

There are many who enroll their children in classical schools under the mistaken impression that a young man who comes from, say, a household which registers at 6.5 will ultimately become a 6.5 graduate. The value of a classical education is merely to give a 6.5 young man a bunch of quotes from Augustine and Edmund Burke which can be used to support his 6.5 opinions, his 6.5 presuppositions, his 6.5 prejudices.

The life of the mind is strange, though, and regularly reading in the upper reaches of philosophy and theology and metaphysics changes a man’s mind not just quantitatively, but qualitatively. The modern mind does not much understand the life of the mind, and America has deeply anti-monastic and anti-aristocratic tendencies which struggle to make sense of “the contemplative life” in any traditional sense of the expression.

The teacher who caves to the 6.5 myth is far less likely to let CS Lewis be CS Lewis. I have a theory that every great intellectual is no less than five percent crazy and no more than eight percent crazy. The teacher who skims the madness off of Lewis creates a false impression in students and parents alike about what cultivating the life of the mind really does to a man. The teacher who thins out the bloody zaniness of Augustine’s City of God creates the impression the life of the mind is predictable, polite, inevitable, unsurprising. While the madness quotient of a great theologian’s work ought not be top heavy in a course, the teacher who makes Lewis a tame lion has lied to his students about what a mind is.

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