• “The Great Story on Which the Plot Turns”: Cruciformity in C.S. Lewis’ Narrative Spiritual Theology

      Dickieson, Brenton (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-05)
      This thesis presses in on C.S. Lewis’ extremely diverse corpus to explore his integrative narrative spirituality of the cross. Chapter one argues that Lewis’ concept of spiritual self-death and resurrection is lacking critical treatment despite the spirituality of the cross that I argue is deeply woven into the fabric of Lewis’ poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and letters. This cross-shaped spirituality, what Michael Gorman calls “cruciformity,” is central to Lewis’ understanding of Christian life. Though neglected because of readings of Lewis that reduce him to the role of an apologist, chapter one surveys occasional notes about this death-and-resurrection motif in Lewis scholarship and provides definitions for methodological approaches to the study. Following definitions of spiritual theology by Eugene Peterson, chapter two turns from systematic theological explorations of Lewis to consider him as a spiritual theologian, a move that is organic to his theological enterprise, his epistemology, and his fiction. Chapter three explores Gorman’s biblical-theological approach to Pauline cruciformity, arguing that there is a six-point Logic of Cruciformity in Lewis’ so-called apologetics writings that moves past and refocuses Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. As Lewis’ spirituality is embedded in narrative form within poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, chapter four explores “The Shape of Cruciformity” in Lewis’ œuvre, using Northrop Frye’s narratology and J.R.R. Tolkien’s theory of eucatastrophe to argue that there is a comedic, U-shaped pattern of cruciform imagery in Lewis’ fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Chapter five interrogates Lewis’ integrative, normative narrative cruciformity with feminist theological critique, provoked by Anna Fisk’s concerns about cross-shaped spiritualities in women’s experiences. A response to this problematisation reveals an inversive quality inherent to Lewis’ thought that is itself U-shaped, comedic, and eucatastrophic. Chapter six explores this inversive U-shaped thinking central to Lewis’ theological project, arguing that the shape of cruciformity in Lewis is the shape of his spiritual theology. I conclude the thesis with “sacred paradoxes” in Lewis’ thought that invite further work and deepen our understanding of Lewis’ concept of spiritual life, thus inviting a prophetic self-critique for Christian believers.