Earlier today I sent an email to Vicky Dillen, authoress of the website, inviting her to consider my post about her website. This is my email:

Dear Ms. Dillen,

My name is Gavin Browne. I am a Christian PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland, and I came across your website recently while hunting for a quotation of C.S. Lewis’s.

I am a fan of C.S. Lewis. I have found his work to be intellectually stimulating and spiritually nourishing. I was therefore dismayed to read some of the criticisms made on your website. In fact I was so moved to respond that I published a blog post devoted to discussing some of the claims you make and judgements you form.

I am writing this email because, as an academic, I believe that debate and conversation is the best way to learn about differing points of view; and as a Christian I believe that we have a duty towards each other to strive for unity and understanding even where opinions are in conflict. So I invite you to read the post and to respond to my criticisms, either with defences that invalidate them or, if you believe that I have been too harsh (and I am aware that this criticism could be made: there are cultural differences at work here, where North Americans have very different ideas as to what constitutes reasoned debate than us Brits), rebukes that may be justifiable. To reiterate: I was not having a go at you, I was having a go at your ideas. In Britain that is a self-evident description, but I know from experience that that distinction doesn’t always make it across the Atlantic.

Feel free to use the comments section beneath the post, or to email me at this, my personal address. Either way, I believe an exchange of views to be a constructive endeavour, and I look forward to it.

Yours sincerely,
Gavin Browne

The post in question:

She has responded, and I reproduce here her email in full. Sections in bold are my latter insertions, answering as best I can some of the criticisms she makes. Some of them are entirely justifiable, and let me take this opportunity to say publicly that my initial post might best be described as a ‘4,181-word detonation’, and my language may have been as intemperate as that implies. For that I apologise. But the meat of my criticisms, the things I actually said (regardless of how I said them), still stand. Still, here is Vicky Dillen’s email to me…

Dear Gavin,

I find it interesting you posted your critical review–I assume that’s what you would refer to it as—on February 6, but didn’t think to contact me to “debate” or discuss anything until February 17. Perhaps the lack of comments to your dissertation concerning me personally and my website persuaded you? Perhaps I am not as popular a subject or read as you might think. 🙂

Actually, as Facebook friends and others will know, the last 11 days have been extraordinarily stressful. My email today was really the first opportunity I had to address an oversight on my part, which was this: criticising someone’s arguments is no use unless they know that they have been criticised! Frankly, this blog’s traffic is so miniscule that my contacting anyone about anything is pointless in terms of generating interest: it just seems to me that courtesy demands I tell someone if I have decided to criticise what they say. So apologies for the delay in informing you, but there was no ulterior motive in terms of making this blog any more interesting ;-).

I think what you have written is based on a knee jerk reaction to begin with, because as you say, you are a fan of Lewis, Tolkien, etc. And you wrote as an academic first which, based on your other writing, pre-empts Biblical discernment.

To what other writing are you referring?

I also think, while you have totally misunderstood what my site is about, and accused me of being judge and jury, you have done that exact thing to me. We are called to share our faith, and in my research to prove all things and research to find resources, the direction took evaluation of things called Christian. That I choose to share my research and evaluations is merely as a resource for people to start their own research. My documentation generally can stand alone for people to evaluate-(and many that disagree with my beliefs use the research)–based on their own beliefs—and they can take my opinions and evaluations OR NOT.

NO ONE has ever been forced to read or agree with anything I believe or write. I believe each are free to believe what they wish. Don’t you agree?

Yes, of course! If everyone agreed all the time I wouldn’t have a career! And I, for one, disagree entirely with some of what you have said. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

On the other hand you seem to think that I am not entitled to believe what I believe, have differing opinions, but rather should agree with whatever someone with letters behind their names declares as true. That doesn’t even come to close to what Paul wrote about concerning the wisdom of the world and wisdom of the scribes. It’s not about what people think, but what the Word of God says about it all.

No. That’s neither what I said nor what I meant. Of course you can believe whatever you like. The point about ‘letters after the name’ is that it allows you to evaluate what level of expertise a person is bringing to the discussion. You may well know the Bible inside out and back to front. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you know anything about literature. So when you start evaluating literature, in a sense it doesn’t matter that you know the Bible so well: you might be a formidable Biblical scholar, but that doesn’t necessarily enable you to take apart, say, The Lord of the Rings in any depth.

[quote]Her website consists of analyses of current cultural trends, strained through her own interpretation of the Bible. [/quote]

Actually, I simply look at what someone claims to be Scriptural truth and see if it is that in the actual Scriptures. Don’t you do that? Aren’t we supposed to learn to discern between good and evil by use of the Word of God?

Yes, and I do.

Hebrews 5:13-14  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  14.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Tongue in cheek here–maybe more time in the Word and less worrying about myths and fables would overcome that possible deficiency. 😉

I find that a tongue in my cheek makes it difficult for me to ingest anything at all! 😉 Besides, ‘worrying about myths and fables’ is my day job.

Most often I merely insert Scriptures which to me pertain to what is being presented/discussed and let God’s Word stand as the litmus test. People can agree or disagree.

[quote]It is, apparently, one of the world’s top Christian websites, according to Jesus Christ Saves Ministries (I love the semantic ambiguity here: does Jesus Christ save ministries, or are these ministries promoting the idea that Jesus Christ saves? Either way, it must be significant that their top Christian website, the most edifying, the most helpful online resource they could find, is a Christian dating site called ‘Christian Dating for Free‘) and also according to Christian Top 1000, a website that allows you to add your own site and which also features Christian Dating for Free in its #1 spot.[/quote]

Apparently, Gavin, you didn’t do you homework. I have never claimed my site to be one of the top Christian sites or even near no1–nor is it.. Christian Top 1000 was joined years ago when I was unsure where to promote my site when I first started, and it was one of the few directories I joined at that time. It has grown since I joined and has 13,500 plus sites listed. Like many other directories used all over the internet. I have simply allowed my website to be seen as God chooses. I submitted it to some of the major search engines back in 2000, (as most website authors do) and have not resubmitted to any since then. I find it ironic that dating and such sites are the most popular….but that is how the internet goes. The top site when I joined the Top 1000 used to be a Baptist Board debate forum.

My site is hardly one of the most popular. It never has been and I doubt it ever will be. I am not affiliated with any other ministry or website. It is our family ministry. That’s all.

Fair enough. But you still choose to affiliate your website, through using those bottom-of-the-page buttons, with both Top 1000 ranking systems. Therefore the claim is made that you are in the top 1000. It says so at the bottom of every page! Perhaps it is time to think about getting rid of the buttons? Their association doesn’t seem to strengthen your position. 1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'”

That you had to look up what is meant by a Berean, I find of note. Yet you are well versed in all manner of literature but that Scriptural concept. I guess it has to do with a person’s focus doesn’t it?

There is a single reference to Berea in the New Testament, and the Berean denomination has a single church in London (founded by Americans). Although the Bereans began in Scotland, they only lasted a couple of decades in the 19th Century before being absorbed into the Congregationalist denominations. Just because I have never heard of a denomination that has been extinct in this country for nearly 200 years, and a single reference to a city slipped my mind (do you honestly think I haven’t read Acts?), you can’t assume that my priorities are all screwed up. Using ‘Berean’ as shorthand to describe a concept isn’t necessarily helpful: of course I believe in the rigorous application of Scripture. I just don’t refer to that as Bereanism, that’s all. (In the UK, we would cover that with ‘conservative evangelicalism’.)

[quote]Nevertheless, Ms Dillen has set herself up as a teacher and interpreter of the times, and so I will treat her as such. I came to her website in the first place because I was trying to find the source of a C.S. Lewis quotation about myths, and I came to this extraordinary page, some of the comments on which so astonished me that they literally drove the breath from my body. I urge you to read it; I similarly urge you not to bounce hard off the ceiling when you have done so.[/quote]

I have NEVER claimed to be a teacher. I am merely a believer who likes to research and evaluate what falls under the banner of Christian. Every single believer in Jesus Christ is supposed to evaluate what is called doctrine. Every single believer is supposed to prove all things to the Word of God. Every single believer is supposed to try the spirits to see if they are of God. Every single believer is to study to show themselves approved and to make sure they are in the faith and holding to sound doctrine—meaning it can be proven to the Scriptures themselves not someone’s opinion of the Scriptures. I can provide the Scriptures that prove that stance if you like. So….how that makes me some sort of oddity is perhaps a question for an academic such as yourself.

I’m happy to acknowledge that you never claim to be a teacher. I know it’s a claim you haven’t made. But I was very careful in what I said: you don’t claim to be a teacher, you merely set yourself up as one. When you promulgate a Biblical message, you ‘teach’ it. You impart information. You hope, I presume, to ‘instruct in righteousness’. And that is fine. It is what we are all commanded to do. But in so doing, you must acknowledge that there is a stricter standard, a more rigorous analysis, to be applied: no Christian (I would hope) would want to be a ‘false teacher’, even if they only become one through innocent ignorance. By publishing your research online, you make available a resource through which you hope Christians will improve their understanding of God. And even if you don’t acknowledge your teacherhood, that is still the mantle you have chosen to take up.

[quote]Ms Dillen makes some extraordinary claims, particularly on the nature of fantasy, myth, fiction, and Christian participation in any of these, and I want to take a long hard look at what she says. She has set herself up as a teacher of Scripture: that is her choice to make. [/quote]

Incorrect. I have never claimed to be a teacher of anything. Every believer is to be equipped to be a soldier of the cross. At some point each are to be doing what God has called them to in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and edify the Body of Christ. Each has a role and we are to mature in the faith and in the knowledge and wisdom of Christ. I have belonged to Jesus Christ for almost 40 years. I am not a babe in the Lord but am old enough to have understood certain things—with an awful lot still to understand. But what little I do know, God allows me to use to encourage others that it’s about a relationship with Jesus Christ and obedience to Him and His Word. That is the standard of what our beliefs are to be about. And that is what I always point people to. NOT my opinion, but Jesus Christ and the Word.

However, I am free to have opinions am I not?

Of course you are. It is not my intention, nor has it ever been, to silence you or your ministry. But where I think it is misguided, where it is mistaken; where it is restrictive or unhelpful; where it is erroneous or unconsidered, there I will raise a flag. Not to destroy but to improve. All I want, in the end, is for people to know why they believe what they believe. “Without contraries is no progression”, as a poet once put it, and continuous consideration and reconsideration strengthens faith, not weakens it.

[quote] I think a lot of what she says is palpable nonsense and because I think she is making judgements she has no right to make.[/quote]

Fair enough. That’s YOUR opinion, but there are many that agree with my opinion. You have made a judgment about me—can I say –that you have no right to make?

No. My right to make it lies in the fact that I can and do produce evidence to back up my assertion. People, as you point out, can either take it on board or not as they see fit. And that, too, is fine. The judgement you made, that you ABSOLUTELY do not have any right to make, is over who is saved and who is not. That is a sin born of the most dangerous of the vices, Spiritual Pride.

[quote]As for my credentials enabling me to do so: like Ms Dillen, I am a Christian (and have been for a long time); unlike Ms Dillen, I do claim a level of expertise on literature, fantasy and mythopoeia [/quote]

Actually, the only thing that matters in all your secular credentials and expertise is: Do you belong to Jesus Christ, and do you abide the Word of God as the standard of your beliefs? That for a Christian is what we are to be about. The focus is HIM. And what pleases HIM. And what is obedient to HIM.

True. But secular qualifications do qualify you (as the name might suggest) to form judgements on secular matters. For instance, let us suppose that I have a pet snake and I go on holiday, leaving him in your care while I am away. When I return I discover that my snake is dead of starvation. “I don’t understand it!” you exclaim. “I fed him in strict accordance with Biblical precepts!” And you point me to Genesis 3:14: “you will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life”.

The moral of the story is that if I wanted good care taken of my pet snake I should have left him with a herpetologist, not a Biblical scholar. Similarly, if we’re going to be talking about fantasy and mythology, then I want to know that the person leading the discussion understands these things in their own right, so that they know how to apply their Biblical knowledge.

[quote]Someone who declares that they have no credentials whatsoever (declares without a qualm and even with pride, which is more bizarre) chooses to raise an argument against someone who not only was supremely well qualified on the argument’s topic (myth and fantasy), [/quote]

You don’t seem to grasp, even with all your intellect, that God doesn’t care about credentials or worldly wisdom. He wants our understandings to be rooted in Him.

Colossians 2:6-10 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7. Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

John 15:1-8 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing . 6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

1Co 1:4  I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1Co 1:5  That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
1Co 1:6  Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
1Co 1:7  So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

1Co 1:17  For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1Co 1:18  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1Co 1:19  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1Co 1:20  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1Co 1:21  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

In saying that you are free to think Lewis and Tolkien and myths and legends and witchcraft and sorcery are merely fun or amusing or intellectually stimulating and innocent when in books….you can believe that. I believe the opposite.

There is a vital question of application here. If I am sick, I will pray for healing – but I will also visit a doctor. If I want to understand myth and fantasy in relation to the Bible, I will read the Bible – but I will also make sure I understand myth and fantasy. God heals without need of medical certification – but I trust doctors not because they are good Christians but because they have studied and learned medicine. Similarly, I trust the Bible, and I’m even prepared to take it on faith that you are a biblical scholar – but I have no assurance from you that you know what you are talking about when it comes to myth and fantasy. You don’t offer me any evidence to suggest that you have the least idea what you are talking about, and actually your misreadings of, for example, ‘That Hideous Strength’ suggest quite the reverse. Fundamentally, you haven’t argued anything – you have merely asserted.

[quote]That being said, let us look at the article itself. Ms Dillen, discussing That Hideous Strength, says:

The reader is supposed to equate Merlin with Christ, who defeats Lucifer and evil. How blasphemous! That Merlin, who is revered by occultists as a druid, sorcerer, witch, wizard and every abomination thinkable, is viewed as Christ and that witchcraft and psychic powers parallel the saving power of Jesus Christ is wicked at best. For those who say children should just read Lewis’ Chronicles of  Narnia books, we have the same menu with witches, elves, Bacchus, false gods, and so on, all being part of the stories.

This demonstrates precisely the problem Lewis identified earlier – Ms Dillen is not equipped to offer a detailed, critical appreciation of the themes, characterisation and imagery of the novel. There is no acknowledgement, for instance, that the title is taken from a poem describing the tower of Babel, nor that the entire book reaffirms the community of Christianity as a refuge from, and defence against, the brutalities of apotheosistic, sinning man. Apart from anything else, Merlin is not compared with Christ,[/quote]

Merlin to the average person is a sorcerer–and he is portrayed that way time again in many writings and media. In years past and currently. Would you believe I really don’t care about any supposed hidden meanings—that most readers don’t see—he is compared to Christ. And occultists, as stated, view him as of the occult. For you to say otherwise…. oh well.

This is why qualifications and credentials help. They mark out terms of reference and engagement. You say ‘Merlin to the average person’ – but there’s no evidence to support your claim (who are these average people? Where can I read the results of this survey?). You talk about ‘supposed hidden meanings’ – my contention is that you are the one imprinting meanings onto the text that actually can’t be supported. Look, if you are correct you will be able to prove it. So that’s my challenge to you: if you’re right, prove it. Show me, and everyone reading this. Quote ‘That Hideous Strength’. And let’s forget the occultists because they’re not relevent. Occultists think tea a mystical resource because they can read the leaves, but that doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t drink tea, or even that they should consider leaf-reading one the primary functions of brewing up a pot…!

One last point, before I move on. Aren’t all Christians to be compared with Christ? Isn’t every Christian meant to represent Christ, that he might be seen in them? What makes Merlin any different? (I know that isn’t what you’re saying. But this does seem to me to be the ground on which our eventual agreement might lie).

Further, Lewis’s own family said the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series were NEVER intended with any Christian symbolism or meaning. HIS own family stated that is not what they are about. So the author and his family say it’s not Christian–but Christians are arrogant enough to claim it is. Is this part of the academic realities you live in?

#1 – Evidence please. You make two separate claims here, and both require support. Firstly, you say Lewis’s family claim the Narnia stories are not Christian. You then change that slightly to include Lewis as well. If you want to convince me, show me the evidence. Don’t assert, argue. Don’t tell, show.

#2 – Yes, this is absolutely part of the academic reality I live in, and that is not in the least controversial. It’s really very simple: the critic knows more about the book than the author. Provided, of course, that the critic is qualified to comment on the work in the first place (not necessarily by producing credentials or letters after their name, but through long experience in the field in which he works.)

So – evidence, please, and then we can assess how useful or reliable it might be.

[quote]As for Lewis’s blasphemy: first of all, I want to know the context to the remark. It does not read as something intended for public consumption; the mode of address seems much more akin to a diary or letter. If that is true then we must be more lenient in our analysis: we write in shorthand what we mean when we write to ourselves or our intimates, we do not begin at first principles every time. To suggest that Lewis worships other gods, as Dillen implies, is at best silly and at worst mendacious. Note well exactly what Lewis says: he does not pray to Apollo the Healer, he acknowledges that it would have been wrong if he had done so, and he concludes that the prayer thus offered would nevertheless have been intended for Christ. Lewis’s great blasphemy, according to Ms Dillen, is that he was once tempted to pray to Christ in a pagan aspect.[/quote]

I really had to smile here. You think that if Lewis was writing that comment in a private manner it should be allowed or overlooked as somewhat personal and private and not indicating what he is about?Do you think God saw what he was doing if writing it in private about something he did/thought in public? Do you think God knows the secrets of the heart?

You have misunderstood me. I meant that we must be careful in what conclusions we draw, because Lewis wasn’t writing to us and the potential for misinterpretation is therefore very great. Of course God sees all – my point is that we don’t.

YOU misquoted what he said in your defense of him and attack on me. [quote]he acknowledges that it would have been wrong if he had done so, and he concludes that the prayer thus offered would nevertheless have been intended for Christ.[/quote]

This is what the quote was—-Lewis stated, “I had some ado to prevent Joy and myself from relapsing into Paganism in Attica!  At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Apollo the Healer.  But somehow one didn’t feel it would have been very wrong – would have only been addressing Christ sub specie Apollinis.”

Lewis stated he did NOT think it would have been wrong to pray to the false god because it would have been praying to Christ “sub species Apollinis“. And you think that is ok?

I think I was right the first time. Lewis said ““I had some ado to prevent Joy and myself from relapsing into Paganism in Attica!” – this does not mean that he did relapse, it means he did not. And note well the tone, that concluding exclamation mark. Can you not see this as being tongue-in-cheek?

“At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Apollo the Healer”. Again, this tells us, in black and white, that he did not pray to Apollo the Healer. The temptation (“it was hard…”) was there: Lewis resisted.

As for Lewis’s (entirely hypothetical) prayer, which – I remind you again – was not offered, when he describes it as ‘not very wrong’ that is nevertheless an acknowledgement that it would have been wrong. It is, in Lewis’s mind at least, a question of degree. (“I didn’t fail by much” is not another way of saying “I passed”!) I suppose the question here, and the fundamental point of divergence between you and Lewis, is this: do you think any non-Jew, prior to Christ’s coming to the earth, was saved? To be honest, I’m not sure, because I don’t know exactly what ‘crediting to righteousness’ entails. In the end, I’m happy enough not understanding, because short of Divine revelation I know that I will never have the information I would need to state definitively one way or the other. But that doesn’t, ultimately, matter: I trust God to get it right!

[quote]Ooops… Bradley Birzer, Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College and author of “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth” (so someone with proper credentials and demonstrable expertise, which must surely trump Ms Dillen) explained in an interview that “Tolkien wrote in an oft-quoted letter to a close friend [Jesuit priest Robert Murrey] in 1953 that “The Lord of the Rings” is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”[/quote]

So he didn’t have a clue what he was writing to start with and then decided to make it appear Catholic in the revision….oh well.

Have you ever tried writing fiction? Long fiction? To criticise Tolkien on this suggests that you have not. Tolkien was writing a story, first and foremost, not a tract; the themes brought out in later drafts are highlighted because Tolkien wanted to emphasise what was originally present (it is difficult to the point of impossible to go back and artificially insert a theme later). I recommend you read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ for a fuller discussion on this (I suspect you don’t rate King, particularly, but you must acknowledge that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing books. And let’s be clear here: the criticism you make above is an exclusively literary one, and will be answered in exclusively literary terms). Writing the theme first and the story second makes for very bad fiction – but see every criticism I have ever made of the ‘Left Behind’ series…!

[quote] What unbelievable intellectual poverty, and what an odious, noxious attempt at persuasion to an unsupportable and suffocating final position. Christians, according to Ms Dillen, ought not in the final analysis to have anything to do with fiction or the imagination. Earlier in her article she claims[/quote]

What I have said and which is Biblical, is that our imagination can be used to honor and glorify God or it can be used otherwise. And believers are to do all for the glory and honor of God. Every imagination and every thought is to brought into obedience to that end.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  6.  And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Alright – that’s fair enough. But what that actually entails is by no means clear. For example, one might argue that an imagination suborned to God will not construct a shocking, sexually-explicit metaphor. But Exekiel 23 is exactly that – a sustained and explicit sexual metaphor (it is the source of the expression ‘hung like a horse’).

As always, the problem is not in the instruction, it is in its application. And a lot of the answer will be down to individual consciences. For example (and this is a genuine question, not me poking at you), how do you reconcile running your website, and providing your research, with 1 Timothy 2: 11 – “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection”? For the record, I have no problem with you doing what you do. But I am curious as to how a Berean woman who runs a website applies this instruction.

When I threw out books and such when I was 14,  that I knew were occult in nature–because I had been a non Christian raised in a non Christian environment– it was because of understanding that things such as witchcraft were an offense to God. He calls it of the flesh. And it is listed in these verses:

Galatians 5:16-25  This I say then, **Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  17.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  18.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  19.  Now ***the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these***; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  20.  Idolatry, **witchcraft,** hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  21.  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  22.  ***But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  23.  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  24.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  25.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.****

This is true. But Lewis’s characters, who do not have any equivalent of a Bible, or of the Holy Spirit, are doing what they can to contact the equivalent of Christ. Where witchcraft is encountered in the books, it is condemned (you could not read Jadis, for example, as a heroine): magic is trickier, because it is the only mechanism the characters believe they have to reach out to Aslan. Condemning witchcraft is good. But what you’re condemning, in the Narnia books, is the Narnians’ equivalent of prayer.

We could duke it out–as I have a tendency to answer people line by line. But I think it is pretty pointless. You have your beliefs rooted in academic thought and I have mine rooted in Christ and Scriptural Truth. You offer a moment of ‘zen’ at the end….how incredibly Christian and Biblical.  😦

So…not a fan of The Daily Show, then? I think the reference went over your head ;-). But don’t presume to know where my beliefs are rooted. They are, like yours, anchored in the Bible. My arguments are rooted in academia, because that is what academia teaches you: it teaches you how to argue, how to debate and persuade by reason and logic. You aren’t arguing, you’re asserting, and actually you’re not ‘answering’ anything line-by-line, because you’re not providing evidence. Quoting the Bible won’t tell me what ‘That Hideous Strength’ actually says: only quoting ‘That Hideous Strength’ will do that.

1Co 2:5  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 3:18-21  Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
20.  And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.  21.  Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

You will dismiss what I have said of course because I don’t have any *credentials* and that for you is really how one defines what is truth.  You appear to have no interest in Biblical truth – academia is your answer to define the “mysteries” of the mind, where fantasies and myths are superior to the reality of the Bible. If one sees what Jesus taught as “myths”, then there is no real plumb line for the truth. God’s truth is not subjective to man’s imagination, however that is defined or used.

No, if I dismiss what you say it is because you haven’t demonstrated its relevence. Firing Bible verses at me doesn’t strengthen your literary arguments. And there are times when I have no idea how to respond to you – what do you mean when you talk about the ‘mysteries of the mind’ (where did that phrase come from?), or the ‘plumb line for the truth’? Ultimately, biblical wisdom by itself is useless without instruction concerning application. It’s not enough to know that Christ saves: you have to believe it, and then do something about it. God’s truth, in that sense, is entirely subject to man’s imagination: what is belief if it is not an imaginative leap of faith? Imagination is the tool by which we determine reality – including ‘Biblical reality’. Imagination is what enables us to create, but it is also what enables us to perceive truth and wisdom. Imagination is also what enables self-awareness. It is your imagination that says “Hey, doing that would be a sin, so you probably shouldn’t do it.” Imagination is what applies Biblical wisdom.

Credentials are shorthand for ‘this is a person who has given this a lot of thought, and knows a lot about it’. No more…and no less, either. For instance, would you prefer a lawyer defending you in court to begin their argument with “speaking as the Dean of Harvard law school” or “speaking as a mother”? That is not to say experts never get things wrong. But one would expect that they do so less frequently than the rest of us 😉 So when you say you are a Biblical scholar, I have only your word for it. And I’m prepared to accept that -‘Assume Good Faith’, and all that – but I wouldn’t have to make that assumption if you had any credentials. You say you’re a scholar; credentials would prove it. They don’t make you any right-er or wrong-er. They just enable an outside observer to assess how seriously to take you.

1Co 1:19  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1Co 1:24  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1Co 1:25  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1Co 1:30  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
1Co 1:31  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Oh, btw, I am Canadian (that’s what the SeekGod.*ca* stands for)…so understand the “Brits” just a little bit.

Thank you for writing Gavin. You made my day most interesting.

Vicky Dillen
Seek God
Discussion Forum >

Thank you very much, Vicky, for taking the time to provide such a comprehensive response.

Thanks again,


And here is today’s moment of zen Christian unity:

60163 'Tornado' passes Starlingford Castle

About Gavin

I am a 32-year-old PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland. I work in QC at an e-learning company. I'm originally Northern Irish, though I've lived here in Aberdeen for several years. I am, essentially, somebody who is very normal, yet to whom very strange things keep happening...
This entry was posted in The Dillen Debate, Tyrannosaurus Lex, Webworld. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to responds!

  1. fayehendry says:

    Hi Gavin.
    As you can imagine, I have read with avid interest this as well as your previous post about, and I’ve also read Ms Dillen’s pages on Tolkien, Lewis, Harry Potter, etc. and “fables” (as she calls them) in general.
    (For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an English Literature and Divinity graduate from Aberdeen University, currently training to be an English teacher and a big fan of Tolkien and Lewis. I wrote my undergrad dissertation on Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Thought I should explain since “credentials” have been a key factor in this debate!)

    I could of course write pages and pages on this, but shall try to be restrained!
    I think what I am most struck by is Ms Dillen’s sheer arrogance in presuming a)that Lewis could not have been a Christian, and b)that “You have your beliefs rooted in academic thought” whilst she has hers “rooted in Christ and Scriptural Truth.” That she presumes to know anyone’s spiritual state before God makes me automatically wary of anything she has to say. That she thinks academic reason is mutually exclusive from genuine love for and desire to seek Christ is slightly alarming.

    Her unfounded assertions about fiction seem to be based on lack of understanding of key concepts such as “myth” and “fable” and a fixed and rigid determination that only the Bible can be a source of spiritual nourishment. Whilst the Bible is God’s primary means of revelation to us today, surely it’s placing limitations on his character to say that He can’t or doesn’t choose to speak to us through other means, including fiction, as well. When ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ came out in cinemas a few years ago, I remember the fantasic opportunity it gave us at church to have a Narnia event, where we used the film, and the character of Aslan, as a springboard to study God’s word and the nature of Christ with children. Kids came to know Jesus that day, through God’s grace, because of the opportunites the film afforded us. Fiction can be a source of truth.

    I love reading fiction and I also love Christ (though Him I love infinitely more!). Anyone who says the two are mutually exclusive must have a very narrow view of the world.

  2. Pingback: Fiction: Good or Evil? « Faye’s Book

  3. Eruntane says:

    Hi Gavin
    Not that I think you’re likely to have taken Ms Dillen’s remarks to heart, but just so you know, I always find your “academic” approach to the tricky business of living according to God’s word both challenging and helpful, so please don’t stop.

    I find Ms Dillen’s response highly unsatisfactory as regards what I found the two most shocking aspects of her original article. Firstly, although she reasserts that C. S. Lewis committed the sin of idolatry, she brushes over her claim that he wasn’t saved. Presumably with hindsight even she finds it indefensible. Secondly, she pulls a complete 180 on her original article, in which she says that children must be forbidden (or at the very least strongly discouraged) from using their imagination because it will lead them into sin. Suddenly, now, she acknowledges that the imagination can lead us to godly thoughts after all. Well, imagine that – He made it! Perhaps she needs it pointed out to her that the opposite of misuse is not disuse but right use.

  4. Green says:

    Now, as somewhat of an outsider here. Being an athiest (and somebody who’s only literal qualifications being a TEFL course and a love of reading and writing, though for the record I do have a bachelors degree in chemistry). I have been fascinated by this debate(?). I can back up Gavin’s claim that it is very hard to edit a theme into a story (short or long) and starting with a very certain theme and trying to fit everything around it is harder still, and yes, produces very bad fiction. But on this note, it has been put forward (with no evidence, sorry the scientist in me has difficulty without evidence, the pitfalls of being an academic of an empirical science I suppose) that Narnia had never been intended to be overtly (or at all) Christian. Now from all the literature I have read, in works of fiction and non-fiction, I have always found a little (or a lot) of the writer comes through and even writing in the realms of fantasy or upon the bridge of a starship the things that most effect us, or that we care about the most seep through. Starting with ‘Earthly’ matters, I am writing a story the day I hear my Gradnfather has passed away, will my writing be happy or sad? My girlfriend has just accepted my marraige proposal, again same question. I have given myself over to Jesus, who has become the centre of my universe, will He seep into my writing? I don’t believe in God, god or gods, will my writing feature much religion? (I know this can be overcome, one of my favourite writers, who is also athiest, features a lot of religion in his work and it is only recently I figured out why, but this is another debate for another time). We write about what we know, what we feel, what we think it is where the stories come from.

    I have had many interesting and informative talks, chats and debates with Gavin over the years and he has pushed me hard to think and evaluate what I am saying.

  5. Mike says:


    I think your position would be strengthened by recognizing the tentativeness of academic titles. I assume you admit that someone could be more capable of reading literature or reading the Bible than you without the formal qualification. Much of the discussion could have been circumvented by not trying to defend one’s qualification but rather one’s thought. I know that Ms. Dillen attacked the inherent validity of university-born thought. It just doesn’t seem that rising to its defense helps to “be right” about this particular topic. It appears to muddy the water.
    A similar comment could be made about Lewis’s own claim to know myth because he spent his life studying it. That may add weight to what he says but only weight and only weight for those who feel that a lifetime of studying myth adds weight. Nevertheless, his argument does have to achieve on its own (i.e. people with weight can still get it wrong.)

  6. Free Movie Streaming says:

    Bloggers are not appreciated enough, keep up the great writing.

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