When I first met Marjorie Lamp Mead, I described the kind of work I was doing. Immediately she mentioned Lyle Dorsett. Marjorie has been associate director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College since 1977, but you might know her as the editor (with Clyde S. Kilby) of Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis and (with Lyle W. Dorsett) of C S. Lewis: Letters to Children. More than just a colleague of Dr. Dorsett’s, Marj could perceive how my questions may have overlap with Dorsett’s work.
The key moment of overlap is Dr. Dorsett’s 2004 Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis. I also had purchased some lectures from ChristianAudio.com, entitled “Spiritual Formation in the Life of C. S. Lewis.” I was very impressed with this series, and have discovered that they are free to all at the C.S. Lewis Institute. Here is the lecture series description:
In these four lectures, Dr. Dorsett presents some new light on the major elements of Lewis’s spiritual formation with emphasis on how and why he changed over the years. Relying on hundreds of unpublished letters, nearly fifty oral history interviews, and untapped evidence from Lewis’s personal library, Dr. Dorsett shows how Lewis’s own spiritual transformation became the impetus behind his important role as a spiritual director to countless souls.
One of the things that I have been arguing in my work is that in the midst of Lewis’ apologetic books, we should be thinking of how Lewis contributed to what I call “spiritual theology”—frameworks for developing one’s devotional life. In this engaging lecture series, Dr. Dorsett looks at Lewis as a spiritual guide. One of Lewis’ great friends, Inkling Austin Farrar, argued that Lewis was not a spiritual director. Here is how Dr. Dorsett responds:
“Lewis would have agreed…. Beyond this, he openly admitted he had neither the calling nor the formal training to be a theologian or a pastor. Certainly he would have offered a resounding ‘Amen’ to the brilliant Farrar’s assessment he [C.S. Lewis] lacked the grace to be a spiritual guide. But I submit to you that even geniuses can be dead wrong. The perspective of time and the preservation of primary sources reveal quite clearly that C.S. Lewis in fact became and still is a spiritual guide of such high calibre that it rivals his stature as a Christian apologist.”
Make sure you check out this 4-part lecture series, which I hope will entice you into the book.
Rev. Dr. Lyle Dorsett holds the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of numerous books, among them biographies of Joy Davidman (Mrs. C.S. Lewis), E.M. Bounds, Dwight L. Moody, and Billy Sunday. Keenly interested in the life and writings of C.S. Lewis, he has published a volume of Lewis’s Letters to Children, The Essential C.S. Lewis, and Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C.S. Lewis. His most recent book is A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer. Dorsett is ordained in the Anglican Church and is with the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA) under the Province of Rwanda, and serves as Senior Pastor of Christ the King Anglican Church in Homewood, Alabama. Lyle and his wife, Mary, have two children and four grandchildren. The Dorsetts founded and currently serve as directors of Christ for Children International, a mission to the economically and spiritually impoverished in Mexico. The Dorsetts have two children and four grandchildren.
The C.S. Lewis Institute was founded in 1976 in the legacy of C. S. Lewis. The Institute endeavors to develop disciples who will articulate, defend, and live their faith in Christ in personal and public life. From its inception, the Institute has been inter-denominational, has worked closely with a variety of churches and sees itself as a servant ministry, assisting churches and pastors in making disciples of Jesus Christ. This takes the form of discipleship programs, evangelism and apologetics training, area-wide conferences/seminars, pastor fellowships and resources in print and on the web.