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Winter 2006 | Volume 29, Number 1 | Features


Professor Teaches “C.S. Lewis and Values”

SEATTLE PACIFIC UNIVERSITY Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature Mike Macdonald pulls out a tattered copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It looks as lovingly worn as an old teddy bear with a missing button nose. The spine has lost its glue, and the yellowed, marked-up pages are held together by a frail-looking cover. But Macdonald isn’t about to retire the book to his grandchildren’s nursery. “No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 if it’s not worth reading at the age of 60,” he says. “This is a book for everyone.”

This year, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is required reading for Macdonald’s SPU course “C.S. Lewis and Values.” For the first time in several years, students will read the text alongside other Lewis classics such as Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, says Macdonald, Lewis teaches about “loyalty, how to tell if someone is lying, the relationship between good and evil, and the importance of imagination. We learn about the perils of pride, and the value of obedience. It’s why the book is so worthwhile.”

Macdonald’s academic interest in Lewis dates back to the early 1970s. “Former SPU President [then Dean of Academic Development] Curtis Martin asked me to teach a class about Lewis,” he says. By 1978, not only was the class a resounding favorite among students, but momentum for “all things Lewisian” was also building across campus. As a result, Macdonald helped found Seattle Pacific’s C.S. Lewis Institute, which brought internationally renowned Lewis scholars to campus for conferences and seminars. The Institute continues to operate today.

In his Autumn Quarter class, Macdonald says he’s seeing a new surge of interest in Lewis among his students — a phenomenon he credits partly to the forthcoming film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But it’s also the vivid illustrations Lewis makes about everyday life that resound with students. “In a generation that says ‘if it feels good, do it,’” explains Macdonald, “Lewis says ‘beware of feelings, they will come and go.’”

Now in his 39th year of teaching at SPU, Macdonald says he’s drawn a connection between the insights of Lewis and the vision of Seattle Pacific. “Engaging the culture and changing the world,” says Macdonald, “is something I think Lewis would identify with.” After all, he explains, “Lewis was a man who spent his life engaging with people around the world about the great truths of the Christian faith.”

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