2/4/2013 - Beeson Professor Extols C.S. Lewis As Model For Modern Christians
By Michael J. Brooks
Lyle Dorsett was an accomplished academician with a Ph.D., teaching American history at the University of Denver, when he was challenged by a student to read two classic Christian writers: G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) and C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). "My student was bold enough to tell me I was very intelligent, but was 'messed up' spiritually," Dorsett said with a laugh. "I did read these books and my life changed radically."
Dorsett committed his life to Christ and became a life-long student of Lewis. He wrote The Essential C.S. Lewis in 1996, Seeking The Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C.S. Lewis in 2004 and a biography of Lewis's wife, And God Came In: The Extraordinary Story of Joy Davidman, in 2009.
Dorsett, now professor of evangelism at Beeson Divinity School, was guest speaker at Judson College's recent Christian Emphasis Week. He spole to students, faculty and staff for two days on the work of Lewis, and spent an afternoon with local pastors talking about the work of congregational ministry.
Some years after becoming a Christian, Dorsett left Colorado and moved to Wheaton College in Illinois where he maintained the C.S. Lewis collection.
"In addition to Lewis's library that we purchased, we have many letters he wrote," Dorsett said. "Lewis sometimes received 200 letters in a week and he felt God wanted him to answer his fan mail though he remained busy teaching at Oxford and writing books. He used letters as a way to mentor and to instill value, insisting that there weren't any ordinary people in the world."
Dorsett said that Lewis's Christian growth, or "spiritual formation," is a model for modern believers. "Lewis wasn't afraid of hard questions," Dorsett said, "since he'd had many of those questions himself before coming to Christ. He felt it was fine to probe hard questions and seek God's help in understanding."
Dorsett also said Lewis prayed through his pain. Lewis lost his mother when he was a child, his best friend was killed during World War I and his wife succumbed to cancer after only a few years of marriage. He chronicled his wife's death in his book, A Grief Observed. "His life was punctuated by pain and death and he saw these as opportunities to grow stronger," Dorsett said. "He believed and I believe that true joy isn't the absence of suffering but the presence of Christ in our lives."
Lewis took prayer very seriously and would pray through the Psalms every month. "He told new Christians to 'get busy learning to pray,'" Dorsett said. "And he had a large prayer network. He wrote friends around the world and asked them to pray for various needs."
Lewis also believed Christians must be "deep and practical students of the Bible," Dorsett said. "In the Wheaton collection we had a number of Bibles Lewis used. He actually wore out many Bibles! And he believed that we must be 'radically obedient' to what we learn from scripture."
Judson student Carli Ludlow of Pine Hill, Ala., heard both lectures and said she felt Dorsett made Lewis "friendly" for all ages, showing how young and old can relate to him. "I read Mere Christianity in high school, but he made me want to read Lewis again now that I'm in college," she said.
Dorsett also serves as founding pastor of the Christ the King Anglican Church, currently meeting in Beeson's Andrew Gerow Hodges chapel. He told local pastors in his session with them to follow the ministry example of Jesus and to earn the right to preach to people by spending time with them and earning their trust. "Sometimes people need a friend to talk to about their failures," Dorsett noted.
"In the Anglican church we talk about confession being 'under the stole.' That means people trust us to offer God's forgiveness, to keep them accountable in their repentance but also to maintain confidence. This is a significant part of being a shepherd to God's flock."