From the November/December, 2018 issue of Touchstone
C. S. Lewis Imagination


Editor's Pick: Read the Introduction


What is truth? John 18:38

"Pilate's cynical question still demands an answer," writes Donald Williams in his November 2018 article Meaningful Truth, "and [C.S. Lewis'] is especially helpful. . . . So how did Lewis answer that question, and what does imagination contribute?"

It is our imagination, Williams writes, that does the work of finding things meaningful. To the observer who is without imagination, it doesn't really matter what is true because everything is equally meaningless. I am reminded here of G.K. Chesterton who wrote, "Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. . . . It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal, and that you are a paralytic."

Next comes reason. Reason is how we talk about what our imagination finds meaningful. Without reason we cannot connect the dots and explain ourselves. Nor can we tell a story. Pilate's famous question demonstrates a profound failure of both his imagination (his failure to see the meaning behind the trial of Jesus) and his reason.

(It is Pilate's wife Procla who sees the meaning and reasons with her husband when she proclaims "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.")

This, writes Williams, is what Lewis means when he called reason the "organ of truth." Myth is the story that allows other imaginations to receive and taste a way of seeing the world that reason can then confirm as true or false. And finally, what is true is that part of these stories or accounts that corresponds with reality.

And so says Donald Williams in Meaningful Truth, from the November/December 2018 issue.

—Douglas Johnson, Deputy Editor
(read more Editor's Picks)


Meaningful Truth

The Critical Role of Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis

After the storm there's a rainbow,
And all of the colors are black.
It's not that the colors aren't there;
It's just imagination we lack.
—Paul Simon

One thing that makes C. S. Lewis uniquely important as a Christian writer is the way he integrates reason and imagination in his expository writings as well as his fiction, all in the service of truth. But what is truth? Pilate's cynical question still demands an answer, and Lewis's is especially helpful because of the way it calls both Reason . . .


Donald T. Williams Ph.D., is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College. He is the author of eleven books, most recently Deeper Magic: The Theology Behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Square Halo Books, 2016) and An Encouraging Thought: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of J. R. R. Tolkien (Christian Publishing House, 2018). He is a member of University Church, an interdenominational house church in Athens, Georgia.

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