Jesus Prayer rosary

As usual, my high aspirations for improving my practice of prayer during Lent haven’t lived up to expectations. Still, I recently picked up a small book called The Jesus Prayer Rosary by the late Fr. Michael Cleary that I’ve found helpful. Although I’m wary of mix ‘n’ match approaches to spirituality, I love the Rosary and have been looking for a way to incorporate the Jesus Prayer into my practice of prayer beyond ad hoc use.

In the introduction, Fr. Cleary says that he wrote the book precisely to bring these two traditions together. Particularly, he suggests it could be a valuable way of praying for those who are uncomfortable with the Marian prayers of the traditional Rosary.

The Jesus Prayer Rosary differs from the traditional (Dominican) Rosary in about the ways you might expect. Here’s what the structure looks like:

On the cross pray

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

and

Holy God,
Holy and strong,
Holy and immortal,
have mercy on us.

On the first large bead pray the Lord’s Prayer.

On the three small beads pray

i. Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.
ii. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
iii. Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Pray the “Glory Be…”

On the next large bead, announce the first “mystery” or meditation and pray the Lord’s Prayer.

On each of the ten following beads, pray the Jesus Prayer.

After the ten beads, pray the “Glory Be…” and the Concluding prayer for each meditation.

Repeat this for all five decades; on the centerpiece pray one of the concluding prayers (the book offers several, including the traditional Lukan canticles).

Pray a concluding prayer.

The book offers a series of Bible passages and meditations that correspond roughly to the traditional mysteries of the Rosary: Meditations on the Infancy of Jesus, the Ministry of Jesus, the Passion, and “Life in Christ,” which include the Resurrection, Ascension, the Holy Spirit, the Life of Grace, and the New Jerusalem.

For each meditation, the book also provides a clause to use when praying the Jesus Prayer that resonates with the mystery being meditated upon. For instance, the form of the Jesus Prayer given for the meditation on the Last Supper is

Jesus, Lord and Christ,
Son and Word of the Living God:
you make yourself known to us
in the breaking of bread,
have mercy (on us).

I’ve only used this form of the Rosary a couple of times so far, but I’ve found it to be conducive to focusing on Jesus, which, according to Fr. Cleary, is what it’s for:

Concentrating on Jesus is what this little work is all about. It’s also a pretty good description of what Christians down the years have called ‘meditation.’ Making it possible for people to do so, in a way that changes their lives, what they have called ‘evangelization.’ At least, that’s the way St. Paul understood it: ‘For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4.6). And, staying focused on that face is for the apostle the secret of the spiritual life, the life of transforming grace: ‘beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3.18). (pp. ix-x)

I’m not at all uncomfortable with the traditional Marian rosary, but I do find this version’s more intensely Christological focus to be appealing.

Pre-Christmas odds and ends

The ATR household is off to visit family for the better part of the next week, so blogging will be light–well, even lighter than usual.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been reading ’round the Web lately:

Christopher has several posts on l’affaire Rick Warren that are, as usual, very much worth your time. (See here, here, and here.)

Congrats to John Schwenkler, whose blog Upturned Earth has been absorbed into the ever-expanding conservative media empire that is Culture 11.

Lynn reflects on the movie Milk and how different the atmosphere for gay rights in California has changed since the 70’s (n.b.: a couple of f-bombs).

I thought this article on St. Joseph at Slate was neat.

Jennifer reminds us that it’s T-minus one month till the Lost season premiere! (And don’t forget Battlestar Galactica on January 18th!)

Alan Jacobs and Noah Millman discuss intereligious dialogue at the American Scene. This is something I haven’t given as much thought to as I’d like. (See here, here, and here.)

Tom Engelhardt writes on publishing and reading during a downturn. Also see this: “The Tyranny of the ‘To-Read’ Pile”

George Monbiot on peak oil.

This is interesting: Meat Consumption and CO2 Emissions

Not surprisingly, beef has the highest CO2 emissions per pound, but surprisingly high also are cheese and shrimp. I wonder if transportation was included in the figuring.

This talk
from the E.F. Schumahcer Institute was delivered in May, but it still seems entirely relevant to our current predicament.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring you Christmas wishes from Ronnie James Dio (along with the rest of the Dio-era Black Sabbath line-up).

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

 Conrad von Soest, Nativity (1404)
Conrad von Soest, Nativity (1404)

November/December reading notes

Also known as the lazy man’s book review, or capsule reflections on books I might not get around to posting on at greater length:

Ecology at the Heart of Faith by Denis Edwards and Nature Reborn: The Ecological and Cosmic Promise of Christian Theology by H. Paul Santmire

A Catholic (Edwards) and a Lutheran (Santmire) offer nicely complementary re-tellings of the Christian story that emphasize the cosmic and ecological context of God’s presence with us.

Religion and Human Fulfillment
by Keith Ward

Ward looks at controversial moral issues through the lens of various religious traditions (Christianity and sexuality, Islam and just war, Buddhism and beginning- and end-of-life issues, Judaism and religious vs. secular law); he defends a version of “transcendent personalism,” which holds that reason can discern right and wrong, but that belief in a transcendent source of being and goodness provides an extra impetus for the moral life.

God, Religion, and Reality
by Stephen R.L. Clark

A clever and idiosyncratic defense of traditional/classic theism, taking the view–unfashionable in both philosophical and theological circles–that reason can demonstrate the existence and attributes of God.

Rawls and Religion: A Defense of Political Liberalism by Daniel Dombrowski

The noted process philosopher/theologian argues for the essential compatibility of Rawlsian liberalism with robust religious commitment. He also addresses weaknesses in Rawls’ view regarding such issues as war and peace, abortion, and animal rights.

Loving Jesus by Mark Allan Powell

Powell, a Lutheran seminary professor and self-proclaimed “Jesus freak,” offers a “post-critical” piety that engages heart and head in “loving Jesus in a complicated world.” Very helpful reflections on prayer, personal devotions, stewardship, and spiritual growth that are neither overly abstract nor simplistic.

On deck:

Liberty: Rethinking an Imperiled Ideal by Glenn Tinder

The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel by Craig Koester

Assorted links with no particular unifying theme

–Lynn on why some people are pro-choice on abortion but anti-gay marriage and the various meanings of “sodomy”

–Matt Yglesias on DC Statehood (bonus: a couple of nifty images of US flags with 51 stars from Yglesias commenters)

–Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle recently appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi show, an excellent program on DC’s NPR affiliate.

–The environmental movement’s curious reticence about meat

Camassia and Hugo on faith and doubt

–Rod Dreher on the Jesus Prayer and mental stillness

–An quote on career and vocation from William Stringfellow

Starbucks and “third wave” coffee culture

–Philosopher AC Grayling on animal research

School of prayer

Christianity Today has a piece on praying the Psalms, making the point that prayer is “learning to desire the things God wants to give, and then asking him for them,” and that the Psalms are an excellent–if not the best–way to do this.

Praying the Psalms is something I don’t do nearly as much as I should (the same goes for praying at all, for that matter).

Dogma and prayer

I think I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d been reading Anglican theologian Austin Farrer’s Saving Belief. Well, I just finished another work of his called Lord I Belive: Suggestions for Turning the Creed Into Prayer, and it’s another great read.

Farrer argues that “prayer and dogma are inseparable” (p. 9). To be a Christian is not just to coolly consider the truths of the faith, but to incorporate them into one’s innermost self. And the best way to do this is to incorporate the dogmas of the church into one’s prayer. The creed, as a summary of Christian belief, is the ideal guide for this, because it gives us an image of God and his dealings with us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

Though God be in me, yet without the creed to guide me I should know neither how to call upon God, nor on what God to call. God may be the very sap of my growth and substance of my action; but the tree has grown so crooked and is so deformed and cankered in its parts, that I should be at a loss to distinguish the divine power among the misuses of the power given. Were I to worship God as the principle of my life, I should merely worship myself under another name, with all my good and evil. So I take refuge in that image of God which we have described as branded from outside upon the bark. Here is a token I can trust, for he branded it there himself; he branded it on the stock of man when he stretched out his hands and feet and shed his precious blood. The pattern of the brand was traced on me by those who gave the creed to me; God will deepen it and burn it into me, as I submit my thoughts to him in meditation. (p. 14)

This strikes me as very Lutheran with its emphasis on the word that comes from outside ourselves, and in its emphasis on the importance of meditating on the creed. Luther, of course, commended this as one of the main parts of his Small Catechism.

Farrer’s remaining chapters provide expositions/meditations of the various parts of the creed, each one culminating in a prayer. They show the mark of the same generous orthodoxy that characterized Saving Belief. Finally, there is a chapter on the Rosary called “The Heaven-Sent Aid,” where Farrer commends it as one of the best ways to meditate on the mysteries of our faith:

If I had been asked two dozen years ago for an example of what Christ forbade when he said “Use not vain repetitions,” I should very likely have referred to the fingering of beads. But now if I wished to name a special sort of private devotion most likely to be of general profit, prayer on the beads is what I should name. Since my previous opinion was based on ignorance and my present opinion is based on experience, I am not ashamed of changing my mind. Christ did not, in fact, prohibit repitition in prayer, the translation is false; he prohibited gabbling, whether we repeat or whether we do not. Rosaries, like any other prayers, can be gabbled, and if they are gabbled, they will certainly not be profitable. Devout persons who take to the beads as a way of meditating are not likely to gabble, for their object is to meditate. (p. 80)

Farrer’s book is a good illustration of what I was trying to get at in emphasizing the importance of dogma in yesterday’s post. The soul needs something concrete to feed on, and to lead it to God. Yes, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that our dogma and doctrine provide a blurred and incomplete picture of the divine nature. But we also trust that they’re reliable pointers that will lead us deeper into that inexhaustible Truth.

Rowan Williams on prayer

I came across this during a Google search:

One of the primary tasks of any prayer is ‘How do I let God be God? How do I empty my mind and heart – not so as to confront a kind of void, but so that the personal presence of God can come in?’

If all prayer is trying to listen to God we have to remember that the God that we are seeking to meet is a person, and we come into a personal presence. And that means of course, that praying is about a great deal more than words in the same way that personal presence is about a great deal more than words. The Word of God – the way God communicates – is by being God, by being himself; so one of the primary tasks of any kind of prayer is ‘How do I let God be God?’ ‘How do I empty my mind and heart, not so as to confront a kind of void but so that the personal presence of God can come in? And words are part of that but only a very small part.

More here.

A contemplative and Christocentric prayer

I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of praying the Rosary. For whatever reason, I’ve found that it’s a form of prayer that really speaks to my condition. Looking for some resources online I came across two I really liked: this sermon on praying the Rosary from Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P. and this post from Br. Augustine Reisenauer, O.P.

(Also see my post, Can Protestants Pray the Rosary?)

In defense of C.S. Lewis

Via Catholic blogger Mark Shea I came across this article arguing that J.R.R. Tolkien’s lukewarm response to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series is rooted in something deeper than aesthetic preference. The author, Eric Seddon, contends that Tolkien’s intense dislike of Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm (which Tolkien called “a distressing and in parts horrifying work”) indicates deeper theological differences between the two men, which may account for Tolkien’s lack of enthusiasm for Narnia.

I’m far from being of the “C.S. Lewis is infallible” school of thought, but I think Seddon levels some inaccurate and unfair criticisms against Lewis in the course of comparing Lewis’ and Tolkien’s theological views. The heart of Seddon’s argument is that Malcolm is, in several places, a thinly disguised anti-Catholic polemic and that this same theological vision lies at the heart of the Narnia books, which explains Tolkien’s evaluation of them.

Seddon scores some points, I think, when he says that Malcolm‘s form as one side of a fictional correspondence allows Lewis to bring up his differences with Catholicism while appearing to be doing so only under pressure from his correspondent. Seddon correctly notes that this form can disguise the fact that it’s Lewis who decides which topics are brought up for discussion (since there is no Malcolm). So, for instance, when “Malcolm” criticizes Lewis’ views on devotion to saints Lewis is able to offer a criticism of the “Roman” view in the course of defending his own views on the matter.

In this carefully balanced literary structure, which is a monologue cast as one side of a dialogue, we find Lewis’s most overtly Anglican work. It is filled with theological barbs–most of them aimed at Roman Catholicism. As such it provides us with the very clearest contrast between his and Tolkien’s beliefs. Reading the book from the Roman Catholic perspective of Tolkien, it is not difficult to glean what aspects of it might have distressed and even horrified him. When investigated, they shed light on Tolkien’s permanent rejection of Narnia[.]

This is all fair enough, it seems to me. However, Seddon goes further in attributing to Lewis positions which, if one examines his entire corpus, are not faithful representations of his thoughts. I’ll identify just three of these, though there are more.

“Subjectivism” vs. “Objectivism”

Seddon admits that Lewis allows for the permissibility of devotion to the saints. Indeed Lewis writes that there “is clearly a theological defence for it; if you can ask for the prayers of the living, why should you not ask for the prayers of the dead?” (Malcolm, p. 15). He admits that this can lead to excesses and misunderstandings, but doesn’t reject it wholesale. He does say that he doesn’t intend to adopt the practice himself, but “who am I to judge the practices of others?” (ibid.)

This strikes me as in keeping with the Anglican tradition on these matters. Seddon, however, takes this to be indicative of “Lewis’s subjectivism in spiritual matters, conflicting with Tolkien’s objectivism”:

Thus Lewis, in a perfectly typical, Anglican manner, states that devotions to the saints are optional, depending upon the opinion of the individual–the final arbiter on the matter being a Protestant, relativistic conception of the Self. Tolkien would not have shared this belief, instead understanding such devotions to be an absolute good–the final arbiter on theological matters being not the Self alone, but the greater Christian community of the ages working in conjunction with personal consent–a typically Catholic understanding. The implications of this difference between them was perhaps more radical than either of them realized at the time of their closest friendship.

I’m frankly a bit baffled by this passage because I find it very difficult to understand how someone who was familiar with Lewis’ work as a whole could possibly regard him as someone who believed that the “final arbiter on theological matters” is “the Self alone.” This is a straw-man version of Protestantism that one sometimes hears from Catholic apologists and, however much it might characterize some dessicated versions of liberal Protestantism, it’s hardly true of Protestantism more generally, or Lewis in particular. As he says in Mere Christianity:

[T]he one really adequate instrument for learning about God, is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together. Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science–the laboratory outfit. That is why all these people who turn up every few years with some patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian tradition are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old pair of field glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. (Mere Christianity, p. 144)

The dichotomy between subjective, relativistic Protestantism and objective, tradition-bound Catholicism simply doesn’t hold water. I’m no expert on Catholic theology, but I’m not even sure that devotion to the saints is regarded as mandatory for Catholics. There is inevitably an element of personal preference in the selection of a devotional practice, with various devotions being perhaps suited to different temperaments, but this in no way implies a generalized subjectivism about theological truth.

Transubstantiation and the Eucharist

Another Catholic “hot-button” that Seddon accuses Lewis of pushing is the doctrine of transubstantiation. He quotes Lewis as saying that

I find “substance” (in Aristotle’s sense), when stripped of its own accidents and endowed with the accidents of some other substance, an object I cannot think. My efforts to do so produces mere nursery-thinking […]. (Malcolm 102)

“For Tolkien,” Seddon writes, “the condescension would have been palpable.” Seddon sees Lewis here as leveling an accusation of childishness at the Catholic doctrine, something Tolkien would’ve regarded as a slap in the face. But I think the passage as a whole gives a very different picture of what Lewis is up to.

What Lewis is discussing here is his inability to accept a “theory” of the Eucharist, whether it’s the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation or the “memorialist” views associated with some Protestant churches:

Some people seem able to discuss different theories of this act as if they understood them all and needed only evidence as to which was best. This light has been withheld from me. I do not know and can’t imagine what the disciples understood Our Lord to mean when, His body still unbroken and His blood unshed, He handed them the bread and wine, saying they were His body and blood. I can find within the forms of my human understanding no connection between eating a man–and it is as Man that the Lord has flesh–and entering into any kind of spiritual oneness or community or koinonia with him. And I find “substance” (in Aristotle’s sense), when stripped of its own accidents and endowed with the accidents of some other substance, an object I cannot think. My effort to do so produces mere nursery-thinking–a picture of something like very rarefied plasticine. On the other hand, I get on no better with those who tell me that the elements are mere bread and mere wine, used symbolically to remind me of the death of Christ. They are, on the natural level, such a very odd symbol of that. But it would be profane to suppose that they are as arbitrary as they seem to me. I well believe there is in reality an appropriateness, even a necessity, in their selection. But it remains, for me, hidden. Again, if they are, if the whole act is, simply memorial, it would seem to follow that its value must be purely psychological, and dependent on the recipient’s sensibility at the moment of reception. And I cannot see why this particular reminder–a hundred other things may, psychologically, remind me of Christ’s death, equally, or perhaps more–should be so uniquely important as all Christendom (and my own heart) unhesitatingly declare. (Malcolm, 102)

Seddon reads this as little more than anti-Catholic polemic, but on a more charitable reading it seems clear that Lewis is grappling with the same issue that the magisterial Protestants grappled with: finding a middle way between transubstantiation and sheerly subjective or memorialist views of the Eucharist. Luther and Calvin both had “high” views of the Eucharist, even though they rejected the Catholic doctrine as it was formulated in their time. Lewis himself writes that the Eucharist (along with baptism) is the very means by which the new life of Christ is transmitted to us (see, e.g. the discussion in Mere Christianity) and that the Blessed Sacrament is the most holy object ever presented to our senses in this life (in the Weight of Glory). Nowhere that I’m aware of does he deny the Real Presence and he is probably best characterized as a High Church Anglican in his view of the sacraments.

“Gnosticism”

Finally, I want to address the accusation that Lewis is a kind of “crypto-gnostic,” a criticism not unique to Seddon. Seddon thinks that Lewis’ views on matter and on the nature of the resurrection body are “impossible to reconcile to Catholic theology and doctrine […] while hinting at (or hedging closer to) the Gnostic and Manichaean notion of matter as evil.” In order to adjudicate this claim it’s necessary to get clear on exactly what Lewis is claiming and where this might collide with Catholic doctrine (or orthodox Christian belief more generally).

Seddon cites a passage near the end of Malcolm where Lewis speculates a bit about the nature of the resurrection body:

About the resurrection of the body. I agree with you that the old picture of the soul re-assuming the corpse–perhaps blown to bits or long since usefully dissipated through nature–is absurd. Nor is is what St. Paul’s words imply. And I admit that if you ask me what I substitute for this, I have only speculations to offer.

The principle behind these speculations is this. We are not, in this doctrine, concerned with matter as such at all; with waves and atoms and all that. What the soul cries out for is the resurrection of the senses. Even in this life matter would be nothing to us if it were not the source of sensations.

Now we already have some feeble and intermittent power of raising dead sensations from their graves. I mean, of course, memory.

You see the way my thought is moving. But don’t run away with the idea that when I speak of the resurrection of the body I mean merely that the blessed dead will have excellent memories of their sensuous experience on earth. I mean it the other way round: that memory as we now know it is a dim foretaste, a mirage even, of a power which the soul, or rather Christ in the soul (He went to “prepare a place” for us), will exercise hereafter. It need no longer be intermittent. Above all, it need no longer be private to the soul in which it occurs. I can now communicate to you the fields of my boyhood–they are building-estates today–only imperfectly, by words. Perhaps the day is coming when I can take you for a walk through them.

At present we tend to think of the soul as somehow “inside” the body. But the glorified body of the resurrection as I conceive it–the sensuous life raised from its death–will be inside the soul. As God is not in space but space is in God. (Malcolm, pp. 121-122)

According to Seddon, Lewis’ view conflicts with orthodox Catholic theology (and Seddon tends to use “orthodox” and “Catholic” nearly interchangeably) at two points. Catholic theology teaches, he says, that the resurrected dead will rise with the very same bodies they had on earth, and Catholic theology affirms the inherent goodness of matter, whereas, for Lewis, matter’s goodness is “ultimately contingent upon its potential for being transformed into something non-material.”

Thus Lewis’s theology is something of a semi-Gnosticism; perhaps containing some hidden reservations about the goodness of the body, or even the material universe. Tolkien would undoubtedly have recognized this as incompatible with his own understanding and that of the Catholic Church: “[Man] is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God created it and will raise it up on the last day” (Catechism 93). (Note that Catholic theology stresses the goodness of the body in relation to God’s having created it–not as contingent upon what the body will become after death.)

Again, I have to protest that this is hardly a fair characterization of Lewis’ views taken as a whole. “God likes matter,” Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “He invented it.” Lewis, as is well known, had a keen appreciation for the earthy pleasures of the material world and held the material creation in high esteem. Indeed, theism, Lewis thought, was the guardian of a proper reverence for nature:

[O]nly Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn round, and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature’s current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see…this astonishing cataract of bears, babies, and bananas: this immoderate deluge of atoms, orchids, oranges, cancers, canaries, fleas, gases, tornadoes and toads. How could you ever have thought this was the ultimate reality? How could you ever have thought that it was merely a stage-set for the moral drama of men and women? She is herself. Offer her neither worship nor contempt. Meet her and know her. If we are immortal, and if she is doomed (as the scientists tell us) to run down and die, we shall miss this half-shy and half-flamboyant creature, this ogress, this hoyden, this incorrigible fairy, this dumb witch. But the theologians tell us that she, like ourselves, is to be redeemed. The “vanity” to which she was subjected was her disease, not her essence. She will be cured, but cured in character: not tamed (Heaven forbid) nor sterilised. We shall still be able to recognise our old enemy, friend, play-fellow and foster-mother, so perfected as to be not less, but more, herself. And that will be a merry meeting. (Miracles, pp. 66-67)

This strikes me as a perfectly orthodox position: nature is good, but fallen. And nature will, along with us, be redeemed in ways beyond our imagining.

Which brings us to the question about the resurrection of the body. Lewis rejects the position, which Seddon attributes to Catholicism, that we will rise after death with the very same body that we had on earth. The problem with this view is that it’s difficult to specify what “same” is supposed to mean exactly. It can’t, for the reasons Lewis mentions, mean that the resurrection body will be composed of the same physical particles as the earthly body. For starters, none of us, we’re told, posses any of the same physical particles that we had as children: our bodies are more like flowing streams than blocks of marble. Furthermore, the particles that currently constitute my body have previously been parts, no doubt, of countless other physical objects.

So, it’s far from clear what it would mean to say that we rise with the same body. What some contemporary theologians have suggested instead is that we will have new bodies which are fitted to the new environment that we will inhabit in the resurrection life, while enjoying a suitable continuity with our earthly bodies. And, as Lewis suggests, these bodies will act as vehicles for perfect expression of the soul and communication between the redeemed in heaven.

There is some (in my view) needless opposition between the idea that are destination is “heaven” and the idea that God will create “a new heaven and earth.” Whichever image you favor, everyone agrees that the resurrection world will be one which is different from the present world in dramatic ways. Death, pain, suffering, sin, predation, and decay will not be present, which suggests a world which is transformed in ways we can scarcely imagine.

Seddon criticizes Lewis for holding that the value of matter is “entirely dependant upon its ultimately becoming something else,” but this is misplaced. To say that the physical world (including our bodies) will be transformed in the course of being redeemed is not to deny that they lack present value. In fact, it’s simply the traditional Christian position that the present world is destined to be transformed in the process of being released from its bondage to sin and death. Lewis’ (admittedly speculative) account of what the resurrection life might consist in may be off-base, but it’s neither “gnostic” nor heretical as far as I can tell.

“Gnosticism” has become a kind of catch-all epithet to hurl at any theology that is the least bit “otherworldly.” But Christianity is otherworldly in many ways: it contains a holy impatience with the world as it is and longs for a radically transformed state of things. Lewis was certainly a sort of Christian Platonist, but, depending on how you define “Platonism,” it is an integral part of historic Christianity.

All of this is not to dispute that there may be something to Seddon’s historical argument that Tolkien’s dislike of the Narnia series is attributable to some theological differences. But Seddon tries to hard to create a dichotomy between a “subjectivist,” “anti-materialist,” “heterodox,” “semi-gnostic” Protestant Lewis and an “objectivist,” “sacramental,” “orthodox” Catholic Tolkien. This dichotomy is unsustainable in my view. Whatever theological differences the two men may have had, Lewis’ thought is essentially that of a traditional orthodox Anglican Protestant Christian.

“Teach us how to pray”

Fr. Chris on the Art of the Collect.