It is the 16th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1950.
We’ve been back in time to this year before. As we double back into specific years, we will look at an aspect of that year. Today, we will take a look at a banner year for the publication of a few books that would change the way we thought in the second half of the 20th century.
In 1950, Isaac Asimov published his collection of stories under the title “I, Robot.” Responsible for many adaptations and the inspiration for half a century of AI-inspired fiction, the book introduced us to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Third Law: A robot must protect its existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Another Science Fiction author released his Magnum Opus in this year. L. Ron Hubbard published his best-selling work of… well, it was called Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. I would say more, but the very litigious history of his followers recommends I stop here.
A man on perhaps slightly sturdier psychological grounds, Erik Erikson, published his “Childhood and Society.” This work would help cement the philosopher as a giant in the field of child psychology. Erickson would garner more fame when he took his approach to childhood psychology and overlaid it with his portrait of a young Martin Luther. While creative, the work created more smoke than fire. However, two different books on Luther would be hailed for their wide-reaching influence.
In 1950 Jaroslav Pelikan published his “From Luther to Kierkegaard: a study in the history of theology.” The landmark work traced the relationship between reformation theology and later philosophical movements. Even more popular, historian Roland Bainton published his biography of Martin Luther, “Here I Stand, the Life of Martin Luther.” While there are Luther biographies written since then that the research team here at the Almanac might recommend more highly, the blend of careful historical research and a readable style helped usher in a new era of popular historical non-fiction.
But 1950, especially when popular literature and theology are combined, stands out for one book. In 1950, on this the 16th of October, C.S. Lewis introduced the world to his classic “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The book took him ten years to write, and by his account, it was floundering until he introduced the character, Aslan. “Aslan,” the Turkish word for “Lion,” would become the character that would tie together the eventual series. The lion was the most explicitly Christological character in the series. Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien was said to have opposed such a blatantly obvious allegory. While Lewis took Tolkien’s criticism (Lewis, too, was unsympathetic to the denizens of Middle Earth), earlier criticism from his friends caused him to burn an early manuscript he finished in the mid-1940s.
In that version, we know the children (inspired by actual children who lived at his estate during WWII) were called Ann, Martin, Rose, and Peter. By the time the characters were set for the published version, “Ann” became “Lucy,” based on his goddaughter, Lucy Barfield. The professor in the book was also based on a real character, Lewis’ tutor William Kirkpatrick. Digory Kirk would be revealed later to have a more prominent role in the Narnia story than suggested in this first book. One of the most popular books in the 20th century, its adaptations and sequels have proven almost as popular. The world of witches, fauns, and deep magic were introduced to us on this, the 16th of October, in 1950.
The reading for today from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is one of the more iconic exchanges from the book and a reminder of the character of Jesus, as reflected in Aslan.
“Aslan is a lion, the lion, the great lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”… “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver… “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who still dreams of Turkish delight, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.