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[Closed] Douglas Gresham Interview at Wheaton College (4/3/17)

BC Head and G&B Mod Moderator

I got to watch the livestream of Douglas Gresham's interview with Dr. Jerry Root at Wheaton College on April 3, and took some notes on it. The interview was interspersed with a number of songs by Meg Sutherland. Items in [] are my clarifications/comments; items in bold are specific questions; items in purple were recalled by The Rose-Tree Dryad (thank you!). Please ask if anything is confusing or you want to know what I meant by something. :)

Douglas Gresham (DG) met Meg Sutherland when she was 14-1/2 and he was trying to get a song she wrote into the end credits of a movie he was producing (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader); it didn't happen, though. He told her to keep writing "her songs under the power of the Holy Spirit" and recording and when she had enough songs and they both thought they were good enough, he would produce her album.

Meg played a few songs: Show You [?], One Day Soon [?], and another.

DG thought, when he was young, whomever was running his life was making a mess of it because people kept dying.

DG's necklace pendant is the image of Aslan set over a cross; his daughter made it for him.

DG talked about Lewis evangelizing through behavior, which he said was dangerous because it held him back from promotion. But he said it was infinitely more dangerous not to evangelize.

DG evangelizes with demonstration; his wife evangelizes through explanation.

His wife was converted by hearing tapes of Mere Christianity while gardening; the tapes were sent back from a visit to Wheaton College with DG when he came to do an oral history for the Marion E. Wade Center. She had her finger hovering over the stop button for the first five-ten minutes because it was "Christian" stuff, but she kept listening and she realized she was hearing the truth for the first time.

Why does the use of the imagination have such an impact?
God gave us imagination to use; we learn to learn when we are young and what we do with our lives depend on what we do with our imaginations. Jack knew most people read for entertainment, not instruction. Mere Christianity is instructive as well as entertaining. Evangelism should not sink the Art, which is where a lot of Christian stuff goes astray. What holds evangelism and art together is the Holy Spirit working through the artist; imagination allowed Jack to take the Crucifixion and put it in a form that stimulated the imagination and the mind. Most adults don't get the Aslan-Crucifixion connection, but children all over the world got it immediately when LWW was released. People don't look at children's stories with any eye to "what does this really mean?".

DG said he is making two movies.

Meg and Greg came back and played "I Still Believe" (which is inspired/based off of SC), and then Meg played "Doug's Song" (directly inspired from MN, outlines the story - so named because she wrote it for Doug and then didn't know what to call it).

Dr. Root said he was able to watch DG while Meg was playing "Doug's Song" and that DG was crying. DG said that one of the nice things about getting old is that you don't mind crying.

Meg gave song to DG for birthday. The deeper meaning to song: Lewis' mother died, there was Digory in MN with dying mother and healed, and DG as a little boy with dying mother. DG walked by Holy Trinity Church pathway as a 10 year old after hearing about the cancer; stepped through churchyard and "stepped into another world", and everything was alight with life and love; he felt a compassionate power and loving presence, and seemed to hear "If you really can't live without your mother, I can heal her". He went into the church, went to the altar and prayed, heard it was fixed, felt at peace; his mother went into remission that evening. The doctors thought it was impossible, miraculous; he seemed to know he shouldn't mention to anyone at the time and so didn't. DG said all three characters were present in that song.
DG also said that something incredible happened because of the song. DG likes to drive fast cars (he has a Tesla) and one time he was driving around the island and got into a traffic jam. He had "Courage, Dear Heart" in the cd player and turned it on; "Doug's Song" came on and he started crying. A cop on motorcycle came by (probably to check out the traffic jam), did a double-take, and stopped and asked if he was okay. DG said "Yes, why?" and the cop said "You're crying", so DG said "Jump in the car and I'll explain it if you have time". So the cop did, DG explained and the cop cried and then left.

Lewis and Tolkien told in stories. "Any amount of theology can be smuggled into public minds under the guise of romance" was what Lewis reported after first Sci-fi book published.
Tolkien and Hugo Dyson pointed out the illogical of him loving the dying God myth but hating it in reality. Lewis became a theist. Mrs. Moore and Maureen Moore wanted to go to zoo in family car; Jack and Warnie going in side car. When he got in side car at Kilns he did not believe Jesus was the Son of God, but when he got out at Whipsneed Zoo, he did.

Meg came back and played "The Story", apologizing to Doug.

Weight of Glory entirely about evangelism. DG says it is about the necessity of it. Writers bear responsibility for characters. We bear responsibility for the characters around us. Evangelism is an essential part of Christianty - all born with skills need to do it in different ways. By behaviour, by demonstration, by example. DG says pastors to lead churches not rule them, walking out front leading, with himself out in front to protect them. Leading and protecting vs. driving flocks.

There is a fear of not representing Christ and fear of rejection; how to evangelize?
If evangelizing, the Spirit will be with you and help you.
Professor Jerry Sprout - Evangelism should be driven by love of God, not fear of people.

Favorite non-fiction and fiction books and why?
DG's immediate response to the favourite non-fiction book was the Bible (DG: "kind of a dumb question to ask a Christian but a professor at Wheaton [the asker of the question], what do you expect?" Asker: "I demand a rebuttal. There are 60 books in Bible, so drill down a bit." ;)) ). DG likes good biographies; Hanes' manuals (series of books on how to rebuild cars). He has an eclectic taste in fiction. Airplane books - he pick san author never heard of, keep books if they're really good, otherwise leave on plane. 3-4K books in library, many of them inherited. One he found recently was New Guide to Domestic Cookery - published in 1815. He opened it and found a recipe for how to brew beer; it said "take 6 hogs' heads"; he shut the book. 'Til We Have Faces is favourite Lewis book; can't read once and know all about it. He has read 15 times or so and still finding new things. He won't watch Beauty & Beast because Lewis did TWHF from Cupid & Psyche and Disney did that.

DG was uncommitted Christian until 45; how did close proximity to Lewis affect faith?
People trying to teach DG found he knew more than they did which was embarrassing for both of them. DG said he was visiting and pointed out the plaque in wrong pew! Lewis would sit with a massive stone pillar between him and pulpit so beloved rector wouldn't see him go "ahww" and make faces at sermons (because they were "about church history instead of Christianity").
DG also said that he thought that few people knew more than Lewis; he said that he still thinks that is true for the most part - he is more likely to learn something by rereading Lewis than by reading/hearing something new.

How do you respond to someone who doesn't think it matters whether you believe in God or Christianity (specifically talking about scientists)?
Gresham said good question; they're [people are] all different. DG loves baiting scientists. Scientists can't create life. DG likes to ask, "Why is there water - why does it exist?" They can't answer the question. He doesn't believe in scientists or atheists; have no evidence that Lord God did not create the world in a split second. [Reminds me of Sayers essay where she said that writers create backstories and worlds but each story has a starting point; inherent to the characters, though, are these backstories and histories that are real to them but didn't actually happen in writing.] DG doesn't think they [scientists] have as much as knowledge as they think they will at least until they become Christians.
DG said he has also made some scientist friends mad because he has said if you take all the best and most brilliant scientists and give them all the money in the world and lock them in a lab for a year, they still can't create a grape. God creates billions of grapes each year (and glad about that; they create wine) without a problem. (Also made a comment about Jesus making wine, the best wine.)

Imagination needs both nurture and challenge; what nurtures and challenges DG now?
He writes short stories and his publisher challenges him a lot in it. He writes stories that are Christian but are realistic. Secular publishers won't touch them because they are too Christian, and Christian publishers won't publish them because there's bad language; Vietnam-era soldiers swear. Tries to always represent Christ not himself. Closer you are to Christ, the more the Devil attacks you. What nurtures DG the most is trying to do whatever the Lord puts before him and trying to do it the best he can.

How should you evangelize non-Christian through creating art that isn't necessarily explicitly Christian?
Evangelizing each individual is different. DG talked about evangelism with respect to getting to know someone, know their life and what their "backstory" is/what they have been through, and bringing Christ in through healing those things. He said everyone wants to be loved, and that's a good way to bring Christ in - we are loved by Him.
Dr. Root - Lewis describes the world and gets shoulder-to-shoulder with the person instead of face-to-face; describes what he sees of God in it; describes reality as it is; evangelism should be done with wonder and awe.

Closed out with Meg playing "You Never Left".

Death is swallowed up in victory.

Topic starter Posted : April 16, 2017 3:45 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

I found Douglas Gresham's comment about having a Tesla and liking fast cars a bit interesting because I have read that C.S. Lewis never learned to drive, or at least not very competently or confidently. In C.S. Lewis: Life at the Center, Perry C. Bramlet writes that Lewis "never learned to drive a car well and always walked or rode buses, taxis and trains, or was chauffeured by friends and family. He came to rely on Clifford Morris of the Oxford Taxi Company as his good companion and driver for much of his later life." So I thought that was an interesting contrast between stepfather and stepson!

EDIT: johobbit found a YouTube upload of the event, courtesy of the Marion E. Wade Center! Check it out here.

Posted : April 18, 2017 7:36 am
NarniaWeb Junkie

Thanks for positing this! Very interesting

Avatar by Rose Tree Dryad

Posted : May 8, 2018 8:24 am