It might seem odd to put Planet Narnia (Oxford University Press, 2008) on my list of recommended “literary apologetics” books, since it’s a study of CS Lewis’s use of medieval planetary imagery in the Chronicles of Narnia — not a specifically apologetic work. However, anyone who’s serious about understanding how a story can show forth the truth of the Christian faith would do well to pay very close attention to what Lewis has done in the Chronicles.
Dr. Michael Ward shows, definitively, that the Chronicles are carefully crafted at the level of words, images, and recurring theme, and that the books (diverse as they are in their plots) all have a Christological focus. If for no other reason, aspiring Christian authors should read Ward’s book to understand that writing effective literary apologetics means more than retelling a Bible story in a fantasy setting. Ward’s analysis also shows that Lewis wrote marvelously complex works so well that they seem simple; fittingly, Ward unpacks the layers of meaning for readers in lovely, clear prose, helping us appreciate the depths of Lewis’s extraordinary books.
Planet Narnia is a work of literary criticism aimed at an academic audience; it is extremely well written but may still be slow going for readers who aren’t used to the structure of a literary-critical argument, or the level of detail involved. Fortunately, Dr Ward has also written a shorter version for a non-academic audience: The Narnia Code. This second book is also more explicitly Christian and devotional in nature, and so it’s worth having both books.
Finally, readers may be interested in a thirteen-part podcast series that I did with Dr. Ward, on the subject of The Narnia Code. This informal interview-conversation allowed us to discuss the cultural and apologetics significance of Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles as well as allowing Dr Ward to explain his thesis to listeners. The podcasts can be listened to either before, or after, reading The Narnia Code/Planet Narnia (or, indeed, before reading Lewis’s Chronicles — for those who have never managed to connect with the books, this is a good entry point!).