Yes, my teaching “strategies” run the spectrum.

If I were to plot my approaches in the different courses I teach, they would vary from my introduction to world religions, in which I lecture for as much as an hour (in a 75-minute class) and then respond to questions, to my honors seminars, which begin with an opening question of my own, based on the day’s reading assignment, and then proceed in a largely Socratic, interrogative fashion. When I teach “Christian Theology” it usually ends up being closer to the former end of the spectrum, though involving more time for discussion, while “Faith, Doubt, and God” is closer to the latter, though involving more lecture.

You asked in particular about the course I’m teaching this term on “The Oxford Inklings” (Owen Barfield, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams). I’ve taught it before as an honors seminar, but this time around—as a “regular” Religious Studies course—I decided to position it pedagogically somewhere between “Faith, Doubt, and God” and the Socratic offerings. I’ve been lecturing for no more than half an hour, and then opening up for discussion and debate during the remainder of the 75-minute period.

As with all the courses involving at least some lecturing on my part, I take advantage of classroom technology (audio/visual instrumentation, internet access, overhead projector), and I spend a considerable amount of time preparing a set of slides for each class. I myself tend to be a visual thinker, and I find that a variety of diagrams, outlines, and images, projected on a screen behind me, help keep both me and the students better organized. It’s also very helpful for my charges to be able to see, and not only hear, the lengthier passages I might choose to quote, especially those coming (in this case) from the Inklings’ letters or other unassigned materials.

Here, to give you just one slice of the pie, are the slides from a presentation this past week on two short pieces of Lewis’s: an article, “Myth Became Fact” (from God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics), and a sermon, “The Weight of Glory” (from The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses). My aim was to highlight some important points in these two pieces themselves; to link them both with the Lewis fantasy we’ve been reading, Till We Have Faces; and to make a few additional connections with other writings of CSL not on the assigned reading list.

Once this material was “on the table”, I answered a few questions about what I had said and then posed my own question, based on “Myth Became Fact”:

Lewis claims that “to be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths”. What exactly does this mean? The Christian “fact” is that God entered the world around 4 B.C., lived as a man, was crucified, died, and raised from the dead, and ascended back to heaven around 30 A.D. What would it mean to “receive” this as a myth?

After a little probing and prodding of the students’ responses, I suggested we might do well to recall the conversation in Till We Have Faces between Orual, the Queen of Glome, and the Priest of Essur, in which, in response to her agonized question, “Has the thing itself [the deification of Istra] happened yet or not?”, he replies, befuddled by her insistence on historical linearity: “The sacred story is about the sacred things…. In spring, and all summer, she is a goddess…. All the winter she is wandering and suffering” (246). Does receiving Christianity as a myth, I asked, mean that the Incarnation (and its aftermath) is not a once-and-for-all past event on a unidirectional timeline, but a continuing process, repeatedly happening in cyclical fashion? If so, what does this in turn mean?

Well, as I say, you need to read the two Lewis pieces and his book to see where I was attempting to go with this line of questioning. I offer the example here simply to give you some sense of my pedagogical parameters.