With the great benefit of having heard all the talks that came before him, Prof. McGrath was able to tailor his remarks to the themes of the other speakers, while at the same time illuminating those points with his own insights drawn from C.S. Lewis’ many writings. He sketched his main theme by asking and then answering his own question as he imagined Lewis would: “What can we do to change the story that dominates our culture? Tell a better story — capture the imagination.”
As a starting point for understanding the age we live in, he recommended philosopher Charles Taylor’s definitive work, A Secular Age (2007). There Taylor carefully traces the “shift in master narratives” which has taken place since the 1500’s: then it was difficult not to believe in God, while today people find it difficult to believe in God.
Taylor draws a sharp distinction between natural and supernatural. While the latter used to be regarded as not impossible, the concept was undermined beginning with the modern philosophies of Descartes and Spinoza, which were amplified by the post-moderns Heidegger and Wittgenstein. But post-modernism asks us to accept things which cannot be proved, based wholly on assumptions. (Philosophy, like theology, is fiduciary in that it asks us to trust the philosophy that is expressed. Yet philosophy will not accept or trust in the existence of God, which likewise cannot be proved.)
C.S. Lewis, said McGrath, is neither modern nor post-modern. He bridges both camps — he mingles reason with imagination. And this insight will help us break the power of today’s master narratives (“metanarratives”) over the popular imagination.