Thursday, November 16, 2006

Oxford

“Oxford had represented to us two things so intertwined that we did not clearly distinguish them. One was the apostolic faith in its fullness, as represented by C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams. The other was high civilisation, sweet reason, and the life of the mind, which was no less represented by Lewis and Williams as well as many others. Religiously, we longed for the lively life in Christ, but we did not fully see that we were equally longing for the lively life of the mind – the delights of conversation once serious and gay, which is, whatever its subject, Christ or poetry or history, the ultimately civilised thing. When we spoke of the lively life in Christ, we meant keenness, to be sure, but we also meant the subtle discourse on the meanings of Christ’s way that is, in fact, only possible among highly articulate and civilised Christians.” -ASM

This post is quite overdue, but I did not desire a hastily written, less than thoughtful response on my Oxford experience. In truth, I left the city with my mind desperately trying to grasp all of Oxford in its fulless, the entirety of the experience. I only wish I could have stayed longer, and had my dear husband there with me. Those are my only two real regrets. I hope one day I can live there for perhaps a year.

In attempting to complete my summary of Oxford, I am actually going to resort to a few quotes from Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy. He and his wife went, as agnostics in the 50's, to study at Oxford. There they encountered Christ and Christianity, and became followers. Van began a deep friendship with C.S. Lewis that continued to his death. Their experience has expressed much of mine, yet more poetically and articulately than I could. Later I will post fun and beautiful pictures, and some recounting of adventures, but I feel the Most Important thing I can do now is to express Oxford. It is not merely a city or a university, Oxford encompasses a way of life. The lively life in Christ.

“The sheer quality of the Christians we met at Oxford shattered our stereotype… Moreover the astonishing fact sank home: our own contemporaries could be at once highly intelligent, civilised, witty, fun to be with – and Christian.”
This couldn't express my own feelings any more. I attended a days worth of classes with Dad and heard each student (from their 20's to 60's) really thinking and producing ideas for creative apologetics, appealing to the unsaved through imagination (in the style of Lewis), graciousness in discussing faith, drawing people out for what they truly believe about eternity... Likewise, the Christians there so desire conversation, fellowship, and the discussing of ideas, that they meet each week, casually, at a pub to discuss whatever is on their minds. Each is free to come or go as they please, but honest and searching discourse is what follows. Hardly anyone agrees 100% with the other, but it's Truth (Biblically), that's sought. I did have to realize in America this wouldn't be quite the same. People in this program are coming from backgrounds in and out of the church, in the US, Canada, India, the UK, Iran, France, etc. They naturally have enormously different underlying ideas. Yet I loved the discussions! "…that’s what Oxford is, a place to talk about everything.” Even among my own family, each day's walks (for you walk everywhere) and each evening's gatherings were filled to the brim with earnest discussions. Not debates, and not everyone rousingly amening the other's opinion. No one is trying to "win" or "convert" the others, or to get a hearty clap on the back for a point well made. It's a chance to hear another Christian's thoughts and experiences, and to discuss what we know the Bible to say on a matter.

“For nearly two years… there was hardly a day or night that people did not come [to our home], both Christians and non-Christians; and there were literally hundreds of absorbing conversations. Oxford.”
“Although our Christian friends came often to the Studio, our non-Christian friends were, of course, equally welcome. Indeed, in some of the best discussions on Christian subjects, there would usually be a couple of non-Christians there, too, joining in with healthy skepticism. Our experience of Oxford was that everybody talked about everything.”


My heart yearns to take some of this back with me into my life here in the US. My mind ponders ways to incorporate it into our lives and those of other Christians here.... Thoughts are conceived, and perhaps shall give birth to a real outcome. Yet, I miss Oxford.