Memories from the Wade Center’s 50th Anniversary

Wade Center's 50th Anniversary Program

The program for the 50th Anniversary of the Marion E. Wade Center and dedication of the Bakke Auditorium, October 29, 2015.

Last year marked an important milestone as the Marion E. Wade Center celebrated its 50th anniversary and completed construction of the Bakke Auditorium. 2015 provided a unique opportunity to look back on memories from the past 50 years, celebrate current achievements, and look ahead to future goals as we continue the Wade Center’s legacy of promoting engagement with the works of our seven authors.

As the 50th anniversary itself now becomes part of the Wade Center’s history, we wanted to share some memories made during that time as friends both old and new came to celebrate the event with us.  Our 50th anniversary website has been updated to include videos and documents from the October 29th program, and we are also pleased to share on our website a selection of photos taken during the event. Photos are courtesy of Maas Photography.

Program participants

Program participants (l to r): G. Walter Hansen, Philip G. Ryken, Lisa Welchert, Lyle W. Dorsett, Marjorie Lamp Mead, Jerry Root, Luci Shaw, Jeannette Bakke, Carolyn Hart, Stan Bakke, William Phemister.

Leading up to the October 29th event the Wade Center sent out a request for shared  memories and reflections of our past 50 years and the influence of our authors. The responses received were numerous, and came from around the world. We have, with the gracious consent of the contributors, posted selections from these tributes on our website to serve as testament to the lives touched already, and as an encouragement as we anticipate the future stories yet untold.

We are thankful for all those who have joined us along the way, and look forward to  continuing the journey with you.

Wade Center front door

The Wade Center on the evening of the 50th Anniversary program, October 29, 2015.

Drama at the BBC: Dorothy L. Sayers and The Man Born to be King, by guest writer Katherine Graber

In honor of the Advent season, Katherine Graber writes on The Man Born to be King by Dorothy L. Sayers, a twelve-play cycle on the life of Christ .


British 1st edition of THE MAN BORN TO BE KING published by Victor Gollancz, 1943.

British 1st edition of THE MAN BORN TO BE KING published by Victor Gollancz, 1943.

Although she is most commonly known today for her Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels, her theological writings, and her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Dorothy L. Sayers also holds the distinction of creating one of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s most celebrated (and controversial) radio dramas, The Man Born to be King. For many twenty-first century listeners, this children’s radio series sounds innocuous enough, but its original ten month run on the BBC’s Children’s Hour program prompted a hailstorm of both indignation and adulation from the British public, ranging from Ulster housewives to the House of Commons.

Today, visitors to the Wade Center can not only listen to the original radio drama from 1942 but also leaf through the published edition of the radio scripts (London: Victor Gollancz, 1943), with a foreword by the series’ producer J.W. (James) Welch describing the radio drama’s controversy. Even more unique, The Man Born to be King archive contains hundreds of letters written from listeners to Dorothy L. Sayers, revealing a wide range of responses to the original broadcasts. This listener correspondence provides a glimpse into why a BBC radio drama for children generated such diverse and heated reaction from war-time Britain.

The Man Born to be King’s beginnings were auspicious enough. In February 1940, James Welch, the BBC’s Director of Religious Broadcasting, commissioned Dorothy L. Sayers to write a twelve-part series depicting the life of Christ; an enterprise riding on the success of her 1938 Nativity radio drama, He That Should Come. An Anglican clergyman, Welch felt a particular concern for the religious education of children and believed the current programming on the Children’s Hour failed both to capture listener interest and convey solid teaching. Welch’s concern was only heightened by the London Blitz, which prompted mass evacuations of children to the countryside, far from their home churches and habitual worship. As Welch envisioned it, this new series could reach unevangelized children as well as provide better spiritual instruction for the five million children who already tuned into the Children’s Hour on Sunday nights. Sayers enthusiastically signed on to Welch’s vision for the program, but added several conditions to her participation. She insisted that this new series would employ the same sort of dramatic realism used in He That Should Come and that she would depict Christ as a character in the drama (a practice not condoned in 1940 by the Lord Chamberlain, who regulated theatre censorship and forbade the depiction of deity on the stage).

Most radically, Sayers decided to adapt the Gospel stories into vernacular idiom, jettisoning familiar biblical language. Rather than lifting passages straight from the long-cherished and familiar Authorised Version Bible, Sayers determined that her first-century characters would speak twentieth-century English vernacular. As Sayers saw it, spiritual malaise was often the result of over-saturation in Scripture, especially the old-fashioned Authorised Version. She later wrote to a listener, “[I]t is heard so often that it becomes merely a task or a boredom, or merely produces no impression attall (sic).” (Letter from Dorothy L. Sayers to Mrs. V. Ackland. n.d. The Man Born to be King Archive, Folder 19. Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.)

Sayers’s decision to replace the exalted and beautiful language of the Authorised Version with every day English was something of a revolutionary choice in war-time Britain, but Welch wholeheartedly agreed that her conditions were necessary. In the foreword to the published version of The Man Born to be King he later wrote, “[T]he language of religion has lost most, and for some people all, of its meaning. Especially was this true of the Authorised Version.” (Welch, J.W. Foreword. The Man Born to be King: A Play-Cycle on the Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By Dorothy L. Sayers (London: Victor Gollancz, 1943), 11.)

BBC microphoneTen days before the first episode of The Man Born to be King aired on December 21, 1941, Sayers read an excerpt from the series at a BBC press conference, which ignited a storm of controversy. Sayers’s reading included dialogue between Matthew the tax collector in which he scolds the disciple Philip in a distinct cockney accent for being cheated out of six drachmas: “Fact is, Philip my boy, you’ve been had for a sucker.” (Ibid., 117)

When the press reported on Sayers’s reading the next morning, the radio drama made headline news. Welch recalled that “Almost all of the journalists who had attended the conference wrote fairly and sympathetically about the new venture; but a few used the occasion for sensational reporting.” (Ibid., 9) In particular, the Daily Herald’s headline proclaimed, “Gangsterisms in Bible Play,” and the Daily Mail described the series as “BBC ‘Life of Christ’ in Slang.” Public outcry against the yet unheard radio drama followed close behind the press release. James Welch himself received a note from the Director General of the BBC describing the controversy: “Two shocks broke on us this past week: Pearl Harbor and The Man Born to be King.” (Kenneth Wolfe, The Churches and the British Broadcasting Corporation, 1922-1956: The Politics of Broadcast Religion, (London: SCM Press, 1984), 226.) The extent and volume of the criticism came as a surprise to Welch, who dispiritedly recalled, “It was not an encouraging reception for a great evangelistic enterprise.” (Welch, Foreword, 10)

Despite shrill protests, The Man Born to be King was released on schedule, airing in twelve installments between December 1941 and October 1942. The series proved so popular that it was rebroadcast during Lent in 1943 and published in book format that same year. In addition to the innumerable children who tuned into the broadcast on Sunday nights, nearly 10% of the British adult population listened as well. (Wolfe, 235) The BBC continued to air the drama series regularly over the next several decades.

The range of responses, both appreciative and outraged, to The Man Born to be King are preserved in the fan mail Sayers received from listeners across the nation. Surprisingly, the majority of the letters are from adult listeners, not children. While Sayers certainly received letters expressing concern or indignation over the radio drama, most listeners expressed enthusiasm. Over and over again, listeners wrote to thank Sayers for making the gospel stories and the figure of Christ “real” to them. Many individuals credited The Man Born to be King for rekindling their interest in the Bible and Christianity. One listener from Leeds wrote to Sayers, “Your new translation enabled light to be shed on many obscure passages, and the ‘really real’ Lord.” (Letter to Dorothy L. Sayers, May 24, 1943. The Man Born to be King Archive, Folder 24.) Some fans of the series admitted losing interest in Christianity as children, citing the Authorised Version Bible and compulsory religious education in school as deterrents to spiritual curiosity. Even the production engineer for The Man Born to be King told Sayers that his own interest in the Scriptures had “wilted with familiarity,” but her vernacular paraphrase had given him new appreciation. (Letter to Dorothy L. Sayers from David Godfrey, October 20, 1942. The Man Born to be King Archive, Folder 24.) One self-professed unbeliever confided to Sayers, “[T]he well-known passages are a familiar echo to me, but I don’t know my Bible …. The main character [Christ] you showed most beautifully and washed clear from my mind those dreadful illustrations I remember as a child.” (Letter to Dorothy L. Sayers from L.R.E. Wingfield Digby, August 15, 1943. The Man Born to be King Archive Folder 22.)

In his foreword to the published scripts, James Welch also recorded listeners’ reactions to hearing the gospel stories in vernacular English, many reinforcing his concern that the Authorised Version Bible could be a spiritual blockade to adults and children alike. “I have long felt that the archaic though beautiful English of the Bible and the Church services constitutes a barrier to their understanding” one woman observed. (Welch, Foreword, 13) Another listener wrote to Sayers, requesting that she write a modern translation of the entire Bible after the success of The Man Born to be King: “I believe you could present the Gospel in a way that would make it live for many people for whom the Authorised Version is a beautiful curtain.” (Letter to Dorothy L. Sayers from Katharine M. Darroch, June 12, 1943. The Man Born to be King Archive Folder 22.)

In the weeks following the initial press reaction, Dorothy L. Sayers attributed the controversy surrounding her radio drama to “religious maniacs,” who displayed “a most alarming amount of fetish worship of the Authorised Version.” (Letter from Dorothy L. Sayers to Dr. William Paton, January 30, 1942. The Man Born to be King Archive Folder 22.) Although Welch’s “great evangelistic enterprise” was intended to target biblically uninformed children, Sayers’s fan mail reveals that many of those who were so affected by the series were often adults, long acquainted with the Bible. While attachment to the familiar words of the Authorised Version was at the heart of the protest against radio drama, it was also central to its success. For many adult listeners, the antiquated language of the Authorised Version had contributed to their apathy toward Scripture. This familiarity with the Authorised Version, however, also served to rekindle interest in the person of Christ, as he was depicted in Sayers’s fresh rendering.  As a result, the “fetish worship of the Authorised Version” Sayers found so alarming was in reality a significant factor in The Man Born to be King’s efficacy, a feat of irony that even a detective novelist would have no choice but to appreciate.


Katherine GraberKatherine Graber is Reference Archivist at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College and former Wade Center graduate student worker. She holds a B.A. in English literature from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a M.A. in History of Christianity from Wheaton College. Katherine is currently pursuing an M.S. in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

 

50th Anniversary Celebration Videos

We are pleased to share these two videos, the event program, and a commemorative poem from the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Marion E. Wade Center, and the dedication of the Bakke Auditorium, which took place on October 29, 2015. We enjoyed marking this milestone event with many friends of the Wade Center, and are glad we can provide these items here to all who were not able to join us in person for the program – or those who would like to see them again. Enjoy.

Program with Speaker Biographies

“The Space Inside” original poem by Luci Shaw

Video of the event:

 

Commemorative video shown during the event:

The 50th Anniversary of the Marion E. Wade Center

50th Logo_edited

Today is a special day. The Marion E. Wade Center celebrates its 50th anniversary (1965-2015), and the dedication of the Bakke Auditorium. You can watch the event live at 7pm Central Time via WETN (online or via mobile device). If you are in the Wheaton area, the local cable stations below will also be broadcasting the event:

  • Wheaton channel 72
  • West Chicago channel 10
  • Warrenville and Winfield channel 17
  • Channel 4.1 on Wheaton College campus televisions

We hope you can join us! A recording of the presentation will be made available online as soon as possible following the event.

And please also sign the Wade Center’s 50th Anniversary Guestbook. We would love to hear from you, and this is a great way to celebrate with us.  Thank you to all who have supported the work of the Wade Center over our past 50 years. We are very grateful for you.

Featured Artifact: Owen Barfield’s Chess Set, by Owen A. Barfield

Owen A. Barfield, the grandson of Owen Barfield, joins “Off the Shelf” for this post featuring his grandfather’s chess set, currently displayed in the Wade Center’s Museum. The Wade Center is grateful to Mr. Barfield for sharing his memories with us and our readers.


Owen Barfield's chess set and pipe, displayed in the Wade Center's Museum area.

Owen Barfield’s chess set and pipe in the Wade Center’s Museum.

Chess was a much loved game in Grandfather’s family, played at home and in tea shops in the City of London, where the family firm was located. In fact, my great-grandfather, Arthur Edward Barfield (Owen’s father), preferred a more complex variant of the game played over two boards. This enthusiasm was fostered by his own father, John, creator of the first Congolese-English dictionary in 1883.

Owen Barfield as a young man playing chess, ca. 1914. Photo courtesy of Owen A. Barfield.

I’m not entirely sure how Grandfather came by this set, but I’ve always been under the impression that it was given to him by his father. In any case, the set remained with Grandfather all his life; and he was always glad to have the opportunity of a game.

Unusually, the pieces are coloured red and white. There is evidence to suggest that some of the very earliest chess pieces were coloured so, as opposed to the modern black and white. I’m thinking here of the Lewis Chessmen, of which Grandfather had two large museum reproduction pieces. These fascinating medieval chess pieces, discovered on a remote Hebridean island in 1831, were carved from walrus ivory or whale teeth. Some were stained red, suggesting that the original colour combination of the pieces was red and white.

"Polarity" oil painting by Owen A. Barfield.

“Polarity” oil painting by Owen A. Barfield, 2014. See http://www.owenbarfield.org/oil-paintings/ for more details.

I can see why this appealed to Grandfather: Red and white are the polarity colours in nature – as seen in the white spring blossom and red autumnal berries of the hawthorn tree. And polarity is the theme that so fully occupied much of Grandfather’s thought and that of his guide, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I enjoyed playing many games with Grandfather on this very chess set over the years. Our conversations on such occasions were limited (on my side, anyway, and mainly by the need to concentrate on the game), but wide-ranging. For instance, we might cover questions about the Eucharist (is the sacramental bread “really” the body of Christ?), before veering off to discuss the benefits of computer chess – I think Jeffrey [Jeffrey Barfield, son of Owen Barfield] had recently set up a programme for him, hooked up to his old portable, black and white, television screen.

Unsurprisingly, Grandfather never really took to computer games, and I assumed that the technology was simply too alien and too great a barrier. However, I’ve recently wondered if that was, in fact, the reason behind his lack of interest. After all, Grandfather was never one to be put off by intellectual challenges – he relished them, and would interrogate me on the workings of computers to a degree far beyond my level of competence!

Detail of the pieces from the chess set belonging to Owen Barfield.

Detail of the pieces from the chess set belonging to Owen Barfield.

No, perhaps the reason why Grandfather stuck to his old chess set lies in his response to my other question that day regarding communion bread. Typically, his answer was both simple and complex, and I should confess that I didn’t fully understand it at the time. Fortunately for me, he expanded on his reply in a letter, dated 29 November 1983 (a copy of which is in the Wade). In it, he relates the subject matter to words and meanings (which he described as the ‘insides’ of words). Like words, everything in nature has an inside and an outside: trees, flowers, bread, human beings – and the incarnated body of Christ:

“… the body of Christ also had an inside and the first few verses of St John’s Gospel point out that that Inside was not just like yours or mine. It was at the same time the Inside of the whole world, or the whole of Nature.”

As mere humans, we don’t contain the whole world or all of Nature within ourselves, but when we come together over a chess board to share something of the insides of ourselves with each other, we more closely approximate the divine. It is that sharing or communion that I think Grandfather missed when playing against a computer. And this is essentially why this particular set is special to me: Having been the physical conduit through and over which so much creative and imaginative play took place between connected souls, I believe it retains something of Grandfather, of myself, and of all the many friends with whom Grandfather ever shared a game.


Owen A. Barfield, Virginia coast, August 2014

Owen A. Barfield, August 2014

Owen A. Barfield is the Trustee of the Owen Barfield Literary Estate, and grandson of author and philosopher Owen Barfield. He is also an artist, and has overseen the publication of many of his grandfather’s books in a series of modern editions.

Sheldon Vanauken: His Story & Legacy, a post by Elaine Hooker

The Wade Center’s collection focuses exclusively on seven British authors; however, the depth of our collections is extensive and can include some remarkable related and contextual materials.

The Wade Center’s Sheldon Vanauken collection, although indirectly related to C.S. Lewis, preserves an important example of the personal influence of Lewis’s life and his writings. Sheldon Vanauken, one of C.S. Lewis’s many regular correspondents, exchanged approximately 24 letters with Lewis over a ten-year period between 1950 and 1960. Unbeknownst to the two men at the time, they would not only share a religious journey from nominal faith to atheism and back again to Christianity, but also the experience of caring for a spouse through illness and death and then grieving the loss as a widower.

VausbookAs historical resources, archives offer a unique “sneak peek” into various aspects of a person’s life. The Vanauken Collection contains typescripts and proofs of several works by Sheldon Vanauken (A Severe Mercy, Gateway to Heaven, and Under the Mercy) along with photographs of awards, photocopies of articles, reviews, and Vanauken’s review briefs and letter logs related to his literary work. Also included are biographical research materials on Vanauken from Will Vaus, author of Sheldon Vanauken: The Man Who Received “A Severe Mercy” (Hamden, CT: Winged Lion Press, 2012), which were incorporated into the Vanauken collection in Spring 2015 by Wade Center archival intern Lisa Krajecki. Two particularly unique items are a created facsimile of his wife Jean “Davy” Vanauken’s personal annotated King James Bible and one of her own watercolor paintings. Davy’s Bible is our “featured artifact” in this blog post, and its importance becomes evident once the story behind it is told.

Vanauken first wrote to Lewis in December 1950, during his “second look” at Christianity, having abandoned the faith of his childhood in the name of truth. Like Lewis, Vanauken had discarded the faith of his youth and become a “small, fierce atheist” (Encounter with Light, p.1). However, while a student at Oxford University, Vanauken decided he should revisit Christianity once more. During this time of questioning, he read Lewis’s books (among others), and wrote to Lewis with some of the theological questions that surfaced as a result of his reading:

  • Is faith a childish thing to be discarded when one matures intellectually?
  • Was the universe created by God, or did it just happen?
  • If God exists, can He be known intimately?
  • Is there proof that Christ was the Son of God?

Lewis recognized the deep questions of a serious searcher on a spiritual journey. He had, after all, been on such a journey himself. On December 23, 1950, at the close of only his second letter to Vanauken, Lewis writes:

“…I think you are already in the meshes of the net! The Holy Spirit is after you. I doubt if you’ll get away.”

Vanauken did eventually embrace Christianity as a result of a variety of factors including the influence of C.S. Lewis, and in particular the strong connection he shared with his wife Davy.

EncounterIt is interesting to note that the exchange of letters between Vanauken and Lewis were not unusual. C.S. Lewis conscientiously answered every letter he received. He viewed his correspondence as a devotional act and a Christian duty, and it grew into a task that occupied a great deal of his time and energy. The letters between the two and Vanauken’s own conversion story were first published in a booklet titled Encounter with Light by the Church of the Covenant, Vanauken’s church, in 1961. The story also appeared in a 1968 issue of His magazine (v.29, n.3, p.6-11), and two years later was published by the Wade Center; it is still available for purchase today. Vanauken later expanded the story of his journey to faith into chapter 4 of his autobiography A Severe Mercy, published in 1977 and winner of the National Book Award in 1980 in the religion/inspiration category.

A_SEVERE_MERCYA Severe Mercy expands the story begun in Encounter with Light, to include Vanauken’s relationship with his wife Davy, chronicling their intense love affair through their meeting, marriage, subsequent individual conversions to Christianity, and her eventual illness and death.

The love story of Davy and Van, as he was known to his friends, is an intense one. He describes them as being in love almost from their first meeting. After knowing each other ten months, they were secretly married and hoped to maintain their love in a perpetual springtime. They had intentions to share everything, keeping no secrets from each other. When they began to reexamine Christianity in Oxford, they both read the same books and discussed them with each other. However, Davy came to faith first. As Van describes it, she had a visceral experience of her own sin and guilt, and an emotional need for the absolution Christianity offered.

A few months later, on March 29, 1951, Vanauken declares that he wrote in his notebook:

“I choose to believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—in Christ, my lord and my God. Christianity has the ring, the feel, of unique truth. Of essential truth. By it, life is made full instead of empty, meaningful instead of meaningless…A choice was necessary: and there is no certainty. One can only choose a side. So I—I now choose my side: I choose beauty; I choose what I love. But choosing to believe is believing. It’s all I can do: choose.” (Encounter with Light, p. 23-24)

Three years later, Jean “Davy” Vanauken was diagnosed with terminal liver disease. She died six months after her diagnosis. Vanauken was left alone to reconcile his grief and his Christian faith. Vanauken’s correspondence with Lewis is part of how he processed this loss, very much like Lewis would later do in A Grief Observed.

Perhaps as Vanauken grieved, he also created the artifact now retained in this archive, the annotated King James Bible fashioned after the one belonging to Jean “Davy” Vanauken. Notes inside the Bible explain that Davy’s Bible was threadbare and falling apart, so this one was remade by transcribing her marks and notes from that volume to this. This Bible also contains a loose insert near the title page with passages from Matthew written on it, as well as several glued inserts. Click on the images below to enlarge them.

IMG_1617

The Bible Vanauken used to transcribe Davy’s annotations following her death.

Bible002

Title page of the Bible.

Bible001

Inscriptions in the Bible.

Bible005

Sample page showing the careful annotations in the Bible.

To learn more about Sheldon Vanauken and his life see the following materials in the Wade Center’s collections:

Books by Sheldon Vanauken:

  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Encounter With Light. Wheaton, Ill. : [s.n.], [1970; reprinted ca. 1978].
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. A Severe Mercy. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1977.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Gateway To Heaven. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1980.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy For The Southern Confederacy. Columbia, S.C. : Southron Press, 1985.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Mercies: Collected Poems. Front Royal, Va. : Christendom College Press, 1988.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Under The Mercy. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1985.

Books about Sheldon Vanauken:

  • Vaus, Will. Sheldon Vanauken: The Man Who Received “a Severe Mercy.” Hamden, CT : Winged Lion Press, 2012.

The Seven Literary Sages Christian History Issue: A closer look with Jennifer Woodruff Tait

ChristianHistory_2015The “Seven Literary Sages” Christian History issue 113 was released early in 2015 in honor of the Wade Center’s 50th anniversary, features the seven authors of the Wade Center, and highlights their continuing relevance to significant issues facing our world today. We have heard from many readers how much they enjoyed the issue, including  Dr. Leland Ryken, Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College, who comments: “This issue of Christian History is the best brief introduction to the Wade authors that exists. Its photographs are a feast to the eyes.  The accumulated information and insights are a treasure trove.”

Jennifer Woodruff Tait, managing editor of Christian History and Wade author enthusiast, graciously offers “Off the Shelf” readers some of her reflections on the “Seven Literary Sages” issue and its significance in her own life. Our thanks also go to Jennifer for the editorial expertise and creative work she contributed to make this issue such a success.


On November 22, 2013, C.S. Lewis was formally “installed” into Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, gaining a memorial stone there along with such luminaries of British literature as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Dickens, Austen, the Brontë sisters, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden. The service was dignified; the organ thundered; the choir sang. I was there. My husband, kids, and I spent the days before the service joining fellow Lewis enthusiasts at a meeting of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, a tour of the Kilns (Lewis’s home, now a museum), and a symposium on Lewis’s works and worth.

On the way home, we visited Dublin, Ireland and attended the Sunday morning worship service at Trinity College. There I met a woman who became interested in our trip to the Lewis memorial. She obviously knew of Lewis’s status as a British author and had seen the movie Shadowlands. But she was puzzled by my being there on behalf of a Christian magazine. “Was Lewis particularly religious?” she asked.

And I wondered: Though Christians have valued his work for decades, how much did Lewis and his friends and mentors change the society around them? What legacy did they leave to the modern secular world?

That question was part of the reason I was in Oxford and London. I was covering the memorial celebration for issue 113 of Christian History magazine, which was dedicated to the seven authors whom the Wade Center collects. Released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Wade Center, we called the magazine “Seven Literary Sages: Why We Still Need Their Wisdom Today.” It told the story of how those “Seven Sages” took on secularists, materialists, and modernizers with their weapon of choice: the pen.

With the assistance of the Wade we assembled a lineup of knowledgeable scholars: Suzanne Bray, Matthew Dickerson, Crystal and David Downing, Colin Duriez, Brian Horne, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Alister McGrath, Michael Ward, Ralph Wood, and Edwin Woodruff Tait. They explained to our readers in fresh and entertaining ways how the Seven Sages expressed a vision for society in areas ranging from economics to education to the environment; a vision for Christian literature in their powerfully moving treatments of goodness and self-sacrifice; and a vision for discipleship in their pictures of love in community. They also emphasized how millions read their books and by those books were inspired, by the help of God’s grace, to create art, practice goodness, and seek the truth. (I am one of them: from Prince Caspian to Lord of the Rings to Gaudy Night to The Greater Trumps to Orthodoxy, the logical arguments and poetic visions of the Seven Sages have enriched my Christian discipleship for decades.) And we were able to illustrate the entire issue with a range of gorgeous photographs, many from the Wade’s own collection.

The magazine has turned out to be one of our runaway best-sellers since Christian History returned to publication by Christian History Institute in 2010. It’s by far our most popular issue judging by the number of online readers as well as requests for print copies. I’m personally thrilled to have been part of introducing so many new readers to authors who, in many cases, I have known and loved since childhood. But, not wanting to neglect others who have known and loved these authors for years as well, I commend the issue to you. Read, marvel, and enjoy!


TaitJennifer Woodruff Tait (Ph.D., Duke University) is managing editor of Christian History magazine, managing editor of the Patheos Faith and Work Channel, a candidate for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, and author of The Poisoned Chalice and Histories of Us.  From 2004-2013 she was the recording secretary for the New York C.S. Lewis Society. She lives in Richmond, KY on an 8-acre farm with her husband (who proposed to her on the bridge in London where G.K. Chesterton proposed to Frances), her two daughters (both of whom love Narnia and Middle-earth), and her in-laws.