Kindred Spirits in Romania

Doors open, and when the Lord is the One who opens the door, we should enter in to what He has for us. That’s how I looked upon the opportunity to go to Romania and participate in the C. S. Lewis and Kindred Spirits Conference this past week. The theme of the conference was “The Re-Enchanted Academic,” and I was pleased to offer a presentation in the very first panel.

That’s me—second from the right, in preparation for the presentation. I drew from my new book, Many Times & Many Places: C. S. Lewis & the Value of History, to explain the error of historicism and how Lewis warns against it. Short summary: history is not a person with a predetermined goal; there is no “right side of history” for us to adopt; “there is no wrong side of history” to avoid; history is the result of billions of decisions made by billions of people over the ages. Yes, the Lord is also lord of history, but that doesn’t mean that what has transpired is exactly what He wanted. After all, sin is never what God wants—and history is replete with sin. Christians, especially, need to guard against that kind of determinism and also be cautious in claiming that something happening historically is a result of God’s direct intervention. And if one is a Christian historian, humility in interpretation should be a cornerstone for all that one teaches and writes.

The setting for the conference was the city of Iasi, which is considered the cultural capital of Romania. Specifically, we met at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in a magnificent building with a welcoming interior.

The fellowship of like-minded Christians devoted to God’s truth and how it has been expressed by Lewis and other “kindred spirits” was the most endearing aspect of those few days we spent together. I’m also appreciative that the organizers set up a book launch for the new book that I and my co-author, Jamin Metcalf, labored over in love for the past year. All the books we brought with us sold out quickly. Here we are in front of the building as we prepared for a fascinating trip to some beautiful monasteries.

Speaking of beautiful monasteries, it was truly breathtaking to view the interior of the first one where it seemed that every square inch of the walls and ceilings was a testament to the Gospel through artistic excellence. Here are a few examples.

The highlight of the trip was a World Heritage monastery called Voronet. The outside walls are stunning in their artistry, detail, and message of Christian faith.

One end of the monastery depicts the Last Judgment, with resurrected saints on the left and those doomed to perdition on the right.

On a cold and rainy Sunday (for which I must confess I was not pleased at first), some of us participated in a walking tour of downtown Iasi. We discovered an excellent art museum with originals by Rembrandt, Rubens, and other famous artists. A similar—and welcomed—discovery, I must admit, was the coffee shop where I could replenish my spirit with some hot chocolate and an orange cake slice. That gave me the impetus to continue on to the main Orthodox church of the city.

People were lined up for the opportunity to touch the bones of a saint. The line went outside the building all the way up to the tomb. Many did so in the hope that they might be healed of some disease or other malady. I try not to be judgmental about such things. The Scripture does have instances of that, but I don’t encourage the externals when the Lord is far more interested in our hearts for Him. What keeps me from being too judgmental about this particular exercise is that I can’t read the hearts of those who wait in that line. Only God can. If there is genuine faith involved, He knows. If it is more of a superstition, He knows that also. He is the judge, not I.

We also trekked to the Palace at the city center, which was much too large to take the time to investigate it further than the main foyer, but that was significant enough.

Sunday ended with a wonderful church service where I and others who had spoken at the conference were able to share some thoughts with the congregation. The homily by Rev. Andrew Lazo (from my own diocese here in Florida) was a fitting finale to a blessed week.

Before I close, I want to single out Dr. Denise Vasiliu, one of the chief organizers of the conference (seen here with me at one of the monasteries).

I first met Denise at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College back in 2018 when we were both attending a conference there. She bought my first book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact, and then sat down with me over a meal to share her vision for the Lord’s work in Romania. Her invitation for me to come and share in one of the conferences is the reason I was there this past week. The C. S. Lewis and Kindred Spirits Society is more than just a way to hold conferences. Rather, it is a grand vision for permeating Romania with the Lewisian spirit of the Christian faith through various means. They go into the schools, they disciple new Christians, and they interact with those who have never heard the true message of the Gospel. Denise and the others with her who promote the Lord’s work in that nation deserve our prayers and our financial support. When people have the heart of the Lord for others, it is evident.

I hope to return when the next conference is held a couple of years from now. Being with kindred spirits is not something to be missed.