C.S.Lewis: part of his journey

about this time each year, because of my curriculum path and, it so happens appropriately enough, the anniversaries of his birth (Nov. 29th) and death (Nov. 22nd), I revisit resources to remind myself of and learn more about Lewis as we get ready to learn about him in class, and then learn from him in Mere Christianity…

This year I have read Vol. 2 of his collected letters which range from 1931 – 1949 and I am now reading vol. 1 which is from 1905 (as a 7 year old?) – 1931. I have discovered that the editor separated the first two by the general time of his conversion process… and it was a process indeed…

his brother Warren had an experience, one in which he had a realization of the process of coming to belief that took place… Warnie (Jack refers to him as such) says about his realization of belief when he was standing in front of the Great Buddha of Kamakura in March of 1930…
“I started to say my prayers again… this was no sudden impulse but the result of a conviction of the truth of Christianity which has been growing on me for a considerable time… The wheel has now made the full revolution – indifference, scepticism, atheism, agnosticism, and back again to Christianity” – from his dairy (I edit from p. 1012 of Vol. 1 of the Collected Letters of CSLewis, ed. W. Hooper)

note the process of the early life… “indifference, scepticism, atheism, agnosticism, and back again to Christianity” an interesting series to think about…

C. S. Lewis says to his friend Arthur Greeves in Nov. 1931 “I, like you, am worried by the fact that the spontaneous appeal of the Christian story is so much less to me than that of Paganism. Both the things you suggest (unfavourable associations from early upbringing and the corruption of one’s nature) probably are causes:…” note the words: ‘unfavourable associations from early upbringing’ and ‘ the corruption of one’s nature’ – experience and the fall color our understanding…

they (the Lewis brothers) were (as we are) on a spiritual journey… and there were forces outside themselves at work…

both Lewis men had experienced difficulties in younger life – with the death of their mother in 1908, when they were 10 and 13, and their being subsequently sent to boarding schools which were, at times, very bad experiences – that were couched in the culture of Christianity and this furthered their doubts…

doubts which, in Jack’s case, were fueled by his fascination with Norse myth and the apparent occult practices of a “dorm mother” which caused him to arrive at atheism at about 14 (probably in 1912)… in Surprised by Joy (SBJ) he cites the reading of the classics and notes that Virgil “presented… a mass of religious ideas…” finally he says he “became an apostate, dropping my faith with no sense of loss but with the greatest relief.” (SBJ IV)

two years or so later, in 1914, Jack began a correspondence with Arthur Greeves who was also from Belfast… they would be friends for life… Lewis describes Greeves a Christian and then describes himself as one who “bombarded him [Greeves] with all the thin artillery of a seventeen year old rationalist” (Lewis in a bio note in Col. Let. #1, p. 994)

an example of Lewis’ answers about religion to Greeves is found in letters:

1916 – “…I believe in no religion. There is no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is all mythologies to give them their proper name are merely man’s own invention…” (Col Let. #1 p. 230-1)

and again later that year…

“…there was once a Hebrew called Yeshua… when I say ‘Christ’ of course I mean the mythological being into whom he was afterwards converted by popular imagination, and I am thinking of the legends about hi magic performances and resurrection etc. That the man Yeshua or Jesus did actually exist, is as certain as that the Buddha did actually exist: Tacitus mentions his execution in the Annals (see Book 15 sec. 44 in this link). But all the other tomfoolery about virgin birth, magic healings, apparitions and so forth is on exactly the same footing as any other mythology.” (Col. #1, p. 234)

he continued down this path for sometime. Though, interestingly enough, he worked hard to keep his non-belief from his father in an attempt to prevent him from hurt and further dispute between them (they often had issues until Jack finished his education and landed his first well paid teaching position in 1925)…

in 1926 Lewis began a dialogue with two Christian colleagues (Tolkien and Dyson) who challenged him to think differently about belief in God…

it was not until 1929 that he “admitted that God was God, and knelt down and prayed”… (SBJ) it is thought by many that Lewis, here, in the spring of 1929, became a theist…

following this was the famous walk before dinner (in Sept of ’29) with Tolkien and Dyson followed by a conversation until four in the morning about belief

then as described in SBJ, after a journey with Warnie to a zoo riding in Warnie’s side car (yes, a motorcycle with a side car), it was as though he had awakened from a sleep and realized he was awake… except in this case, he awoke and realized that he believed that Jesus was who he said he was… or at least now he was really headed in that direction…

it is worth noting that in the meantime their father had died – this would, it would seem, be further motivation to understand the real nature of life and death and that which follows…

all sorts of experiences showed that the “hounds of heaven” had caught up with CSLewis and now he went “kicking and screaming” into belief in Jesus…

we are all on a journey… we have all had different experiences, mainly through people who have drawn us to following Jesus, or they have, perhaps, repelled us away from Jesus… it is our task to take stock… to examine where we are in Him…

He has invited us, “come unto me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…”
we are invited to walk beside Jesus…

More about Lewis:
PBS series link
BBC bio series

2 Comments

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2 responses to “C.S.Lewis: part of his journey

  1. Arden

    guess what I found in the local catholic bookstore? Yes, Mere Christianity IN HUNGARIAN! I bought the only copy and am praying about who to give it to.

  2. Laci and Keri Németh

    wow, thank you, I never actually had the time to research his conversion…
    Great stuff

    Lazo

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