C S Lewis from atheism to theism, and then from theism to Christianity

1. C.S. Lewis – from atheism to theism

lewisLewis: The new Psychology was at that time sweeping through us all. We were all influenced. We were all concerned about fantasy, or wishful thinking. I formed the resolution of always judging and acting with the greatest good sense.

Walter Hooper: He was saying that all youth at that time were trying to escape from wish fulfillment dreams. They got that from Freud. And they wanted to in one way spit on the images of their youth, and go onto they knew not what. But, anyway, leave that behind because it was juvenile.

Lewis: I was at that time living like many atheists; in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with him for creating a world. Why should creatures have the burden of existence forced on them without their consent?

Lewis: All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been as blind as a bat not to have seen, long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. The most religious were clearly those on whom I could really feed.

Lewis: I can only describe it as the Great War between Barfield and me. When I set out to correct his heresies, I find that he had decided to correct mine! And then we went at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night.

Duriez: Barfield believed that the imagination plays a very important part in how we know. He rejected the model that science is the only way to truth, to acquiring truth. He felt that the imagination was laid behind even the work of science. It gave meaning to propositions. And so he felt that Lewis was missing out in his whole approach to reality on what made knowledge possible.

Peter Kreeft: When Lewis talks about joy, he talks about something that he labels the central theme of his whole life. But what he means by joy is not the satisfaction of a desire, but a desire that is more desirable than any satisfaction.

Lewis: There was no doubt Joy was a desire. But a desire is turned not to itself, but to an object. I had been wrong in supposing that I desired for Joy itself. All value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. The naked other. Unknown, undefined, desired. I did not yet ask „Who is desired?”

Kreeft: The very experience of Joy that Lewis had was an arrow that led to the target of belief in God. Lewis argued innate, deep desires do not exist unless they correspond to something that can satisfy them. If there is hunger, there is food. If there is sexual desire, there is sex. If there is curiosity, there is knowledge. So if there is the desire for this thing that is beyond this world, there must be something beyond this world.

Lewis: The fox had now been dislodged from the wood and was running in the open, bedraggled and weary, the hounds barely a field behind. The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears to be a moment of wholly free choice. I was going up Headington Hill on the top of a bus. Without words, and almost without images, a fact about myself was somehow presented to me. I became aware that I was holding something at bay.

I felt myself being given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut. I chose to open. I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt. Drip-drip. And presently trickle-trickle.

I had always wanted, above all things, not to be interfered with. I had wanted — mad wish — to call my soul my own. I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight.

You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.

Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark, were demanded. I gave in, and admitted that God was God … perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

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2. C.S. Lewis: from theism to Christianity

lewis holy trinity churchC.S. Lewis: It must be understood that my conversion at that point was only to theism pure and simple. I knew nothing yet about the incarnation. The God to whom I surrendered was sheerly non-human.

C.S. Lewis: [Reading from Chesterton] A great man knows he is not God and the greater he is, the better he knows it. The gospels declare that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person. The most that any religious prophet has said was that he was the true servant of such a being. But if the creator was present in the daily life of the Roman empire, that is something unlike anything else in nature. It is the one great startling statement that man has made since he spoke his first articulate word. It makes dust and nonsense of comparative religion.

C.S. Lewis: As I drew near to Christianity, I felt a resistance almost as strong as my previous resistance to theism. As strong but shorter lived for I understood it better. But each step, one had less chance to call one’s soul one’s own.

C.S. Lewis: What Tolkien showed me was this — that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a pagan story I didn’t mind it at all — I was mysteriously moved by it. The reason was that in pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth.

C.S. Lewis: I know very well when but hardly how the final step was taken. I went with my brother to have a picnic at Whipsnade Zoo. We started in fog, but by the end of our journey the sun was shining. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and when we reached the zoo I did. I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, becomes aware that he is now awake.

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