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He tells, for example, of the time early in his life when he picked up a book titled Phantastes, by the nineteenth-century Scottish writer George MacDonald, which somehow baptized Lewis’s imagination. A whole new world was opened up to him. And wouldn’t you know, MacDonald had been a Christian. Over time Lewis realized that he liked other Christian writers as well, such as Dante, Milton, George Herbert, and G.K. Chesterton.
Alister McGrath writes, “Lewis’s reading of the classics of English literature forced him to encounter and evaluate the ideas and attitudes that they embodied and expressed. And to his chagrin, Lewis began to realize that those who were grounded on a Christian outlook seemed to offer the most resilient and persuasive ‘treaty with reality.’”6
Lewis knew that truth would somehow reconcile the rational, intellectual external side of his life with the deep yearning that he felt from the internal imaginative side of his being. Finally, after years of thinking, reading, arguing, debating, reflecting, engaging in discussions with friends, and reading literature, Lewis gave in to the intellectual idea that God exists. He writes, “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”7 At this point, Lewis had converted to theism, the idea that God created humankind and the world in which we live. A Creator God best explains the reality that we perceive with our senses and the inner longings that we have for something greater than ourselves. But Lewis still had not converted to Christ. He had fallen into the camp of the monotheistic worldview held by Jews, Christians, and Muslims and was simply a theist.
Up to now, Lewis had systematically “dated” the worldviews of atheism, a number of different philosophies, the pantheistic world of Hinduism and Buddhism, agnosticism, and had conceded that monotheism made the most sense of the world. He knew that God existed. Now he would need to explore Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He looked closely at one question separating these three monotheistic faiths: did Jesus exist, and if so, was He who He said He was, and did He really arise from the dead?
On September 19, 1931, Lewis went for a walk with his friends Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien behind Magdalen College on a favorite trail called Addison’s Walk. That night they discussed the literary idea of myth. Myth as they defined it was a story that passed on some element of truth and touched the imagination. Tolkien argued that the difference between all other myths and the Christian myth was that the Christian story really happened in history through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus was who He said He was, and He really arose from the dead. He encouraged Lewis to approach the New Testament story with the same passion he exhibited when approaching other literary works.
A short time after that conversation, Lewis was riding in his brother’s motorcycle sidecar on the way to the zoo. At the end of the ride, he suddenly realized he was a Christian. In a letter dated October 1, 1931, to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves, Lewis wrote: “I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ—in Christianity . . . [My] long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.”8
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