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While MacDonald and Chesterton were stirring Lewis’s thoughts, a close friend, Owen Barfield, with whom he spent much time during and after their student years, pounced on the logic of Jack Lewis’s atheism. Barfield became atheist, and then a Christian, and he frequently badgered Lewis about his materialism. So did Nevill Coghill, a fellow student and lifelong friend who was brilliant, yet was, to Lewis’s amazement, “a Christian and a thorough-going supernaturalist.”
Soon after joining the English faculty at Magdalen College, Lewis met two more Christians, Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien. These men became close friends of Lewis. He admired their brilliance and their logic. Soon Lewis recognized that most of his friends, like his favorite authors—MacDonald, Chesterton, Johnson, Spenser, and Milton—held to this Christian angle of vision which threatened his whole world view.
Gradually during the 1920s, two paths were converging in Lewis’s mind: one was reason, the other intuition. In 1929 these roads met, and C.S. Lewis surrendered and admitted that “God was God, and knelt and prayed.” Within two years the reluctant convert admitted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—God Incarnate. With this revelation the Oxford don became a communicant in the Church of England.
A New Life
Christian history shows that when men and women meet Jesus, recognize His Nature, and then decide to trust and follow Him, they become strikingly different people. Those who convert—who turn around and obey Christ’s command to “follow me”—are clearly people with changed lives.
If evidence of conversion is a new life, C.S. Lewis was obviously a believer after 1931. Many changes were apparent. His life now had a purpose—to know and obey God. This came to fruition most demonstrably in his writing. Earlier efforts to become a poet were laid to rest. The new Christian devoted his talent and energy to writing prose that reflected his recently found faith. Within two years of his conversion Lewis published The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism. This little volume opened a thirty-year stream of books on Christian apologetics and discipleship that became a lifelong avocation. Between 1933 and his death in 1963, C.S. Lewis wrote books—including the sevenvolume Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity—that nudged atheists and agnostics toward the faith, and encouraged and nurtured believers.
As a good steward and responsible professional, Lewis did not ignore his academic discipline. He wrote literary history and criticism such as The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, Rehabilitations and Other Essays, and English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama. These books are still widely read and highly regarded.
Despite the large quantity and high quality of his academic publications, Lewis became known as a literary evangelist. The tone and impact of his theological and apologetical books help account for this reputation, as did his own assertion in a rejoinder to his critic, Dr. W.N. Pittenger, published in The Christian Century, November 26, 1958, where Lewis admitted that most of what he wrote “is evangelistic.”
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