The spiritual journey of the late C.S. Lewis was brilliantly portrayed in the film presentation, The Most Reluctant Convert, which just completed a remarkable run in theatres. My wife, Beth, and I were able to see it while traveling recently.
Lewis wrote extensively on our Savior and dealt with issues surrounding spiritual warfare which can be helpful for us today. He made a remarkable progression in his life from atheist to theist to Christian. He certainly regarded Jesus as more than just a “good teacher.”The C.S. Lewis Institute posted this excerpt from Lewis’ landmark book, Mere Christianity:
…I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
William Federer devoted a piece on his American Minute website to the spiritual journey of C.S. Lewis, who was portrayed by Max McLean in the film, assisted by younger actors who portrayed Lewis earlier in life. Federer writes that Lewis…
…described how he resisted believing, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape,” as he wrote in Surprised by Joy, 1955.
Finally, in 1929, he came to believe in God:
“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen (College, Oxford) 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. … That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. 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.”
But, the journey was incomplete – there is a difference between believing in God and committing to Christ. Federer writes:
In 1931, after a late-night discussion with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson about faith in Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis described his deepening spiritual journey in Surprised by Joy:
“I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade zoo one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached to zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought.
Nor in great emotion. ‘Emotional’ is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events.
It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake…
Lewis had truly made the progression from death to life, new life in Jesus Christ – and he dealt with issues related to spiritual warfare throughout his writings. McLean related in a CBN.com story:
Lewis really captured my imagination. He became my spiritual guide. He really understands the spiritual warfare that attracted me to ‘The Screwtape Letters’ and it also attracted me to ‘The Great Divorce.’
Both of those made me want to go back to his own conversion story. And that led me to Surprised by Joy, which became the basis for the play we wrote that ran in New York for 15 weeks and toured around the country for a long time, and then ultimately became this movie.
The Bible tells us that we are complete in Him. Lewis’ conversion journey became complete not when he rejected atheism and professed to believe in God. It happened for him, and for each Christian, that moment when we accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives; it’s when we become a new creation, when we became born again.
But, we are not instantaneously perfect, even though we have a new heart – there is the work of sanctification that begins, when we war daily against the flesh and appropriate the victory that Jesus has won for us. Jesus Christ has defeated the power of sin and death and made that available to us.