As a young adult, Clive Staples Lewis appeared to be lightyears away from the historic Christian faith. Although he had been raised in a Christian home, Lewis found his religious beliefs challenged by a number of personal heartaches, including the painful loss of his mother to cancer. By the time he was a student at Oxford, Lewis was a committed atheist who found a fellow classmate’s belief in a supernatural Christianity a curiosity.
Today, however, C. S. Lewis is known as a defender of the faith he once denied. As an article in Christianity Today online observes:
C. S. Lewis is probably the most well known, widely read, and often quoted Christian author of modern times. Between 1931 and 1962 he published 34 books. Posthumous collections added many more volumes, and the secondary studies of Lewis reach into the hundreds.1
Through poetry, allegory, popular theology, educational philosophy, science fiction, myth, literary criticism, correspondence, and autobiography, Lewis left his mark on the world. In so many ways, his conversion gave us thelegacy of a former atheist who could say, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Walter Hooper, Lewis’ private secretary, reflected on the impression the Oxford professor had on him:
Lewis struck me as the most thoroughly converted man I ever met. Christianity was never for him a separate department of life. . . . His whole vision of life was such that the natural and supernatural seemed inseparably combined.2
Hooper’s description of Lewis as “the most thoroughly converted man I ever met” is a provocative tribute to the extent to which Lewis was changed by his faith.
The meaning of conversion depends on its context. In the computer world, it means reformatting data for a new system. For world travelers, it’s often associated with the exchange of money from one currency to another. In matters of faith, conversion usually means adopting the ideas and practices of a religion for one’s own.
But the conversion to which Hooper referred is how personal faith in Christ transformed Lewis’ “whole vision of life.” This spiritual conversion was not a single event. It was a process that transformed Lewis’ imagination, mind, conscience, and expectations over a lifetime.