A Brick in the Valley


When C.S. Lewis Was “Shattered”
March 6, 2008, 9:03 am
Filed under: C.S. Lewis, Quotes

From C.S. Lewis, Surpised by Joy: 

Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “Rum thing,” he went on “All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it has really happened once.” To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not – as I would still have put it -“safe,” where could I turn? Was there then no escape?

The fox had been dislodged from Hegelian Wood and was now running in the open, “with all the woe in the world,” bedraggled and weary, hounds barely a field behind. And nearly everyone was now (one way or another) in the pack; Plato, Dante, MacDonald, Herbert, Barfield, Tolkien, Dyson, Joy itself. Everyone and everything had joined the other side. Even my own pupil Griffiths – now Dom Bede Griffiths – though not yet himself a believer, did his share. Once, when he and Barfield were lunching in my room, I happened to refer to philosophy as “a subject.” It wasn’t a subject to Plato,” said Barfield, “it was a way.” The quiet but fervent agreement of Griffiths, and the quick glance of understanding between these two, revealed to me my own frivolity. Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done. . .

You must picture me alone in that room in 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. 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. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore the Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked mem that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

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