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Chesterton, Lewis and Tolkien

On an email list I’m on, someone asked:

Tolkien and Chesterton were Catholics. Was Lewis Anglican through his whole life? And who turned whom to what?

Another list member replied:

Lewis went through an atheist/agnostic phase, and Tolkien was one of the contributing forces to moving Lewis back to Christianity. Tolkien later wrote a poem describing, somewhat metaphorically, his conversations with Lewis. (The dedication to “one who said …” refers to Lewis.) But Tolkien always said regretfully that he’d gotten Lewis only “halfway” (i.e. from atheism/agnosticism to Anglicism but not as far as Catholicism.)

My reply:

On 1/6/06, Stephan Kinsella wrote:

Right–Lewis was originally Anglican, went thru an atheist phase when he was very young, then Anglican again, though he was close to Catholic in some ways, according to some things I’ve read. BTW re the recent interest in his Narnia stuff — his “Space Trilogy” (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) is a more adult set, and better IMO; and his best work of fiction is, I think, his wonderful novel Till We Have Faces, a re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche (reminiscent, to me, of another wonderful book, Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and The Bull From The Sea, a re-telling of the Theseus myth).

Lewis was one of most powerful advocates of Christianity/theism that I have encountered–one of my favorite arguments by him is in this imagery—

“How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself? … And now, another point about wishes. A wish may lead to false beliefs, granted. But what does the existence of the wish suggest? At one time I was much impressed by Arnold’s line ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ But surely tho’ it doesn’t prove that one particular man will get food, it does prove that there is such a thing as food! I.e. if we were a species that didn’t normally eat, weren’t designed to eat, would we feel hungry? You say the materialist universe is ‘ugly.’ I wonder how you discovered that! Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it you don’t feel at home there?”

C. S. Lewis, An Anthology (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), p22.
(see a version online here and here).

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