Yearning for God, Trying to Love My Neighbor, Making Theatre and Beauty, Building a Life...

Friday, June 22, 2012

“It is the Myth that Gives Life”: C.S. Lewis and the True Myth

Note: This is the text from a presentation I made at the Springville Library on June 21, 2012 as part of their "So You Want to Read!" series. Obviously, I was asked to speak on C.S. Lewis. 

Art by Liz Pulido for Zion Theatre Company.
Many people do not know that C.S. Lewis—the unapologetic Christian apologist, the author of spiritual classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Till We Have Faces, and Mere Christianity —was once an avowed atheist. It was during this early period of skeptical secularism that he went through an intimate, beautiful, and spiritual transformation that led him away from his secular atheism to the road that made him become perhaps the most celebrated Christian author and thinker of the 20th century. It was during this period of change when C.S. Lewis—who preferred the enigmatic nick name “Jack,” which  I will often be calling him by, so don’t get confused—took a night time walk in the woods with two of his friends: J.R.R. Tolkien, future author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; as well as Hugo Dyson, a capable Shakespearean professor and scholar. These three would later make up the core of what would become the celebrated literary group The Inklings, but that illustrious group was still a ways off. This night they were just friends engaged in a life altering conversation that would assist Jack on the last leg of his journey away from his secular past and into his spiritual future.

But Jack wasn’t going down (or up) without a fight. Even though Jack had recently had some powerful spiritual experiences that were leading him back to a belief in God, yet he still resisted the “myth” aspect of Christianity. “Christianity may have many things going for it,” he argued to his friends, “Originality is not one of them.”

C.S. Lewis… or, again, Jack as he preferred… saw Christianity as no different to the other “dying god myths.” The Egyptian god Osiris, the Norse god Balder, the Greek Titan Prometheus… they, too were stories of a god’s death and resurrection, and Christianity was the Johnny come lately to that kind of narrative. Jesus Christ was no different than these more ancient, imaginary gods. That was Jack’s position at the time, one which would change over the course of the evening’s walk in the woods, feeling the nighttime breeze whisper to him another answer.