Lewis’s Conversion Part II: Mouse Discovers Cat Exists, Regrets Implications
May 29, 2013 Kurt Jaros

Lewis’s Conversion Part II: Mouse Discovers Cat Exists, Regrets Implications

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In my previous post I wrote about C.S. Lewis’s conversion experience.  Alister McGrath nicely explains that:

In every case, we find the same pattern—a realisation that, if this was true, everything else falls into place naturally, without being forced or strained.  And by this nature, it demands assent from the lover of truth.  Lewis found himself compelled to accept a vision of reality that he did not really wish to be true, and certainly did not cause to be true.[1]

Thus for Lewis, conversion was a sort of crystallization of beliefs about the way the world really is.  In Surprised by Joy, Lewis writes, “As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel’s, so not a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its gravecloths, and stood upright and became a living presence.  I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer.”[2]

What he meant by this was that the philosophical theory of God’s existence was no longer a propositional theory.  This theory was real.  It was actual. And thus, for Lewis, God was now “pounding on the door of Lewis’s mind and life.  Reality was imposing itself upon him, vigorously and aggressively demanding a response.”[3]  Lewis describes this experience by way of an analogy: “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God.’  To me, as I then was, they might was well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.”[4]

This great analogy describes for us what it would be like for a human to discover that God does exist, and that because he does exist, there are strong implications for what it means for our lives and how we live them.  Lewis presents this principle of implication in his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the melting of snow comes to signify the return of Aslan to Narnia.  Lewis writes of his experience, “I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt.  The melting was starting in my back—drip-drip and presently trickle-trickle.  I rather disliked the feeling.”[5]  The snow melts away, the implications become present, and at least for some, an unpleasant feeling arises.

Lewis’s conversion experience is awfully different than the way some others come to the faith.  I submit, at the very least, that people have different conversion experiences and that not all experiences are normative by way of a Damascus Road-like, Burning Bush-like, or angelic presence-like experiences.

For those interested in learning more about Lewis’s recollection of his experience, be sure to read the chapter titled “Checkmate” in Surprised by Joy.

[1] Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis: A Life (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2013) 136.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Orlando: Harcourt Books, 1955), 227.

[3] McGrath, 138.

[4] Lewis, 227.

[5] Lewis, 225.

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