I just finished the 230-page book by C.S. Lewis, “Surprised By Joy – The Shape of My Early Life.” I have read other works by Lewis on the topic of Christianity, and have profited by them all. This book is no exception. It is a worthy read for Christians and non-Christians alike. People with inquiring minds will enjoy Lewis’ intellectual path from atheism to belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God–for this is what the book is about.
(Whenever I read Lewis I want to take the book to a particular friend of mine who is as inquiring as is Lewis, but who is a determined atheist, or perhaps agnostic. He is determined not to believe, and I would wish otherwise for him.)
I am not one of those “inquiring minds,” but I still very much enjoyed the descriptions of his home and homeland, the early schools he was forced to attend, his tutors, his teachers, and his few friends. The narrative is very typically Lewis: not devoid of emotion, but removed from it to the extent that it doesn’t cloud the story.
His journey to Christ is very different from mine, but the closer he comes to faith, the more his path and mine intersect. Page 206, in the chapter “Checkmate,”
“The most religious (Plato, Aeschylys, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete–Shaw and Wells and Gibbon and Voltaire–all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called “tinny.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.” (emphasis mine)
I have not read any of the authors he mentions; my experience simply tracks with the last part of his statement. The truth of Christianity includes all “the roughness and density of life,” and this book traces in a compelling way an intellectual’s journey to that truth.