March 18, 2010

Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

Surprised By Joy is an eye-opening autobiography of C. S. Lewis's childhood, education, and journey from atheism to theism. Many who are only familiar with his better known works (such as the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity) may be shocked at how honest and open Lewis is about the people, places, and incidents that helped shape him. In Surprised By Joy, Lewis journeys through churchdom, atheism, the occult, academia, and finally arrives at a knowledge of God. It is all about growing up. Many Christians may find this book a bit disturbing. But we need to be disturbed. Why be satisfied with a caricature when the reality is available?

One thing I have always loved about Jack Lewis is his unpretentious honesty. There is never even a hint of fakery or pride in his books. He is the anti-televangelist. He comes to his readers perhaps even a bit embarrassed, but nonetheless open and honest in his experiences, his questions, and his discoveries.

I am grateful to see a resurgence of popularity in the works of C. S. Lewis. Even though he wrote in the mid-20th century, many of his explorations and questions need to be re-explored and re-asked in the 21st century. One of the oft-neglected questions he asked was about the fulfillment of paganism by Christ. Many Christians can see the fulfillment of Judaism in Christianity, but Lewis goes further. One of his complaints: "No one ever attempted to show in what sense Christianity fulfilled Paganism or Paganism prefigured Christianity." (p. 62). He asks, "Where has religion reached its true maturity? Where, if anywhere, have the hints of all Paganism been fulfilled?" (p. 235). Lewis writes, "That is why I often find myself at such cross-purposes with the modern world: I have been a converted Pagan living among apostate Puritans." (p. 69).

A thoroughly enjoyable look into the early life of a great author.


Cindy said...

Great review. Do you think it's something I would enjoy? Or is it over my pea-brain?

Dr. Michael Kear said...

I don't know. Do you like biographies? If you're looking for a more grown-up Lewis book but don't want to get too deeply into theology, I'd suggest The Great Divorce.