C.S. Lewis Was “Surprised by”… His Conversion

Most Christians describe the conversion process as a personal experience of turning towards God and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They say it involves acknowledging one’s sinfulness, repenting (asking for forgiveness), and committing to follow Jesus as the guiding principle in one’s life. It is considered a transformative experience that leads to a deeper relationship with God and a change in behavior and attitudes.

Conversion to Christianity is often described as both a personal decision and an experience. It involves an individual recognizing their need for salvation, making the conscious choice to turn towards God and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and then experiencing the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in their life. Conversion is sometimes viewed as a deliberate and voluntary act of the will. Both the decision and the experience are seen as integral aspects of the Christian conversion process.

While most people think of conversion as something that happens at a point in time, C.S. Lewis described his conversion to Christianity as a slow and gradual process that took place over several years. He referred to it as his “Great Breakthrough.” Lewis was a lifelong skeptic and agnostic, but he was eventually drawn to Christianity through his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien and other Christian intellectuals, and through his own deep reflections on the nature of life, morality, and spirituality. He wrote about his conversion journey in several books, including “Surprised by Joy” and “Mere Christianity,” in which he described his realization that the Christian faith was based on evidence and reason, and that it provided a comprehensive and compelling explanation of the world and the human experience. Lewis’s conversion story has inspired many people, and continues to be widely read and discussed in Christian circles.

He described the experience of his conversion as a joyous one, hence the title “Surprised by Joy.” Lewis wrote about his struggle with doubt and skepticism, and how he eventually came to see Christianity as the most rational and fulfilling explanation for the world and human experience. He also wrote about how his encounter with Christianity was initially through literary works, and how his encounter with the beauty of Christian themes in literature drew him to explore the faith more deeply.

In “Surprised by Joy,” Lewis candidly shares about the last step in his journey to faith. It happened while he was riding in the side car of his brother’s motorcycle to the grand opening of a new zoo called Whipsnade.

Lewis says this about his experience.

“I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. “Emotional” is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events. It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”

He finishes his thought about his conversion this way.

“As for what we commonly call Will, and what we commonly call Emotion, I fancy these usually talk too loud, protest too much, to be quite believed, and we have a secret suspicion that the great passion or the iron resolution is partly a put-up job.”

So is our conversion a point in time personal decision… or is it something that takes place over a longer period of time? Have we put too much emphasis on our “Will” and “Emotion” as Lewis suggests?