The distinguished American novelist, Walker Percy, once remarked on the countless converts who had come to Catholicism through the writings of C. S. Lewis: Walker Percy wrote: "....[in stories told by Catholic converts] writers one might expect, from Aquinas to Merton, turn up. But guess who turns up most often? C. S. Lewis."
Yet Lewis himself never converted; he lived, and died (in November 1963) a lifelong Anglican.
In 1999, Joseph Pearce wrote a book called Literary Converts, a study of the veritable stampede to Rome of English authors and intellectuals in the twentieth century; men like G. K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Malcolm Muggeridge. I reviewed Literary Converts when it came out and nominated it as the best Christian book of the year. More recently, Pearce wrote another book, this one called C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, and I reviewed that too. In this book, Pearce tries to find the answer to the Lewis paradox; namely, why has C. S. Lewis influenced so many Catholic converts and yet never himself become a Catholic?
Despite Pearce's diligent research, and his insightful and balanced reflections, the answer, I believe, eludes him. Pearce's answer – that Lewis was never able to shake off his virulently anti-Catholic Belfast upbringing – I consider unconvincing. I know that kind of upbringing: I experienced something not altogether different myself. It is an obstacle, unquestionably, but not an insurmountable one.
I believe that the answer is much simpler: in the nineteen forties, fifties and early sixties, when Lewis lived and his influence was at its height, it was still possible to regard the Church of England (particularly in its AngloCatholic manifestations) as part of that "...one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" that all Christians, when they recite the Nicene Creed, profess to believe in.
May 31, 2011
Ian Hunter on C.S. Lewis
Posted by TS at 10:39 AM