Myth of Ages

David C. Downing’s study of C.S. Lewis and his conversion to Christianity in his early 30’s offers more than the title might suggest.  What we are given is not a repetition of the well-known narrative from Surprised by Joy, in which Lewis recounts his journey from youthful atheism to Christian belief 15 years later.  Nor does Downing lean conspicuously on the exhaustive biographies of Lewis that have appeared in the last 10 to 15 years (for example, the widely available works of George Sayer, A.N. Wilson, and Walter Hooper).  Rather, he approaches his subject’s religious life as a kind of intellectual problem, whose Christian end may have been more in doubt before Lewis’s “reluctant conversion” than the remainder of his life might lead us to believe.

Although Downing has published a previous work on Lewis, his earlier interest was in the Ransom Trilogy and in other literary products of the figure whose “journey to faith” he traces here.  For Lewis, as he is understood by Downing, religious and literary truths were inextricably related.  Thus, “Christianity would become the fountainhead of all myths and tales of enchantment, the key to all mythologies as the myth that unfolded in history.”  Moreover, “for Lewis the incarnation became the archetype of a larger pattern, the principle of descent and reascent.  In Miracles...

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