The complicated story of CS Lewis’ conversion – GetReligion


As historians argue over what CS Lewis said or did not say, it can be said with absolute certainty that the Oxford never patted his professor’s tweed jacket before exclaiming: “Where is my phone? “

This line occurs at the start of “The Most Reluctant Convert”, as actor Max McLean walks into a film set preparing for the first scene. Seconds later, the camera follows him to the real Oxford, England, where Lewis was a scholar and tutor at Magdalen College.

First, the famous Christian writer explains how he became an atheist. When he walks into the real White Horse pub, he orders two pints of beer, one of which is for the viewer. Soon, scenes of his memories come to life, with Lewis going through them as the narrator.

“Lewis is in his imagination. He is personified in his thoughts.… I think the structure arose out of the fact that Lewis had a lot to say,” McLean said with a laugh.

So director Norman Stone – a BAFTA winner for BBC’s “Shadowlands”“- let the” voice of Lewis express his struggle, his passion. He is one of those rare individuals where intellect, emotions and spirituality are completely intertwined, ”said McLean.

All of this is second nature to McLean as the film covers much of the same territory. like his own “CS Lewis Onstage”. It was a one-man show at New York Performing Arts Scholarship, an off-Broadway company founded by McLean and guides as artistic director. He has directed other works by Lewis, such as “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Great Divorce”, drawing warm reviews from The New York Times and other important publications.

The first-person narration, McLean explained, was drawn primarily from Lewis’ autobiography, “Surprised by Joy,” and the many volumes of his personal letters.

The move from stage to screen, of course, allowed the film’s creators to apply for permission to shoot at some of the most important sites connected to Lewis’s life. In addition to the White Horse, viewers follow Lewis through the historic Magdalen College Library, a Tutor’s campus suite and, most importantly, the ovens – the house where Lewis lived for decades with his older brother Warren and, briefly, with his wife with cancer, the American poet Joy Davidman.

The film ends with Lewis leaving a 1931 Christmas service to Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Oxford, after receiving Holy Communion for the first time as an adult. As McLean is surrounded by the film crew, the camera rises high and moves, in a slow sweep, towards the parish cemetery and the grave of Clive Staples Lewis.

The key to the story, McLean noted, are the years in which Lewis became a believer, after the superficial Christianity of his childhood and his years as an “atheist the hard way”. But this conversion was not easy since Lewis first became a simple theist. As Lewis wrote: “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God, I knelt down and prayed: maybe that night the convert the most downcast and reluctant in all of England.

The transition to Christianity was aided by a circle of friends from Oxford, including renowned scholar and novelist JRR Tolkien. It is the creator of The Lord of the Rings who – in a debate that lasted until 3 a.m. – said, describing Jesus: “Either this man was and is the Son of God, or he is a liar. , a madman or a fraud. “

At one point in this conversation the friends walked around Addison’s Walk, a wooded trail near the Cherwell River on the Madeleine grounds. While making his case for the conversion, Tolkien drew on Lewis’ academic expertise in Greek, Roman, Nordic, and medieval literature.

Lewis described this walk in personal letters, including a description of a gust of wind when the leaves fell like rain.

“What makes Addison’s Walk so magical,” McLean said, is the “movement towards Christianity. This conversation with Tolkien makes him recognize the importance of Jesus. … Tolkien told him, “The story of Christ is a myth like all other myths, but with one huge difference: it really happened.

“Then the gust of wind cuts them off. You just know that God was watching, that God was waiting, because he had such an amazing and providential plan for this meeting.”


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