“I strongly hoped [Christianity] was not true”

“My own position at the threshold of Xtianity was exactly the opposite of yours,” Lewis writes in a 1950 letter. “You wish it were true: I strongly hoped it was not.” If Christianity is true, Lewis knew it would demand a change in him; he knew what Psalms 139 says:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (7-12)

We might wish Christianity one way or the other, but it doesn’t change what the Truth is; it doesn’t provide a hiding place simply because we choose ignorance or modernity or atheism. Lewis mentions great evildoers like Stalin and Hitler and asks if they’d be pleased, “to find that they were not their own masters, that they had a Master and a Judge, that there was nothing ever in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him ‘Keep out. Private. This is my business’?” Their reaction would be Lewis’s: rage and terror.

With no place to hide, what did Lewis do? In two paragraphs of his letter he summarizes the heart of Mere Christianity: Christianity fulfills our needs, not our wishes.

Lewis starts in his common place of myth. At the humanity’s beginning, you have myth and mystery, “the death & return of Balder or Osiris, the dances, the initiations, the sacrifices, the divine kings,” he says. Against myth is Greek philosophy.

What Christianity expresses that is not expressed in Hinduism nor any other system (Lewis says Hinduism is the only other religious system that gets close in combining mysteries and philosophies), is this, says Lewis: “It is only Xtianity which compels a high brow like me to partake in a ritual blood feast, and also compels a central African convert to attempt an enlightened universal code of ethics.”

Lewis concludes this short, profound letter to Sheldon Vanauken in suggesting he read more. “Have you tried Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man? The best popular apologetic I know,” he says.

As a Chesterton fan, I’ll end the same way with one addition. Explore The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis. This reference is from Volume III (1950-1963), page 70, written Dec. 14, 1950. It’s refreshing to see the genuineness of Lewis’s faith through his daily letter writing.