By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Editor
photo above: “The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis.” | 1A Productions
WN: C.S. Lewis’ piece, “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe (see also video below),” that I first read in our Grade 12 English reader, Man and His World, was my first conscious awareness that one could actually think, yet be a Christian. Little in my fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren upbringing in London, Ontario, prepared me for such a notion.1 Another piece in the anthology by G.K. Chesterton, “The Logic of Elfland,” was also impactful.
I discovered repeatedly the sheer creative brilliance of their varied approaches to, and inspirations by, Christian faith. Perhaps most telling for me was the emergence of a profound, counterintuitive, supra-rational mystical experience: The Christian faith, felt deeply satisfying intellectually–and in my entirety as a journeying pilgrim on this earth.
That intuition took (albeit erratic) deep root, and has only subsequently spread its branches to all realms of (my very limited) knowing. For all knowledge is ineluctably based on trust.2 In this existentially uncertain world, at this historical moment, trust in God’s Presence is a rock-bottom anchor. I say, hopefully never glibly: That is enough. Or with Saint Paul I accept from God:
. . . My grace is sufficient for thee . . . (II Corinthians 12:9, KJV)
So it is most welcome to see C.S. Lewis’ faith journey dramatized on screen, as you may read about below.
Actor Max McLean will never forget the first time he read The Screwtape Letters by legendary author C.S. Lewis.
Shortly after his conversion to Christianity in his mid-20s, McLean was given a copy of Lewis’ 1942 book by a friend. The book features instructions from a devil to his nephew, “Wormwood,” on ways to tempt followers of Christ.
“And I read one page, and I said, ‘I know this guy. This guy has been in my life for a long time, and now he was exposed.’ And the way Lewis exposed him, he made spiritual warfare very real,” the 68-year-old McLean told The Christian Post.
“Being an adult convert, you bring a lot of doubts and baggage with you because … belief is hard,” he continued. “People that are raised in a faith, their souls, their conscience are formed. That belief becomes an integrated part of who they are. An adult convert has to undo so much. And Lewis had the same experience. So he just helped guide my way.”
Most recently, he adapted Lewis’ memoir, Surprised by Joy, into a play titled “C.S. Lewis on Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert.”
“[Lewis] captured my imagination at a very early age; he’s become my spiritual guide. He’s allowed me to see Christianity from a vantage point that captures my imagination in a huge way,” McLean reflected.
“He had a steel trap mind where he remembered everything and had this wonderful ability to articulate it into this glorious prose and speech. So, to be able to articulate those words after him, especially for a 21st-century audience, is just a tremendous blessing and honor.”
Now, “The Most Reluctant Convert” has hit the big screen.
Titled “The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis” and released by the Fellowship of the Performing Arts, the film stars McLean as Lewis. The work traces the author’s journey from passionate atheist to one of the most influential Christian writers of the past century.
The film, which theologian Tim Keller said moved him “to tears,” dramatizes some of the events that led to a young Lewis’ (Eddie Ray Martin) atheism — from the death of his mother to his traumatic experience in the trenches of World War II.
“Lewis lost his mother at 9 years old to cancer, had a terrible relationship with his father,” McLean said. “He saw the brutality of World War II, the butchery of it. And he came to the conclusion as a result of that, either there’s no God behind the universe, a god indifferent to good and evil, or worse, an evil god. So that was his starting point.”
The movie was filmed in 18 locations in and around Oxford, England, where Lewis was a tutor in English literature. Scenes were also filmed at his college, Magdalen, and his home, The Kilns, where he wrote his Narnia books.
The film follows Lewis as he grapples with questions of God’s existence and the impact his friends, including The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, had on his faith journey.
Both scholars were “iron sharpening iron all the way through the ice,” McLean posited. He added that Tolkein appealed to Lewis’ intellect and imagination, giving him a way to understand Jesus.
“[Lewis] said … ‘If I find myself in desire that no experience in this world could satisfy, the most probable explanation is I was made for another world.’ And that other world is what he was always drawn to and helped others to see as well,” McLean said.
For the role, McLean extensively researched Lewis and also memorized hours of his quotes and writings. An avid truth-seeker, Lewis was a “huge personality who “sucked the air out of the room when he came in,” the actor said.
“He was bigger than life,” he contended. “Before he was a Christian, he was stubborn and bullish. So, he had to tame that. … He channeled it; he humbled himself.”
Please click on: Hit CS Lewis Biopic
- My novel, Chrysalis Crucible, in part explores this.
- I explored this recently here: Interaction With “Neuroscience’s Existential Crisis”.