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The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis's Journey to Faith Paperback – Aug 2004

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David Downing has written a fascinating, scholarly and very
readable account of Lewis's conversion process ... -- Ken Bakewell ; LCF Newsletter; March 2003 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Intellectual Biography of The Highest Order 13 July 2002
By Burpo The Mad Clown - Published on
Format: Hardcover
David Downing has achieved something quite remarkable with this book: He has succeeded in making a thoroughly researched, philosophically-heavy, intellectual biography an engrossing read.
This is by no means a CS Lewis biography. It is, rather, a biography of Lewis' mind before, during and immediately after his conversion to a belief in Christ. Downing explores several avenues of Lewis' philosophical quest, none more so than his unceasing pursuit of "Joy." This pursuit leads Lewis, and the reader, through all stages of Lewis' intellectual and religious development--from atheistic materialism to the occult to philosophical Idealism to pantheism and finally to Christ. Along the way, the reader is introduced to many of Lewis' spiritual, philosophical and intellectual mentors.
This could have easily (almost predictably) become a dry, excruciatingly dull narrative with all the readability of a poorly-written freshman philosophy text. Instead, it is a true page-turner as Downing relates Lewis' intellectual pursuit of the aforementioned concepts. One-by-one the philosophical challengers to Christianity are discovered, honestly scrutinized, shown be intellectually wanting, and ultimately rejected.
Don't be put off by the centrality of philosophical discussion in this book. It is an easy read and it is actually quite fun to see how Lewis used his monumental intellect to punch irreparable holes in philosophical concepts considered sacrosanct by preening, self-important atheistic egotists. Though an atheist during his teens and twenties, Lewis never stopped pursuing iron-clad intellectual arguments which would quench his thirst for "Joy." His intellectual honesty never allowed him to be satisfied with answers which rested on shaky philosophical ground. And part of his restless pursuit of "Joy" was his search for a firm and unassailable theoretical foundation on which he could build a consistent belief system.
Bravo to Mr. Downing for writing this marvelous book. Perhaps no other work allows us to peer more deeply into the mind of this magnificent intellect.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Downing Delivers! 2 Jun. 2002
By Dustin R Feddon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Downing does well in his concise and colorful account of C.S. Lewis' progression to faith -- thus leading to a joyful life. Primarily Downing is helpful in allowing the reader a glimpse into the patient ascension of Lewis to discovering an intimate and substantial faith in Christianity. The reader is not simply walking blindly in this telling of Lewis' conversion, but is led by Downing with a careful examination of Lewis' own thoughts through this spiritual and thoughtful pilgrimage. Thus, Downing allows Lewis to speak for himself on many accounts through highlighting his own letters; and the writings of others close to Lewis, including his brother. The reader will also recieve a luminous lesson on 19th and 20th century thought; they will be intoduced to Rationalism, Romanticism, Idealism, Modernity and a host of other worldviews and religious expressions Lewis engaged in his early adulthood.
This book affirms the reason why so many find solace and stimulation from this Christian literary giant. Lewis' genuine and ardent quest for faith should not be overlooked and can only command respect and admiration.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Biography with Sparkle 23 Jan. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
C.S. Lewis was a complex man, and it would be easy for a biographer to bog down in the details. However, David Downing deftly weaves together an engaging and fast-moving story that follows various threads in Lewis's life, his writings, the major intellectual trends of the early 20th century, and Lewis's gradually unfolding Christian belief. Downing draws from Lewis's well-known writings, but also from letters and unpublished works to create a complex and intriging portrait. I found the book to be intellectually and spiritually nourishing. All in all a good story and a good read.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
C.S. Lewis, the view from the outside 12 May 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever wondered what C.S. "Jack" Lewis looked from the outside, rather than from inside his own head, this is the book for you. Mr. Downing writes in a very readable way, and has obviously done a tremendous amount of research. He writes mostly about the "lost" years in between Jack's early childhood, and the beginning of his conversion as an adult. Mr. Downing traces Jack's thought and theology through his own writings (letters and unfinished or unpublished works) and provides a coherent and very interesting overview of his development from a very cynical young man (though of substantially divided mind) through to the final step of his conversion, covering many things that Lewis himself either glossed over, or never discussed in his autobiographical work. It also covers how some of the conflicts that Jack ran into in his early life were later written about in characters in his novels - he actually made me want to go back and reread the "Perelandra" series, which I haven't been very impressed with up until now. If you've read much C.S. Lewis, and want to know more about him, I would recommend the book highly.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
There and back again--CS Lewis's spiritual journey 9 May 2003
By bixodoido - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm not quite sure how to classify this book. It's not exactly a biography, because it does not attempt a thorough inspection of CS Lewis's life. It's not literary criticism, because it mentions most of Lewis's works only in passing. I suppose this book is rather an examination of the various steps of CS Lewis's departure from, avoidance of, and eventual return to Christianity. In this book, Downing explores and evaluates all the stages of Lewis's philosophical and religious thought-from materialism to idealism to pantheism to Christianity, with brief stops along the way to consider spiritualism and theosophy.

Lewis's time away from Christianity was a very interesting time in his life. He toyed with many systems of belief, and struggled to come to grips with reality as he found system after system of philosophy to be flawed. Downing does a good job of exploring the influences that aided Lewis's development-his teachers, mentors, and books he read all played an important part in this. For that, at least, there is merit in this book, and Downing also uncovers a few (but they are few) details which Lewis himself leaves out in his autobiography, `Surprised by Joy.'

Anyone who has read `Surprised by Joy,' however, will find that this book is basically just a rewording of what Lewis himself said in that work. There is little in this book which cannot be gleaned from Lewis's own sketch of his early life, and Lewis's work has the added advantage of being both better written and written from his own point of view. This book provides a decent summary of Lewis's autobiography, but little more.

For the most part, Downing's insights are helpful, if not unique. The narrative is sometimes confused, with Downing jumping (for example) from a period of doubt in Lewis's life to a scene from The Chronicles of Narnia or other of Lewis's fiction which illustrates what he later came to believe on the subject. And the greatest flaw of this book comes in the last two pages of chapter 8, when Downing attempts to describe Lewis's spiritual experience while riding to a zoo with his brother. Lewis describes that something happened (though he admits he doesn't know what) on that ride, and that he believed in Christ as the son of God when he arrived at the zoo, but hadn't when he had set out for the zoo. Downing, in analyzing this experience, waxes psychological and attempts to get inside Lewis's head. The result is a flowery blurb of supposed thoughts which Lewis had, told mostly in the first person (as if Downing had access to a level of Lewis's conscious which even he, Lewis, did not have) and reeking of an attempt at literary prowess rather than narrative fidelity. Those two pages alone ruined the entire book for me.

Despite these flaws, however, this book deserves three stars for its interesting look at Lewis's Journey to Faith (as the subtitle implies). As I said, there is nothing new or groundbreaking here, and longtime fans of Lewis will find little which is unique, but this book is nevertheless merits a quick perusal.
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