The Relevancy of C.S. Lewis for Today’s Transitioning Students
C.S. Lewis has been one of the most influential Christian writers in the last century. I was significantly influenced by him as a college student while coming to terms with one of the most important questions students need to ask when transitioning from high school to college: What do I believe? I discovered the writings of the late Oxford professor and Christian apologist (Lewis died in 1963) at an important time in my college career.
My dilemma? I wasn’t sure the Christian faith could survive the scrutiny of the “new knowledge” and ideas that bombard students on college campuses. In fact, I had a philosophy professor who asked to see the hands of all the professing Christians in the class. All semester he tried to make us look like fools. I needed some encouragement (and fire power!) and someone suggested that I read C.S. Lewis. The first Lewis book I read was his autobiography Surprised by Joy. I was hooked. Here was a man who went through the academic “fire” of the “secular” university and came out the other side not only with his faith intact, but with a much stronger faith for going through it.
About two miles from my office sits a small, liberal arts college. A few years ago I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a renowned C.S. Lewis scholar was a professor in the English department. David C. Downing has written many notable books on the life of Lewis including, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis, and Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. I was most interested in Dr. Downing’s book that deals with Lewis’ conversion, The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis’ Journey to Faith. This book reveals how Lewis navigated and eventually answered many of the same questions I was being forced to ask in my philosophy course.
I asked Dr. Downing if he would talk with me about the book and about issues facing college students, especially as they make the transition from high school to college. He agreed and what follows are some highlights from our conversation.