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Uniting our Divided Mind

CS Lewis abandoned his childhood faith in favor of atheism and materialism. Yet the bracing new philosophies that tantalized his intellect left his imagination hungry. As he wrote later, "nearly all that I loved, poetry, beauty, mythology, I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.”

What Louis thought was real was the lower story word of Scientific materialism– but it was "grim and meaningless.” What he wished were real was the upper story world of myth and meaning– but he believed it to be only imaginary.

This inner conflict created such agony that it drove Lewis’s religious quest. He became desperate to find a truth that satisfies the whole person, including his longing for meaning and beauty. Eventually, he abandoned materialism and adopted philosophical idealism, followed by pantheism, in an earnest effort to bring together the two conflicting realms he called "reason" and “romanticism."

What a joy it was when Lewis eventually discovered that Christianity resolved his lifelong struggle. He saw that Christ's incarnation was the fulfillment of the ancient myths that he is always loved - while at the same time a confirmable fact of history. Christianity was the "true myth to which all the others were pointing," explains one biographer. "It was a faith grounded in history and one that's satisfied even his formidable intellect."

To use Lewis’s own punchy phrase, Christ's resurrection was a myth that became fact. It had all the wonder and beauty of a myth, answering to humanities deepest needs for contact with the transcendent realm. And yet–wonder of wonders–it actually happened in time and space in history:

“The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying God, without ceasing to be a myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens– at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We passed from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate.”

Ironically, the turning point for Lewis came through a conversation with “the hardest boiled" atheist he'd ever known, who startled him by observing that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was surprisingly good: “all that stuff of mythology about the dying god. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.”

Those few words brought Lewis’s thoughts into sharply concentrated focus: he realized that Christianity rests on historical events at are confirmable by empirical evidence, and that at the same time expressed the most exalted spiritual meanings. There is no division into contradictory, opposing levels of truth–and therefore no division in a person’s inner-life either. Christianity fulfills both of our reason and our spiritual yearnings. This is truly good news. We can offer the world a unified truth that is intellectually satisfying, while at the same time it meets our deepest hunger for beauty and meaning.

Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 120-121.

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