In connection with the recent 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis's death, I've also been thinking about a quote from his friend Austin Farrer, who was assessing Lewis's legacy. Here it is:
The day in which apologetic flourishes is the day of orthodoxy in discredit; an age full of people talked out of a faith in which they were reared. . . . Where the erosion of orthodoxy has gone beyond a certain point, other champions and different arms are called for. There can be no question of offering defenses to positions which are simply unoccupied; or justifying ideas of which the senses never dawned on the mind.
That is the contemporary European situation, where justification and defense are the wrong tools. What you need is a quiet, imaginative introduction of those things in the first place. You need to appeal to people's existing knowledge about their lives. You need to say, "This stuff, far from being the far-off stereotype of which you have only distantly heard, is actually a recognizable way of talking about the heart you already possess."
Yes. What you say makes me think of several writers—British, European—who are far indeed from being Christian but whose books, whatever their intentions, may open some readers to the possibility of faith. Let me give two examples. I don't know if they are people you've read or care about, but one of them is a crazy, brilliant guy named Charles Stross, who writes novels that are not reviewed in The New York Review of Books and alas probably never will be.
I'm a faithful reader of Charles Stross.
Wonderful! You're a kindred spirit. Then you'll remember the passages where Bob, the protagonist of the Laundry Files series, tells us he used to be an atheist, and he was lot more comfortable then.
He's being pitch-forked into a horrible Lovecrafty basement, full of demonic things with tentacles.
Exactly. As he puts it, if somebody had told him there was any such thing as magic, he would have thought, This person is just a fool. So his encounters with soul-sucking pretas function as a kind of reality therapy: he's forced to acknowledge these realities that weren't conceivable in his smug atheism. He refers ironically, in capital letters, to the One True Religion, which acknowledges the existence of these malign forces. They're coming to get us, but in the meantime we try to hold off their minions while we can.
Well, it's very funny, and of course he's also a genius of parody, but it's not just funny, because it's intended to puncture a complacency. Now along with this, he's scathing about Christian faith.