Surprised by Lewis
A surprising voice in support of this kind of culture-questioning paganism is that of C. S. Lewis. In all the praise of Lewis's superlative value as a Christian apologist, not much is said about his cautious defense of paganism. The old pagan world is implicit in nearly all of his fiction—from the thinly disguised (but wonderfully baptized) Norse and Celtic world of Narnia, to the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche in Till We Have Faces, to the Greek-god-like oyarsu in the Space Trilogy.

But Lewis is even more explicit in his affirmation of paganism as a way that opens people to the true God. In Surprised by Joy, the story of his conversion, Lewis wrote: "Sometimes I can almost think I was sent back to the false gods there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself."

His most explicit approval of paganism is in the early, allegorical account of his conversion, Pilgrim's Regress. In that story, John, the main character, seeks an island in the east—he is really seeking God, but doesn't know it yet—and he encounters a hermit in a cave, who speaks with the voice of history. The hermit explains that all the people in that country are estranged from God (the Landlord), but that the Landlord keeps getting messages through about himself. Often they come in pictures—what we might call mythology. He makes a distinction between "the shepherd people" who had "the rules" (the Jews with the revealed Law) and "the pagans" who had the pictures (mythology):

The truth is that a Shepherd is only half a man, and a Pagan is only half a man, so that neither people was well without the other, nor could either be healed until the Landlord's Son came into ...
Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.