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The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis's Journey to Faith [Paperback]

By David C. Downing (Author)
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Item Number 48263  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.2" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2004
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830832718  
EAN  9780830832712  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
An ECPA 2003 Gold Medallion Finalist!Listed in Booklist's Best Adult Religion Books of the Year in 2002!His books have sold millions, including classics like Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Yet C. S. Lewis was not always a literary giant of Christian faith. How did he leave behind a staunch atheism to become one of the most beloved and renowned Christian authors of our time?Other biographies of Lewis explore his childhood or his dramatic conversion to Christianity. But as David Downing reveals in this fascinating book, the rarely discussed period from Lewis's childhood to his early thirties took him on a tumultuous journey of spiritual and intellectual exploration before he became a "most reluctant convert." It was not despite this journey but precisely because of it that Lewis understood the search for life's ultimate meaning so well and went on to become one of the most compelling authors of the twentieth century. Weaving the people, places and events of Lewis's life together with excerpts from Lewis's own writing, Downing shows how Lewis's spiritual quest can also light the path for other seekers.

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More About David C. Downing

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David C. Downing is a leading C. S. Lewis expert, award-winning author, and professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His articles about Lewis have appeared in such publications as Christianity Today, Christianity and Literature, Books & Culture, Christian Scholars Review, and numerous other journals. His books include Planets in Peril, about the Space Trilogy; The Most Reluctant Convert, a biography of Lewis that was named one of the Top Ten Religion Books of the Year by the American Library Association; and Into the Region of Awe, a study of the mystical elements in Lewis's life and writings.

David C. Downing currently resides in Lancaster.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Not what I had hoped...  Dec 17, 2007
If a book has any connection to C.S. Lewis, I am predisposed to like it. And though many have been published, I have never read a Lewis biography. So, I began this book with high expectations, which were not quite met.

My criticisms of this book are two-fold. First, it felt very uneven. Some chapters were very biographical in nature, while others (especially Chapter 4) read essentially like a book report. While it is obviously necessary to point to Lewis' writing to understand his thinking, I was very bored with the play-by-play, plodding description of an uncompleted work from Lewis' teen years. Indeed, Downing spent much time throughout his work picking apart fragments of Lewis' writing (published and unpublished), and it felt very tedious to me. This might be more appropriate for an academic publication, and scholars of Lewis might find such an approach to be gripping. But this regular Joe who just likes to read Lewis was not especially engaged.

My second critique, though hard to verbalize, is that the book did not seem to flow well. Downing admitted that he could not tell this story strictly chronologically because the progression of Lewis' religious thoughts was not linear. Nonetheless, I felt rather tossed about while reading this book.

Admittedly, I probably would have appreciated this book more if I had read previous Lewis biographies that covered different parts of his life. And my general unfamiliarity with most of Lewis' fiction (especially the space trilogy) allowed Downing's references to those works to be rather foreign to me.

As promised, Downing limited himself, as much as possible, to C.S. Lewis' intellectual journey from atheist to Christian. Though I learned a great deal, I can't say that I especially enjoyed the ride. At the very least, I now want to read more Lewis to observe that journey first-hand. But if you're looking for a primer on the life of C.S. Lewis (which this book never claims to be), I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
A Biography with Sparkle  Jan 23, 2004
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.
There and back again--CS Lewis's spiritual journey  May 9, 2003
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.
Intellectual Biography of The Highest Order  Jul 13, 2002
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.

Downing Delivers!  Jun 2, 2002
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.

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