by James Heiser
In opposing the violent lies promulgated by various ideologies, the Inklings were of a common spirit with the sentiment that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would express in 1972 in his :The grand sweep of history is often presented as an account of nations and even entire civilizations upon which the religious beliefs and ideologies of different ages have their impress on vast and faceless multitudes. Nearly lost in that vast expanse of time are the moments in which the individuals who shape the character of their ages are brought to the convictions that order their existence.We shall be told: What can literature do in the face of a remorseless assault of open violence? But let us not forget that violence does not and cannot exist by itself: It is invariably intertwined with.... Anyone who has once proclaimed violence as his must inexorably choose the lie as his ....The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let come into the world, let it even reign supreme — only not through me. But it is within the power of writers and artists to do much more:
One such moment occurred as three men walked together and debated long into the night on September 19, 1931. The content of their conversation — the nature of myth and its relationship to Christianity — might seem abstract or at least “academic,” but the outcome of that conversation had profound significance for countless numbers of Christians for decades to come, for it was the night when J.R.R. Tolkien (shown on right) finally broke through C.S. Lewis’ (left) passionately argued opposition to Christianity. As Philip and Carol Zaleski report the encounter in their recent book, The Fellowship:
Lewis insisted that myths are essentially lies; Tolkien countered that myths are essentially true, for they reflect and transmit, in secondary form, the primary and primordial creative power of God....
Moreover, Tolkien argues — and this was the crux of the matter — that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we discover a myth that has entered history. Here God tells — indeed, enacts — a tale with all the beauty and wonder and symbolic power of myth, and yet a tale that is actually true. It was a strange thought, but it reminded Lewis of an off-hand remark he had heard five years before from the atheist Harry Weldon. “Rum thing,” Weldon had said, “All that stuff of [James] Frazier’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.” It looked as if it had really happened once — and yet it lost none of its mythic power for having become fact.The realization of Christianity as the “myth that became fact” overcame Lewis’ long-held opposition to the faith. According to Lewis, approximately a week later, as he rode with his brother to the Whipsnade Zoo, the full import of the conversation crystalized in faith: “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”
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