C.S. Lewis is probably best known for his work on the “Chronicles of Narnia“. Similarly, Lewis is also well known for his work as a Christian apologist. He recorded a series of radio broadcasts that were eventually turned into the much-beloved book, “Mere Christianity“. In his book, “Surprised by Joy“, Lewis recounts his life from early childhood to adulthood and his journey from atheism to Christianity.
To be quite honest, I’ve never read any of C.S. Lewis’ fiction I’m only familiar with his non-fiction work. Having said that, in this book, Lewis once again shows his mastery of language and writing as he makes even the most mundane of human tasks interesting, regardless if you agree with his conclusions about the existence of God or not.
“Surprised by Joy” was originally published in 1955 and at only 238 pages, it’s really not a terribly long read. His writing style, as if he were sitting across from you at a table while the two of you talk over a cup of tea, is warm and engaging.
When it comes to his life, he illustrates how he lost faith and how he “ceased to be a Christian”. Later in the book Lewis then deftly relates with beautiful humility his self-examination:
“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to ‘know of the doctrine.’ All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit. For the first time, I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”
Being a writer, it seemed that books were the way through which his faith was ignited. As Lewis states, “All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been blind as a bat not to have seen it long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader…”
Lewis also goes on to famously say,
“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — ‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
As with C.S. Lewis’ other apologetic works, I would highly recommend “Surprised by Joy”. It may not be an apologetics book in the classical sense, but it’s the testimony of a man who lost his faith in God and then found it again. At 238 pages, it’s not a terribly long book to read and C.S. Lewis’ style of writing is easy for anyone to pick up and follow with ease. I highly recommend it!