A. N. Wilson Returns to the Faith
Two decades ago, A. N. Wilson wrote a critically acclaimed biography of C.S. Lewis. This and some other of his writings led some Christians to hope that Wilson might become what Alan Jacobs once called “that figure for whom so many have been waiting for so long, The Next C. S. Lewis.”
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It therefore came as a surprise and a disappointment when Wilson publicly repudiated his Christian faith a few years later and became a mocker of Christianity.
Yet, this past Easter, in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Wilson was urging British Christians not be cowed by “sneering” and “self-satisfied” critics like Richard Dawkins.
A. N. Wilson, you see, has returned to the faith. Why? In large measure because of the strongest evidence for the truth of the Gospel—that is, its impact on people’s lives.
Wilson wrote that in his “young manhood,” he “began to wonder how much of the Easter story [he] accepted.” By his thirties, he had lost all religious belief.
Why? He attributes it to growing up in a culture that was increasingly and “overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious.” To his “shame,” he says, he went along with the cultural tide. He felt that Christian faith was “uncool” and “unsexy.”
Wilson didn’t stop at what he calls this “playground attitude”: he “began to rail against Christianity” and wrote a book that described Jesus as a “messianic prophet who had . . . truly failed, and died.”
Yet on Palm Sunday just a few weeks ago, Wilson reported that he “heard the Gospel being chanted,” and could assent to it “with complete simplicity.” Sometime in the past five years, he went from writing a book about a failed messianic prophet to believing that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Again, the question is “why?” Part of the reason was that atheism and atheists in his words, “[miss] out on some very basic experiences of life.” He described listening to Bach or reading the works of Christian authors and realizing that their “perception of life was deeper, wiser, more rounded than [his] own.” seeing the world through the eyes of faith is “much more interesting” he said, than the alternatives.
Then there was the low esteem in which Darwinism holds man. The people who insist that we are “simply anthropoid apes” can’t account for something as basic as language. The “existence of language,” love and music, to name but a few, convinced Wilson that we are “spiritual beings.” For Wilson, they prove that “the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true.”
Then there’s what he regards the “an even stronger argument”: “the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives.” From “Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged” to the person next to you at church, Christians bear witness to the truth of Christianity and that as a “working blueprint for life” and “template against which to measure experience, it fits.”
I couldn’t put it any better. Welcome home, Mr. Wilson. It’s great to have you back.
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Learn more about A.N. Wilson.
A.N. Wilson, "Religion of Hatred: Why We Should No Longer be Cowed by the Chattering Classes Ruling Britain Who Sneer at Christianity," U.N. Daily Mail, 11 April 2009.
A.N. Wilson, "Why I Believe Again," NewStatesman.com, 2 April 2009.
Alan Jacobs, "The Second Coming of C.S. Lewis," First Things, November 1994.
"The Atheist Leap of Faith," BreakPoint Commentary, 31 December 2007.
"A Rational Belief," BreakPoint Commentary, 28 December 2007.
"Weighing the Evidence," BreakPoint Commentary, 10 January 2005.
Read the BreakPoint commentaries for all of the books in the Great Books Series.