I’ve always been so impressed with how J.R.R. Tolkien led his atheist friend C.S. Lewis toward faith in Christianity,” begins Tim Keller in the video clip below. He says Tolkien explained to Lewis that the fulfillment of human longings (eternal love, triumph over evil, heroic sacrifice, life out of death) that we find in beautiful stories—the stories Lewis loved so much—can be found in reality:
Tolkien believed that even though fairy stories, at the factual level, aren’t true, most people feel in some ways they are true. They point to an underlying reality that’s almost more true than the way life is actually being lived in this world….
The Gospel story of Jesus is not one more wonderful story pointing to the underlying reality. Rather, Jesus is the underlying reality to which all the stories point. And the reason we can know that is because of the resurrection.
See, Tolkien says, the resurrection is what happened. The resurrection was this underlying reality breaking into this world…. [Jesus Christ] has punched a hole through that concrete slab between life as it is and life as it ought to be, between the ideal and the real….
Jesus Christ. The true story of Jesus. That’s what the world needs. That’s what you need.
What ultimately moved Lewis was not the idea that the Gospel is the most beautiful of stories (though he did think it encapsulated all of what is most beautiful in stories), but the earth-shattering realization that this most beautiful of all stories could actually be true.