CS Lewis believed in what is called the “correspondence theory of truth.” It is not clear that he would have called it that, but it was obvious from the way that he wrote and spoke that he believed in and was devoted to the truth. The correspondence theory of truth holds that truth is an idea or belief that corresponds to reality. Lewis states in “Myth Became Fact,” “Truth is about something, but reality is that about which truth is.” Lewis believed that access to and the acquisition of truth enabled true human flourishing.
From 1941 to 1945 something happened on BBC radio that would never happen at that institution today. CS Lewis presented a series of twenty-four fifteen minute talks in which he addressed important Christian issues. These talks would eventually be published in 1952 as Mere Christianity.
It is in these talks that Lewis establishes his fidelity for the truth. He states, “I’m trying to find out the truth. And from that point of view the very idea of something being imperfect, of its not being what it ought to be, has certain consequences.” For Lewis, following truth leads to real consequences when you discover it. When you actually determine what is real your behavior should change. Lewis points out, “We are now getting to the point at which different beliefs about the universe lead to different behaviors.” What we understand to be true makes us who we are.
For Lewis, truth is not relative. It is the thing that allows him to know how to properly move about the world. If we are to properly act in the world it cannot be relativistic—that is limited to what is “true to me.” In The Abolition of Man Lewis asserts that a belief in objective truth is “the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” Knowing that there is object truth allows us to begin to confidently arbitrate between the rightness and wrongness of ideas and actions.
Today many people have either relativized their belief in truth or limited it to modern scientific pursuits. When I read Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man I find myself reminded about the importance of the pursuit of truth. It is in this pursuit of truth that I realize that there are real consequences and expectations given what I believe. When I say that my Christian faith is true it is a call to radical difference. It is not just an assent to some socially crafted ideal.
It is easy to think of Lewis as a popularizer of difficult theological and philosophical ideas. I think much of this view comes from the fact that many of us read Lewis early on in our Christian and academic development, and most of our thoughts about his simplicity comes from our inability to properly comprehend the depth of his writing. I have been recently rereading some of his work in preparation for an upcoming lecture, and I find his depth of understanding and insight on the nature of truth to be very instructive.
If you have not done so for a while, I would highly recommend that you invest some time immersing yourself in Lewis’ writings. Reread Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man; Not only is his writings style enjoyable to read his ideas will encourage you to live a radical life because truth has consequences.