In 1936, iconic British Christian authors C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) had a momentous conversation in a sitting room at Magdalene College. They decided to take separate paths in their writing, and at the flip of a coin, determined that Tolkein would probe “time travel” and Lewis would explore “space travel.” Tolkein never completed his time-travel book(s), but Lewis penned a science fiction trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.
Last week, I quoted from the second book in Lewis’ space trilogy in a column on why Christians often oppose–but should support–space exploration. Some readers who engaged with the column asked me what C.S. Lewis actually thought about space travel. I did not know for sure, but my curiosity was piqued, and I started digging.
Lewis only addressed what he thought about space exploration (and alien life) two times so far as I can find.
First, Lewis published an essay titled, “Religion and Rockets” that can be found in a lesser known book, The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays. Lewis’ faithful fans may be surprised to find that the author seems quite open to the possibility of discovering extraterrestrial life, something he believed begged a bigger question: “How can we, without absurd arrogance, believe ourselves to have been uniquely favored?” If humans did find alien animal life (he believed discovering alien plant life would be theological insignificant), Lewis said, they would need to determine if these alien beings were rational, have “spiritual sense,” and are fallen like humans are.