Clive Staples Lewis (1898—1963) is often referred to as the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century. He was a British academic, novelist, poet, broadcaster, lecturer, and apologist. He is best known for his fiction works: The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy; as well as for his non-fiction works: Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. He wrote over seventy books and over thirty have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold millions of copies.
C. S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland on November 29, 1898 to a Christian family. At age four, his family dog, Jacksie, was killed by a car and afterwards C. S. declared his name was Jacksie and refused to answer to anything else. Thus, C. S. Lewis was known as Jack to his family and friends for the rest of his life. At ten years old, his mother died of cancer and he was soon after sent to boarding school. By age fifteen, he declared himself an atheist as a result of the pain and grief he experienced after his mother's death.
In 1916, Lewis was accepted into Oxford University but was soon shipped off to WWI at the age of nineteen. The horror of trench warfare he witnessed in Somme, France only served to confirm his atheism. During training, he and a fellow cadet, "Paddy" Moore, promised to care for each other's family if either one died in the war. C. S. Lewis was injured in April 1918, five months after arriving in France. However, Paddy Moore was killed in action in 1918 and Lewis kept his promise. Paddy's mother, Jane Moore, was like a second mother to him especially as he recovered from his injury. Lewis was demobilized in December 1918 and returned to school at Oxford while continuing to live with and care for Paddy's mother and sister.
Lewis went to work as a faculty member first at Oxford University from 1925 to 1954 and then at Cambridge University from 1954 to 1963. In 1926, at Oxford, he met J. R. R. Tolkien and the two became friends. Tolkien's influence as well as the book The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton and the works of George MacDonald inspired Lewis's return to theism by 1929. Finally in 1931, because of Tolkien and mutual friend Hugo Dyson, Lewis returned to Christianity. He described himself at the time of his conversion as "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." Lewis is sometimes referred to as the "Apostle to the Skeptics" due to his own history as a skeptic.
During WWII, his radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought C. S. Lewis wide acclaim. During this time he also housed child evacuees in his home, which inspired him to write The Chronicles of Narnia (his highest selling books). Later in life, he corresponded with American writer and divorcée Joy Davidman who was a Jewish convert to Christianity. She came to England with her two sons from a previous marriage and married Lewis in a civil ceremony in 1956. They later held a religious ceremony at her bedside during a bout of bone cancer in 1957. Unfortunately, in 1960 the cancer returned and she died. Lewis wrote a book about his grief in the aftermath of her death called A Grief Observed, but chose to publish it under a pseudonym, N. W. Clerk, due to the raw and personal nature of the book. Ironically, many of his friends suggested the book to him to help him cope with his own grief. Joy's sons continued to live with Lewis after her death. However, Lewis died of renal failure two years later on November 22, 1963 just one week before his sixty-fifth birthday.
C. S. Lewis is remembered for his contribution to Christian apologetics for being able to connect art, scholarship, and faith. His writing explains Christianity by connecting it to everyday experiences that all readers can relate to and understand. Many complicated theological ideas are presented in simple and direct ways in both his fiction and non-fiction works that have a profound effect on helping the reader grasp these important truths in a new way.
As with any human author, Lewis's work also attracts some criticism. Lewis's philosophy that stories and myths are mankind's way of foreshadowing God's eventual revealed truth led him to believe that the Old Testament stories might not have been literally true. Along the same lines, he did not believe the Bible, including the New Testament, to be inerrant. While believing the Bible contained contradictions and possible mistakes, he did, however, believe God's truth is contained within the Bible. Lewis also did not believe in eternal security. Instead, he believed that people are in constant spiritual motion either toward or away from God and that this direction of movement is what determined a person's salvation. Other criticisms come up when discussing particulars of specific works of Lewis and caution should be applied when interpreting Lewis's work. However, if the reader studies Scripture, remembering that Lewis's works are not Scripture, his writings can shed new light for understanding biblical truths.
C. S. Lewis stands as an example of the influence a Christian can have when he uses his gifting for the glory of God. Lewis's radio broadcasts and fiction and non-fiction works have influenced the lives of millions and continue to impact lives today more than fifty years after his death. C. S. Lewis's books continue to be a useful resource in explaining the value of Christian faith to a skeptical world.
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