C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

cs-lewis

Drawn by Andy Gutierrez

I was first introduced to C.S. Lewis not by reading the Chronicles of Narnia, but by reading Mere Christianity as a college student. I received a copy of Mere Christianity from a friend who loved Lewis and was flabbergasted that I was ignorant of this great literary giant. You may be thinking how I could go so long without reading Lewis. I know, I can’t believe it myself either! I didn’t know the riches that would come through reading Lewis. Yes, there are some of his writings that I must take great pains to read and re-read and contemplate over and honestly some still goes over my head. I believe this shows the vastness of Lewis’ abilities as a writer. Though Lewis and his intellect far surpassed anything that I was familiar with at the time, I was intrigued with his use of words to convey deep truths. Lewis, who is so influential today, has had many people look to him for insight and inspiration. His accomplishments cover children’s literature, satire, poetry, apologetics, and Christian living. He is probably one of the most quoted authors today. He is well-read and well-known in so many circles that even secular universities have C. S. Lewis classes where they discuss his writings.

Tragedy Early On:

Clive Staples Lewis, or as his friends called him, Jack, was born in Ireland in 1898. He was born into a house where reading was what you did and it quickly became his passion. Books were everywhere and his love for reading quickly was apparent at a young age. He even started writing at a young age with stories that he illustrated.

Though he had a good life, tragedy would hit his home and before he turned 10 his mother died from cancer. This moment in his life greatly impacted his view of God and he rejected Christianity.

In 1917, Lewis would study at Oxford and later end up teaching there. It was a mixture of reading Christian authors as well as friends who were scholars that impacted his belief in God. He was amazed that brilliant men like J.R.R. Tolkien were believers and he could no longer reject God. C. S. Lewis recounts that it was on a journey to the zoo that he became a Christian.

“I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion.”[i]

Lewis became well-known as an author and communicator especially as he delivered radio addresses to a distraught England during World War II. These addresses were then turned into the classic book Mere Christianity.

In 1956, C. S. Lewis married Joy Gresham, though their marriage would only last four years as Joy died from cancer.

In 1963, C. S. Lewis died yet few knew as it was also the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Though the death of Lewis may have been overshadowed by the death of Kennedy, Lewis’ legacy and impact to the literature world is huge and continues on to this day. C. S. Lewis is a world changer because he defended and communicated the real Christ, he showed that creativity can be used as a device to point to Christ, and he used his gifts for God’s glory.

The Real Christ

C. S. Lewis would write, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything.”

Lewis was able to speak faith in a straightforward way yet intriguing to the intellect. He wrote with the head and with the heart. As one author puts it, “No atheist or agnostic who has read Lewis can say he was a superstitious, uneducated man. His logic is ironclad. People might disagree with his conclusions but they could not, and cannot, say he was unclear. This is true of his fiction and nonfiction.[ii]

Lewis is known for sharing this thought about Jesus in Mere Christianity that is used by apologists:

“I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[iii]

Lewis used logic to express gospel truths. He is a world changer because he used the written word to reach the minds of men along with the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of men.

Creativity for God’s Glory:

How many after reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe imagined of walking through that wardrobe and entering Narnia? The visuals and creativity that Lewis used to illustrated the gospel and biblical truth to the minds of kids is astounding. Just like John Bunyan with Pilgrim’s Progress, Lewis used literature and stories in a very creative way to teach truth.

The Chronicles of Narnia, which Lewis started to write over 60 years ago, still today has been impactful in the lives of not just children but adults as well. We can be encouraged to use our creativity not just in writing but as means to communicate the gospel as well as use it for God’s glory.

Use Your Gifts for God’s Glory:

It was probably evident early on that C. S. Lewis would be a successful writer. He had the mindset as well as the discipline needed. Yet, in the Inklings meetings (gatherings that Lewis and some other literally scholars would meet at the Eagle and Child Pub where they would support each other in their work), would encourage Lewis not to emphasize on Christian writing as it was not the scholarly thing to do at that time. This unmoved Lewis as he stayed the course with his writings that focused on Christian themes.[iv] Because of this we are indebted to Lewis for all that he has contributed to the Christian life.

I am so thankful that he did not give into the pressure to just write academically but saw that he could by his gifts influence others and point them to Jesus. What a great encouragement to us that we can and should use our abilities and gifts for God’s glory.

C.S. Lewis is a world changer and will continue to impact the world as the written word continues to be read and shared!

Recommended Reading:

  • Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (great to read as a family)
  • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  • C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath

[i] Gansky, Alton. 60 People Who Shaped the Church. Pg. 296.

[ii] IBID. Pg. 297.

[iii] Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Pg. 52

[iv] Gansky, Allton. 60 People who Shaped the Church. Pg. 298.

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