Christian Living

Spiritual Life

About C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He never did like his name. When he was barely four years old, the precocious little boy changed his name to “Jacksie”; he absolutely refused to answer to anything else! Jack’s older brother Warren — whom he nicknamed Warnie — was his constant companion and closest friend. The two boys spent countless hours exploring the gardens and forests and fields around their country home. On rainy days they climbed up into an old wardrobe and told each other stories about talking animals, magic kingdoms, knights, and dragons that lived in faraway lands.

Jack was only nine when his mother, Flora, was diagnosed with cancer. He fervently prayed for a miracle, pleading with God to heal her. But Flora did not get better. In fact, not long afterward she died. Jack felt abandoned and betrayed. He turned his back on God completely, dismissing religion and the teachings of the church as foolishness.

A brilliant student, with a special gift for language and literature, Jack was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious University College at Oxford. He was not long in the classroom, however, before duty called him to enlist in the armed forces. World War I had begun, and Jack was sent to the front lines in France. Wounded in battle, he returned home less than a year later to complete his education. He became a college professor, teaching medieval and renaissance literature at Oxford. Lewis published several volumes of poetry and developed a reputation as a distinguished scholar and literary critic. About this time, he began engaging in heated intellectual debates with professors who were Christians, including fellow author J. R. R. Tolkien. These friends and coworkers challenged Lewis to rethink his beliefs. At the age of thirty-one, after a lengthy struggle, the avowed atheist became a devout Christian.

Much later Lewis wrote Surprised by Joy — a kind of spiritual autobiography that described his journey to faith. Then books such as Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters brought Lewis worldwide fame. In the 1950s, Lewis wrote a series of seven books for children, beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and including Prince Caspian, which he called the Chronicles of Narnia. Immediately bestsellers, Lewis’s fairy tales are now widely regarded as “classic literature” and considered to be among the greatest children’s books ever written.

Lewis never had any children of his own. He remained a bachelor until the age of fifty-eight, when he met and married American writer Joy Davidman. When Joy died of cancer only four years later, Lewis looked after her two teenaged sons, Douglas and David. Though he felt the same hurt and anger and bitterness he had experienced after the loss of his mother, this time Lewis did not turn away from God. Instead, he turned to Him and found the strength to carry on. Lewis kept busy writing and speaking and — with the help of his brother Warnie — answering each one of the thousands of letters he received from fans around the globe.

On November 22, 1963, the world was reeling over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That same day, after a long illness, C. S. Lewis quietly passed away. But his life has continued to have an extraordinary impact on the world he left behind.

To date, C. S. Lewis’s books have sold well over two hundred million copies and been translated into more than forty languages. He is routinely quoted by preachers and professors, presidents and prime ministers. Many of the most prominent leaders of the Christian faith today readily acknowledge having been profoundly influenced by the man Time magazine called “a young atheist poet who became one of the 20th century’s most imaginative theologians.”

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