November 22 – Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis, Christian thinker and apologist

S. Lewis is a well known Christian author, academic and apologist for the Christian Faith. He is best known for his fiction writing in which Christian themes and symbolic characters are part of the structure of the story. Charles Staples Lewis was born in 1898 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Though he later became an academic at Oxford and Cambridge he maintained his Irish identity throughout his life.

As a young man he abandoned his childhood Christian faith and became an atheist. However in 1929 he read George MacDonald’s book Phantastes and said it “baptized his imagination” and gave him a deep sense of the holy. In 1931 he became a Christian after a long discussion with two Christian friends, JRR Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. Lewis describes his experience the following day in his book “Surprised by Joy”.

“When we (Warnie and Jack) set out by motorcycle to the Whipsnade Zoo, I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.” He had resisted conversion vigorously and in the same book he noted that he was brought to faith like a prodigal, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.” After his conversion he became a member of the Church of England.

His major vocation was as a Professor of English Language and Literature at the Universities of Oxford and then at Cambridge.

He was a prolific author during his lifetime, with many of his books becoming bestsellers. During the 1940’s he wrote and published in newspapers and for radio with many of those writings later published as books.

In 1950 the first book in the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published. It became very popular and is one of his most enduring and endearing books. The series contains Christian ideas intended to be easily accessible to young readers. In addition to Christian themes, Lewis also borrows characters from Greek and Roman mythology, as well as traditional British and Irish fairy tales.

Best known among his other writings, all of which explore various themes of Christian belief are Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters and The Four Loves. Following the death of his wife Joy Davidman Gresham after a relatively brief marriage, he wrote the moving book A Grief Observed.

S. Lewis is commemorated as a Christian Apologist. Not one who argued about Christian theology directly, but who was able to present Christian belief both rationally and imaginatively. His attempts to respond to common objections to Christian faith in his time gave him wide appeal to a popular audience.