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Christian History Home > 131 Christians > Musicians, Artists, and Writers > C.S. Lewis


C.S. Lewis
Scholar, author, and apologist
posted 8/08/2008 12:56PM

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"The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested."

"I'm tall, fat, rather bald, red-faced, double-chinned, black-haired, have a deep voice, and wear glasses for reading," Clive Staples Lewis wrote to a young admirer in 1954. If the famous author had been prone to notice clothing, he might have added that his trousers were usually in dire need of pressing, his jackets threadbare and blemished by snags and food spots, and his shoes scuffed and worn at the heels.

Timeline

1848

Marx publishes Communist Manifesto

1859

Darwin publishes Origin of Species

1895

Freud publishes first work on psychoanalysis

1898

C.S. Lewis born

1963

C.S. Lewis dies

1966

Chinese Cultural Revolution

But "Jack," as C.S. Lewis's friends knew him, was not bothered by fashion. He was meticulous about the precise use of words, the quality of evidence presented in arguments, and meter in verse. And it is for his books and ideas that the Oxford scholar is remembered as one of the greatest Christian writers of the twentieth century.

Raised in a library

Lewis was born into a bookish family of Protestants in Belfast, Ireland. Eclectic in their reading tastes, they purchased and read "endless" books. "There were books in the study, books in the dining room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds," Lewis remembered, and none were off-limits to him. On rainy days—and there were many in northern Ireland—he pulled volumes off the shelves and entered into worlds created by authors such as Conan Doyle, E. Nesbit, Mark Twain, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

After his only brother, Warren, was sent off to English boarding school in 1905, Jack became somewhat reclusive. He spent more time in books and an imaginary world of "dressed animals" and "knights in armor." But he did more than read books, he wrote and illustrated his own stories as well.

His mother's death from cancer in 1908 made him even more withdrawn. Mrs. Lewis's death came just three months before Jack's tenth birthday, and the young man was hurt deeply by her passing. Not only did he lose a mother, his father never fully recovered from her death. Both boys felt estranged from their father, and home life was never warm and satisfying again.

The death of Mrs. Lewis convinced young Jack that the God he encountered in the Bible his mother gave him was, if not cruel, at least a vague abstraction. By 1911 or 1912, with the additional influence of a spiritually unorthodox boarding school matron, Lewis rejected Christianity and became an avowed atheist.

A lifetime at Oxford

Lewis entered Oxford in 1917 as a student and never really left. Despite an interruption to fight in World War I (in which he was wounded by a bursting shell), he always maintained his home and friends in Oxford. His attachment to Oxford was so strong that when he taught at Cambridge from 1955 to 1963 he commuted back to Oxford on weekends so he could be close to familiar places and beloved friends.

In 1919 Lewis published his first book, a cycle of lyrics captiond Spirits in Bondage, which he wrote under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton. In 1924 he became a philosophy tutor at University College, and was the following year elected a Fellow of Magdalen College, where he tutored in English language and literature. His second volume of poetry, Dymer, was also published pseudonymously.




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