England's most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis
Ok, so I've decided to take a quick break from Q&A w/ Rebekah Eddy. (Mostly because I'm running low on questions... :)I'm so sorry for not posting on Saturday as is my usual. I had a very close friend of mine get married on that day, so there wasn't a lot of time... (some of my followers know who I'm talking about. :P)
I've been working on a book report, actually more a LIFE report on C. S. Lewis, and I thought you all might enjoy reading about his life. So I copied (and pasted) the report for your amusement. :)
So here you are...The Life of C. S. Lewis: England's most Reluctant Convert...
|A favorite quote of mine...|
|...and another. :)|
C. S. Lewis, or Jack as he insisted on being called, was born in Belfast Country in the year 1898. He was the youngest of two children. Both parents were considered “bookish” and so Lewis was surrounded by a wide variety of books from childhood, his mother loving novels, and his father oratory books. Poetry and nearly all humorous books were also favored.
He loved both parents, and his one brother. Though they were very different, both boys loved to draw. A quote from Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis’s Autobiography shows this well: “Our earliest pictures (and I can remember no time when we were not incessantly drawing) reveal [their differences]. His [drawings] were of ships and trains and battles; mine, when not imitated from his, were of what we both called ‘dressed animals’… [H]e had already called India ‘his country’; Animal Land was mine.” This is just a picture of what C. S. Lewis’s imagination was going to become in his future works.
He looks back on his early, carefree childhood as a sort of heaven, but when he became old enough to go to school, his happy life suddenly changed, and reality began: in 1907 he moved with his family into what they called “the New House”. His brother went away to a boarding school; Lewis had his education begin at home from a governess whose name was Annie Harper. The next year was one of solitude for Lewis, and, left to his own devices, he began to read. He read anything he could get his hands on, and when he got tired of reading, he wrote.
C. S. Lewis’s mother died of cancer in the year 1908, and it was a terrible loss for both brothers. Through her death, they grew closer together. His mother died the same year he began going to a school away from home. In his autobiography, Lewis declares: “With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life.”
All of Lewis’s memories of school were bad: he hated it the moment he started in 1908, and kept on disliking it heartily until it was well over. The funny thing is, most of his teachers he liked, it was the students he didn’t like. Lewis liked to be by himself, or with people he knew well enough to talk to about things in common. School was merely social, so Lewis could only find contentment in his studies. Some of his feelings towards school days leak into his books, and all his comments on them are negative. Here’s a quote from The Magician’s Nephew: “In those days, if you were a boy you had to wear a stiff Eton collar every day, and schools were usually nastier than now.”
As for Lewis’s faith, he had none to speak of for a long time. Of course, as a boy, he had his parents drag him to church once a week, and make him say his prayers before bed, but when he went to school his faith in God dropped into almost nothing. In another quote from his autobiography he states: “I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.” Such was his belief towards God for most of his life.
He entered the army in WWI and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry, the XIIIth Foot. He arrived in the front trenches on his nineteenth birthday (November 1917), and was wounded at Mt. Bernenchon, near Lillers, in April, 1918. A visit to the hospital was only another opportunity for Lewis to read more, and this he did with gusto.
However, although the war was not the best place in the world, Lewis did meet soldiers who helped pull him towards God again, for, though very reluctantly, Lewis was slowly being pulled towards God again. It wasn’t until two of his best friends became Anthropologists that Lewis had a turning point in his life: He began to doubt and question his Atheist beliefs.
When he began teaching for the English Faculty, he made two other friends, both Christians: H. V. V. Dyson, and J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s fascinating that at just the time when Lewis’s faith in nothing began to weaken, God brought multiple Christians into his life to continue the work others had begun.
While teaching English, Lewis was also teaching philosophy, which required him to search into all religions, Christianity included. The more he researched it, the more he found that it made sense. He found “that Christianity itself was very sensible ‘apart from its Christianity’”. His heart still refused to let go completely. It was “alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1926, I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
So it happened that Lewis became a Theist. A Theist, notice, not a Christian, at least not quite, he still was reluctant in that sense, but he did admit to there being a Supreme God, and that God was the Creator of the world. He continued to search, and found only one way: “I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.” And then Lewis became a Christian.
His belief in Christ began with a lot of help from J. R. R. Tolkien, who not only helped him in his Christian walk, but also, through the friendship of these two men, Lewis began to find a new interest in writing his own books. At first, Tolkien scoffed at his work. Alan Jacobs, in his book The Narnian, a biography on Lewis’s life and works, states: “The sloppiness of Lewis’s books was immensely annoying to Tolkien…and actually became a cause of significant tension in their friendship.”
Lewis’s first book, The Pilgrim’s Regress was a key step in the process of discovering the direction that he would take. Interestingly, The Pilgrim’s Regress was his least successful book, and Lewis knew it. Still, it was published in 1933, just a few years after he became a Christian. So began Lewis’s writing career.
After writing a volume in the ongoing Oxford History of English Literature, and the early success of Allegory led the press to publish a collection of his scholarly essays, Rehabilitations, he wrote, and later published (in 1938), his first novel: Out of the Silent Planet.
Next, in 1940, a publisher by the name of Ashley Sampson invited Lewis to write a book for a series called The Christian Challenge. Lewis accepted, and the book he wrote became his first work of apologetics: The Problem of Pain. Because J. W. Welch, the director of the BBC’s Religious Broadcasting Department, had been impressed by The Problem of Pain, he invited Lewis to broadcast some of his ideas on the radio. These radio broadcasts later were collected as Mere Christianity.
Almost immediately after this, in 1941, Lewis published his first truly popular book, The Screwtape Letters. This amazing swiftness on Lewis’s part made Alan Jacob remark in The Narnian: “He seemed to have entered his maturity as a Christian and as a thinker overnight and immediately began putting a set of core ideas into various forms and genres!” And so it truly seemed.
In 1943 Lewis published the second book of his space trilogy: Perelandra, and then in 1945 he published The Great Divorce, and in 1946 his final book of the space trilogy: That Hideous Strength.
The Narnian books were written next from 1950-1956 in this order:
-The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
-Prince Caspian (1951)
-The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952
-The Silver Chair (1953)
-The Horse and His Boy (1954)
-The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
-The Last Battle (1956)
These are only a few of C. S. Lewis’s most famous works. There were many others, but I hardly have enough room to record all of them as well as the remaining years of Lewis’s life! However, as an interesting side note, I read in Jacobs’ biography, The Narnian, that during the period from 1946 to 1955, Lewis wrote and published about 600,000 words of prose. The Narnian series alone contain more than 400,000 words. This is not counting any of his letters.
Lewis first “knew” Joy Gresham, a brand new Jew turned Christian and American writer and poet, from writing letters back and forth starting in 1950. She asked questions, he did the best he could to answer them. They met face-to-face for the first time just two years after her first letter to Lewis. They had lunch together with one of Joy’s friends that had travelled with her from America to England, and Warnie, Lewis’s brother. It soon became obvious that Joy loved Lewis, and that Lewis loved Joy.
Joy was 42 years old, still not married to Lewis, when she found she had a few cancerous growths in her body. It was evident that she would probably not live much longer. However, both Lewis and Joy wanted to be married before she died. There were complications with this because the Church of England did not allow remarriage after divorce, and Joy’s husband had divorced her. Lewis was determined though, and on March 21st, 1957 he married Joy Gresham in the hospital with the nurses for witnesses and a friend of his, who was a priest, not only preformed the ceremony, but also laid his hands on Joy, praying for her to be healed. Lewis was 58 years old.
Lewis spent three happy years with Joy as his wife and her two sons, Douglas and David Gresham. Sadly, on October 13th, 1959, Joy underwent the final check to see if she was free of cancer and she was not. The cancer had returned. On July 13th, 1960, Joy went to be with her Lord. Lewis became a single parent of two boys, and did fairly well considering the circumstances.
Douglas Gresham became a Christian when he was an adult, but David clung to his mother’s prior Judaism. Thankfully, Lewis had plenty of help with his new sons, many of his friends agreed to shoulder some of his burden by taking the boys for a few weeks or days, lightening Lewis’s load, and making it possible for him to return to his work he had stopped temporarily when he married Joy.
On July 15th, 1962, Lewis had a severe heart attack, and lapsed into a coma. It was clear he was dying. And yet, as Lewis knew he was dying, he had peace and is recorded to have said: “I have done all I wanted to do and I’m ready to go.”
On November 22nd, 1963 Lewis died at the age of 64. He was a great influence on all that knew him. Even now, many years after his death, his works still live on and keep influencing even more. C. S. Lewis was a great author, but he was also a great Christian. Even though he was almost literally dragged into Christianity kicking and screaming, God still used Lewis to do mighty things for him.
Here ends the fascinating life of C. S. Lewis. :( The research was eye-opening, I never realized what C. S. Lewis had to go through during his life. I hope you were all able to learn as much, or more, than I did.