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C.S. Lewis

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Clive Staples Lewis (29 November, 1898 – 22 November, 1963) was a famous Christian author and scholar who lived in England. Lewis is especially known for the children's series entitled The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland. He adopted the name "Jack" which is how he was known to his friends. In addition to his novels he is known for his work on medieval literature and for his Christian apologetics.

The scholar

Lewis taught as a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford for nearly thirty years, and later was the first Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University and a fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. In spite of this position, he claimed that there was no such thing as an English renaissance. Much of his scholarly work concentrated on the later Middle Ages, especially its use of allegory. His The Allegory of Love (1936) helped reinvigorate the serious study of late medieval narratives like the Roman de la Rose. Lewis wrote a preface to John Milton's poem Paradise Lost which is still one of the more important critical responses to that work. His last academic publication, The Discarded Image, an Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964), is a summary of the medieval world view.

Novels

Narnia books

Front covers of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Lewis was a prolific writer and a member of the literary discussion society The Inklings with his close friends J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield.

In addition to his scholarly work he wrote a number of popular novels, including the "Space Trilogy" of science fiction books: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra (also known by the pulpish title Voyage to Venus), and That Hideous Strength. The trilogy blends traditional science fiction elements with exploration of the Christian themes of sin, fall, and redemption.

The Great Divorce is a short novel about imagined conversations in heaven between the saved and the damned. In the novel, those who are 'damned' apparently damn themselves, in the sense that nothing prevents them from going to heaven and staying there if they choose. However, some find the changes heaven induces threatening or uncomfortable, and so decide to leave. The narrator is chaperoned by the Scottish writer George MacDonald.

Another short novel, The Screwtape Letters, comprises letters of advice from an elderly demon to his nephew. In the letters, Screwtape, the elder demon, instructs his nephew, Wormwood, on the best ways to secure the damnation of a particular human.

The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children that is by far the most popular of his works. The books have a Christian theme and describe the adventures of a group of children who visit a magical land called Narnia. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was the first published and the most popular book of the series, has been adapted for both stage and screen. The Chronicles of Narnia borrow from Norse, Roman and Greek mythology, and traditional English and Irish fairy tales. Lewis cited MacDonald as an influence in writing the series.

Lewis' last novel was Till We Have Faces. Many believe (as he did) that it is his most mature and masterful work of fiction, but it was never a popular success. It is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche from the unusual perspective of Psyche's sister. It is deeply concerned with religious ideas, but the setting is entirely pagan, and the connections with specific Christian beliefs are left implicit.

Prior to Lewis' conversion to Christianity, he published two books: Spirits in Bondage, a collection of poems, and Dymer, a single narrative poem. Both were published under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

Christian non-fiction

In addition to his career as an English Professor, and his novels, Lewis also wrote a number of books about Christianity -- perhaps most famously, Mere Christainity. As an adult convert to the Anglican church he was very much interested in presenting a reasonable case for the truth of Christianity. Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and Miracles were all concerned, to one degree or another, with refuting popular objections to Christianity. He wrote an autobiography entitled Surprised by Joy, which describes his conversion (it was written before he met his wife, Joy Gresham). His essays and public speeches on Christian belief, many of which were collected in God in the Dock, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, remain popular today for their insights into faith.

His Doctrine

Scripture

  • From The Problem of Pain
"I have the deepest respect even for Pagan myths, still more for myths in Holy Scripture..."
"What exactly happened when Man fell, we do not know; but if it is legitimate to guess, I offer the following picture – a 'myth' in the Socratic sense, a not unlikely tale..."
  • From Miracles
"...the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truths, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical. Whether we can ever say with certainty where, in this process of crystallization, any particular Old Testament story falls, is another matter. I take it that the memoirs of David’s court come at one end of the scale and are scarcely less historical than St. Mark or Acts; and that the Book of Jonah is at the opposite end..."

Evolution

  • From The Problem of Pain
"If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objections... For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself... The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man... We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state..."

Salvation

  • From Mere Christianity
"Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of (Christ’s) dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to... Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works."
"There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it."

Biographies

Recently there has been some interest in biographical material concerning Lewis. This has resulted in several biographies (including books written by close friends of Lewis, among them Roger Lancelyn Green and George Sayer), at least one play about his life, and a 1993 movie, titled Shadowlands, based on an original stage and television play. The movie fictionalizes his relationship with an American writer, Joy Gresham, whom he met and married in London, only to watch her die slowly from bone cancer. Lewis' book A Grief Observed describes his experience of bereavement, and describes it in such a raw and personal fashion that Lewis originally released it under the pseudonym "N. W. Clerk" to keep readers from associating the book with him (ultimately too many friends recommended the book to Lewis as a method for dealing with his own grief, and he made his authorship public).

Lewis died on November 22, 1963, at the Oxford home he shared with his brother, Warnie. He is buried in the Headington Quarry Churchyard, Oxford, England. Media coverage of his death was overshadowed by news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which occurred on the same day.

Quotes

  • Is Theology Poetry - C.S. Lewis
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 else.
  • The Problem of Pain - C.S. Lewis
Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.
  • The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
  • The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis
There have been men before... who got so interested in proving the existance of God that they came to care nothing for God himself... as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.
  • Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
I am trying here 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 the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic - on a level with the 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
  • The World's Last Night - C.S. Lewis
The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph.

External links

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This page uses content from Wikichristian.org. The original article was at C.S. Lewis. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion-wiki, the text of Wikichristian.org is available under the CC-BY-SA.

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