How do you do a SHORT blog post (instructions of him who must be obeyed) on C.S. Lewis? There are few writers who have so profoundly affected my spiritual formation as the writings of C.S. Lewis. For a detailed bio of his life visit this web site or this one.
“Jack”, as he was known by his family and friends, was a prolific writer (he also used pseudonyms like Clive Hamilton, N. W. Clerk, and Nat Whilk), delighting children and adults alike with his Chronicles of Narnia series and totally undoing a stoic adult in books like, A Grief Observed or The Problem of Pain. For the Lewis beginner a good book to start would be Mere Christianity, which begins with a discussion of some reasons for believing that God exists, and why it matters that He does, and then continues with an account of the redeeming work of God in Christ. In this book, Lewis tries to confine himself to the core beliefs of Christianity and steers clear of disagreements between denominations – resulting in the word “Mere” in the title.
Lewis was a reluctant convert to Christianity confessing in his book Surprised by Joy (1955): "I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England." He was never short of critics, some who went as far as calling him a dangerous heretic and infidel, while others sought to debunk his arguments, such as John Beversluis (C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion).
Jack’s friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien is legendary. Tolkien played a key role in Lewis’s conversion and Lewis helped expand his fictional writing. Both of them taught at Oxford, both were interested in literature, and both wrote fictional books with strong Christian themes and principles. Like any good friendship there were strong disagreements such as Tolkien’s dislike for the first Narnia book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which he thought was too strong on Christian themes and messages and he didn’t approve of the way Lewis seemed to beat the reader over the head with such obvious symbols. The two of them were members of an informal Oxford group of writers and teachers known as 'The Inklings.' After Lewis met and married Joy Gresham, he grew apart from his old friends and Tolkien took it personally.
I have read several biographies of Lewis and would recommend Jack – A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer. George was a long standing friend of Jack’s and also a member of the Inklings.
There is no one quite as quotable as Lewis (I am not including the Bible or Jesus in that statement). Below are some samples. You can gather more from a great collection called The Quotable Lewis, edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root.
- "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."
- "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing."
- "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'
- "Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there’s no God after all,' but 'So this is what God is really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'" [after Joy’s death]
- "It is hard to have patience with people who say, 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter." [From A Grief Observed]
- "A rejection, or in Scripture’s strong language, a crucifixion of the natural self, is the passport to everlasting life. Nothing that has not died will be resurrected."
- "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."
To finish, here is an excerpt from The Last Battle, the last book of the Narnia series, the last page, and the last paragraph:
" . . .. and as he spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was on the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before."