Monday, May 11, 2015

C. S. Lewis - Biography

C. S. "Jack" Lewis (1898-1963)

    C. S. Lewis was an Irish writer, professor, broadcaster, and lay theologian, meaning he studied religion, but wasn't a priest or minister. A lay person is anyone who isn't a priest, monk, or nun.

    He was a good friend  and colleague of J.R.R. Tolkien. Both taught at Oxford University and were members of The Inklings, a literary club.

    He's most famous for writing The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of children's stories in which a family of English children travel through a magical door to a land of witches, monsters, and magic.

    He also wrote The Space Trilogy, a sci-fi work about a war among the planets in our solar system. It combined sci-fi with demons and angels.

    C. S. Lewis was a Christian apologist, supporting a branch of philosophy arguing in favour of the existence of God. He wrote four non-fiction books to explain his beliefs: Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, and a memoir, Surprised by Joy.

    Lewis was the first president of the Oxford Socratic Club, created to debate religious topics.

    In 1951 he was awarded honours by King George VI, but declined it to avoid taking any political position.

    The Episcopal church made Nov. 22 a feast day in honour of him.

Personal Life:

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast Ireland. His father was a lawyer and very strict, and his mother was the daughter of a minister. He had an older brother named Warren. The two boys loved to read and created stories together about talking animals. When Clive was four his dog, Jackie, died. Thereafter, he demanded everyone call him Jack, which became his life-long nickname.

When Jack was ten, his mom died of cancer. Between this and his own health problems, followed by his fighting in WWI, Jack became an atheist. He fought for a year in French trenches before being wounded by a bombshell, that killed his friends. His best friend Paddy Moore also died in the war, and Jack had promised to take care of his mother, Jane, if anything should happen to him. While Jack was recovering, his father never came to visit in hospital, but Jane Moore did, and from then on Jack introduced her to all his friends as his mother. They lived together for years, until she had to be put in a nursing home, after which, Jack visited every day till she died.

After the war, Jack studied at University College in Oxford. It was his first time in England, a country he grew to love, although he always looked for Irishmen in England for friendship. Lewis was a star student and soon became a teacher at Magdalen College, a part of Oxford University.

Through his conversations with Tolkien, and his reading of The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton, Lewis converted back to Christianity, joining the English church (and frustrating Tolkien). He described this event in his life:

"You must picture me 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 1929 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."

During WWII, Lewis was too old to fight, so he was placed with the Home Guard, and soon began broadcasting popular lectures on religion for BBC radio. One soldier wrote, "The war, the whole of life, everything tended to seem pointless. We needed, many of us, a key to the meaning of the universe. Lewis provided just that."

In 1956, Lewis married Joy Davidman, an American writer, former communist, and a Christian convert, like Lewis. At first they agreed to marry to allow her to stay in England, but love bloomed when she developed cancer - they were married while she lay in her sick bed. She died soon after, and Lewis wrote a book about it, A Grief Observed. He took care of her two children until his death, from kidney failure in 1963, on the same exact day as the John F. Kennedy Assassination in America. When his brother Warren died ten years later, he was buried in the same grave as Lewis.

Christian Apologetics

Here are some of Lewis's arguments in favor of God and Christianity:

1.      Lewis believed that people all over the world followed a universal code of morality, what he called Natural Law, and that it must come from God. "These then are the two points that I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in."

2.      Lewis then argues that people all over the world are looking for happiness - for joy, and that nothing on Earth can really provide real, lasting joy. Therefor, people crave God, and how can they crave something that doesn't exist?

3.      Lewis also developed the argument he called The Trilemma, to explain his choice of religion:

"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 either be a lunatic – on the 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."

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