Lewis, C. S.


Lewis, C. S.
( 1898-1963 )
   Christian novelist, theologian, and lecturer
   Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis was an English professor who, after converting to Christianity, wrote widely popular fiction and nonfiction books reflecting and promoting Christian values and beliefs. Lewis is hailed as the exemplar of a Christian who successfully negotiated the world of secular academia.
   Lewis was born on November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1908, following his mother's death, he was sent to school in England, where he soon announced his abandonment of religion. After service as an officer during World War I, Lewis attended University College, Oxford, where in 1923 he completed his studies in Greek and Latin literature, philosophy and ancient history, and English. Elected a fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, the following year, he remained to teach English language and literature for 29 years.
   Lewis had an outstanding academic career. His 1936 volume, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, received the Gollancz Memorial Prize for Literature. His volume covering the 16th century for the Oxford History of English Literature was published in 1954 to great acclaim. In 1954, he was given the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, which may have occasioned his autobiographical Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955).
   Lewis recovered his faith in steps. He accepted the existence of God in 1929 and for the first time in many years offered a prayer. Two years later, following a lengthy conversation with fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien (himself a devout Christian), he accepted Jesus Christ as the son of God and reactivated his membership in the Church of England. In 1933, he wrote his first bit of Christian fiction, The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism.
   In 1938, Lewis published the first of a trilogy of science fiction novels that included speculation on Christian theology. For example, he explored original sin among extraterrestrials. One of his most famous works, The Screwtape Letters, a correspondence between a senior and a junior devil, treats serious questions of Christian behavior in a humorous context.
   In 1942, Lewis gave a series of radio talks on the subjects "What Christians Believe" and "Christian Behavior." These, along with some other presentations, make up the small volume Mere Christianity, now considered one of the most readable presentations of the Protestant faith for lay people written in the 20th century. Lewis continued to write varied fiction and non-fiction, most notably the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, which has become a staple of children's literature.
   Lewis's three-year marriage to Joy Davidman, a Jew by birth who had become a Christian after reading his books and who was suffering from cancer, inspired his 1961 book, A Grief Observed. Lewis died on November 22, 1963.
   In the years since his death, Lewis's fame and reputation have grown immensely, and more than a hundred dissertations have been written about his books.
   Further reading:
   ■ R. L. Green and Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography (London: Collins, 1974)
   ■ William Griffin, Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986)
   ■ Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis. A Companion and Guide (London: HarperCollins, 1996)
   ■ Susan Lowenberg, C. S. Lewis: A reference guide 1972-1988 (New York: Hall, 1993)
   ■ J. D. Schultz and J. G. West Jr., The C. S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1998).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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