Who is C.S. Lewis?
By: Kevin Belmonte, M.A., C.S. Lewis Foundation
Few authors of fantasy literature are as beloved as C.S. Lewis, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on November 29, 1898. Time magazine has listed the first of his Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as one of the top 100 English language novels written in the twentieth century. Time had earlier confirmed Lewis’s stature as a writer of international renown when it featured him on its cover in September 1947.
But then, Time was merely affirming what millions of readers then and now understood: Lewis was a writer whose gifts gave his books an enduring appeal. Unforgettable characters, places and prose that stir the imagination and heart. The world of Narnia is one to which readers return again and again. It evokes a magic all its own.
Lewis’s embrace of Christianity provided the inspiration for the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet it was an arduous road from unbelief to acceptance. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states: “from agnosticism [Lewis] moved, almost reluctantly, to theism and finally committed himself to the Christian position.”
The writings of G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald did much to foster this change of heart. As Lewis wrote: “In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere—‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as [George] Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
It was a long talk late one evening with his Oxford colleagues Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien that helped Lewis take the final step towards acceptance of Christianity. As Lewis later wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves: “I have just passed from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ—in Christianity….My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.”
And Lewis himself would in later years have a good deal with many other people embracing Christianity. Mere Christianity was his greatest work of popular theology, but even before this book was published in 1952, Lewis’s skill an apologist (one who explains the reasons for faith) was renowned. As Time magazine put it in the cover story from 1947 referred to above: “With erudition, good humor and skill, Lewis is writing about religion for a generation of religion-hungry readers brought up on a diet of “scientific” jargon and Freudian cliches. His readers are a part of the new surge of curiosity about Christianity which in Britain has floated, besides Lewis, a whole school of literary evangelists (T.S. Eliot, Graham Greene, Dorothy Sayers, et al.).”
Over the course of his career, Lewis penned several other works that were powerful and moving commendations of Christian belief, among them The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce and Miracles.