FIFTY YEARS LATER ~ REMEMBERING THE DEATH OF C. S. LEWIS

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I was a teenager sitting in a high school English class on November 22, 1963, when we heard through the PA system of the assassination of President Kennedy. Most people over the age of sixty remember exactly where they were when they learned of this horrific event.

What has sadly been overlooked is that on that same day, a gifted man and devout Christian evangelist, with an incredible resume, and Irish roots, also passed away. The vast work of Clive Staples Lewis, better known to the world as C. S. Lewis, and to his friends and family as “Jack”, has entertained and influenced many generations. He was a renowned scholar, poet, novelist, academic, essayist, and Christian apologist. Six by Lewis

C. S. Lewis was born November 29, 1898 near Belfast, Ireland. His father was a solicitor and his mother was the daughter of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest.  He was brought up in the Christian church, but abandoned his faith as a teenager and became an atheist. His mother died when he was a young child and his relationship with his father was distant. Lewis was educated at boarding schools and by tutors. After serving in the British Army, he completed his university education at Oxford with a focus on literature and philosophy.

In 1925 Lewis was elected as a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he spent nearly thirty years on the staff. He left Oxford in 1954 to accept the position of chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University.

It was while he was at Oxford that he joined fellow faculty members, his brother, Warren Lewis, and a group of writers, in a guild known as the “Inklings”. His close friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien and other members of the group, as well as his interest in the works of George MacDonald, made him discard atheism, return to the Anglican Communion, and embrace a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Three by LewisDuring World War II, he gave very popular wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity, and his talks brought many listeners into a living faith with Christ. These broadcast speeches would later make up one of his most famous works, Mere Christianity.

Lewis, a long time bachelor, struck up a relationship through correspondence with Joy Davidman Gresham, an author and American educator. She was an intellectual of Jewish background, and a former Communist, whose troubled marriage finally ended when she converted to Christianity. She and Lewis renewed their friendship when she traveled to England with her two sons. In 1956 they learned Joy’s visa could not be renewed, so to insure she could remain in Great Britain, they chose to have a civil marriage even though they continued to live apart. However when Joy was diagnosed with bone cancer, they realized the depth of their affection. Joy and Jack wanted to be married in the church, but as a divorcee that was not possible. However an Anglican priest, and close personal friend, performed the ceremony at Joy’s hospital bedside on March 21, 1957. Her cancer went into remission and they enjoyed three happy years together until she died in July of 1960. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed, originally published under a pseudonym, describes his struggles with his faith and his intense grief after her death. C. S. Lewis developed a heart condition and passed away three years later.

His scholarly work has perhaps been overshadowed by his many Christian non-fiction and fiction books that have continued to be reprinted and enjoyed by people throughout the world. Here are just a few:

 

Fiction

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Pilgrim’s Regress

The Screwtape Letters

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Space Trilogy

 

Non-fiction

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (autobiography)

Mere Christianity

Miracles

The Problem of Pain

The Abolition of Man

A Grief Observed (1961; first published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk)

 

On the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, he will be honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-20426778

6 Comments

  1. I had no idea CS Lewis the same day JFK did. I’m glad you told us–remembering him is so good. His books have played a part of our lives for years now and he’s well loved in our home. 🙂

  2. It is sad that his passing was lost to history. His work continues to play a significant part not only in evangelism but also in maturing in the Christian faith. Thanks for stopping by. Patty.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Janet! Lots of stuff here I didn’t know!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tom. Aldous Huxley, another well known author (Brave New World) died the same day.

  4. How ironic that Kennedy and Lewis passed on the same day. It makes me think of how Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died within days of each other as well. I so admire the works of C.S. Lewis. God gifted him with great insight and the world is richer for his struggle withe the deeper issues of our faith. Good post!

    • It is fascinating, Karen, how certain events in history can overshadow other significant occurrences. I suspect the vast works of C. S. Lewis, for both young and not so young, will influence many for years to come.