"I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books." -C.S. Lewis
The personal experience of that beloved Christian author, C.S. Lewis, is a classic example of why we should teach our children at home rather than send them to public school, and shows how important it is for us to surround our children with authority figures, mentors, and friends who openly express their love for Jesus Christ. Read the following biography and you will understand the significance of such people in his life.
Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, a major seaport in Northern Ireland. His brother, Warren, was born three years earlier. They lived in a large old house with tunnel-like passages, a secret attic, and a spacious bushy garden. The two brothers often played imaginative games. They also liked to bicycle to the docks and watch the ships.
As a child, Lewis was taught at home by his mother and a governess. His parents liked to read, and they had a library full of books. In addition, books were piled in spare rooms, hallways, anywhere and everywhere, filling the whole house. Lewis was encouraged to read anything he liked. His favorite books included Treasure Island, Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, and The Secret Garden. Lewis was also fascinated by the fairy tales, myths and ancient legends told to him by his Irish nurse.
Lewis' parents were Protestants. His mother was a clergyman's daughter. Lewis was extremely close to her, so it was a terrible blow to him when she died when he was 9 years old. Lewis was then sent away to a boarding school in England. During this time he began to abandon his childhood Christian faith.
After unhappily attending several different boarding schools, in the summer of 1914 the 15-year-old Lewis was told that he could come home and would be privately tutored by a family friend. However, his new mentor was an aggressive atheist and Lewis moved further away from any church teachings or belief in the Bible. Lewis learned Greek, Italian, French, and German. He studied Norse mythology and enjoyed the music of Richard Wagner.
Yet none of these influences were as strong or lasting as that of Scottish author George MacDonald, whose work Lewis came upon by chance at a train station bookstall. MacDonald was a dedicated Christian who wrote children's books such as The Princess and the Goblin, as well as adult fantasies full of religious symbolism. Lewis immediately fell in love with the book he had picked up and later wrote, "I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him."
In 1916 at age 18, C.S. Lewis was accepted into Oxford University College. Europe was in the middle of fighting World War I at the time. As an Irishman, Lewis could not be drafted by the British Army, but in 1917 he chose to volunteer. After Lewis was posted to the front line he was soon wounded and returned home. He continued his studies in Oxford and said to himself, "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come."
In 1925 Lewis was hired as an English teacher at Magdalen College in Oxford. It was here that he met J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor of Anglo-Saxon and a devout Roman Catholic. Lewis joined a reading group established by Tolkien, composed of Oxford men who enjoyed reading Old Norse and the dead northern languages. Lewis became one of Tolkien's closest friends, and it was Tolkien's interest in Scandinavian folktales and Celtic legends that influenced Lewis' writing. Lewis later became a professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge.
The year 1929 when Lewis was 31 became a turning point in his life. Lewis had been an avid reader of G.K. Chesterton for some time and that great English novelist, poet, and essayist had brought many to Christianity. Lewis kept thinking that he was deceiving himself by not believing, and that he should accept God because "I couldn't think of anything else to do."
It was on September 28, 1931, when Lewis finally became a Christian. The evening before, Lewis had a long talk on Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien. The following day, he and his brother Warren took a motorcycle ride to the Whipsnade Zoo. Lewis recalled in his autobiography, Surprised By Joy, "When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did." Lewis became closer to Tolkien, and this and his conversion spurred him on to write. In 1933, he published his first theological work, The Pilgrim's Regress, a parody of The Pilgrim's Progress.
In 1939 Lewis became involved in an Oxford-based writing club known as The Inklings. World War II began, and several of his friends joined the armed services. It was at this time that Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien. When children from London were being evacuated to the country, four youngsters were lodged at Lewis' home. Surprised to find how few imaginative tales his young guests knew, he decided to write one for them. This story became The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a wonderful Christian allegory for children.
Later, C.S. Lewis turned that book into a series called The Chronicles of Narnia. He also wrote a science fiction trilogy and many apologetic works. In doing so, Lewis became the most popular Christian author of the century. Personally, I think the story of his life is as remarkable as his writings!
Into the Wardrobe: a C.S. Lewis Web Site (A comprehensive C.S. Lewis site that includes a daily quote, photographs, illustrations, academic papers, discussion forums, audio files, complete lists of literary works, and many other items of interest.)
C.S. Lewis Institute (Founded in 1976, the Institute endeavors to develop disciples who can articulate, defend, and live faith in Christ through personal and public living.)
C.S. Lewis Foundation (College professor Dr. J. Stanley Matson was looking for a role model of Christian scholarship that could illustrate his vision of ministry to academia: “We need a role model of someone who can enter into the marketplace, as Jesus did, and really reach out to them in love and not in a patronizing way, but in a really nurturing way. For me Lewis became an example of that.” Thus, the C.S. Lewis Foundation was born. Honoring the legacy of C.S. Lewis, this site has a resource section with Study Guides on the works of C.S. Lewis, for teachers and general readers.)
Inside Narnia: Jack's House (C.S. Lewis’ Oxford, England, home called the Kilns has been the location for some of the best thinking and writing the world has ever known. "Jack and I went out and saw the place on Sunday morning, and I instantly caught the infection: we did not go inside the house, but the eight acre garden is such stuff as dreams are made of." ~Major Warren Lewis)
C.S. Lewis and Public Life, from the Discovery Institute. (Inludes articles about C.S. Lewis, The Lewis Legacy online quarterly journal, and all of C.S. Lewis' works that are in the public domain.)
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