Saturday, November 22, 2003

Another November 22, 1963 Death

Let's take time to remember the life and great works of a person who died 40 years ago today, on November 22, 1963. No, it isn't the news media darling of this date, the late President Kennedy. It is the passing of C.S. Lewis, regarded as probably the 20th century's most influential Christian writer. Lewis' earthly death was largely unheralded, of course, overshadowed as it was by the same-date assassination of JFK.

To commemorate his great body of work, I thought I would tell you a few little known, interesting facts about Clive Staples Lewis, or Jack, as he preferred to be called:

- He was born in Ireland in 1898.
- His mother died when he was 10 years old.
- He first read the Bible when his mother died, but abandoned Christianity when he was a teen.
- He was accepted into both Oxford and Cambridge Universities at the age of 18, but instead chose to fight in World War I. He served for two years in the British Army, fighting in the muddy trenches of France.
- He returned to Oxford, and graduated in 1925 with top honors in Greek and Latin Literature, Philosophy and Ancient History, and English Literature.
- He remained at Oxford for another 29 years as Professor of English, then became Professor of Literature at Cambridge University until his death.
- He was neither a theologian nor preacher. He never attended seminary.
- He considered himself an atheist until his early 30s, although his parents were Protestants.
- In 1929, while riding on a London double-decker bus, he had an overwhelming feeling that he needed to acknowledge God. He returned to his room at Oxford, and alone, knelt and prayed to God.
- He later explained in a letter to his brother that he became a Christian because for him, "there was nothing else to do."
- Despite great derision by his academic colleagues, he gave talks about theology on BBC that were a national sensation.
- Among his closest friends was J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the The Hobbit classic book series.
- Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia book series has sold more than 100 million books.

One of his best known book quotes, " If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this." From Mere Christianity.

This and every November 22, let's say our praises for a man whose faith and works made God, sin and redemption real for so many in the past, present and future.

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