Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22 - C.S. Lewis, Apologist, Author, "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England"

C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898 to a middle class family doing what they could to get by. He had an older brother and a dog named Jacksie. When Lewis was only four years old Jacksie was hit by a car. In only a few days, the understandably and clearly disturbed Lewis insisted to his family that they call him Jacksie. His family resisted little Clive's insistence because of how ridiculous it would sound to call their son after the name of the dead dog. Yet, Clive refused to answer to any other name and would go long stretches of time in silence as his parents called to him by the name "Clive." Perhaps to humor him, they compromised and started calling him Jack. As is the way of things, the nickname stuck and soon everybody was calling him Jack by habit.

Jack spent the majority of his childhood and youth at various schools. These times had an incredibly formative role in the development of his personality and identity. He was a good student but suffered from various maladies and illnesses. Though he had been born into the Church of Ireland and baptized as an infant, he soon fell away from the faith at the age of 15. He would later describe himself as a boy furious at God for not existing. There was a deep and passionate hunger for the spiritual within Jack but he found it snuffed and crippled within the confines of the walls of the Church. So, he went looking for it in the occult and in Celtic and Norse mythology. He was unsatisfied in his findings but he was satisfied with the freedom to explore.

It was only after receiving his education at Oxford and becoming a professor, he began having regular conversations with J.R.R. Tolkien and a few otherfriends at the university. When they made overtures about the Christian faith he brushed them away by insisting that he was an atheist and had no desire to think of the Christian God he had never experienced. They were persistent in their kind conversations and he trusted them as friends--even if he refused them--but he still responded with the words of Lucretius: "Had God designed the world, it would not be a world so frail and faulty as we see." Despite his rejections, his Christian friends continued to love him and socialize with him. He was not simply the target of their evangelistic machinery. Rather, he was their friend and because of their deep love, they could not help but mention the Faith that had changed their lives. Eventually, the persistent God that led Tolkien soon gripped Jack. Jack insisted that he came "kicking and screaming" into the Faith and later wrote about that night: "You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." At the age of thirty-five, Jack found a home in the Faith. At first he only admitted theism but it was not long before he was won over to Christianity.

Lewis' conversion is a story told by many Christians to this day because of the nature of it as the pursuit of a man by an unrelenting and loving God. Jack's life had its share of suffering--from the abuses suffered as a child in boarding schools and his service and wounding in the British army during World War I to the death of his beloved wife (inspiration for perhaps his most beautifully personal book--A Grief Observed) and his own suffering with renal failure at the end. In spite of this suffering and pain, Lewis was never again persuaded to reject the God that had so eagerly pursued him. He wrote many books and articles that have been an inspiration to countless Christians for many years [note: my personal favorite is The Great Divorce]. Jack's life was a life defined by flight and chase.He fled from the God he so desperately wanted. As he did, he looked over his shoulder to make sure God would follow. Eventually, he was caught once again by the God of his mother, father, and childhood.

1 comment:

pennyyak said...

Such an interesting man. Your blog would not be complete without him.