Two years later he took a memorable walk with his friends and came closer than ever to accepting the Christian faith. Little could he have known that night along "Addison's Walk" in Oxford that he would become world famous in his own lifetime as an "apostle to the skeptics" and his life the subject of many books, documentaries, film dramatizations and articles. While Lewis scholarship in the field of literature is significant--he wrote an entire volume of the Oxford Dictionary of English Literature for the 16th Century (sans poetry) over a twenty-year period and taught at Oxford and Cambridge for most of his life, his greatest gift to the world was in reaching out to believers and want-to be believers through stories, critical essays, books for all ages and endless articles and personal correspondence with people he mostly never met who had been touched in some way by at least one of his works.
"The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle."--Lewis, from his Collection of essays" "God in the Dock"
C.S. "Jack" Lewis (1898-1963), born in Belfast to a Ulster Protestant family, is best known today for his seven part 'Narnia' series, written when he was in his fifties and already established not only as an Oxford University don at Madgelan College, but also as a writer of Christian apologetics in works such as "Miracles", "The Problem of Pain" and the most famous of his mature works, "Mere Christianity". The latter work was drawn from a series of radio lectures Lewis was asked to give on the BBC early in World War II by the Director of Religious Broadcasting. A brief overview of Lewis central thesis in the talks concerned that a proof of the existence of God came from what he called "The Tao" (The Way) , a set of ethics known in common to all religions and even the non-religious also as The Moral Law. It is a law that stands above nature and gives humans an innate sense of right and wrong and how they wish to be treated. And, just as humankind might yearn for food and water or other desires, and there is food and water to fulfill this need, so must there be a God to which the embodiment of this yearning exists to fulfill our inner selves.
In the forties Lewis debated atheists and believers in the evenings once a week at The Socratic Club. He was a formidable debater, but not a smug one. He once warned a group of Welsh clergyman in a speech:
'No doctrine of the Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one I have just successfully defended in a public debate. .. it has seemed to rest on itself; as a result, when you go away from that debate it seems no stronger than its weakest pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands , and can be saved only from by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself."
Lewis himself was a man on guard against the trapping of ego. Despite his vast learning and reputation, he sought to remind himself and others that faith is more or less a longing, a yearning for a better place and how its effects are replicated in our conduct of "the shadowlands" of this life.
The Narnia stories are books for children that brought in elements of Christian allegory with other more ancient views of supernatural powers of good and evil as well as the nature-gods of various pagan religions of the past. A good friend of Professor Lewis for much of his life was J. R.R. Tolkein, creator of the Middle Earth novels of which "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is most famous. Tolkein, a strict Catholic, didn't like the way Lewis mixed all types of pagan and popular imagery together in these stories, but for Lewis I suspect it was all to the good to bring as much of his fertile imagination and love of fantasy together to create a world that held all enduring myths in some mode of sacred power.
C. S. Lewis
Both these men met at Oxford University in the 1920's with Lewis as a tutor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Tolkein as a young professor of Old English. Both men had served on the Western Front during what was then called the Great War and seen many of their friends lost in its terrible wake of blood, explosions, muddy trenches and flying steel. These meetings with one another grew as friends and fellow writers gathered to hear first drafts of their works in a group that came to be called "The Inklings" in the 1930's. It was on these Thursday evenings and in other gatherings at the "Eagle and Child" pub in Oxford that Lewis felt most at home, sitting with other writers and keen thinkers discussing a myriad of topics around a fire, relaxed and in good company. Little wonder that he once described to his American publisher that "he was most happy hearing the could of male laughter".
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
C. S. Lewis
Another irony of Lewis life was that he was a long-time bachelor, living with his older brother Warren "Warnie" Lewis, a retired army officer and an older woman named Mrs. Moore, the mother of a close friend who he had pledged to look after to a friend who did not return from the trenches of 1918. After Mrs. Moore died, he came to marry an American woman named Joy Davidman who had come to England in part to meet him. She too was a former atheist and writer. When she came down with cancer in the mid-fifties Lewis married her so she would not have to worry about overstaying her visa. After a seeming miracle recovery from the cancer, Lewis and Davidman and her two male children moved in together at "The Kilns", the small house he and his brother shared on a few acres near Oxford. (By this time Lewis was spending his weekdays at Cambridge, where he had been granted a full professorship.)
After just a few years together the cancer returned in 1960, and Joy soon died. The blow from this loss hit Lewis like a thunderbolt. Amazingly, and in the true fashion of a writer, he recorded his mental torments and anger with God in perhaps his most harrowing book, "A Grief Observed".
Lewis faith in God was shaken but recovered in his later works and he continued to write more essays and letters in his brief retirement right up to the last few days of his life. He died on November 22, 1963, the same day as the death of Aldous Huxley and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Here is a clip from "The Question of God: Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis" a PBS documentary. Much of Lewis' words in this documentary are taken from the spiritual memoir of his early life, "Surprised By Joy".