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From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Irish author C.S. [Clive Staples] Lewis (books by this author), born in Belfast in 1898. When he was four, his dog Jacksie was hit by a car and killed; the boy declared he was changing his name to “Jacksie,” and for a while he wouldn’t answer to anything else. For the rest of his life, he was known as “Jack” to his family and close friends.

Raised in the Church of Ireland, he became an atheist in his teens and eventually returned to the church after a series of long theological arguments with his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien. “I gave up Christianity at about 14,” he said. “Came back to it when getting on for 30. Not an emotional conversion; almost purely philosophical. I didn’t want to. I’m not in the least a religious type. I want to be let alone, to feel I’m my own master; but since the facts seemed to be just the opposite, I had to give in.” He wrote Mere Christianity (1952), a classic of Christian apologetics; and The Screwtape Letters (1942), an epistolary novel that consists of letters from a demon to his apprentice nephew, giving him pointers on leading a man astray. He’s also the author of the seven-book allegorical fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, which he wrote for children. He thought it would be a good way to introduce Christian themes to children without beating them over the head, something that had turned him off as a young man. “An obligation to feel can freeze feelings,” he once said.

One of his books, Miracles (1947), had a profound effect on a writer from New York. Joy Davidman Gresham had been raised Jewish, but, like Lewis, had become an atheist. She was separated from her husband, who was an alcoholic, and she was raising their two sons by herself when she came upon Lewis’s book. After she read it, she began praying, and started attending services at a Presbyterian church. She also began a correspondence with Lewis that eventually led to their marriage in 1957. Joy was diagnosed with bone cancer, and she married Lewis from her hospital bed; the doctors sent her home to die, but she went into remission instead, and they had almost four wonderful years together. After her death in 1960, Lewis was devastated. He wrote a book, A Grief Observed (1961), which contained his thoughts, questions, and observations. It was so raw and personal that he published it under a pseudonym. Friends actually recommended the book to him, to help with his grief, unaware that he’d written it. His authorship wasn’t made known until after his death in 1963. In the book, he writes that he doesn’t believe people are reunited with their loved ones in the next life. “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”


  1. Cubeland Mystic says

    The Korrektiv is sort of like the Inklings. Just need a pub to hang out at.

  2. Thanks for posting that. I enjoyed the Narnia stories when I was a child and read some of his other books when I was an adult and liked them too.

  3. Jonathan Webb says

    Churchill holds to Lewis chair at Cambridge.

  4. Krista Vanderburg says

    Thank you for this birthday reminder. He’s the dude who brought me back to Christianity, and this time, it was serious. I converted to Catholicism. I thought I was too smart to believe in God. Then I read “The Most Reluctant Convert,” by David C. Downing. The book literally fell into my lap–I was working as a library clerk. What a fool I was.

    • Jonathan Potter says

      Thanks Krista. Lewis was instrumental in putting me on a path that led to the Catholic Church, too. At the age of 17, I was aswim in a Lutheran-tinged soupy mixture of zen-beatnik-transcendentalism when I read the introduction to The Problem of Pain for a class at the public high school I attended. That was a definite before-and-after event for me. Nothing would ever be the same, and I proceeded to read everything by Lewis I could get my hands on.

    • Jonathan Potter says

      That book by Downing sounds interesting, too. Will look it up.

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    I sometimes think the Church should just make Lewis the patron saint of converts. Such a fine ambassador to the world.

    • Krista Vanderburg says

      The Patron Saint of RELUCTANT converts. I went to a small Southern Methodist college in TX, so classmates (i.e. Headhunters) were always trying to convince me to read Lewis. I had already read The Narnia Chronicles when I was a good Lutheran middle-schooler, so I didn’t feel the need to take them up on their challenge. When Downing’s book found me, I read the jacket and discovered that Lewis had been a very successful atheist during his young adulthood. I was hooked. Still haven’t read Screwtape Letters, I’ve tried but couldn’t get into it, but count me as an unabashed fan. Grateful, as always, for all of Korrectiv and your efforts to dispell the myth of stubbornly uneducated Christianity!

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