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Heroes of the Faith: Lewis to be honored on 50th anniversary of his deathcomment (0)

November 14, 2013

By Joanne Sloan


Clive Staples “C.S.” Lewis died Nov. 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lewis’ death was understandably not the big news event of that day.

On the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis will have numerous accolades. He will be honored in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, joining those influential British writers who have been immortalized there throughout the centuries.

In his birthplace of Belfast, Northern Ireland, his death received little attention. In 2013 though, the inaugural C.S. Lewis Festival runs Nov. 18–23, with literary events of song, drama, performance, readings, talks and tours.

Born on Nov. 29, 1898, Lewis was known as “Jack” to his family and friends. After his mother’s death when he was 9, he moved to England to live with his brother, Warren.

While enrolled as a student at University College, Oxford, in 1917, he left to fight at the front in World War I. After recuperating from his wounds, he returned to Oxford and completed his degrees in 1923.

During his teenage years, Lewis abandoned his childhood Christian faith and became an atheist. But after being influenced by the writings of George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton and many discussions with fellow professor J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis became a Christian on Sept. 22, 1931. He described his conversion in his book “Surprised by Joy”: “I was driven to Whipsnade Zoo one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”

From 1924 until 1954, he was a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. There he and friend Tolkien took part in an informal literary club known as the Inklings. From 1954 until the summer of 1963 he was chair of medieval and renaissance literature at Cambridge University.

Lewis wrote more than 30 diverse books, including the popular fantasy Narnia books that have sold more than 100 million copies. His works continue to attract a vast audience each year.

In 2000, Christianity Today asked church leaders and contributors to nominate the 100 best writers of the 20th century. C.S. Lewis was overwhelmingly selected as the best author and his book, “Mere Christianity,” the top book.

The “love” of his life was Joy Davidman Gresham, whom he married in 1956. Although she had terminal cancer, they had several happy years until her death in 1960.

On July 15, 1963, Lewis was admitted to the hospital, where he suffered a heart attack and went into a coma the next day. He awoke and returned home, but his health continued to decline. In mid-November he was diagnosed with renal failure. He died one week before his 65th birthday. He is buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington, Oxford.

The acclaimed author wrote in “The Weight of Glory”: “The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.”

That door opened on that famous day in November 1963 for the great C.S. Lewis, and he entered glory.

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The Alabama Baptist will launch a new monthly feature — Heroes of the Faith — in January. It will focus on famous historical Christians from previous centuries, such as the feature here on C.S. Lewis, and will be written by Joanne Sloan.

Sloan, a member of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, has been a published writer of articles and books for 30 years. She has a bachelor’s degree double majoring in history and English from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M–Commerce) and a master’s degree specializing in English from the University of Arkansas (1978). (TAB)

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