C. S. Lewis may have been the most important Christian thinker of the twentieth century. His modern classic Mere Christianity was the first Christian book I ever read back in my early college days. And that book played an important role in shaping my early faith and motivating my interest in Christian apologetics. I’ve gone on to read and reread many of Lewis’s remarkable works.

In May of 2018, I visited England as part of a Reasons to Believe (RTB) tour that involved visiting Oxford University as well as many of the sites connected to Lewis. I was pleased to have visited The Eagle and Child pub on the grounds of Oxford University where Lewis and his Inklings friends (J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Hugo Dyson, among others) met weekly to discuss the articles and books that they were writing. I also toured The Kilns, Lewis’s home for more than thirty years and the place where he wrote many of his best-selling books, including The Chronicles of Narnia. I was also honored to visit Lewis’s burial site on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, which is just a short drive from Oxford University.

While traveling from London to Oxford on a bus I gave a talk about Lewis’s life and accomplishments to the RTB tour group. Here are three things I mentioned about Lewis that you may not have known, even if you are already familiar with his life and writings.

  1. There were actually “three C. S. Lewises.”

In his biography that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis’s death in 2013, theologian Alister McGrath notes that Lewis’s longtime friend Owen Barfield said there were really “three C. S. Lewises.”1 That is, Lewis is known for his important work in three distinct areas. First, he was probably best known as a best-selling children’s novelist (The Chronicles of Narnia, 1950–56). Second, he was also a Christian writer of books on theology and apologetics (e.g., The Weight of Glory, 1949; The Problem of Pain, 1940). And third, he was an “Oxbridge” don and literary scholar of Medieval and Renaissance English (e.g., The Allegory of Love, 1936; Oxford History of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, 1954). I have met many people who have read Lewis’s books in one area (usually fiction or apologetics) but are unfamiliar with his writings in the other fields. Lewis was quite the gifted and dedicated multitasker.

  1. Lewis served as a patriot of the United Kingdom (UK) in two World Wars.

Lewis served in World War I as a second lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry of the British Army (1917–18).2 He was wounded when a British shell exploded short of its target. Several of his close friends were killed in the war and Lewis suffered mentally and emotionally from post-traumatic stress. Lewis didn’t serve as a soldier in World War II, but he did give inspirational talks to members of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF), whose mortality rates during the war were very high. He also gave religious talks on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during the war titled “The Case for Christianity,” which became the basis for his book, Mere Christianity. Lewis’s BBC broadcasts were so popular that after the war, Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered to nominate Lewis to receive a royal medal for his work on behalf of Britain during World War II.3 However, Lewis selflessly declined the honor.

  1. Lewis lived in an extremely secular time period, which makes his conversion from atheism to Christianity even more remarkable.

The fifty-year period prior to Lewis’s birth in 1898 saw a deeply secular zeitgeist emerging in Europe. Groundbreaking works were published in such fields as politics (Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, 1848), science (On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, 1859), philosophy (The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882), and psychology (Studies in Hysteria by Sigmund Freud, 1895). The Anglican Christian faith Lewis had been exposed to as child had been ravaged by the death of his mother at age nine followed by estrangement from his father. The final blow came from the training of his extremely secular boarding school teacher William T. Kirkpatrick (1848–1921).

His life experiences during this time exposed Lewis to atheism and a thoroughgoing naturalist worldview. Yet, in returning to Oxford after World War I—first as a student and then as a lecturer—Lewis’s encounter with Christian authors and friends stimulated his thinking about historic Christianity. Tolkien and others helped Lewis to see that the Gospels reveal the incarnate Jesus Christ as the God-man and that story was the “true myth” (a story that is true to factual history). Lewis converted first to theism and then to Christianity while he was in his early thirties.

Lewis used an abductive type of reasoning (inference to the best explanation) and a cumulative case approach to affirm the truth of Christianity. Here’s one of his famous quotes: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”4

So those are three things that you may not have known about the extraordinary Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis. May his life inspire you to excel in your endeavors to the glory of God. For more about him, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on C. S. Lewis.”

Reflection: Your Turn

Did any of this biographical information about Lewis catch you by surprise? Have you read any of his books? If so, which is your favorite? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

  1. Alister McGrath, S.Lewis: A Life—Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2013), x.
  2. McGrath, S. Lewis: A Life, 65–66.
  3. McGrath, S. Lewis: A Life, 248.
  4. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, rev. ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 140.

Check out more from Dr. Kenneth Samples @Reason.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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