NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–C.S. Lewis offered the world “Mere Christianity,” “The Screwtape Letters” and, most notably, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” To many, Lewis was a literary genius, but to Douglas Gresham, Lewis was “the finest man and the best Christian” he has ever known.
Gresham wrote “Jack’s Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis,” which traces the life and times of best-selling author C.S. Lewis. The book is slated for release in October from Broadman & Holman, the publishing arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Gresham was 8 years old when he met the extraordinary mind behind “The Chronicles of Narnia.” He eventually lived as Lewis’s stepson in England for many years and wrote, “I am sometimes asked what it is like living in the shadow of such a great man, and I always point out that Jack did not leave a shadow behind him but a glow. If I am able to reflect even the slightest spark of that glow, I am more than happy to do so.”
Gresham explained that the memoir is not a scholarly work filled with academic analysis, but a “simple recounting of the story of what I believe to be the extraordinary life of an extraordinary man.”
Clive Staples Lewis was born near Belfast in Northern Ireland in 1898. Lewis didn’t like his name and soon changed it to “Jacksie” in honor of a small dog that he cherished.
Jack, as he later became known, and his older brother, Warnie, spent their childhood reading and making up stories about an imaginary country called Boxen. “I suppose the beginnings of Narnia can be seen in this childhood occupation, which was their way of combating the boredom of hours spent in the house while the soft Irish rain fell slowly and steadily outside,” Gresham wrote.
LOSING FAMILY & FAITH
Tragedy stuck early in the Lewis household. At age 10, young Lewis lost his mother to cancer and was sent to England for schooling. He wandered from school to school until William Thompson Kirkpatrick recognized Lewis’s potential to become a great writer. Under Kirkpatrick’s tutelage, Lewis began to take writing seriously. Kirkpatrick, however, passed on one belief to his young pupil that remained for years: atheism.
Lewis studied at Oxford University and fought in World War I. Despite serious injuries sustained as a soldier, he worked “with a dedication rarely to be found either then or today,” Gresham explained. Lewis eventually became an elected fellow at Magdalen College at Oxford.
Gresham noted that Lewis suffered from illness and bore overwhelming personal responsibility much of his life but found reprieve from friends at Oxford. Lewis’ contemporaries included J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Neville Coghill, Henry Victor Dyson and others. Lewis’ acquaintances formed a group called The Inklings, an unofficial literary round table for aspiring writers.
It was at The Inkling meetings that Tolkien first read aloud the beginnings of “The Hobbit.” Lewis also revealed to the group something new that he was working on, called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
A LIGHT FOR LEWIS
Lewis lost all faith in God during his childhood and had become a convinced atheist, Gresham explained. In Lewis’s adult life he began to read and study about God and “the more he learned and the more he experienced, the more he became convinced that there was actually a God,” Gresham wrote.
“It was no sudden instant revelation for Jack but a slow grinding process of learning and studying, always seeking to find the truth for it’s own sake,” he wrote. “But even a mind as powerful as Jack’s cannot determine the truth without the help of the Holy Spirit of God.”
Lewis became a Christian and lived out his faith through his pen. In 1950, Lewis published one of the best-selling children’s books of the 20th century, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Gresham believes that in writing the book, “Jack was influenced by the Holy Spirit of God because within a completely fictional fairy tale it manages to give a guide to its readers of how to understand what God did for us in this world by coming here and sacrificing himself for us.”
Gresham further detailed Lewis’s short but meaningful marriage to his mother, Joy Davidman, who died of cancer a few years after their wedding.
“Jack triumphed over many difficulties throughout his life,” Gresham wrote in the last chapter. Lewis defeated the setbacks of poverty, illness and exhaustion, but in the end found love and happiness with his wife Joy.
On Oct. 1, Broadman & Holman will release a series of books about C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia including: “Further Up & Further In: Understanding C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” by Bruce Edwards; “The Keys to the Chronicles: Unlocking the Symbols of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia,” by Marvin D. Hinten; and “Narnia Beckons,” by Ted Baehr and James Baehr.