#InContext: C.S. Lewis

By: JONATHAN ROBERTS

Best known for his classic children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis is an influential writer and Christian apologist who has brought hope and inspiration to millions across the world.

Clive Staples Lewis was born November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Ireland, to a protestant Ulster (Northern Ireland) family. As a child, Lewis was exceptionally gifted in academics and in writing, heavily influenced by Irish poet W.B. Yeats. His classmates knew him as an excellent scholar; Lewis went on to receive a scholarship from University College, Oxford. However, Lewis’ education was interrupted by one of Europe’s most horrifying crises: World War I.

In 1917, with Europe consumed by war, Lewis enlisted in the British army for officer’s training. In training, Lewis befriended Edward “Paddy” Moore, and the two were commissioned as officers in the Somerset Light Infantry on September 25, 1917. Two months later — on Lewis’ 19th birthday — they reached the front line of the Somme Valley in France.

Lewis’s military service was devastating. He experienced firsthand the horrors of trench warfare. Lewis and two of his colleagues were wounded in the Battle of Arras by a misfired British shell. While in convalescence, Lewis suffered depression and homesickness. Though Lewis eventually recovered, his roommate did not: Paddy Moore was killed in battle and buried in a field south of Peronne, France.

After the war, Lewis returned to Oxford University for what would be an illustrious academic career. He earned top scores in three separate degrees and was elected a Fellow and Tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he served for 29 years.

Lewis’s Christian faith was integral to his life and work. Though he grew up in a Christian home, Lewis became an atheist at age 15. In 1926, at the age of 27, he met J.R.R. Tolkien, who also served on the English faculty at Oxford and would become a life-long friend and one who helped lead him back to the Christian faith. Lewis converted from atheism to theism in 1929, and then to Christianity in 1931.

He wrote prolifically, and in 1950, Lewis published what has become his most widely known book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe part of The Chronicles of Narnia series, which is known for its Christian symbolism.

In spite of his professional achievements, Lewis deeply felt the pain of the world. He experienced the loss of his mother at age 9, the trenches of World War I, the economic downturn of the 1930s, caring for child evacuees during World War II, and the death of his wife after four years of marriage.

In Letters to an American Lady, Lewis wrote these words to Mary Willis Shelburne who was discussing the end of her life:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Unbeknownst to him at the time, Lewis was only five months away from his own death on November 22, 1963, at age 64. His words speak to the sickness, war, and poverty that people endure while on earth and the Christian hope for life after death.

We believe this hope for the future is also true for victims of human trafficking. They have experienced pain, suffering, and captivity. The problem of modern slavery is immense. However, the more we engage to end trafficking, the closer we are to better things ahead: justice, freedom, and safety.

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Kelli Ross

Kelli Ross

Kelli’s background is in journalism, public relations and peacebuilding. Prior to joining the Institute, she was the Communications Officer / Special Assistant to the Executive Director at Lwala Community Alliance in Nashville, Tennessee. She has worked for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in Washington, D.C., directly supporting the Bureau’s Assistant Secretary; as director of communications for microfinance organization Five Talents in Vienna, Virginia; and as business reporter at The Jackson (TN) Sun. She has worked and studied in Kenya, South Sudan, Liberia, India, Peru, and Israel. Kelli holds a BA in communication arts from Union University and an MS in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.