C.S. Lewis (1898–1963) - page 4


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From the Summer 2006 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

PROFILE IN FAITH

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Author, Christian Apologist, Oxford Don

by Lyle Dorsett
Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism, Beeson Divinity School

 

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A Growing Reputation

  If Christianity altered Lewis’s writing habits, the publication of those books had a palpable effect on his personal life. First of all, the change was manifested in the mail. Once Lewis’s books became popular, which they did by the 1940s, he was inundated by letters. Because the famous author believed it was God’s will for him to answer most of this mail himself, and because he was convinced, as he said in “The Weight Of Glory,” that there are “no ordinary people,” he took time to write with care to each correspondent regardless of age, education, or place in society. This enterprise consumed many hours each week.
  Furthermore, life with fame was laden with other pressures. There were numerous invitations to entertain guests, grant interviews, give lectures, and preach sermons. Writing, to be sure, is a lonely enterprise. This Lewis understood. And even though he felt called by God to write, he likewise felt it was required of him to counsel those who made the pilgrimage to The Kilns, his home on the edge of Oxford. Frequently he believed it was his calling to explain the Christian faith to people over BBC radio, and to the airmen at the RAF bases during World War II.
  Preaching sermons, giving talks, and expressing his theological views over the radio throughout the United Kingdom bolstered Lewis’s reputation and increased his book sales. With these new circumstances came other changes—not the least being a marked upswing in annual income. Throughout the 1920s Lewis had been getting by on little money. During his student years his father provided an allowance, and Jack supplemented that in various ways. Nevertheless, money was always scarce. And when the young academician took on the responsibility for Mrs. Moore and her daughter, finances were always tight even with the regular tutorial stipend.
  As book royalties mounted during the later 1940s, and continued to spiral upward thereafter, C.S. Lewis refused to upgrade his standard of living. Partly out of disdain for conspicuous living, but mostly out of commitment to Jesus Christ, he established a charitable fund for his royalty earnings.
  Neither the extent nor the recipients of C.S. Lewis’s charity are fully known. Indeed, he made valiant efforts to conceal this information. It is known that he supported numerous impoverished families, and underwrote education fees for orphans and poor seminarians, and put monies into scores of charities and church ministries.

A Late Marriage

  The outreach of Lewis’s books and the impact of his charity conspired to make still another significant change in his lifestyle. During the last decade of his earthly pilgrimage, Lewis’s world was invaded by an American woman and her two children. In autumn 1952 Joy Davidman Gresham, who had become a Christian partly because she read The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters, visited her spiritual mentor in England. Soon thereafter her husband abandoned her for another woman. In the meantime the divorcee, a writer in her own right, moved to London with her two adolescent boys, David and Douglas.
  Joy Davidman Gresham gradually fell into financial trouble. Her acquaintance with C.S. Lewis led to his underwriting the boarding school education of David and Douglas. From charity and common literary interests grew a deep friendship, and eventually agape became eros. They were married in 1956.
  Joy Davidman Gresham gradually fell into financial trouble. Her acquaintance with C.S. Lewis led to his underwriting the boarding school education of David and Douglas. From charity and common literary interests grew a deep friendship, and eventually agape became eros. They were married in 1956.

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