Looking at the calendar of November alerts me to the day of the 22nd. It is circled in our family because it is the birthday of our youngest son. Each year, my wife and I reflect on previous birthday celebrations. But, history forces us to reflect on two special events that happened on Nov. 22, 1963.
It has been 50 years since the assassination of President John Kennedy. We frequently ask, “Do you remember where you were when you heard that the president had been shot?” It definitely was a story that controlled all reporting on television, radio and in the newspapers.
But, on that very same day 50 years ago, another event happened in England that saddened many. It was the day that C.S. Lewis died.
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Nov. 29, 1898. When Jack (nickname) was 9 years old, his mother died of cancer. During the next six years, he and his brother, Warren, attended four different boarding schools. It was in the teen years that he abandoned his childhood Christian faith, becoming a devout atheist.
At 18 he entered the British Army, was sent to the battles of World War 1 in France, and was wounded one year later. After recuperation he was reassigned back in England.
Lewis returned to academia as a successful student, soon to become a successful teaching fellow. He stumbled on to the George McDonald novel, “Phantastes.” This was the beginning of Lewis’ road to professing faith in Jesus Christ. One evening, Lewis had a long talk on Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. That evening’s discussion was important in bringing about the following day’s event that Lewis recorded in “Surprised by Joy:”
“When we (Warnie and Jack) set out (by motorcycle to the Whipsnade Zoo) I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”
Lewis compared his atheism to dreaming and his newly grasped Christian theology to being awake.
“When you are awake, you can explain wakefulness and dreaming. But from inside a dream, you can’t explain wakefulness.” Lewis also wrote, “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.”
Lewis is more popular as an author today than at any time during his life. “The Chronicles of Narnia” alone have gone on to sell more than 100 million copies in 40 languages. Also included in his long list of books are “Mere Christianity,” “The Screwtape Letters,” “The Great Divorce” and “Space Trilogy.”
In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis makes this statement, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
As you reflect on these words this 50th anniversary year, I pray you have made your choice on Jesus Christ.