14 Aug 2013

C. S. Lewis: Love is an Undying Fire

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Apologetics, Bobby's World, Books, C. S. Lewis, Culture, Love
Born at the edge of the 20th century (November 29, 1898) and died on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963), Clive Staples Lewis remains one of the most famous authors of the 20th century. I have read more of Lewis’ writings than any other author except for Alexander Campbell.

What this Blog is Not About

C. S. (Jack) Lewis was born into a Christian family but through the influence of a skeptical teacher and then his college experience he became a committed atheist.  During World War I he was wounded in April 1918 in what seems to have been a friendly fire incident.  After the war he pursued his education at Oxford and became a Tutor in 1925. His love for literature immersed him in Norse, Greek and Irish which mythology soon provided God with the door back into his life. Lewis fought with the One he most did not want to meet.  In Surprised by Joy he relates,

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

But he did embrace theism in 1929, and then Christianity in 1931, under the influence of J. R. R. Tolkien.  Lewis went on to become a first rate scholar and published many works that Evangelicals rarely read: The Allegory of Love, A Study in Medieval Tradition; A Preface to Paradise Lost; Studies in Words; The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature; and other works that show the true depth of Lewis’ scholarship. But my blog is not about Lewis the scholar, Lewis the author of popular fantasy, or Lewis the one who saw to it that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saw the light of day was published. This blog is about Lewis the man who quietly served and loved his fellow human beings.

What this Blog is About: Amor est ignis jugiter ardens

C. S. Lewis believed that love was the dynamic energy of the mind and source of creativity.  He wrote in The Four Loves “Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God.” The Narnian lived what he confesses in a most humble yet dramatic way.

Lewis’ friend Paddy Moore was killed in World War I.  C. S. Lewis took full responsibility for his widowed mother and his sister moving them into his own house to live with him and his brother.  Lewis kept this promise.  In her old age Mrs. Moore became verbally abusive and demanding.  C. S. Lewis took care of her till the day she died however.

Harry Blamires, a student of Lewis, recalled that his teacher was “personally interested in his pupils and permanently concerned about those who became his friends … No one knew better how to nourish a pupil with encouragement.” Lewis, as you can imagine, received mail from literally across the globe.  He believed that God wanted him to answer each and every letter with his own handwriting in spite of the massive demands on his already full schedule.  As a result over 12,000 letters by C. S. Lewis have been collected.  Some letters are to old women and some to young boys and everyone age in between.  Lewis treated them all with respect and equally.  The reason for this was because, as he says in The Weight of Glory, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

The theologian Austin Farrar was a friend of C. S. Lewis (sort of unusual because, unbelievably, many theologians did not like Lewis … petty jealously finds fertile ground among all mere humans!).  He relates a story about Lewis in the book, C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table that again, I think, reveals the true greatness of Lewis and the depth of fruit of the Spirit in his life. First we all know that the Inkling opened his home to house children during World War II to protect them from Nazi bombs (the setting for the Chronicles of Narnia).  During the day, Lewis would work with some of the brightest scholars in the world and then come home and teach a young boy with severe learning disabilities to read using flash cards he made just for the occasion.  Throughout his career Lewis secretly funded the education for impoverished students stipulating that none could know of his contribution until after his death.

The story of C. S. Lewis is one full of wonder and wonderful. He loved hanging with his friends, The Inklings, at the pub (The Bird and the Baby it was commonly called) drinking beer from a stein and smoking a cigar discussing literature, politics, and theology.  He loved God and thought of his work as an act of worship to the Father of Jesus. And he loved people exemplifying the truth of agape because of this …  (from the Latin Letters of C. S. Lewis) “In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, in the young man who seeks my advice, the Lord Himself is present. Therefore let us wash His feet.”

Final Thought

It is my prayer that you and I can become lovers of the world as Lewis did.  If the church today could learn to be open, passionate, creative, and loving as the Narnian then we just might have a positive impact on this old world of sin and death.  May it be so.  Amor est ignis jugiter ardens – Love is an undying fire!

3 Responses to “C. S. Lewis: Love is an Undying Fire”

  1. Wade Tannehill Says:

    Thank you for these insights into one of the great authors, who also happened to be a great man.

  2. Joshua Pappas Says:

    Wonderful. Thanks brother.

  3. Profile photo of Jon Edwards Jon Says:

    Thanks, Bobby. Nice to be brought into the presence of this great man once again. How can we not be lifted up by the experience?

Leave a Reply