On 22nd November 1963, three great men died within hours of each other: Aldous Huxley, C S Lewis, and John F Kennedy. The deaths of the first two were eclipsed by the tragic circumstances of the third and today much of the news will be about the anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Yet it is arguable that the works of C S Lewis have transformed many more lives over the last fifty years than the work of the other two because they have introduced people to the person of Jesus Christ.
Lewis was the most influential Christian author of the last hundred years and people are still coming new to his books and being challenged and changed by them. Most people know about him through his children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia, but it is in books about the Christian faith (like Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters) which were written in straightforward, pithy and witty English, that we encounter the real genius of Lewis.
As a young man Lewis was an avowed atheist. He experienced the death of his own mother at the age of nine and that bereavement, combined with his later first hand experience of the horrors of the First World War, led him to reject belief in God. However, by the time he was thirty he had become a Christian, describing himself as “the most reluctant convert in England.” Lewis wrote,
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
John F Kennedy wanted to build a better world through a new kind of politics. Aldous Huxley warned us about the dangers of a ‘brave new world’. Only C S Lewis pointed us to the source of real world-changing power. He wrote,
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether you like his teaching butwhether or not he rose from the dead.”