This is the date remembered around the world, annually recalled on the evening news as the date that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Far less noticed is the fact that another famous twentieth-century figure also died on this date. On this day, November 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis (who preferred to be called "Jack") went to be with the Lion named Aslan.
To understand what that means, we must recall that Jack was one of the world's outstanding writers and a professor of English Literature at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He succeeded in capturing the imagination of young and old with his Chronicles of Narnia. These seven books tell the story of boys and girls magically stepping through their wardrobe closet to venture into a fictional land protected by Aslan, a magnificent lion who symbolizes Christ. The stories have proved to be more than captivating reading adventures for children. They also have been an effective instrument for converting many to faith in Jesus Christ.
Jack referred to himself at age 14 as a "happy atheist," but after years of analytical thinking, he concluded that knowing Christ is the only logical way to understand both man and the universe around him. Accepting Christ as his redeemer at age 30, Jack soon achieved worldwide recognition as the author of more than 25 Christian writings. Perhaps best known of his non-fiction books is Mere Christianity, a simple yet strikingly logical statement of why the Gospel is worthy of acceptance.
Remarkably, Jack stands out as one of history's gifted geniuses who has had the versatility to fascinate and delight children with his simple stories of Aslan and at the same time challenge the most scholarly philosophers with his profound thought and keen logic. One of his widely known scholarly writings is English Literature in the Sixteenth Century. Another, The Abolition of Man, was classified by Encyclopedia Britannica as one of the Great Books of the World.
Jack suffered from kidney problems late in life and had to have many transfusions. Once he went into a coma. However, he revived and continued to read new books and reread the books he loved. Those close to him observed that Lewis anticipated death with cheerfulness and peace. A week before his death, Jack shared with his brother these words: "Warnie, I have done all that I was sent into the world to do, and I am ready to go." Warnie later remarked that he had never seen death looked in the face so tranquilly.7
At five-thirty on this day, November 22, 1963, Jack's brother Warnie heard a crash and found Jack unconscious. The famous writer died a few minutes later.
Shadowlands, a BBC film on Jack's life, co-produced with Gateway Films, won the international Emmy award for best drama and spun off a stage play and theatrical feature film of the same title, bringing the life of this English professor to a wide popular audience. Today, millions continue to read, enjoy, and benefit from the remarkable works of C.S. Lewis.
- Based on an earlier Christian History Institute story.
- Gresham, Douglas A. Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. New York: Macmillan, 1988.
- "Lewis, Clive Staples." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
- Petersen, William J. C.S. Lewis Had a Wife; Catherine Marshall Had a Husband. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1986.
- Sayer, George. Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.
- Wellman, Sam. C. S. Lewis: Author of Mere Christianity. Urichsville, Ohio: Barbour, nd.
- Armand M. Nicholi Jr. Quoted in a message by R. Simmons, III "Why Is the World So Broken?" (29 min. ff.)
Last updated November, 2011.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/John Chillingworth/Stringer
This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity: