3 Things You May Not Know about C. S. Lewis

shutterstock_559255330-1024x681C. S. Lewis may have been the most important Christian thinker of the twentieth century. His modern classic Mere Christianity was the first Christian book I ever read back in my early college days. And that book played an important role in shaping my early faith and motivating my interest in Christian apologetics. I’ve gone on to read and reread many of Lewis’s remarkable works.

In May of 2018, I visited England as part of a Reasons to Believe (RTB) tour that involved visiting Oxford University as well as many of the sites connected to Lewis. I was pleased to have visited The Eagle and Child pub on the grounds of Oxford University where Lewis and his Inklings friends (J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Hugo Dyson, among others) met weekly to discuss the articles and books that they were writing. I also toured The Kilns, Lewis’s home for more than thirty years and the place where he wrote many of his best-selling books, including The Chronicles of Narnia. I was also honored to visit Lewis’s burial site on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, which is just a short drive from Oxford University.

While traveling from London to Oxford on a bus I gave a talk about Lewis’s life and accomplishments to the RTB tour group. Here are three things I mentioned about Lewis that you may not have known, even if you are already familiar with his life and writings.

  1. There were actually “three C. S. Lewises.”

In his biography that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis’s death in 2013, theologian Alister McGrath notes that Lewis’s longtime friend Owen Barfield said there were really “three C. S. Lewises.”1 That is, Lewis is known for his important work in three distinct areas. First, he was probably best known as a best-selling children’s novelist (The Chronicles of Narnia, 1950–56). Second, he was also a Christian writer of books on theology and apologetics (e.g., The Weight of Glory, 1949; The Problem of Pain, 1940). And third, he was an “Oxbridge” don and literary scholar of Medieval and Renaissance English (e.g., The Allegory of Love, 1936; Oxford History of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, 1954). I have met many people who have read Lewis’s books in one area (usually fiction or apologetics) but are unfamiliar with his writings in the other fields. Lewis was quite the gifted and dedicated multitasker.

  1. Lewis served as a patriot of the United Kingdom (UK) in two World Wars.

Lewis served in World War I as a second lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry of the British Army (1917–18).2 He was wounded when a British shell exploded short of its target. Several of his close friends were killed in the war and Lewis suffered mentally and emotionally from post-traumatic stress. Lewis didn’t serve as a soldier in World War II, but he did give inspirational talks to members of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF), whose mortality rates during the war were very high. He also gave religious talks on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during the war titled “The Case for Christianity,” which became the basis for his book, Mere Christianity. Lewis’s BBC broadcasts were so popular that after the war, Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered to nominate Lewis to receive a royal medal for his work on behalf of Britain during World War II.3 However, Lewis selflessly declined the honor.

  1. Lewis lived in an extremely secular time period, which makes his conversion from atheism to Christianity even more remarkable.

The fifty-year period prior to Lewis’s birth in 1898 saw a deeply secular zeitgeist emerging in Europe. Groundbreaking works were published in such fields as politics (Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, 1848), science (On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, 1859), philosophy (The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882), and psychology (Studies in Hysteria by Sigmund Freud, 1895). The Anglican Christian faith Lewis had been exposed to as child had been ravaged by the death of his mother at age nine followed by estrangement from his father. The final blow came from the training of his extremely secular boarding school teacher William T. Kirkpatrick (1848–1921).

His life experiences during this time exposed Lewis to atheism and a thoroughgoing naturalist worldview. Yet, in returning to Oxford after World War I—first as a student and then as a lecturer—Lewis’s encounter with Christian authors and friends stimulated his thinking about historic Christianity. Tolkien and others helped Lewis to see that the Gospels reveal the incarnate Jesus Christ as the God-man and that story was the “true myth” (a story that is true to factual history). Lewis converted first to theism and then to Christianity while he was in his early thirties.

Lewis used an abductive type of reasoning (inference to the best explanation) and a cumulative case approach to affirm the truth of Christianity. Here’s one of his famous quotes: “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.”4

So those are three things that you may not have known about the extraordinary Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis. May his life inspire you to excel in your endeavors to the glory of God. For more about him, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on C. S. Lewis.”

Reflection: Your Turn 

Did any of this biographical information about Lewis catch you by surprise? Have you read any of his books? If so, which is your favorite?


  1. Alister McGrath,  S.Lewis: A Life—Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2013), x.
  2. McGrath, S. Lewis: A Life, 65–66.
  3. McGrath, S. Lewis: A Life, 248.
  4. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, rev. ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 140.

  One thought on “3 Things You May Not Know about C. S. Lewis

  1. November 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  2. jamesbradfordpate
    November 6, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

    • November 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks, James.

      Ken Samples

  3. jamesbradfordpate
    November 6, 2018 at 11:47 am

    I am slowly going through Miracles right now. I would say that my favorite, of the ones I have read, is Reflections on the Psalms.

    • November 6, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      If I recall correctly, Reflections on the Psalms is one of Lewis’s later books. And a good one.

      Ken Samples

  4. November 6, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Very cool, thanks! I didn’t know about his military time, or the third aspect of his writings. (My favorite of his books, which is also my favorite fiction book period, is The Great Divorce.”)

    • November 6, 2018 at 2:28 pm


      The Great Divorce is a good choice!

      Ken Samples

  5. Robert
    November 21, 2018 at 5:52 am

    Good stuff, thanks. I had forgotten that Tolkien had played a big part in Lewis’s conversion. My favorite apologetic book has been God in the Dock. I believe it was transcriptions of the radio broadcasts you mentioned in the article. My favorite fiction work has to be Perelandra, it blew(expanded) my mind!

    • November 21, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Great comments, Robert.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  6. Rob Gunn
    January 4, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I don’t mean to quibble, but the Eagle and Child pub is not on the grounds of Oxford, but quite a distance away. I was just there last summer. ??????

    • January 4, 2019 at 11:11 am


      I visited the pub last year as well.

      The Eagle and Child is located in Oxford city centre and is owned by Oxford’s St. John’s College.

      According to the Web, the distance from Oxford University and the pub is approximately one mile. Living in California, that doesn’t strike me as “quite a distance away.”

      But I do think the six question marks you left on your post qualifies as quibbling.

      Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed the article.


      Ken Samples

      • Rob Gunn
        January 5, 2019 at 2:59 pm

        Thank you-I did not know it was owned by the University. Since it is on a public street along with other shops and businesses, who knew? Also we had walked London for two days and to walk another mile from Christchurch seemed further than it probably was (sore feet!). Thanks for clarifying -and yes I enjoy your work and the article on Lewis. I just ordered the book you mentioned!

        Thanks again!

      • January 5, 2019 at 3:48 pm

        Thanks, Rob.

        Ken Samples

  7. January 5, 2019 at 3:36 am

    Reblogged this on chez frïdrîx and commented:
    Brilliant! I never really got into Lewis the way my schoolmates did; I’m late to the party.

    • January 5, 2019 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for the reblog, Fridix. Best regards.

  8. Jan
    January 7, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I am extremely late to the party. I am 70 years old and have been saved for 49 years. I have read nothing of CS Lewis but intend to remedy that starting this month. I have already promised myself to read God and Ronald Reagan by Paul Kengor. Thank you very much for this article.

    • January 7, 2019 at 1:41 pm


      Mere Christianity would be a good book to start reading C.S. Lewis.

      All the best.

      Ken Samples

  9. June 9, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    I’m curious where you put his science trilogy. That almost seems like a different category from the Chronicles. I’ve read the first two of the trilogy and found the second one challenging, but I made it through. I hear the third is even tougher. They sure are thought-provoking and suppose like “Chronicles” they would be allegories.. I loved “Mere Christianity” and “The Four Loves.” And took the Chronicles on my Norwegian cruise. That was the perfect setting to read them. Want to read more of his work as I think it’s brilliant!

    Enjoyed your post, Ken, even knowing those three facts.

    • June 9, 2019 at 8:01 pm

      Hello, Patti.

      My latest book Classic Christian Thinkers has a chapter on Lewis where I categorize his various books.


      Ken Samples

      • June 10, 2019 at 8:07 pm

        Thanks, Kenneth. Look forward to reading it!

  10. June 10, 2019 at 11:38 am

    Thanks, Ken, for your clear article and for your bringing Lewis to people’s attention. I think the book that had the greatest impact on me was his Great Divorce. It shows not only how people are hopelessly lost in sin without God’s saving grace, but gives hope to a trapped sinner that God will save the one who casts himself on his mercy in Christ.

    • June 10, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      Thank you, John.

      Appreciate your comments.

      Ken Samples

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