Dr. Jerry Kiser, Professor of Counselor Education at JSU, presented “C.S. Lewis: His Life, His Work, His Theology and His Theory of Counseling” on Tuesday, October 16, at the Wesley Foundation.
Dr. Kiser has done extensive research on Mr. Lewis over the past few years. A book entitled, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi Jr. sparked Dr. Kiser’s interest on the topic.
During his presentation, Dr. Kiser said, “I thought a better match would be C.S. Lewis and Carl Jung.” After researching the two in comparison, he realized that he was more interested in Lewis’ counseling theory and began his research on C.S. Lewis alone.
C.S. Lewis was born in 1898. When he was ten years old, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He began to pray for her recovery.
Dr. Kiser noted that this was a turning point in Lewis’ life as far as religion is concerned.
When his mother passed Lewis turned his back on God and provided his stance on religion by saying, “All religions are myths. I am an atheist.”
Lewis attended Oxford University
in 1917. He decided to enlist in the army in 1918 and was released when he became ill. He returned to Oxford University to finish his education.
After graduating in 1923 he began looking for a job but repeatedly turned down positions because he had his heart set on working for Oxford University. He was offered a one-year position with the school in the fall of 1924.
In 1925 his work was evaluated and he was offered a more permanent position.
In 1929, Lewis announced that he believed that God was a higher power "that [he did] not want to meet". This epiphany set the stage for work that he completed during the remainder of his life.
C.S. Lewis spent many years going out and speaking to the troops about religion and eternity. Because of his writing, Lewis received many letters and he was determined to respond to each of them individually. In 1950, Lewis received a letter from a woman named Joy Gresham. They met for the first time in 1952.
C.S. Lewis loved Oxford University but he had spent 30 years teaching there and each time he put an application in for a promotion, he was turned down. In 1954 he decided he had enough and decided to take an offer from Cambridge University.
Joy Gresham was from America and was only visiting England to spend time with Lewis. In order to prevent her visa from expiring and facing deportation, Lewis and Gresham engaged in a civil marriage so she could remain in England.
In 1956, Joy was diagnosed with cancer, and Lewis realized that he loved Joy and decided that he wanted to be married to her in the eyes of God.
Lewis began to pray for his wife and his prayers were answered. Joy was granted three more years. Her cancer returned in 1959 and she passed away in 1960.
Lewis had trouble with life after Joy. He began having health problems and therefore retired from Cambridge University. He died soon after in November of 1963.
Dr. Kiser credited C.S. Lewis with being an extraordinary teacher. "In Lewis' day, lectures were optional. But whenever Lewis was in the lecture hall, the lecture halls were full," said Dr. Kiser.
Lewis published numerous articles and books leading to the realization that he was an excellent speaker. That combined with him visiting and speaking to troops led him to be invited by churches to speak publicly.
Lewis admitted that he was not a theologian but began writing about theology because he believed it needed to be put in simple terms for all people to understand. "This is his theology in a nutshell: the trinity, the cross, the resurrection. He was really big on the resurrection. That is the fundamental. If you do not accept that, then there is really nowhere for you to go when talking about religion," said Dr. Kiser.
Lewis' book Mere Christianity explains how to live a fulfilled life.
In a book, Chad Walsh, another professor, referred to Lewis as a pastorial counselor.
Dr. Kiser said that this one statement turned his interest to Lewis' counseling theory.
Dr. Kiser highlighted four of the 12 elements of Lewis' counseling theory: the philosophy of natural versus supernatural, the concepts of free will and pain, and time.
Lewis believed strongly in the element of time (the past, the present, the future and the eternal), when living a fulfilling life.
Closing his presentation, Dr. Kiser discussed the techniques C.S. Lewis used and promoted while trying to achieve success. Lewis needed only three tools: the Bible or a religious education, pen to paper, and his imagination.
C.S. Lewis is most famous for his book series The Chronicles of Narnia, which has been turned into a series of movies. He has written over 60 publications including fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Dr. Jerry Kiser is currently working on another research project involving C.S. Lewis.