Thursday, May 27, 2004

A Collection of C.S. Lewis Quotations

The Apologist's Evening Prayer

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

(in Poems, edited by Walter Hooper, 1964)

To Dissenting Priests

It is your duty to to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by
their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.

("Christian Apologetics," Easter 1945; reprinted in God in the Dock, 89-90)


Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.

(Christian Reflections, edited by Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967 [1940], 33)

The Christian Apologist

Nothing is more dangerous to one's own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality - from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. That also is why we need one another's continual help -- oremus pro invincem [Let us pray for each other].

(God in the Dock, edited by Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970 [1945], 103)

Medieval Man

At his most characteristic, medieval man was not a dreamer or a wanderer. He was an organiser, a codifier, a builder of systems. He wanted "a place for everything and everything in the right place". Distinction, definition, tabulation were his delight . . . Highly original and soaring philosophical speculation squeezes itself into a rigid dialectical pattern copied from Aristotle. Studies like Law and Moral Theology, which demand the ordering of very diverse particulars, especially flourish . . . There was nothing which medieval people liked better, or did better, than sorting out and tidying up . . . The perfect examples are the Summa of Aquinas and Dante's Divine Comedy; as unified and ordered as the Parthenon or the Oedipus Rex, as crowded and varied as a London terminus on a bank holiday.

(The Discarded Image, Cambridge University Press, 1964, 10)

The Incarnation

The Incarnation . . . illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die, and which at one stroke covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.

(Miracles, New York: Macmillan, 1947, p. 131}@b

Moral Law and Christian Ethics

The idea . . . that Christianity brought a new ethical code into the world is a grave error. If it had done so, then we should have to conclude that all who first preached it wholly misunderstood their own message: for all of them, its Founder, His precursor, His apostles, came demanding repentance and offering forgiveness, a demand and an offer both meaningless except on the assumption of a moral law already known and already broken.

(Christian Reflections, edited by Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967 [c.1942], 46, "On Ethics")


As regards contraceptives, there is a paradoxical, negative sense in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those already alive. By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.

(The Abolition of Man, New York: Macmillan, 1947, 68-69)


[Screwtape the Demon]: If a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that "suits" him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a "suitable" church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.

(The Screwtape Letters, New York: Macmillan, 1942, XVI, 72-73)

Divine Humility

It is . . . a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up "our own" when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is "nothing better" now to be had. The same humility is shown by all those Divine appeals to our fears which trouble high-minded readers of scripture. It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts. The creature's illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature's sake, be shattered; and by trouble or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it "unmindful of His glory's diminution." Those who would like the God of scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask.

If God were a Kantian, who would not have us till we came to Him from the purest and best motives, who could be saved? And this illusion of self-sufficiency may be at its strongest in some very honest, kindly, and temperate people, and on such people, therefore, misfortune must fall.

(The Problem of Pain, New York: Macmillan, 1940, 97-98)

Divine Omnipotence and Human Freedom

The real inter-relation between God's omnipotence and Man's freedom is something we can't find out . . . We all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace. I find the best plan is to take the Calvinist view of my own virtues and other people's vices; and the other view of my own vices and other people's virtues . . . It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite.

(Letters of C.S. Lewis, edited by W.H. Lewis, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966, [3 Aug 1953], 252)

Predestination to Hell

We may suspect that those who read it [Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion] with most approval were troubled by the fate of predestined vessels of wrath just about as much as young Marxists in our own age are troubled by the approaching liquidation of the bourgeoisie. Had the word "sentimentality" been known to them, Elizabethan Calvinists would certainly have used it of any who attacked the Institutio as morally repulsive.

(English Literature in the 16th Century, [vol. 3 of The Oxford History of English Literature], Oxford University Press, 1954, Introduction, 43)

Free Will

God has made it a rule for Himself that He won't alter people's character by force. He can and will alter them -- but only if people will let Him.

(God in the Dock, edited by Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, "The Trouble With 'X' . . ." [1948], 152-153)

Serious Conversation

[tongue in cheek] Talk, by all means; the more of it the better; unceasing cascades of the human voice; but not, please, a subject. The talk must not be about anything.

(The Four Loves, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960, 109)

Gender and Sex

Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings.

(Perelandra, New York: Macmillan, 1943, 200)

Repentance and Action

[Screwtape the demon]: As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance . . . No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will . . . The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.

(The Screwtape Letters, New York: Macmillan, 1942, XIII, 60-61)

Shocking Bible Passages

The two things one must not do are (a) to believe on the strength of Scripture or on any other evidence that God is in any way evil (In Him is no darkness at all) (b) to wipe off the slate any passage which seems to show that He is. Behind the shocking passage be sure there lurks some great truth which you don't understand. If one ever does come to understand it, one sees that it is good and just and gracious in ways we never dreamed of. Till then it must just be left on one side . . . Would not a revelation which contained nothing that you and I did not understand, be for that very reason rather suspect? To a child it would seem a contradiction to say both that his parents made him and God made him, yet we see how both can be true.

(Letters of C.S. Lewis, edited by W.H. Lewis, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966, [8 Aug 1953], 253)

No comments: