C. S. Lewis: Evil in Our Day

Lewis, in the preface to his Screwtape Letters, provides a very interesting insight into where we are most likely to find evil in our day.

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even in concentration camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

C. S. Lewis: The Reality of a Belief

When C. S. Lewis’s wife Joy died, he went through a crisis of faith. He wrote a book at the time into which he poured out his questions to God. It was called A Grief Observed. This quote is taken from that book, and is part of what he had to learn through this experience.

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? . . . Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.

Lewis: The Atheist Dilemma

C. S. Lewis had to make the journey from atheism to Christianity. In his book Mere Christianity, he explains how he came up against the lack of logic in his atheistic position:

[When I was an atheist] my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? . . .

Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.

Lewis: Two Kinds of People

C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce is one of my favorite books, as it depicts a fanciful journey from hell to heaven so that those in hell can see what they have missed. Any Lewis book is full of pithy insights. Here’s one from The Great Divorce that I find particularly lucid:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.

C.S. Lewis: The Question of Truth

Lewis took on the role of an apologist for the Christian faith. In an essay entitled “Christian Apologetics,” he honed in on one of the big problems Christians have when trying to explain the truth of Christianity. It’s not a problem with the message itself, but with the hearers of the message:

One of the great difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of Truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true but because it is good. And in the discussion they will at every moment try to escape from the issue “True—or False” into stuff about a good society, or morals . . . or anything whatever.

You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point. Only thus will you be able to undermine . . . their belief that a certain amount of “religion” is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.

Lewis: Screwtape on Middle Age

One of the books that catapulted C. S. Lewis to worldwide fame was The Screwtape Letters, published in the early 1940s. It was a fanciful interpretation of how a senior devil—Screwtape—gives advice to a junior devil—Wormwood–on how to lead people into sin and ensure they never enter into a relationship with God. Here’s part of that “advice”:

The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it—all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.

If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it,” while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on Earth, which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.

The Quotable Lewis

Over Thanksgiving, I was browsing through a Barnes and Noble in Tucson when I came across a volume I didn’t know existed—a massive compilation of C.S. Lewis’s most memorable quotes. Since Lewis is one of my all-time favorite writers, I was delighted with my find. As I’ve begun to plumb its depths, I’ve been renewed in my appreciation of the insights he offers.

Normally, I’ve rested from this blog on Saturdays, but with the addition of this book to my collection, I’ve decided to share some of the most poignant quotes each week.

The first one comes from his classic work Mere Christianity. I’ll let it stand on its own without further commentary. I hope you will meditate on it and ask the Lord for any application to your own life. And come back to the blog each Saturday for more Lewisian wisdom.

We have never followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.