Lewis begins by observing that there seems to be a universal morality among all people. Although different cultures have varying ideas of what specific things are moral and immoral (for example, one wife or four, but never any woman you want), they all agree that things like selfishness are bad. We also see this standard when someone breaks their promise to us: we may not feel that it is wrong to break our promises, but we feel hurt when someone does it to us. This morality that we unconsciously expect is what Lewis calls the Moral Law.
Many argue that this Moral Law is really instincts, social convention, or just a statement that we should do things for the benefit of society. The Moral Law cannot be an instinct, because often the Moral Law tells us to do something (e.g. help someone) that we’d prefer not to do. Instincts always act for our benefit. It cannot be a social convention, because we feel that societies that violate the Moral Law (like Nazi Germany) are less Moral; we cannot judge another society unless there is a standard outside of the society. And the Moral Law cannot be a different way of saying that we should do something to benefit society, because that just raises a different moral standard. Why be good if it does not benefit me? Because it benefits society; in other words, because you ought to do it.
Now suppose that there were a supernatural being who wanted to reveal itself. Since it is not directly observable, it can only reveal itself indirectly. So it would try to get inside the creation in order to direct it. This is, in fact, what we see. We know that we have this moral law inside of us, which would be unobservable from outside us, since we don’t actually obey it. Clearly, though, this being expects us to obey this law, and clearly we do not.
So now that we can suspect that there is a supernatural being, Lewis needs to discuss religion, or the nature of this being. Although a lot of people think that religion is something we have gotten over, the truth is that men in all ages have held that either there is a supernatural being (or beings) and that there are none. None of this is new to our age. He then argues that the atheistic view is too simple. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” The pantheistic view, that both the good and the bad are part of God is self-contradictory, since if God is good, he cannot be not good. (“Bad” in fact, would not be bad)
At this point we know that there must be a God who is completely good. However, there is clearly bad in the world, which leads to only two explanations. One explanation is that there is another being with equal power that is bad. But since the two powers are equal, you can only determine which one is good by introducing a third thing, which turns out to be the real power. The other option is that the bad power is subordinate to the good power. This is exactly what Christianity says, that the Devil got his power from God, but turned it to bad uses.
How could the Devil rebel against an omnipotent being? God chose to create beings with free will, so that there would be real consequences to their actions—good actions would really be good, and bad actions would cause real harm. This is no toy Universe. Free will gives the opportunity to rebel, and the Devil took it, and taught it to us. So now we have a problem: we have rebelled against God. Unfortunately, God cannot overlook our sin, or He would not be Just, so He needs to forgive us. There was, in fact, one man who claimed to be God, and who claimed to forgive sins. He might have been lying, he might be a demon, he might be crazy, or he might be have been telling the truth. If so, we are very fortunate to be given the opportunity to repent of our rebellion before God invades for real and it is too late.
The next section is a discussion of various Christian morality, which seem to have little relation to each other, so are presented as a list of ideas here:
- Although people readily recognize the need to have harmony between individuals, this cannot happen if we have not corrected what is inside of us, which cannot happen until we realize that we are not the owners of our souls.
- The Christian virtues do not exist so that we can satisfy a set of conditions for God. He wants people of a certain character, who choose the virtues, rather than people with credentials.
- Psychoanalysis has nothing to do with morality. Morality is about our choices. Psychoanalysis may free us to make a choice, but it does not choose for us.
- Christian marriage is a union; divorce both divides this body, but also breaks our promise. Since Britain is not a Christian nation, perhaps there should be a no-promise live-together kind of “marriage” and a Christian marriage, with a clear difference between them.
- Loving your enemy is not feeling fond of him, or thinking he is good when he is not. It is wishing for his good.
- Pride is so bad because it tries to bring you up at someone
else’s expense. But ultimately God is always better than
you. There is a test for pride: if something religious [or
otherwise] makes you think how much better you are than someone else,
then it is pride.
- If we had food striptease, we’d figure something was wrong with our food instincts. Likewise, we have something wrong with our sexual instincts, and need to control them. This isn’t repression, because repression is unconscious suppression, not consciously refusing to act on our desires.
- Because decisions compound on each other, each decision is important. A decision to trust God now may put your heart in a condition to make a much bigger decision later on. Likewise refusing to trust God now may cause a greater failure later. Our character is the sum of our decisions.
- Earthly things never fully satisfy the way we think they ought to: the new toy, our relationships, the joy of marriage. This suggests that perhaps we weren’t meant to be fully satisfied in this life, that our dissatisfaction should drive us to God.
- Our emotions are rather variable (even atheists), so we need to remind ourselves what we believe.
- Faith is intertwined with Works: without faith, works are empty, but without works, faith is just assenting to ideas.
However, some people look at the Church and see a lot of hypocrites and people whose behavior is worse than some non-Christians. The first problem with this is that we cannot compare people’s personality; our personality is affected by a large number of things outside our control, including upbringing and even health or whether we slept well. If God gave us good upbringing and health so that our personality is naturally inclined to be nice, He expects much more of us than someone who is perhaps not very healthy and not naturally inclined to be nice. Given what they have to work with, perhaps they are being far better than the person who does not have to work to be nice. A second consideration is that you would expect to find unhealthy people in a church; you do not need a doctor if you are not sick.
Lewis ends by saying that if we want to find ourself, we must give it to God. We do not realize how much of our ideas are simply what we have acquired from our culture or other sources and not really our own. When we give them to God, He will bring out our real nature. “Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.”
Mere Christianity is a good introduction to the ideas and principles of Christianity. It is not intended to be a bullet-proof argument, although since Lewis is highly intellectual, there is a good deal of logical argument. His explanations are clear and well illustrated; Lewis explains Christianity in a way that is understandable to everyone, yet deep enough that long-time Christians will see things in a new way. Because Lewis tends to write intellectually, readers with an intellectual bent will find this to be a superb book, but readers who value other things may find the book a little difficult and dry. In either case, it is well worth reading, and will enhance all readers’ understanding of God and what He is doing in our lives.
Definitely a book that will last 100 years. Strikes a good balance between making things simple enough for readers new to Christianity and those who are well-versed; indeed, perhaps the simplicity is part of the value.
- Chapter 1: The Law of Human Nature
- When people argue, both sides assume some sort of standard behavior. The one in the “wrong” might feel as if he did not violate the standard, but he does not say that there is not standard.
- All cultures have this standard. “Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.” (6)
- We reveal that we have this standard because, even if we break our promises, when someone breaks their promise to us, we think it is unfair. Unfair compared to what? Some universal standard, otherwise it can’t be unfair.
- So we know that there is a moral law, and we know that we don’t live up to it.
- Chapter 2: Some Objections
- Isn’t the Moral Law just our instincts?
- Generally we find that our instincts compete. We have a instinct to help the man who is drowning, but a competing instinct for self-preservation that causes to not want to help. Self-preservation is probably the stronger instinct, but the Moral Law says that we should help the guy drowning.
- Something that chooses between instincts cannot itself be an instinct
- And if we set up one particular instinct to follow (like love of humanity), it will make us a monster (breaking agreements, etc. for the sake of humanity)
- Isn’t the Moral Law just a social convention, promulgated by education?
- Just because we learn something by society (e.g. the multiplication table), it doesn’t mean that it is not independent of society.
- We call the Reformers and Moral Teachers qualitatively “better” and we think that Christian morals are “better” than Nazi morals. But if they were just societal creations, then there is no basis for comparison. So we must be comparing against this Moral Law.
- There are lots of really big differences in Moral Law—e.g. Salem Witch Trials
- Differences in what societies think are facts does not affect the Moral Law. “But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe that there are such things. If we did—if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their neighbours or drive them mad or bring bad weather—surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did? ... You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed that there were no mice in the house.” (14-15)
- Chapter 3: The Reality of the Law
- Why is Man imperfect (i.e. why does he not (completely) follow the morals he knows he has)?
- Explanations for morality
- Being morally bad simply means not convenient for you
- This doesn’t explain the case that we get upset at someone for unsuccessfully attempting to trip us, but not at someone who unintentionally actually does trip us. Or why everybody looks down on a traitor, even if he happens to be working for you.
- Morally good means beneficial for society as a whole (which works better when people behave well)
- Useless statement—doesn’t actually explain anything. Why be good? Because it benefits society. But why be good if it doesn’t benefit me personally? Because benefits society (i.e. you ought to do it)
- It is just right. (To be explained later)
- Chapter 4: What Lies Behind the Law
- People have held three types of views on the existence of the Universe over the years
- Materialist view: everything just happens to exist, because of chance.
- Religions view: there is a mind who created the Universe and who directs it
- Life-force view: there is some force with a purpose in creating the Universe, but not so distinct as to be a mind
- But this is contradictory; how can something have a will and purpose and not be like a mind?
- Mostly just feel-good religiousness: can believe in a creative force when all is well but that force won’t bother us if we want to do something wrong.
- “Please do not think that one of these [the first two] views was held a long time ago and that the other has gradually taken its place. Wherever there have been thinking men both views turn up.”
- Science cannot answer which is correct, because it can only observe facts, but “why?” is not a question that can be answered with a fact
- We can do more than just observe with Men, however, because we are one, so we have inside knowledge.
- We know that we have this law that we feel we should obey
- We could not discover this law if we were observing from the outside (it’s a law we should obey, not do obey)
- How would a mind that is distinct from its created Universe reveal itself? By trying to get inside the creation to direct it (command it) in a certain fashion.
- Which is exactly what we see.
- Chapter 5: We Have Cause to Be Uneasy
- Three thoughts on the objection that we have gotten over religion and should not be trying to go back
- If you are going the wrong direction, going back is more “progressive” that continuing the wrong way is.
- We have not gotten to God or anything like him. All we know is:
- There is a Power which created a beautiful Universe but who appears to be no friend to man
- We have a moral law given by this Power that expects perfect obedience, yet we do not (and cannot) fully comply.
- No point in talking about Christianity until we realize that we have a problem.
- Chapter 6: The Rival Conceptions of God
- Lewis remarks on the irony that one of the things atheists hate about Christians is that they claim to be right, but Christians can be more liberal than the atheists—the atheists have to claim that all religions are wrong, but Christians are free to say that other religions are partly right, just not where the contract Christianity.
- Two types of people: people who believe there is no god and the majority, who believe in some sort of god.
- Of the people who believe in a God, there are two types:
- Pantheism: God is above right and wrong (cancer is
bad for people, but people killing the cancer is bad for the
cancer; which then is really right?) This is held by Hegel
- Judaism/Islam/Christianity: God is definitely good and wants us to behave that way, too.
- Pantheists usually consider everything to be a part of God. Thus the good is part of God, but the bad is part of God, and if we could only see it from the right perspective, we would understand.
- But if you really believe that somethings are good and some things are not good, and that God is good, then God cannot be part of the bad things. God must therefore be separate from the world.
- Lewis briefly relates how he became a Christian. He argued that God could not exist because the universe was not just; how could God be just? But if God did not exist, then neither did any sense of justice, because it is only meaningful when compared against something. “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: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (39)
- Chapter 7: The Invasion
- In arguing against those who say that Christianity is too simple, he says that reality is not simple. In fact, the fact that Christianity is not something anyone would have thought of is good evidence that it represents reality.
- A view which holds that God is good and that everything is all right is too simple: “the universe contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless.” (42)
- Only two options here:
- Dualism: a good power and a bad power, both of equal strength, both eternal, both independent.
- But how can you call one good and one bad? To do so introduces a third thing, by which the powers are measured. Thus the standard or the power that created the standard is the real power.
- Another way to make the argument is by observing that there is no one who likes being bad simply for the sake of being bad—they are either that way because they are sadists and derive pleasure from it, or to get something out of it (e.g. power, security). But what they get out of it is, of itself, good. So these people have merely taken what is good (pleasure, power, security) and corrupted it. Thus the bad power empirically must be a corruption of the good power.
- Christianity: the mightier the good being, the badder it can be if it is corrupted. Christianity has a good power (God) and a bad power who was originally given his goodness from God, but became bad.
- Chapter 8: The Shocking Alternative
- If God is omnipotent, how can anything (for example, the Devil) be against His will?
- Giving free will (i.e. making goodness voluntary) creates the possibility of something bad.
- Why did God create free beings then? “If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will—that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings—then we may take it it is worth paying.” (48)
- How can God create something that goes wrong? Giving free will opens the opportunity for the creature to try to put itself first, to try to be an independent God.
- This is what Satan taught Man.
- But just as cars require gasoline to run, we require God to
run, because He made us that way. “God cannot give us a happiness
and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is
no such thing.” (50)
- God left us a sense of right and wrong, a consistent story of a god sacrificing himself for humanity, and a people who He taught that there was only one God.
- Among these people, there arose someone who claimed to forgive all sins.
- This is ludicrous—no one can forgive other peoples’ sins unless he is God.
- But very few people who read the Gospels get the impression that Jesus is a lunatic.
- Another option is that he is a demon.
- But if he is not a lunatic, and not a demon, then the only other option is that he is God.
- “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (52)
- Chapter 9: The Perfect Penitent
- We have rebelled against God, and the only way to fix that is to repent and stop rebelling.
- But “repent” really means to unlearn all our self-centeredness.
- The problem is that only someone who is good can repent, and only someone who is bad needs to repent.
- God cannot teach us to repent because He has never needed to. But by becoming human, He can experience our temptations (only without yielding to them), and can now teach us.
- This is only an illustrative picture, so if it doesn’t help
you, then forget it.
- Chapter 10: The Practical Conclusions
- The Christian life is spread through baptism, belief, and the Sacraments
- But not by them alone—we were given our natural life, but can lose it through forgetting to take care of ourselves or by killing ourselves. Likewise, we need to nurture our spiritual life, but did not create our spiritual life (God did).
- “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body... If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.” (65)
- God is landing in disguise to give us time to choose Him. When He invades, it will be too late.
- Chapter 11: The Three Parts of Morality
- There are three parts to morality:
- Harmony between individuals
- Correcting things inside the individual
- The purpose of Man
- Most people recognize the first, and where most people think the duty ends. The problems that happen when this is violated are obvious. But if we have not corrected the things within ourselves, how do we expect to have harmonious relationships with other people?
- But we also need to be concerned with the third: Our actions are going to be different if we think we own the ship of our souls, and quite different if someone else owns it.
- Chapter 12: The ‘Cardinal Virtues’
- Four virtues:
- Prudence: Think things through. Christians are called to use all of ourselves, including our minds.
- “as St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’ but also ‘as wise as serpents.’”
- Temperance: Going to right length with respect to pleasures and no further
- Justice: fairness
- Fortitude: courage to face danger and to continue under pain.
- It doesn’t matter what we did as much as why we did it.
- God doesn’t want just obedience, He wants the kind of people with a particular kind of character
- Virtues are not just for this life: “The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a ‘Heaven’ for them—that is, could make them happy with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us.” (78)
- Chapter 13: Social Morality
- Christianity does not have a social plan. It cannot, because it is meant for all people in all times. What is good in one era may not work well in another.
- Christians should not expect the Church organization to give them guidance on what a Christian society would look like; clergy are trained in understanding our spiritual nature, not the practical, physical nature. That is the job for the Christian economist, statesman, etc. (i.e. the laity).
- In the sense of the Church being the body of believers, it can be expected to give us guidance to what a Christian society should look like
- Some thoughts on what a Christian society would look like:
- Each person produces something good (no passengers or parasites)
- No silly luxuries
- Obedience and respect to those above us (including wives to husbands)
- Ancient Greeks, OT Jews, and Medieval Christians all agreed that usury (interest) was bad. But interest is exactly what our modern society is founded on!
- If our charitable expenditures are not sizable enough that we have to not do some things because of them, then they aren’t big enough. (And that is before any special distress situation of people close to you)
- Chapter 14: Morality and Psychoanalysis
- Our decisions are caused by two things: the feelings, impulses, etc. that influence our decision and our decision itself.
- Some peoples’ feelings and impulses are not normal and make it very difficult for them to make the correct decision. Correcting, or normalizing these feelings is the purpose of psychoanalysis.
- But this is no substitute for morality, which is the choice itself. Psychoanalysis may free us to make an unencumbered choice, but we still need to make the choice.
- Each choice is slowly transforming us into immortal splendors are eternal horrors.
- When we are getting better, we more clearly perceive the evil that remains; when we are getting worse, we perceive it less and less. “You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.” (88)
- Chapter 15: Sexual Morality
- Chastity should not be confused with modesty; what is modest in one culture may not be in another, but chastity is the same.
- Our sexual instincts have gone wrong; if people looked at food they way we look at sex, we would think that there is something wrong. Overeaters might perhaps eat enough food for two people, but our sexual appetites are completely out of control.
- Some people say that sex is such a problem because it was hushed up, but it is more likely that it was hushed up because it was such a problem. And now we have been proclaiming it loudly for some decades, and it doesn’t look like things have gotten better.
- We cannot possibly indulge ourselves whenever we want (even in desires other than sex), because that leads to disease, jealousy, lies, concealment, and certainly nothing we would want. So, we need to keep our sexual desires in check to some extent, anyway, plus God told us that we need to.
- “We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity ... may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.” (101)
- People warn about repressing sex, but repressions are desires or thoughts that are buried so deep that they “can come before the mind only in a disguised and unrecognisable form.” This is not the same thing resisting a conscious desire; there is no danger of repression there. (102)
- Chapter 16: Christian Marriage
- Marriage is intended to be a union; people were created
to be male and female and joined together. Therefore, divorce is
like dismembering a body.
- Plus, you shouldn’t divorce because you promised the other person that you would love them.
- Chesterton notes that it is natural for lovers to make promises to each other; thus Christianity is not trying to ram something down their throats that is foreign to them. [Rather, it is those who look at love as only a feeling that is unnatural]
- Being “in love” is great, but if you were “in love” all your life, you’d never have time for anything else. Rather, there is a quieter kind of love, that can go on loving even when you are upset with someone, that is better.
- Christians should admit that Britain is not Christian, and make two distinct types of marriages: one run by the state which governs all people and one by the Church, which governs Christians. But the distinction should be “quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.” (He would be unhappy if Muslims forced him to stop drinking wine)
- “If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep. It is true that by living together without marriage they will be guilty (in Christian eyes) of fornication. But one fault is not mended by adding another: unchastity is not improved by adding perjury.” (106-7)
- About men being the head of the wife:
- Someone needs to be; “You cannot have a permanent association without a constitution” (113)
- Why the man? Empirically, even if the woman wants to be, no doubt she would look down on the situation if it were her neighbors. But there is another reason: to make sure that outsiders to the family are treated properly. “Naturally, almost, in a sense, rightly, [her children’s and husband’s] claims override, for her, all other claims. She is the special trustee of their interests. The function of the husband is to see that this natural preference of hers is not given its head.” (114)
- Chapter 17: Forgiveness
- “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we love ourselves?
- It’s not feeling good about ourselves, because often we don’t
- It isn’t thinking that we are good or nice, either, because we realize that often we aren’t
- Nor does it mean not punishing, because the Christian thing to do if one has committed a crime is to give oneself up to take the punishment.
- Thus, forgiving your enemies does not mean thinking they are good (when they aren’t), or feeling good about them, or not punishing them. It is hating the sin because they could be better (just like we hate the sin in ourselves)
- The desire to make our enemies just a little evil-er will
ultimately lead to making grey black and then white black. “Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and
ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we
shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” (118)
- “This is what is meant in the Bible by loving [your
enemy]: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he
is nice when he is not.” (120)
- “Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves. For really there is nothing else in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco...” (120)
- Chapter 18: The Great Sin
- The greatest sin is Pride.
- Pride is always competitive; other sins are not competitive except if someone gets in the way of fulfilling the desire, but since Pride consists of comparing oneself with others, it must be competitive.
- Ultimately, no matter how spectacular we are, God is more spectacular. Therefore, Pride makes Him an enemy.
- “Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.” (124-5)
- Taking pleasure in being praised (i.e. “I have pleased him”) is not Pride.
- But if we don’t care what people think of us because their opinion is not worth anything, that is Pride.
- If you meet a truly humble person, you won’t think that he is humble, you will think that he is a pleasant someone who takes a genuine interest in people.
- Chapter 17: Charity
- Charity used to mean the action of loving someone (now it just means giving to the poor)
- This is not an emotion, it is an act of the will.
- We should ask ourself how we would act towards people if we loved them (regardless of whether we feel like we love them), and then act that way. (This also is applicable to loving God)
- If we act out loving people, we will learn to love them more; if we act out hating people, we will find ourselves hating them more.
- “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” (132)
- Chapter 18: Hope
- “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of of the other world [i.e. Heaven] that they have become ineffective in this.” (134)
- We have all had the experience that there is the promise of something soul-satisfying in marriage, in a job we like, in an activity, but somehow, it never quite lives up to the promise. C.S. Lewis proposes that earthly things were never meant to satisfy; they were meant to lead us to the real thing.
- The Fool’s Way: Nothing satisfies, so he blames the thing. “He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after.” (135-6)
- The Disillusioned “Sensible Man”: The promise is bogus; satisfaction doesn’t exist, so he tries not to expect too much and enjoy what there is to be enjoyed. This is the correct approach if satisfaction is truly unavailable, but it would be a pity to discover that you are wrong and Heaven does exist shortly after your death!
- The Christian Way: If there are desires that cannot be satisfied, then it is logical to assume that we were created for something better. So we enjoy what there is to be enjoyed here, but realize that it is only to whet our appetite for the real thing later.
- Chapter 19: Faith (I)
- People think that we don’t need faith because they assume that our reason is always in control. But the fact is that our emotions sway constantly (this isn’t a Christian problem, it happens even if we’re atheists)
- So we need to remind ourselves constantly of what we believe.
- We also need to come to a realization that it is impossible to please God by ourselves. We come to this realization by trying to be good; ultimately, we will fail.
- Chapter 20: Faith (II)
- When we discover that we cannot please God by ourselves, then we trust that God will somehow count Christ’s death for us.
- At this point, we don’t obey for the sake of obeying, but obey because of our faith.
- God really wants a certain kind of person, not a certain kind of action.
- Faith and Works are intertwined; both are necessary, but they cannot be separated.
- Without Faith, our Works are something else (Lewis describes giving to the Church just out of charity as “commercial speculation,” i.e. giving to the church in case it helps)
- Without Works, our faith is just acceptance of a theory.
- Chapter 21: Making and Begetting
- Theology is like a map of the ocean. It is not the experience of the ocean, which is much better, but the experience will not get you anywhere without the map.
- “You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work: like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland [from Britain] by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.” (155)
- Theology is practical. “... if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. for a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. The believe in the popular religion of modern [1950s] England is retrogression—like believing the earth is flat.” (155)
- The current view of religion is that Christ is a great moral teacher. But what’s the point? We didn’t listen to any of the other moral teachers, so why would we listen to Christ?
- Christians are Sons of God.
- This is not referring to the Virgin Birth
- Nor is it referring to God’s father-like nurturing of his creatures.
- Beings beget beings like themselves: God begets God, Beavers beget Beavers, Man begets Man. Beings make things unlike themselves: God make Man, Beavers make dams, Man makes radios.
- All of God’s Creation reflects some aspect of Him: the size of space reflects his greatness, plants reflect his living, and Man is the most complete reflection that we know.
- We are as like God as a statue of a man is like a Man. “This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.” (159)
- Chapter 22: The Three-Personal God
- “The whole purpose for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of God.” (161) This does not mean that we are absorbed like a drop of water into the ocean, which effectively ceases to exist.
- A cube is made of six squares. In the same way, God is made of three personalities, but is still one being.
- “An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. ... God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. ... he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.” (163)
- “When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself to some people than to others—not because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one.” (164)
- “You can put this another way by saying that while in other sciences the instruments you use are things external to yourselves (things like microscopes and telescopes), the instrument through which you see God is your whole self. And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred—like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope.” (164-5)
- Real men do not exist by themselves, but in relationships loving and serving one another. Consequently, the best tool for learning about God is the Christian Community.
- Chapter 23: Time and Beyond Time
- The apparent contradictions of God being able to listen to everyone at once, or how He attended to the Universe while He was being a man, or how we can have free will if God chose us can be resolved if God is higher dimensional. He has all of eternity to listen to our prayer, and he sees our entire life at once.
- Chapter 24: Good Infection
- The Son is the self-expression of the Father, in a similar fashion as the picture in our imagination is the expression of our will; one cannot come before the other; they occur only in conjunction
- The Holy Spirit is the corporate spirit of the love between the Father and the Son, much as a corporation or club has a certain “spirit”.
- God cannot be Love if He is by Himself.
- When people say God is Love, often they mean Love is God
- We are somehow going to become part of this whole thing
- “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?” (176)
- Chapter 25: The Obstinate Toy Soldiers
- “Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh: all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.” (179)
- So God became one of us, “killing” his nature by being poor, misunderstood, betrayed, and then killed.
- This affects all of us, because we are not entirely separated; we are connected to our parents all the way back to Adam and Eve. Thus, when Christ became a man and died for us, he affected all of us (kind of like adding food coloring to water).
- “Remember what I said about ‘good infection'. One of our own race has this new life: if we get close to Him we shall catch it from Him.” (181)
- Chapter 26: Two Notes
- Why didn’t God just beget sons instead of making toy soldiers and turning them into sons?
- If God is infinite, how can there be something else besides Him? Maybe He had to create nature first.
- Just because the human race is one organism does not mean that our individual differences don’t matter—all our organs have very different features, each of which is important.
- Chapter 27: Let’s Pretend
- When we say “Our Father” we are saying we are a son of God, which of course, we really aren’t yet. We are “dressing up as Christ” or pretending to be grownup.
- “Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash up. Well, go and do it.” (189)
- Others often help us along to God (sometimes even non-Christians), but that is no evidence that God didn’t do it—there wouldn’t be any toast if there weren’t bread to begin with.
- We should begin to be alarmed at who we are.
- “...surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.” (192)
- God is the one who is doing everything: we might be pretending, but God is “pretending” even more, since we clearly are not a son in His eyes at the moment.
- This is how the higher raises the lower: “A mother teaches her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does.” (194)
- Chapter 28: Is Christianity Hard or Easy?
- We kind of hope that we can be “good” or “moral” and still have our natural self have some opportunities to do what it wants. Nope. God intends to kill it and give a new self.
- This is what is hard about Christianity: always giving your desires to God.
- Chapter 29: Counting the Cost
- We tend to come to God with help with specific sins, etc. When He painfully fixes them, we are not too surprised. But then He starts fixing other stuff!
- God is going to make us perfect (well, as perfect as possible in this life, truly perfect in the next). He will give nothing else. This is the cost: if you become a Christian, you have to have all of you changed.
- Chapter 30: Nice People or New Men?
- Why aren’t Christians nicer than non-Christians?
- You can’t really do this comparison because some people who call themselves Christians are ceasing to be Christians, and some that do not are strongly attract to Christ and are, perhaps, more Christian
- You can’t even compare two individuals, because what matters is how they would be if they were a Christian and if they were not.
- One person’s goodness may just be the result of good health and upbringing; likewise, another person’s badness may caused by similar things.
- “Do not misunderstand me. Of course God regards a nasty nature as a bad and deplorable thing. And, of course, He regards a nice nature as a good thing—good like bread or sunshine, or water. But these are the good things which He gives and we receive. He created Dick’s sound nerves and good digestion, and there is plenty more where they came from. It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost His crucifixion. And because they are wills they can—in nice people just as much as nasty ones—refuse His request. And then, because that niceness in Dick was merely part of nature, it will all go to pieces in the end. Nature herself will all pass away. Natural causes come together in Dick to make a pleasant psychological pattern, just as they come together in a sunset to make a pleasant pattern of colours. Presently (for that is how nature works) they will fall apart again and the pattern in both cases will disappear. Dick has had the chance to turn (or rather, to allow God to turn) that momentary pattern into the beauty of an eternal spirit: and he has not taken it.” (212 - 213)
- One might even expect Christianity to attract more “bad” people that “good” people
- “If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. ‘Why drag God into it?’ you may ask. ... You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognise their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered.” (214)
- “There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us. If you are a nice person—if virtue comes easily to you—beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. [But if virtue comes with difficultly, sooner or later, either in this or the next, God will fix the messed up machine you are trying to drive, and then you will really shine.]” (215)
- Chapter 31: The New Men
- If “Evolution” is continuing, how what will the next step be? Probably unexpected. Instead of heavier and heavier animals, came light mammals which turned out to be superior
- In this case what is happening is that God is changing us into “gods,” little Christs, creatures who are changing from creatures of God to sons of God.
- Unlike previous evolutions, this one is optional. We can refuse to be changed, and remain simply a part of nature.
- Unlike previous evolutions, the cost is a lot higher.
- Unlike previous evolutions it is happening a lot faster (2000 years).
- But like previous evolutions, you probably can’t see the change unless you know what you are looking for.
- “It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The
more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become
dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and
desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely
the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by
other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils. Eggs and
alcohol and a good night’s sleep will be the real origins of what I
flatter myself by regarding as my own highly personal and
discriminating decision to make love to the girl opposite to me in the
railway carriage. Propaganda will be the real origin of what I
regard as my own personal political ideas. I am not, in my
natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when
I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I
first begin to have a real personality of my own.
At the beginning I said there were Personalities in god. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotnously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.
But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. ... Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” (224-226)