Saturday, May 29, 2010

Experience proves nothing

Experience by itself proves nothing.polarbearsleeping If a man doubts whether he is dreaming or waking, no experiment can solve his doubt, since every experiment itself may be part of the dream. Experience proves this , or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 25-26.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not even the end of the world can change the materialist mind

Zion_great_white_throne For let us make no mistake. If the end of the world appeared in all the literal trappings of the Apocalypse,* if the modern materialist saw with his own eyes the heavens rolled up* and the great white throne appearing,* if he had the sensation of being himself hurled into the Lake of Fire,* he would continue forever, in that lake itself, to regard his experience as an illusion and to find the explanation of it in, psycho-analysis, or cerebral pathology. Experience by itself proves nothing.

(*references: Revelation 6:14; 20:11, 19:20; 20:10; 20:14-15; 21:8)
C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 25-26.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seeing is not believing

I have known only one person in my life who claimed to have seen a ghost.Ghost_1990 It was a woman; and the interesting thing is that she disbelieved in the immortality of the soul before seeing the ghost and still disbelieves after having seen it. She thinks it was a hallucination. In other words, seeing is not believing. This is the first thing to get clear in talking about miracles. Whatever experiences we may have, we shall not regard them as miraculous if we already hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural. Any event which is claimed as a miracle is, in the last resort, an experience received from the senses; and the senses are not infallible. We can always say we have been the victims of an illusion; if we disbelieve in the supernatural this is what we always shall say. Hence, whether miracles have really ceased or not, they would certainly appear to cease in Western Europe as materialism became the popular creed.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 25.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bullets and prayer: not magic

'Poor woman,' said my friend. 'One hardly knows what to say when they talk like that. She thinks her son survived Arnhem because she prayed for him. It would be heartless to explain to her that he really survived because he was standing a little to the left or a little to the right of some bullet. That bullet was following a course laid down by the laws of Nature. It couldn’t have hit him. He just happened to be standing off its line... and so all day long as regards every bullet and every splinter of shell. His survival was simply due to the laws of Nature.’

At that moment my first pupil came in and the conversation was cut short, but later in the day I had to walk across the Park to a committee meeting and this gave me time to think the matter over.Costner JFK It was quite clear that once a bullet had been fired from Point A in direction B, the wind being C, and so forth, it would pursue a certain path. But might our young friend have been standing somewhere else? And might the German have fired at a different moment or in a different direction? If men have free will it would appear that they might. On that view we get a rather more complicated picture of the battle of Arnhem. The total course of events would be a kind of amalgam derived from two sources — on the one hand, from acts of human will (which might presumably have been otherwise), and, on the other, from the laws of physical nature. And this would seem to provide all that is necessary for the mother’s belief that her prayers had some place among the causes of her son’s preservation. God might continually influence the wills of all the combatants so as to allot death, wounds, and survival in the way He thought best, while leaving the behaviour of the projectile to follow its normal course.

C.S. Lewis, "The Laws of Nature," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 76-77.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When marriage is most like crucifixion, we may see headship

The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the Church—read on—and give his life for her (Eph. 5:25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is—in her own mere nature—least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence. As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs. He is a King Cophetua who after twenty years still hopes that the beggar-girl will one day learn to speak the truth and wash behind her ears.

To say this is not to say that there is any virtue or wisdom in making a marriage that involves such misery. There is no wisdom or virtue in seeking unnecessary martyrdom or deliberately courting persecution; yet it is, none the less, the persecuted or martyred Christian in whom the pattern of the Master is most unambiguously realised. So, in these terrible marriages, once they have come about, the “headship” of the husband, if only he can sustain it, is most Christ-like.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960; Harcourt Brace: 1991) 105-106.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Practice the "absence" of God?

If we cannot “practise the presence of God,” it is something to practise the absence of God, to become increasingly aware of our unawarenessghost-invisible-mirror till we feel like men who should stand beside a great cataract and hear no noise, or like a man in a story who looks in a mirror and finds no face there, or a man in a dream who stretches out his hand to visible objects and gets no sensation of touch. To know that one is dreaming is to be no longer perfectly asleep. But for news of the fully waking world you must go to my betters.
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960; Harcourt Brace: 1991) 140-141.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 19)

[This question concludes this run through some of the questions posed to C.S. Lewis on April 18, 1944 by workers at the Electric and Musical Industries Ltd., in Hayes, Middlesex. EMI as it is known emi4today is probably best known for its recording studios at Abbey Road, London which was where the Beatles recorded their music. Lewis was very concerned about the workers who had such repetitive, boring jobs.] 

If it is true that one has only to want God enough in order to find Him, how can I make myself want Him enough to enable myself to find Him?

If you don’t want God, why are you so anxious to want to want Him? I think that in reality the want is a real one, and I should say that this person has in fact found God, although it may not he fully recognized yet. We are not always aware of things at the time they happen. At any rate, what is more important is that God has found this person, and that is the main thing.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 62.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 18)

Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?
That’s a question which I cannot answer. My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; and then later I found that it was the only way of flying your flag; and, of course, I found that this meant being a target. It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early to go to Church. It doesn’t matter so much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to Church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house. If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament,* and you can’t do it without going to Church. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit. It is not for me to lay down laws, as I am only a layman, and I don’t know much.

*John 6. 53-54: ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 61-62.

Monday, May 17, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 17)

Many people are quite unable to understand the theological differences which have caused divisions in the Christian Church. Do you consider that these differences are fundamental, and is the time now ripe for re-union? 

Lewis: university-church-steeple
The time is always ripe for re-union. Divisions between Christians are a sin and a scandal, and Christians ought at all times to be making contributions towards re-union, if it is only by their prayers. I am only a layman and a recent Christian, and I do not know much about these things, but in all the things which I have written and thought I have always stuck to traditional, dogmatic positions. The result is that letters of agreement reach me from what are ordinarily regarded as the most different kinds of Christians; for instance, I get letters from Jesuits, monks, nuns, and also from Quakers and Welsh Dissenters, and so on. So it seems to me that the ‘extremist’ elements in every Church are nearest one another and the liberal and ‘broad-minded’ people in each Body could never be united at all. The world of dogmatic Christianity is a place in which thousands of people of quite different types keep on saying the same thing, and the world of ‘broad-mindedness’ and watered-down ‘religion’ is a world where a small number of people (all of the same type) say totally different things and change their minds every few minutes. We shall never get re-union from them.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 60.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 16)

What is your opinion about raffles within the plant — no matter how good the cause — which, not infrequently, is given less prominence than the alluring list of prizes?

Gambling ought never to be an important part of a man’s life.  If it is a way in which large sums of money are transferred from personbridge to person without doing any good (e.g., producing employment, goodwill, etc.) then it is a bad thing. If it is carried out on a small scale, I am not sure that it is bad. I don’t know much about it, because it is about the only vice to which I have no temptation at all, and I think it is a risk to talk about things which are not in my own make-up, because I don’t understand them. If anyone comes to me asking to play bridge for money, I just say: ‘How much do you hope to win? Take it and go away.’

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 59-60.

Friday, May 14, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 15)

Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness?

Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best. port
     I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy.  I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can’t give my advice on it.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 58-59.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 14)

The Bible was written thousands of years ago for people in a lower state of mental development than today. Many portions seem preposterous in the light of modern knowledge. In view of this, should not the Bible be re-written with the object of discarding the fabulous and re-interpreting the remainder?

First of all as to the people in a lower state of mental development. I am not so sure what lurks behind that. If it means that people ten thousand years ago didn’t know a good many things that we know now, of course, I agree. But if it means that there has been any advance in intelligence in that time, I believe there is no evidence for any such thing.bible_old_hands2 The Bible can be divided into two parts — the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament contains fabulous elements. The New Testament consists mostly of teaching, not of narrative at all: but where it is narrative, it is, in my opinion, historical. As to the fabulous element in the Old Testament, I very much doubt if you would be wise to chuck it out. What you get is something coming gradually into focus. First you get, scattered through the heathen religions all over the world — but still quite vague and mythical — the idea of a god who is killed and broken and then comes to life again. No one knows where he is supposed to have lived and died; he’s not historical. Then you get the Old Testament. Religious ideas get a bit more focused. Everything is now connected with a particular nation. And it comes still more into focus as it goes on. Jonah and the Whale, Noah and his Ark, are fabulous; but the Court history of King David is probably as reliable as the Court history of Louis XIV. Then, in the New Testament the thing really happens. The dying god really appears — as a historical Person, living in a definite place and time. If we could sort out all the fabulous elements in the earlier stages and separate them from the historical ones, I think we might lose an essential part of the whole process. That is my own idea.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 57-58.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 13)

Does Christianity retard scientific advancement? Or does it approve of those who help spiritually others who are on the road to perdition, by scientifically removing the environmental causes of the trouble?dorothyday1

Yes. In the abstract it is certainly so.  At a particular moment, if most human beings are concentrating only on material improvements in the environment, it may be the duty of Christians to point out (and pretty loudly) that this isn’t the only thing that matters. But as a general rule it is in favour of all knowledge and all that will help the human race in any way.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 57.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 12)

I am wondering how far we can ascribe to the work of the Devil those very legitimate desires that we indulge in. Some people have a very sensitive conception of the presence of the Devil. Others haven’t. Is the Devil as real as we think he is? That doesn’t trouble some people, since they have no desire to be good, but others are continually harassed by the Old Man himself.

No reference to the Devil or devils is included in any Christian Creeds, and it is quite possible to be a Christian without believing in them. I do believe such beings exist, but that is my own affair.  Supposing there to be such beings, the degree to which humans were conscious of their presence would presumably vary very much. I mean, the more a man was in the Devil’s power, the less he would be aware of it, on the principle that a man is still fairly sober as long as he knows lie’s drunk.800px-Hitler-car It is the people who are fully awake and trying hard to be good who would be most aware of the Devil. It is when you start arming against Hitler that you first realize your country is full of Nazi agents. Of course, they don’t want you to believe in the Devil. If devils exist, their first aim is to give you an anaesthetic — to put you off your guard. Only if that fails, do you become aware of them.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 56-57.

Monday, May 10, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 11)

Would the application of Christian standards bring to an end or greatly reduce scientific and material progress? In other words, is it wrong for a Christian to be ambitious and strive for personal success?

It is easiest to think of a simplified example. How would he application of Christianity affect anyone on a desert island? Would he be less likely to build a comfortable hut?  The answer is ‘No.’ 119-Gilligan-Meets-Jungle-Boy0047There might come a particular moment, of course, when Christianity would tell him to bother less about the hut, i.e., if he were in danger of coming to think that the hut was the most important thing in the universe. But there is no evidence that Christianity would prevent him from building it.
     Ambition! We must be careful what we mean by it. If it means the desire to get ahead of other people — which is what I think it does mean — then it is bad. If it means simply wanting to do a thing well, then it is good. It isn’t wrong for an actor to want to act his part as well as it can possibly be acted, but the wish to have his name in bigger type than the other actors is a bad one.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 55-56.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 10)

[Just as a reminder, these questions were posed to C.S. Lewis on April 18, 1944 by workers at the Electric and Musical Industries Ltd., in Hayes, Middlesex. This company, known today as EMI, is probably best known for its recording studios at Abbey Road, London which was where the Beatles emi3recorded their music. It's quite interesting to see how Lewis handles their questions, most of the time keeping his answers quite short.]

We don’t qualify for heaven by practice, but salvation is obtained at the Cross. We do nothing to obtain it, but follow Christ. We may have pain or tribulation, but nothing we do qualifies us for heaven, but Christ.

The controversy about faith and works is one that has gone on for a very long time, and it is a highly technical matter. I personally rely on the paradoxical text: ‘Work out your own salvation. . . for it is God that worketh in you’ (Philippians 2:12). It looks as if in one sense we do nothing, and in another case we do a damned lot. ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,’ but you must have it in you before you can work it out. But I have no wish to go further into it, as it would interest no one but the Christians present, would it?

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 55.

Friday, May 7, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 9)

Could you say any more on how one discovers whether a task is laid on one by God, or whether it comes in some other way? CS Lewis writingIf we cannot distinguish between the pleasant and the unpleasant things, it is a complicated matter. 

We are guided by the ordinary rules of moral behaviour, which I think are more or less common to the human race and quite reasonable and demanded by the circumstances. I don’t mean anything like sitting down and waiting for a supernatural vision.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 54-55.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 8)

Are not practices like fasting and self-denial borrowed from earlier or more primitive religions?

I can’t say for certain which bits came into Christianity from earlier religions. An enormous amount did. I should find it hard to believe Christianity if that were not so.world_religion2 I couldn’t believe that nine-hundred and ninety-nine religions were completely false and the remaining one true. In reality, Christianity is primarily the fulfilment of the Jewish religion, but also the fulfilment of what was vaguely hinted in all the religions at their best. What was vaguely seen in them all comes into focus in Christianity — just as God Himself comes into focus by becoming a Man. I take it that the speaker’s remarks on earlier religions are based on evidence about modern savages. I don’t think it is good evidence. Modern savages usually represent some decay in culture — you find them doing things which look as if they had a fairly civilized basis once, which they have forgotten. To assume that primitive man was exactly like the modern savage is unsound.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 54.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 7)

Is it true that Christians must be prepared to live a life of personal discomfort and self-sacrifice in order to qualify for ‘Pie in the Sky’?

All people, whether Christian or not, must be prepared to live a life of discomfort. It is impossible to accept Christianity for the sake of finding comfort: but the Christian tries to lay himself open to the will of God, to do what God wants him to do. You don’t know in advance whether God is going to set you to do something difficult or painful, or something that you will quite like; and some people of heroic mould are disappointed when the job doled out to them turns out to be something quite nice. But you must be prepared for the unpleasant things and the discomforts. I don’t mean fasting, and things like that. They are a different matter. When you are training soldiers in manoeuvres, you practise in blank ammunition because you would like them to have practise before meeting the real enemy. So we must practise in abstaining from pleasures which are not in themselves wicked. If you don’t abstain from pleasure, you won’t be good when the time comes along. It is purely a matter of practise.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 53-54.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 6)

Is it true that Christianity (especially the Protestant forms) ends to produce a gloomy, joyless condition of society which is like a pain in the neck to most people?

As to the distinction between Protestant and other forms of Christianity, it is very difficult to answer. I find by reading about the sixteenth century, that people like Sir Thomas More, for whom I have a great respect,martin-luther always regarded Martin Luther’s doctrines not as gloomy thinking, but as wishful thinking. I doubt whether we can make a distinction between Protestant and other forms in this respect. Whether Protestantism is gloomy and whether Christianity at all produces gloominess, I find it very difficult to answer, as I have never lived in a completely non-Christian society nor a completely Christian one, and I wasn’t there in the sixteenth century, and only have my knowledge from reading books. I think there is about the same amount of fun and gloom in all periods. The poems, novels, letters, etc., of every period all seem to show that. But again, I don’t really know the answer, of course. I wasn’t there.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 53.

Monday, May 3, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 5)

Materialists and some astronomers suggest that the solar planetary system and life as we know it was brought about by an accidental stellar collision. What is the Christian view of this theory?

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, troy_SpilledMilkwhy should we believe them to be true?  I see no reason for believing that one accident should he able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. Ii’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give yow a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 52-53.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 4)

Question 3.
Will you please say how you would define a practising Christian? Are there any other varieties?

Certainly there are a great many other varieties. It depends, of course, on what you mean by ‘practising Christian’. If you mean one who has practised Christianity in every respect at every moment of his life, then there is only One on record —
Christ Himself. In that sense there are no practising Christians, but only Christians who, in varying degrees, try to practise it and fail in varying degrees and then start again. A perfect practice of Christianity would, of course, consist in a perfect imitation of the life of Christ I mean, in so far as it was applicable in one’s own particular circumstances. Not in an idiotic sense it doesn’t mean that every Christian should grow a beard, or be a bachelor, or become a travelling preacher. It means that every single act and feeling, every experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, must be referred to God. It means looking at everything as something that comes from Him, and always looking to Him and asking His will first, and saying: ‘How would He wish me to deal with this?’

A kind of picture or pattern (in a very remote way) of the relation between the perfect Christian and his God, would be the relation of the good dog to its master. This is only a very imperfect picture, though, because the dog hasn’t reason like its master: whereas we do share in God’s reason, even if in an imperfect and interrupted way (‘interrupted’ because we don’t think rationally for very long at a time — it’s too tiring — and we haven’t information to understand things fully, and our intelligence itself has certain limitations). In that way we are more like God than the dog is like us, though, of course, there are other ways in which the dog is more like us than we are like God. It is only an illustration.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 50.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (Part 3)

[We continue here with C.S. Lewis answering questions posed to him by workers at the EMI factory in Middlesex, England, during World War II, in 1944.]emi4

Supposing a factory worker asked you: ‘How can I find God?’ How would you reply?

I don’t see how the problem would be different for a factory worker than for anyone else. The primary thing about any man is that he is a human being, sharing all the ordinary human temptations and assets. What is the special problem about the factory worker? But perhaps it is worth saying this:
Christianity really does two things about conditions here and now in this world: 
(1) It tries to make them as good as possible, i.e., to reform them; but also 
(2) It fortifies you against them in so far as they remain bad.
If what was in the questioner’s mind was this problem of repetition work, then the factory worker’s difficulty is the same as any other man confronted with any sorrow or difficulty. People will find God if they consciously seek from Him the right attitude towards all unpleasant things . . if that is the point of the question?

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 49-50.