Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lewis' confession about love

CS Lewis writing God knows, not I, whether I have ever tasted this love. Perhaps I have only imagined the tasting. Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there. And if I have only imagined it, is it a further delusion that even the imagining has at some moments made all other objects of desire—yes, even peace, to have no more fears—look like broken toys and faded flowers? Perhaps. Perhaps, for many of us, all experience merely defines, so to speak, the shape of that gap where our love of God ought to be. It is not enough. It is something.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960; Harcourt Brace: 1991) 140.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaching today

hoseThe task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man as reprinted in The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1988) 433.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Magnet for truth

Magnet Fix your mind on any one story or any one doctrine and it becomes at once a magnet to which truth and glory come rushing from all levels of being.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 37.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lewis: I'm no Billy Graham

BillyGraham Finally, I must add that my own work has suffered very much from the incurable intellectualism of my approach. The simple, emotional appeal (‘Come to Jesus’) is still often successful. But those who, like myself, lack the gift for making it, had better not attempt it.

C.S. Lewis, "God in the Dock," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 244.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Finding your direction (Part 2)

StudentLanding I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of disservering power’—or else not. It is still ‘either-or’.

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (HarperCollins: 2001/1946) VIII.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finding your direction (Part 1)

path6 You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision.

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (HarperCollins: 2001/1946) VIII.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why Ezekiel Bulver must be proven wrong

I see Bulverism at work in every political argument. The capitalists must be bad economists because we know why they want capitalism, and equally the Communists must he bad economists because we know why they want Communism.baird and pm Thus, the Bulverists on both sides. In reality, of course, either the doctrines of the capitalists are false, or the doctrines of the Communists, or both; but you can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning — never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology.
    Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs. Each side snatches it early as a weapon against the other; but between the two reason itself is discredited. And why should reason not be discredited? It would be easy. in answer, to point to the present state of the world, but the real answer is even more immediate. The forces discrediting reason, themselves depend on reasoning. You must reason even to Bulverize. You are trying to prove that all proofs are invalid. If you fail, you fail. If you succeed, then you fail even more — for the proof that all proofs are invalid must be invalid itself.
C.S. Lewis, "'Bulverism,'" God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 274.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The problem with Ezekiel Bulver's discovery that "you're wrong"

I find the fruits of [Ezekiel Bulver's] discovery almost everywhere. Thus I see my religion dismissed on the grounds that ‘the comfortable parson had every reason for assuring the nineteenth century worker that poverty would be rewarded in another world’. baird porter Well, no doubt he had. On the assumption that Christianity is an error, I can see early enough that some people would still have a motive for inculcating it. I see it so easily that I can, of course, play the game the other way round, by saying that ‘the modern man has every reason for trying to convince himself that there are no eternal sanctions behind the morality he is rejecting’. For Bulverism is a truly democratic game in the sense that all can play it all day long, and that it gives no unfair privilege to the small and offensive minority who reason. But of course it gets us not one inch nearer to deciding whether, as a matter of fact, the Christian religion is true or false. That question remains to be discussed on quite different grounds — a matter of philosophical and historical argument. However it were decided, the improper motives of some people, both for believing it and for disbelieving it, would remain just as they are.

C.S. Lewis, "'Bulverism,'" God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 273-274.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Ezekiel Bulver assumes "You're wrong"

In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third — ‘Oh you say that because you are a man.’ ‘At that moment’, john bairdE. Bulver assures us, ‘there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument.  Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.’ That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

C.S. Lewis, "'Bulverism,'" God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 273.
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

This is my body

"This is my body" (Matt 26:26). Common bread, miraculous bread, sacramental bread — these three are distinct, but not to be separated.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 37.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

God is greater than we can conceive

columbus map We are in no position to draw up maps of God's psychology, and prescribe limits to His interests. We would not do so even for a man whom we knew to be greater than ourselves. The doctrines that God is love and that He delights in men, are positive doctrines, not limiting doctrines. He is not less than this. What more He may be, we do not know; we know only that He must be more than we can conceive.

C.S. Lewis, "Dogma and The Universe," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 43.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

God stands on trial

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. courtFor the modern man the roles are reversed.  He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.

C.S. Lewis, "God in the Dock," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 244.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Speaking in today's language

alphabet The popular English language, then, simply has to be learned by him who would preach to the English: just as a missionary learns Bantu before preaching to the Bantus.

C.S. Lewis, "God in the Dock," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 243.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We agree on the question...

alda rogers

The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960; Harcourt Brace: 1991) 66.
(Pic of Alan Alda and former co-star Wayne Rogers)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The problem with selling Christianity

What at any rate seems certain is that when Friendship bears fruit which the community can use it has to do so accidentally, as a by-product. rightonReligions devised for a social purpose, like Roman emperor-worship or modern attempts to “sell” Christianity as a means of “saving civilization,” do not come to much. The little knots of Friends who turn their backs on the “World” are those who really transform it. Egyptian and Babylonian Mathematics were practical and social, pursued in the service of Agriculture and Magic. But the free Greek Mathematics, pursued by Friends as a leisure occupation, have mattered to us more.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960; Harcourt Brace: 1991) 68-69.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people?

The whole picture of the universe which science has given us makes it such rot to believe that the Power at the back of it all could be interested in us tiny little creatures crawling about on an unimportant planet! It was all so obviously invented by people who believed in a flat earth with the stars only a mile or two away,' [said my friend.]
    ‘When did people believe that?’ [I replied.]
    ‘Why, all those old Christian chaps you’re always telling about did. I mean Boethius and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante.’ earth big
    ‘Sorry’, said I, ‘but this is one of the few subjects I do know something about.’
    I reached out my hand to a bookshelf. ‘You see this book’, I said, ‘Ptolemy’s Almagest. You know what it is?’
    ‘Yes,’ said he. ‘It’s the standard astronomical handbook used all through the Middle Ages.’
    ‘Well, just read that,’ I said, pointing to Book I, chapter 5. ‘The earth,’ read out my friend, hesitating a bit as he translated the Latin, ‘the earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point!’  
    There was a moment’s silence. 
    ‘Did they really know that then?’ said my friend. ‘But— but none of the histories of science — none of the modern encyclopedias — ever mention the fact.’
    ‘Exactly,’ said I. ‘I’ll leave you to think out the reason. It almost looks as if someone was anxious to hush it up, doesn’t it? I wonder why.’ 
    There was another short silence. small earth
    ‘At any rate’, said I, ‘we can now state the problem accurately. People usually think the problem is how to reconcile what we now know about the size of the universe with our traditional ideas of religion. That turns out not to be the problem at all. The real problem is this. The enormous size of the universe and the insignificance of the earth were known for centuries, and no one ever dreamed that they had any bearing on the religious question. Then, less than a hundred years ago, they are suddenly trotted out as an argument against Christianity. And the people who trot them out carefully hush up the fact that they were known long ago. Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people?’

C.S. Lewis, "Religion and Science," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 74-75.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The full effect of Jesus' miracles

God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities.WineGlassGrapes Thus every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine.  That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off’ (John 5:19). The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 29.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On the side of angels

[In today's reading, Lewis assumes we'll know the oft-told story of how angels appeared, protecting British troops in their retreat from Mons, France, on the 26th August 1914.]

Intimate conversation elicits from almost every acquaintance at least one episode in his life which is what he would call ‘queer’ or ‘rum’. No doubt most stories of miracles are unreliable; but then, as anyone can see by reading the papers, so are most stories of all events. Each story must be taken on its merits: what one must not do is to rule out the supernatural as the one impossible explanation.waterfront memorial Thus you may disbelieve in the Mons Angels because you cannot find a sufficient number of sensible people who say they saw them. But if you found a sufficient number, it would, in my view, be unreasonable to explain this by collective hallucination. For we know enough of psychology to know that spontaneous unanimity in hallucination is very improbable, and we do not know enough of the supernatural to know that a manifestation of angels is equally improbable. The supernatural theory is the less improbable of the two. When the Old Testament says that Sennacherib’s invasion was stopped by angels (2 Kings 19:35), and Herodotus says it was stopped by a lot of mice who came and ate up all the bowstrings of his army, an open-minded man will be on the side of the angels. Unless you start by begging the question, there is nothing intrinsically unlikely in the existence of angels or in the action ascribed to them. But mice just don’t do these things.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 27-28.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Miracles: Then and Now

But there is one thing often said about our ancestors which we must not say. We must not say ‘They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.’ This is nonsense. pregnant When St Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he was ‘minded to put her away’ (Matt 1:19). He knew enough biology for that. Otherwise, of course he would not have regarded pregnancy as a proof of infidelity. When he accepted the Christian explanation, he regarded it as a miracle precisely because he knew enough of the Laws of Nature to know that this was a suspension of them. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened: they would not have been frightened unless they had known the laws of Nature and known that this was an exception (Matt 14:26). If a man had no conception of a regular order in Nature, then of course he could not notice departures from that order: just as a dunce who does not understand the normal metre of a poem is also unconscious of the poet’s variations from it. Nothing is wonderful except the abnormal and nothing is abnormal until we have grasped the norm. Complete ignorance of the laws of Nature would preclude the perception of the miraculous just as rigidly as complete disbelief in the supernatural precludes it, perhaps even more so. For while the materialist would have at least to explain miracles away, the man wholly ignorant of Nature would simply not notice them.

C.S. Lewis, "Miracles," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 26-27.